Hypnotists who develop a stage act are generally very funny. The same type of setups and jokes that you might expect at a stand-up comedy show are present at a hypnotist's comedy show. The difference of course, is that people, almost always a volunteer from the audience, are hypnotized on stage as part of the act. The person who is hypnotized is then made into part of the punchline of the joke being told. But what actually happens at these types of shows? Are they real or all an act? Is a hypnotist all smoke and mirrors like a magician, or are people actually being hypnotized on stage?
What is hypnosis?
Hypnosis works by reaching the unconscious mind through the use of special techniques that help the hypnotist to bypass the conscious mind. The conscious mind can be thought of as a gatekeeper that keeps us from fully accessing our unconscious mind when we are awake. A hypnotist can move past the gate by putting the subject being hypnotized into a trance-like state. While in this trance, the unconscious mind is more susceptible to suggestion. People often seek out hypnosis for struggles like losing weight and quitting smoking.
Does hypnosis work?
In a clinical study performed in 2007 on children with headaches, hypnosis reduced the severity, duration, and frequency of headaches by a statistically significance amount. There have also been several clinical studies that show that hypnosis greatly increases your chances of staying cigarette free and also losing and keeping weight it off when compared to a control group.
Can hypnosis work on a stage?
So hypnosis appears to work in a clinical setting, but what about in front of an audience? Are the volunteers from the audience just planted there as part of the act? While there have not been any clinical studies about hypnosis performed in front of an audience or on a stage, rest assured that the volunteers are actual audience members and not people who are planted there by the hypnotist. The volunteers are indeed being hypnotized; everything you see at the hypnotist comedy show is real.
What happens to the people who volunteer?
The hypnotist will put the volunteer into a trance through linguistic techniques. Then the volunteer will likely be made to do something silly that will make the audience laugh. Some examples might be making animal noises or walking a certain way. When the hypnotist brings the volunteer out of the trance, he/she often has no recollection of being under the hypnotist's control.