Gerard's personal blog.
Gerard's blog. Mostly show related but other stuff too.
- Hypnosis is a real thing.
- Stage hypnotists are good at selecting the most easily hypnotised subjects
- Actors and fakes are not needed because it is easy to get good subjects
- The Hypnotist will quickly dismiss the unresponsive or troublesome people
- By carefully choosing suggestions the hypnotist can make the subjects more and more compliant
- Even though a few claim they weren’t “really under” its usually obvious to the audience that they were doing things they wouldn’t normally do.
How Stage Hypnotism Works.
This article breaks the question down into several parts.
Do stage hypnotists use any fakery or tricks?
Is Hypnosis Real?
Short answer: yes. There’s a variety of peer reviewed scientific studies that verify that the state of hypnosis is a unique and genuine state of mind. For example Psychology Today The Truth About Hypnosis | Psychology Today
Not only that - it is common for people to experience hypnosis in one form or another many times in their lives without really knowing it.
Our knowledge of the mind and consciousness is not complete; there’s a lot more to discover. However our current knowledge indicates that for the most part everyone can be hypnotised provided they are willing and in the right state of mind (safe place, relaxed etc.), but that under hypnosis people generally cannot be compelled to act against their deeply held beliefs or moral code.
Some formal studies conclude that some people are “unable” to be hypnotised. But they simply demonstrate that those people were unable to be hypnotised by the people performing the study using the technique and script they tried. Such studies do not demonstrate that the person could never be hypnotised at all.
One of the most difficult aspects of proving hypnosis is that hypnosis is part science and partly an art. A big part of the teaching of hypnosis is how a good hypnotist changes their approach to hypnotising a subject based on how the subject responds. See Sean Michael Andrews. This does not lend itself well to controlled trials where an unchanging scripted approach is usually needed.
Anyone under hypnosis can “snap out of it” at will, this is what prevents them acting against their conscience.
Are The People on Stage Really Hypnotised? [Mostly Yes]
In the case of professional stage performers, the answer is “yes they are”. A competent hypnotist can and will hypnotise her volunteers quickly and deftly on stage with the audience looking on.
Being on stage having volunteered, and with everyone watching them, is itself a different state of mind for most people. The pressure of all that attention means they are more likely to focus on the process. This increases the chances of success for the hypnotist.
The hypnotist will quickly work through the group of volunteers and dismiss the resistant, the uptight and the troublesome, keeping only those that are good hypnotic candidates as noted by their willingness to follow instructions and their apparent openness to ”giving it a go”.
Signs of Unsuitability
An obvious test for the hypnotist is how well the volunteers listen to and obey instructions prior to being hypnotised. A person who is partly or completely resistant will not act immediately on an instruction from the hypnotist. They will first think about it and then decide if they’ll act on it and to what degree.
By simply saying to the entire group of volunteers something like “please sit still and let me explain what’s going to happen next” the hypnotist can observe those who immediately relax and become attentive and note those who did not react immediately as being potentially unwilling or resistant.
The ability to notice the lag between suggestion and action is one of the tools that hypnotists use to sort out the hypnotised from those who try to fake it.
Are They In On It? [No]
It is claimed by some skeptical people that the hypnotised volunteers on stage must be “in on it”. Their thinking seems to start from the belief that hypnosis is not real (it is) and therefore they seek an explanation for the antics of the subjects that does not involve hypnosis.
The obvious conclusion if they are not hypnotised would be that they must simply acting. And some people have gone so far as to suggest that the volunteers are in fact paid performers.
Are They Paid Actors? [LOL,No]
While I make a good living as an entertainer doing comedy hypnotist shows, I can assure you that I do not get paid anywhere near enough to hire a dozen actors to work for me (even though actors are not well paid in general, I couldn’t pay even one or two). Anyone giving this even a little thought will see that even if all the volunteers are not people you know - they’re still unlikely to be being paid.
However the best counter to this is when you witness the hypnotist hypnotise someone or several people that you already know.
Are They Set Up In Advance? [No]
If the skeptic acknowledges that the paid actor scenario doesn't stack up financially, they often suggest that the people are set up in advance in some other way.
For this to be true the skeptic must also believe that the hypnotist or their agent contacted the people covertly before the show and successfully recruited them to perform. Without anyone saying no or giving it away before or afterwards. That would be a truly remarkable achievement were it so.
Wouldn’t you tell your friends if someone had contacted you in advance and asked you to cheat in that way? I would. Suggesting that hypnotists have the ability to persuade a bunch of folks in advance in that way, with no leaks or exposure, actually suggests they are more skilful and persuasive than merely hypnotising genuine volunteers.
In a practical sense the author and most professional hypnotists arrive in town for our shows only hours before the event, and have no contact with the audience before they come into the theatre. We have neither the time nor the resources to canvass the area beforehand.
Are They Just Fakers? [No]
So the next skeptical position is to claim that the volunteers are just faking it for attention. Or that the hypnotist is good at selecting people who are willing to fake it.
To suggest that in a group of 40 people there are 12 who are able to be influenced in that way is very unlikely.
It is far simpler to take the next step and accept that hypnotists are good at getting ordinary people to behave very differently to their usual selves.
And that is what we do. You can verify that by going to a few smaller shows. When the size of the audience is small, you will see the hypnotist work quite hard to attract a good number volunteers, because they’ll have so few people to start with. Not every show turns out like a TV spectacular either.
This is the reason that many Hypnotists demand an audience size of 50+ or even 100+ before accepting a booking. (The author regularly performs with groups of 12 or 20 people and is unusual in this regard).
Do People Try to Fake It? [Yes]
That’s not to say that some folks don’t try to fake it on stage. But mostly they’re obvious and quickly dismissed. In the author’s experience they’re not that common either. Most people are too self conscious to remain on stage if not also hypnotised.
How Does the Hypnotist Select Subjects?
In any large group of people there will be some who are fairly easily hypnotised. And some who are keen or at least willing to do it.
During the introduction (aka the “pre talk”), the hypnotist sets the scene for the show, puts people at ease and sets some limits for who they will accept on stage, for example an age limit.
Most hypnotist also perform a suggestibility test with the audience before seeking volunteers.
Suggestibility tests are simple routines that demonstrate both to the audience and the hypnotist the degree to which people are responding to hypnotic suggestion at that time.
By asking those who responded well to come up on stage the hypnotist has selected good candidates.
Another approach, one that I prefer, is simply to ask for volunteers and then perform the suggestibility test. This can lead to losing more people from stage as being unresponsive, but makes it totally clear to everyone that no subject was influenced to be on stage in any kind of underhanded way.
Being hypnotised is genuinely fun. It is not hard to convey that to a group of people and some will volunteer out of curiosity. With enough volunteers, there’ll always be a few good candidates and the show can build on those.
How Does the Hypnotist Build Compliance?
“Come up on stage”. “Please have a seat”. “Please move one chair over”. “Now listen carefully to what I am about to say”. Each of these suggestions is easy to follow, and builds on the prior ones. Few would resist such easy requests. Yet together they have the effect of building compliance, and the habit of unthinkingly doing what the hypnotist suggests.
The start of a show by any professional is filled with innocent requests, the combined effect of these is to condition the subjects to comply automatically with the directions of the hypnotist.
This is how it is done. There’s much more than the scope of this article allows about how to actually hypnotise. But the heart of the process is simply that by repeatedly responding to the requests of the hypnotist it can soon become an automatic and unconscious process.
So long as the person was willing at the outset, feels safe, and is not asked to do anything too extreme or immoral, they will continue to respond automatically.
Do Stage Hypnotists Use Any Fakery or Tricks? [No]
The majority of stage professionals use no fakery of any kind. However there will always be a few amateurs who, believing that hypnosis must involve fakery, will try to fake some or all of a show.
The author has never heard of anyone succeeding with that approach (see the reasons above why fakery is not practical). I know of only one person who even attempted it.
Really, no Tricks? [Misdirection, yes]
There are a few misdirections that hypnotists use - like magicians also do. These are tricks rather than fakery. The trick I have seen often used is to conduct a suggestibility test - such as having people lock their fingers together overhead, and then to say those who cannot separate them are easily hypnotised. While there is some truth in this, the real reason people cannot separate their fingers is physical in that case. It is a limit of the human body for most people, and the hypnotist is misdirecting them by saying they are responding to suggestion at that point.
What Is It Like Being Hypnotised?
Do People Know They Are Hypnotised? [Most Do]
Hollywood movies often portray hypnotised subjects as unknowing robot-like zombies. This can lead to some confusion on the part of the subjects who become hypnotised but find the experience different from their expectations.
Knowing you are hypnotised depends on your ability to recognise that you are in a different mental state, and on what you think it should feel like to be hypnotised. If you have a strong but mistaken belief the you become robot-like, then you might not be able to match your actual experience to what you expected. In other words, you might be hypnotised but think that you are not. So what does it feel like?
What Does It Feel Like For The Subjects?
When they find themselves doing surprising things on stage most subjects acknowledge that they are indeed hypnotised. Many will afterwards report that they “knew what was going on the whole time, but couldn’t seem to make themselves stop”. Most would agree that could could have snapped out of it if they had really tried to, but didn’t even want to try. This is what it feels like for most subjects.
Some people will argue that they aren’t hypnotised because they remained aware of what is going on. It differs so much from what they expect that they deny being in a trance, even though the physiological signs are there, and they have clearly been responding to the hypnotist. They usually then will say they could have stopped at any time but didn’t. This is in fact the same experience as those who know they are under hypnosis.
Some subjects, a minority, have no memory of their time in trance.
What Does It Look Like to the Hypnotist?
From the hypnotist’s point of view, other than noting reactions and compliance as mentioned above, there are a number of other simple ways to distinguish the hypnotised from the merely compliant and those who are faking.
Facial Blood Flow
Hypnotised subjects flush and have higher facial blood flow. It varies between individuals. Some go a bit redder in the face, others have fuller lips when in trance.
Hypnotised people often have watery eyes.
A good trance is often indicated by a higher degree of muscle relaxation than a person can easily adopt while conscious. If the hypnotist picks up a person’s arm by the wrist and shakes it about, a conscious person will often show a slight tension or resistance, and someone faking will often try to “go along with” the movement by moving their arm deliberately - this muscle activity either aiding or resisting the hypnotist is a clue regarding how deep the person is in a trance.
One of the more dramatic ways a hypnotist can verify that a person is in a trance (and demonstrate that to the audience and the subject themselves) is to command the person to act in a way contrary to their obvious intentions.
The author frequently employs this technique with volunteers who claim that they are “not hypnotised” and attempt to get up and leave the stage. Seeming to go along with them I will help them off the stage by holding their arm and then simply say “sleep” as they reach the bottom of the stage steps. If I have to catch them as they flop to the floor, everyone is convinced.
What Does It Look Like to the Audience
Demonstrations such as the above are clear convincers. And for community events, simply seeing someone you know acting out of character to their usual selves is very convincing.
However there are some other cases where it is less clear to the audience.
The Open Eyed Trance Subject
While many people have their eyes closed during the induction and keep them that way, some trance subjects open their eyes and look around.
To the audience they may seem completely awake - but the hypnotist might know they are in a trance (see the section above).
There is frequently some debate after the show as to who was really hypnotised and to what degree. This is unavoidable given that people generally know very little about hypnosis but have high expectations of what they think it should look like.
Contrary and Odd Reactions (and non-reactions)
The other area that can confuse is where a subject reacts completely differently to what the audience (and sometimes the hypnotist) expects. This is sometimes because that they misheard or misunderstood the suggestion (people have no better hearing or comprehension in trance than when fully conscious), or if they simply have an odd way of interpreting an idea.
In some cases, where the subject is confused they’ll simply not respond at all.
However whether acting differently or not at all they may remain in a deep trance state nonetheless.
The case where a person does the opposite of what is suggested is an odd one and uniquely funny if the hypnotist catches it near the beginning.
A skilful hypnotist can employ a person’s determined opposition to cause them to go into a deeper trance (don’t relax!) and then play that up in gags. A suggestion such as “Everyone on stage will laugh except this fellow here. . . “ sets the person in a double bind - if they don’t laugh they are following the suggestion, but if they do laugh, they also appear to be following the suggestion. Either way - the crowd will laugh at the result.
Stage hypnosis is a real phenomena - and the majority of performers are genuinely skilled people, who hypnotise real volunteers without any pre-arrangements.
A few people (performers and subjects) may try to fake it but they are obvious and people will soon see through it.
Verify This Yourself
Go and see a few shows. . .
Here's a TedX Talk on This Topic
What does a Hypnotist do when his mum throws shade for doing so many fundraisers? (She thinks I am underpaid).
Call me a rebel. I’m going to do more fundraisers, and cheaper. The Comedy Night Fundraiser - with a special discount for Wednesdays.
Most events get booked for Fridays and Saturdays, yes? This might seem like a good idea, but is it really?
People are Already Busy on The Weekend!
Fridays and Saturdays are when people are most likely to already have another obligation or event. A work function, a family party, a wedding or 21st. You’re competing with every other private and public event in the country!
Some people cannot come to your fundraiser no matter how much they want to.
Wednesdays though. Wednesdays go begging.
Start Early and Finish Early
And if there’s an early finish people can come and have a good time. That’s why we need pizza. Pizza fixes everything!
Start early with pizza. Get people to rock up at 6:00pm or 6:30pm. Bring the kids. The comedy hypnotist show starts at 7:00 and is done by 9:00pm. 9:30 at the latest. Everyone has a great time and is home before late.
The Show Is Suitable for Everyone
This show is G-rated so that you can be sure everyone will enjoy it and that no-one will be offended.
It is Easy to Do
Sell tickets. Maybe $35 per grown up, $20 for kids over 12, the little ones: free. Aim for 80+ tickets. More is better because you keep all the profits.
I’ll do the show super cheap (After all, I’d only be at home that night anyway). I’ll bring all the sound and lighting gear (if I can drive there).
I don’t charge a deposit so that you don’t have that hassle to sort out either!
Put on an amazing fundraising comedy night, make a great profit, and then sit back and relax while Gerard V makes the whole crowd laugh.
This show not only gives you an amazing night of world class entertainment, but it also gives you photos and video memories to laugh about and enjoy afterwards.
Are They Professional or Amateur?
Is your hypnotist just doing this as a hobby or are they in it professionally? A professional will have invested a great deal in being good, organised and perfecting their show. Just as with bands, a professional band will usually give you a better show than those guys who play in the garage down the street (usually but not always). Or are they a part time hypnotist who also paints houses or something?
Gerard V is a full - time hypnotist entertainer
Have They Done Your Kind of Event Before?
Shows for corporate boards of directors are different to shows for sports clubs and those for schools. After a few years most professional hypnotists have experience in all kinds of shows but it pays to ask if they have done one like yours before? Someone who has been successful doing shows for young adults only, might struggle with a mature audience for example.
Clean or Sleazy?
No-one advertises themselves as sleazy, but some are R-rated. It might be tempting to think that your mature group would love an r-rated show - but would they really? Would you volunteer to go on stage if you thought you’d take your clothes off? And if that was later posted to social media?
It pays to find out just what kind of gags you’ll be getting before you commit and being sure of your audience.
In my experience no-one ever complains that a show was too clean, but the opposite has been known to happen. So I only do clean shows.
Extra Costs and Charges
Does your hypnotist provide a PA system or lighting, or must you bring those in? Do you need to provide an assistant? Hotel? First class travel or economy? Do they have a “rider” for free drinks etc.? These can all change the picture quite a bit. There’s no harm in finding these things out before you commit.
Gerard V will bring a PA if he can drive to your event from one of his bases in Australia or NZ
Are you looking for a way to raise lots of money easily, quickly and without much effort? The answer is simple. Give up and go home.
It takes effort and patience to raise money. You can raise large sums of money for a good cause. And you can be effective and efficient about how you do it. But if anyone tells you that you can do this with little effort and huge success they’re pulling your leg (or worse).
But Yes, You Can Raise Substantial Funds
Here’s how people have made $50,000 or more featuring Gerard V, there are some examples below of fund raising ideas.
There are really only three variables that influence how much money you raise. They are: 1. How many people “donate” 2. The size of the donations 3. The number of times people donate.
Raffles, Fairs and Sausage Sizzles.
Many People, Small Donation, Multiple Times
You can raise lots of money for your club or charity by selling low cost items to lots of people for a long time (e.g. selling chocolates or raffle tickets, repeatedly).
Quiz Night / Trivia Night
Many people, Small Donation
Quiz and trivia nights are easy to organise and you can get reasonable attendance if you get out and sell the tickets. They’re popular too for many groups. But because there are so many of these the going rate per ticket is relatively low.
Shows and Performances - The Modest Version
Many people, Medium Donation
While quiz nights are often priced at $10 - $15 per ticket limiting your income, a good show can attract ticket prices of $40 or more. With 120 people paying $40 per ticket you can start with $4800 on the table before selling extras like drinks and raffles.
Typical ticket prices for my shows at clubs and school halls are $30 - $50.
Shows and Performances the Gala Version
Many People, Larger Donation
Add in a sit down dinner, a theme and a nice venue - perhaps a DJ or band and you can change the financial equation considerably.
A gala event (dressed up) can sell at $90 - $200 per ticket - including dinner. And these can range from 100 - 800 people. For example in 2016 Gerard V did a performance at a gala for 500+ people who paid $110 per seat including dinner. That’s $55,000 gross income before any extras.
In 2015 we did a fundraiser for 300 people at $200 per ticket including dinner and limited drinks.
Shows and Performances the Big Venue Version
Many More People, Medium Donation Your other option to raise substantial funds with a show is to sell lots more tickets.
A sold out 500 seat venue with tickets at $35 per head will gross $17,500 and this is achievable (and takes effort and organisation).
Don’t underestimate how much it takes to sell 500 tickets though - you’ll need a committed and motivated team of people who can and will get out there and sell. You might organise some incentives and a competitive element to get your sales teams to get out there and promote your fundraiser.
Have You Got A Fund Raising Idea?
If you have a good cause and some ideas lets chat - give Gerard V a call or send him a message.
Dumb Self-Help Advice #2 "Use Your Intuition"
The trouble with being involved with hypnosis is that it also attracts many from the fringes of "alternative health" and "new age philosophy".
One of the commonly stated opinions from this outer fringe is that people should always trust their intuition and that somehow intuition is either infallible or divinely inspired.
Why This Is Dumb
You don't have to look too hard to find times when your intuition, your hunches, are simply wrong. There's abundant literature showing how we all fall prey to fallacious thinking and post hoc rationalisations for our actions.
Intuition in Business
The other frequently seen variant of this is where someone suggests that intuition is a great tool in business, and perhaps cites a successful entrepreneur, perhaps Richard Branson, saying that they rely heavily on their intuition.
Why That is Also Dumb
The business situation misses the obvious point that successful folk can rely on their intuition because they have developed it over time, and have honed their skill through experience. Or put simply, these people can trust their intuition because their intuition is trustworthy. And even then they make mistakes and you can be certain that they don't rely exclusively on hunches.
The bankruptcy courts and cemeteries are also full of people who trusted their intuition, but lacked the experience or knowledge that would make those hunches reliable.
What Should You Do Instead?
Use your intuition by all means - just don't rely on it exclusively. And when you use it in unfamiliar territory expect it to be frequently wrong or misguided. When doing something new, use your whole brain to learn and understand what you're about to do.
Dumb Self-Help Advice #1 "Be Yourself"
I hear people give the advice frequently "just be yourself". It is dumb advice and most people would be best to ignore it.
Well, most of us are not always the same, we have "our best self", and our "other" selves. We are many. And if you are an arsehole, being yourself is truly bad advice.
What it comes down to is that the term "self" is malleable, we can and do change. At any given time, if we choose to "be ourselves" we still have a variety of options of how to be.
Sometimes I am charming and funny. Sometimes I am prickly and sarcastic. Which of those should I be in any given situation? And I am always working to "better myself", so perhaps I should instead be the "me I wish to become".
Do This Instead
Next time someone says to you "be yourself", ignore it. Instead, be the best you can manage at that time - whatever that is. Unless that means being an arsehole. Then, "be someone else, someone who is not an arsehole".
If you're after an event in Townsville Gerard V can come to you. He loves Townsville and Northern Queensland.
Gerard's first Townsville show was in June 2016 for the Thuringowa Bulldogs AFC. It went really well, and set the scene for future events. The travel costs are minimal and the whole event totally affordable.
Here's what the Doggies had to say after the show.
"Gerard delivered exactly as promised, a family friendly night of entertainment and laughter. Our club has been searching for an event which appeals to a greater audience than just a sporting club and whilst there were many sceptic’s, within our club, of hosting the show.
Gerard provided a professional and polished show which silenced them very quickly and was able to convert some to active volunteers of his show.
It is a spectacle to behold when a performer has the 100% attention of his audience. What started as a function with tables of people turned into a standing festival of fun. The post show reviews were outstanding as 70% of our guests volunteered to be part of the show."
The Thuringowa Bulldogs AFC recommends Gerard to any prospective groups wishing to hold a family friendly, non-threatening and public engaging activity. We will be looking to engage Gerard again in the future when assessing the season’s entertainment requirements."
[Send a message or phone] to see if Gerard V is available for when you want your event, and to confirm lock in the price.
I had the pleasure of hanging about in TVL for a few days. 30 degrees in mid winter. Magnetic Island is lovely, relaxing and fun. Cellular coverage for Telstra was good in most places, 3G with 3 bars on my iPad, or 4G on the Townsville side. Vodafone not so good. One or two bars on the Townsville side of the island. Nothing inland or at horseshoe bay. I did not have an Optus device with me to check.