The popular view of hypnosis — with the hypnotist as a puppet master and the subject entirely at his or her bidding — is a misconception. "In reality, I'm just releasing the most creative parts of them onstage," says Peter Gross. "When people are doing things that seem embarrassing or silly while hypnotized, on some level they are aware that they're performing a great show."
By focusing the attention and peppering in a few suggestions, he allows subjects to act without the self-consciousness that can trip up a great performance. "They are aware that they are doing something silly, but they feel as good as a performer who regularly goes a little nuts on stage would, like what Robin Williams or Steve Martin used to do," he adds. "They feel like they're the stars of the show and they just don't have any worries anymore."
For those who caught his act last year, there are plenty of reasons to enjoy it all over again. After all, it's a new show with a new mix of volunteers every time.
"I'll definitely be bringing new stuff, but the material is only 50 percent of the show. In the first few minutes, depending on the volunteers on stage, I decide if they are visual people, verbal people, or physical people. Whatever the case may be, I swerve the show toward that."
The best part of the show, for Gross, is watching the full creativity of a person typically thought of as shy emerge onstage. "I'm just allowing them to do what they would like to do if they were much more confident onstage," he says. "I always end up with people who don't want to give the mic back!"