Stage hypnosis seems like it should belong to another age of show business, but a surprising number of performers remain on the national circuit with acts in which they put audience volunteers into a trance and induce them to perform unaccustomed acts. One of the more successful of these is Flip Orley, a.k.a. "hypno-man," a Valley native and comic mesmerist who prides himself on not humiliating those he talks into coming onstage.
"A lot of stage hypnotists feel that, hey, if you get up here onstage, first of all, I have to use you to entertain people, and second of all, if you got up onstage, hey, you deserve whatever you get." He cites such examples as making strangers neck passionately, causing a woman to have an orgasm by herself in a chair, or getting two big, homophobic guys to close dance. Sounds pretty entertaining to me, but Orley, without wanting to knock any other performers, says he prefers to play ringmaster over more restrained antics.
In a typical show, Orley--who has opened for Jay Leno and Robin Williams and headlined at Improvs from D.C. to San Diego--might get audience members to regress to childhood, or to transform themselves into coffee-house beatniks, improvising Bohemian poetry. Not only does he give suggestions, he also takes them--audience members sometimes give him ideas for new bits. Recently, someone in the crowd suggested that he turn a group of volunteers into Disney theme-park characters. Orley refined the routine, turning it into a self-help group for Disney characters who had lost their jobs. "I think I made it a better idea, but I thought it was so cool that somebody in the audience said, wouldn't it be funny if . . . ?"
In addition to his two-weekend run at the Improv, Orley also shares the stage with Wayne Perkins--who (unlike Orley) is a board-certified clinical hypnotherapist--for a seminar on the use of hypnosis for stress reduction, from 7 to 9:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 29, at the Safari Resort, 4611 North Scottsdale Road in Scottsdale. "He's done a tremendous amount of work with the therapeutic side of hypnosis, like with terminally ill patients as pain management," says Orley. "He's one of the few hypnotists I respect." Tickets to this event are $45; for information on the Improv shows, see the Stages listing.
--M. V. Moorhead