The subconscious mind is a funny thing. Especially if coaxed to the surface to play and prattle and perform onstage in front of an audience. At least that's what comic hypnotist Flip Orley banks on at each of his shows, which are fueled by compliant volunteers. Given sold-out engagements at comedy clubs across the nation and appearances on TV programs like Entertainment Tonightand The Today Show, his odds look pretty good.
Whereas a comic genius like Robin Williams may enter a trancelike state to mine his own fertile mind, Orley, who also goes by the moniker Hypnoman, prefers to contract out, communicating with the innards of random strangers, suggesting scenarios he hopes will reveal their own hidden powers of improvisation and imagination. But the subconscious also can be a dark and twisted place, or, perish the thought, dull and dry. Orley, who has been combining standup with a hypnosis stage act for about eighteen years, admits to those dreaded, rare occasions when "I've had a stage full of people that weren't terribly dynamic."
More important, though, says Orley: "Whether it's behavior modification, self-improvement, or even going to more psychological or medical aspects, hypnosis can be a really wonderful tool to help your mind help you accomplish certain goals." He claims self-hypnosis has sharpened his focus, improved his memory, and even allowed him to bypass jet lag -- no small feat for someone on the road 40 weeks out of the year.
But whether for enjoyment or edification, hypnosis has its share of naysayers. "It's still a fairly misunderstood medical treatment and form of entertainment," says Orley. "You'll get people who can be absolutely riveted to the fact that David Copperfield can make the Empire State Building disappear, you know, and then they'll go, “But this hypnosis thing, that's just not real.'"