The format of a comedy-hypnotist show does not change: about 15 eager volunteers from the audience come up to the stage to be put into a trance by the hypnotist and are made to do a variety of embarrassing acts. They usually perform similar gags – first imagine it is extremely hot, now imagine it is extremely cold, now pretend you’re the world’s greatest dancer. Shenanigans ensue. But those shenanigans are just so much better, so much more satisfying, when you know almost every person on stage – and when the entire audience does as well.
On Friday night, Spencer Neighborhood sponsored a presentation of The Kevin Hurley Show. Kevin Hurley put his hypnotist skills to the test on about 15 of our fellow Ephs. Students eagerly crowded into Baxter Hall to watch their friends embarrass themselves with no repercussions. As a crowd of dozens of their peers watched, Facebook-linked cell phones in hand and ready to record at the touch of a button, these brave souls allowed themselves to be lulled by Hurley’s deep, booming voice into peaceful slumber. Inviting members of the audience to participate, Hurley first induced sleep in his volunteers by keeping them relaxed, apparently convincing them they were on a beach. Once they reached his desired state, Hurley told the audience that they would not wake up from the hypnosis until he commanded them to.
Does this stuff work? It is unclear, but the meditation-like state those on stage surely experienced greatly lowers one’s inhibitions. Indeed, they almost appeared to have knocked back a few drinks before the show. But nobody, I don’t think, really cares whether the hypnosis “works,” although it’s fun to wonder about the possibility out loud, especially as you watch your friends roll over each other while in a dream-like state. Hurley’s success was in the ease with which he poked fun at the volunteers – and at the audience on occasion, as well.
There were definitely a few particular segments that stood above the rest. One of these involved all the participants believing that they were competing in a world-dance competition and had to convince their judges (who were those of us in the audience, naturally) that they were deserving of the title of World’s Best Dancer. And so it began: 15 Ephs duking it out on a tiny platform in the middle of Baxter. There was twerking, jerking, grinding and some other stuff that I have no idea what to call. A seamless recreation of Goodrich without a drop of alcohol – it was truly beautiful. In the culminating act, the winner of the dance competition, a particularly limber male Eph, was rewarded with the special chance to get his groove on with one lucky spectator – a young, beautiful microphone stand. The scene was not particularly pretty, but it was definitely worth the price of admission, which was nothing at all.
Some of the best segments involved individual volunteers placed in some rather awkward situations. In one, a young woman was hypnotized into forgetting that the number six existed. Imagine her surprise (it was more of a dazed, spaced-out confusion followed by unenthused acceptance) when Hurley managed to prove to her that she had 11 fingers. An even more entertaining moment came when Hurley asked her what the answer to the problem “three plus three” was, which resulted in dazed confusion and a calm acceptance that the only plausible answer was eight.
Another special moment that especially captured the audience’s attention (and I would hope, their newsfeeds) came when Hurley convinced one broad-shouldered young man that he was in fact nine months pregnant. Hurley added to his horror by claiming that he was not only pregnant, but that indeed, his water just broke. Aided by one of the world’s top doctors and his trusty nurse, the audience proceeded to watch as this brave fellow gave birth to a beautiful baby named Steel. His only regret: that Steel wasn’t a boy.
All in all, the show gave lots of laughs, and Hurley was not only convincing but fun as well. Though one could catch an occasional revealing smirk from one of the volunteers, Hurley did promise us that they would not remember anything they’d done onstage. It was definitely a memorable performance and one that many of the participants will hopefully not live down for a while.