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You’re getting very sleepy

Jessica Cabe
Rusty Z is coming to the Vaudeville's comedy night with a stand-up routine enhanced by audience-participation hypnosis.
Provided |


Who: Rusty Z

What: Hypnosis and stand-up comedy

When: Doors 7 p.m., show 8 p.m. on Friday

Where: Glenwood Vaudeville Revue

How much: $20

Comedian and musician Victor Borge once said, “Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.”

Hypnotist and stand-up comic Rusty Z thinks this philosophy explains why audience members let him hypnotize them on stage.

“When I do my comedy, there’s a bit of rapport that’s built,” he said. And with that built-up rapport comes trust, which is essential if hypnosis is to work.

Rusty Z is bringing his unique show, a blend of stand-up comedy and on-stage hypnosis, to the Vaudeville Revue on Friday for the first time. The first half of his show is mostly stand-up, with jokes that touch on the topic of hypnosis, and during the second half, he invites volunteers from the audience on stage to be hypnotized.

Rusty Z got his start in comedy about 25 years ago, he said, in a way that many comics do: He tried out an open mic, liked it and did okay, and then kept going back. Eventually, people started paying him to do stand-up, and now he travels the world with his act.

About 15 years ago, he started adding hypnosis to his shows.

“I’ve always been interested in it, and I saw a lot of stage hypnotists who weren’t very funny,” he said. He wanted to keep the laughter going in his performances, but he thought adding hypnosis to the mix would set his shows apart from other stand-up comics.

Rusty Z has been formally trained in hypnosis, and he’s been practicing it as part of his act for more than a decade now. He said what happens to the brain under hypnosis isn’t all too uncommon in daily life.

“Your brain waves slow down, and you’re a little more susceptible to suggestion,” he said.

This happens when you’re watching TV. You’re in a relaxed, hypnotic state, and your subconscious mind opens up to suggestion. This is why television ads are so effective, and also why you can hear someone in the room talking to you while not remembering a thing he or she said.

Basically, your critical factor is weakened, but you won’t do anything under hypnosis that you wouldn’t normally do in certain circumstances, he said. For example, if someone asks you to cluck like a chicken, Rusty Z said, you might do it depending on the circumstance. If a stranger on the street asks you to do it, you probably wouldn’t. But if your 3-year-old nephew asks you to do it, you probably would to make him laugh. If Rusty Z hypnotizes you and asks you to cluck like a chicken, you probably will.

Rusty Z might not ask you to cluck like a chicken on stage, but he does have fun with volunteers. He said he has people speak Martian, which sounds different each time, or he asks his volunteers to mock him or play in a band that he describes to them.

At the end of it, he said most people who’ve been hypnotized say they feel better than they’ve ever felt.

“Most people say, ‘I feel really good and relaxed,’” he said. “I’ve probably had that said to me 1,000 times at least.”

Rusty Z said he thinks people feel this way after being hypnotized because they’ve just come out of a state where they’re not stressed or thinking about any of their problems or obligations.

“I call it five-hour apathy, although it doesn’t last for five hours,” he said with a laugh. “You’re not stressed; you’re not thinking about things.”

At the end of the day, though, everyone has a different experience. Some people say they remember everything that happened while they were hypnotized, while others say they don’t remember anything. Rusty Z’s show offers a rare opportunity to find out how you’d react to hypnosis — and have a lot of fun doing it.

“The show is way different from a typical comedy show because there’s audience interaction,” Rusty Z said. “People say, ‘Wow, this was a lot more fun than a regular comedy show.’ It’s just something a little different.”

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