“The deeper you go, the better you feel. The deeper you go, the better you feel.”
Last month, an hour before midnight at the Improv Asylum’s basement theater in Chelsea, a hypnotist made a surprise drop-in at a comedy show and growlingly repeated this phrase over and over, casting a spell on 20 strangers.
Asad Mecci, a broad-shouldered charmer in black jeans, trained his unblinking stare on two rows of seated volunteers — heads slumped, bodies relaxed, eyes closed — and told them they had lost their belly buttons. Then he snapped his fingers and his limp subjects snapped upright, looking around, peeking underneath chairs, searching. The audience erupted in laughter. Then Mecci, 47, asked one frantic man what he was doing. “I know I had my belly button when I got here,” the man said, flabbergasted. It killed.
In the popular consciousness, hypnotism is the stuff of vampires, side shows and watch-waving therapists. But can it be the building block of a new comedic art?