If you’ve ever dreamed of being Beyonce, Mick Jagger or Britney Spears, Dr Scott Lewis can make it happen. The only hitch is that you might not look quite as glamorous as you envisage.
Lewis is a hypnotist – or “The Hypnotist”, according to promos for The Illusionists 2.0, the stage show heading Down Under in which he joins six other performers known as The Master Magician, The Deceptionist, The Warrior, The Unusualist, The Futurist and The Manipulator.
One might imagine it would be hard to stand out in that crowd, but Lewis has been honing his hypnotist skills for 25 years both as a clinician and in the entertainment arena, with a long-running show in Las Vegas that claims to help audience volunteers increase their creative powers.
“It just stimulates the senses and puts you in a relaxed state,” the American tells InDaily.
“Some people believe that they are expert musicians and are playing as part of an orchestra; sometimes we’ll make the guys Victoria’s Secret supermodels or we might make people Michael Jackson or Beyonce … it just depends what type of people I have on stage.”
While the often clumsy performances by hypnotised volunteers are ripe for laughs – as YouTube clips attest – Lewis says he is always careful to ensure those on stage feel comfortable about what takes place. And he insists participants are still in control of their actions and can’t be made to spill secrets or do anything against their morals.
“I’m just offering suggestions and people can accept or reject them at any time.”
That said, Lewis admits an element of surprise adds to the fun of live shows, and sometimes he can’t predict how people will respond to hypnosis. At a “family-friendly” show at a fair in Los Angeles, a volunteer who was told he was flamboyant fitness guru Richard Simmons responded by dropping his pants.
At another performance, volunteers were told that when he uttered a certain word, it meant they had won the lottery.
“I had one lady get so excited she ran out of the show and into the [adjacent] casino – she started scooping money from people’s slot machines and throwing it up in the air and had to be escorted from the casino.”
Lewis’s usual live show will be abridged for The Illusionists 2.0, and it is likely he will also spend the intermission hypnotising people. He generally calls for around 50 volunteers, and whittles that down to the 20 to 30 whom he can see are responding best.
“I believe almost everyone can experience self-hypnosis but not everyone can be hypnotised on stage because there are a lot of other factors involved,” he says, explaining that distractions such as the setting and live audience can hinder people going under.
“They really need to be sincere about wanting to be on stage and be hypnotised.”
Lewis started out his working life as a chiropractor in Las Vegas, but the experience of attending a seminar on medical hypnosis as a university student – and subsequently using self-hypnosis to lose 40 pounds (about 18kg) himself – made a strong impact which ultimately led to a career in clinical and comedy hypnosis.
And while cynics might doubt they could be hypnotised themselves, Lewis says it is a natural state of concentration that we all go into throughout the day.
“People that practice meditation or guided imagery, people that get really absorbed in reading a book or who can get lost in a movie, those are the type of skills that can help with hypnosis.”
As the interview draws to a close, The Hypnotist quips that if I volunteer at his Adelaide show, he can make me Britney Spears. I might need to do some self-hypnosis to lose 40 pounds first …
The Illusionists 2.0 will be performing at Her Majesty’s Theatre from December 27, 2013, until January 5, 2014.
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