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September 30, 2014

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Q+A: Hypnotist Marc Savard — from nearly fatal car crash to entertaining Strip audiences

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Steve Marcus

Comedy hypnotist Marc Savard and his wife Joanna arrive on the black carpet during the grand opening of KISS by Monster Mini Golf at 4503 Paradise Road on Thursday, March 15, 2012.

Marc Savard

Marc Savard

It’s difficult to believe that adults can act like silly children onstage at hypnotist Marc Savard’s nightly shows at V Theater in Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood. Smart women “go under” and become stripper-pole experts. Well-dressed businessmen wind up playing amorous porn stars with inflatable blow-up dolls. Who would imagine a 300-pound volunteer becoming a “Riverdance” genius or people fearing a belt has become a poisonous snake?

These are not “plants.” These are not people on Marc’s payroll. They are volunteers, 30 of them at a time, from the audience who undergo a series of Marc’s hypnotic pre-trials until he whittles them down to eight subjects he believes will perform. The results are hysterical, and it’s a different eight every time as proven here in his YouTube videos.

This is the funny side of Marc, but he also is able to use his hypnotic skills to help people lose weight, stop smoking and build self-confidence.

He’s known as one of the world’s youngest professional hypnotists, but, at age 22, he fought for his life after being hit head on by a drunken driver, causing a broken back and a fractured skull. Doctors were baffled that he used the power of his mind instead of medication and how once almost given up for dead made a rapid and complete recovery.

After watching Marc, who served as MC of the most recent and third “Showbiz Roast, of the Quad headliner Frank Marino at the Stratosphere, perform his hypnotist act, I am still baffled as to how he pulls off what he does. I talked with him the next day after watching and laughing out loud at the show about his career and what I saw that mystified me.

How on earth did you know that you wanted to be a hypnotist?

I wish my answer was exciting, like I was hit by lightening or something, but that’s just not the case. It happened by accident, to be honest. I was trying to get into med school, and I was at the University of Alberta. I saw a hypnotist show at a nightclub and was fascinated how someone could use the power of words to influence someone else’s behavior. It seemed almost magical to me. I didn’t understand it, so I started doing my own research on it.

My friends got wind of it and asked me to hypnotize them; I did, and it worked. From there it became a hobby. I never wanted to get into it as a career. People would ask me to do a little show at their house. So I did six shows the first year, 52 the next year and 115 the year after that. At that point, I decided to get business cards printed and call my parents and say, “Your son is not going to be a doctor; he’s going to be a freak show, sideshow variety entertainer.”

They were not impressed with that news, obviously, so they urged me to get something more solid under my belt. I went for hypnotherapy training, and that’s to do private sessions like to stop smoking, weight loss or seminar work. The rest, as they say, is history, and here we are 20 years later, my 20th year doing hypnosis.

And how many years in Las Vegas?

I’ve been living here 10 1/2 years, but I’ve been performing seven complete years in February.

My image of a hypnotist, and you have a hint of it in your show-opening imagery, is of the elderly grandfather figure waving a pocket watch in front of your eyes until you fall asleep. You don’t do any of that, though?

No, and that’s kind of the misconception of hypnosis. Two things cause people to go into hypnosis — fatigue or overload of the nervous system. Hypnosis happens not necessarily in the brain, per se, but the mind of the nervous system together. It mostly flies between the awaken state and the sleep state. So it has characteristics of being fully awake, yet characteristics of the dreaming capability. It can kind of resemble sleepwalking. People are fully able to handle a series of tasks and have no idea that they did any of it. The dreaming mind, or subconscious mind, handles those activities.

What I’m trying to do as a hypnotist is lessen their consciousness activity and increase their subconscious activity. That can happen when you’re watching a movie. When you’re watching it and it becomes so emotional that you start crying with the character; well, you’re not in that character’s life, and you’re not in the movie, but you can sustain reality for a short period of time and become involved from the subconscious mind.

There are many ways to get to that; when someone goes into shock in a car crash, they, too, are able to maybe walk on a broken leg by shutting off the conscious stimulus and allow the subconscious mind to use pain control to bring themselves to safety. For example, my wife Joanna delivering all four of our babies, including our newest 2-month old Lorelle, using hypnosis by tapping into her own body chemicals by using a state of hypnosis and relaxation.

There are many ways to get there. The pocket watch is just a classic focus point. Really with hypnosis all I’m trying to do is get them so focused on an idea that the idea becomes the reality for that given time. Hypnosis is portrayed by Hollywood to be complete mind control, but it’s not. I don’t control anything; I put them in a dream state where I can control that dream.

Now if I asked them to go and kill somebody, they would wake up from hypnosis. They wouldn’t do anything against their moral belief system. Now is dancing on a stripper pole against your moral belief system? Not really, but if they were getting naked, some wouldn’t do it. Other people would because that’s just their personality. Everyone has their own personal set of rules.

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Roastmaster Marc Savard shares a moment with roastee Frank Marino during the "Showbiz Roast" at Stratosphere Showroom on Friday, Oct. 4, 2013. Proceeds from the event went toward Make-a-Wish Foundation of Southern Nevada.

That was like a layman’s technical explanation of what it is and what happens, but, in the end, it’s still entertainment, isn’t it?

Right, and ultimately hypnosis is very similar to alcohol in a performance sense because what hypnosis does is it takes away inhibitions and really allows the person onstage to be their truest personality without consequence. The people onstage who are hypnotized could absolutely care less what the audience thinks.

Because they’re in this semi zone of not awake but not asleep.

Right. Almost in a dreamlike state where reality doesn’t really matter.

So I watched the snake routine on YouTube before I came to actually see it for myself. It’s so hard for me to wrap my belief around the people who think that a belt was a snake and be scared out of their brains.

Think of it this way: Let’s pretend that there are 10 people onstage who are hypnotized. Let’s use a scale of measurement-like picture: a weight scale. The weight scale right now is conscience vs. subconscious. You’re in a state right now of 98 percent conscious and 2 percent subconscious.

We’re having this conversation, it’s an analytical conversation, it’s very coherent with the ideas we’re talking about. Now the moment you get tired or emotional or relaxed or get into the zone, the conscious weight starts to lift a little bit, and the subconscious starts to come up, and, all of a sudden, let’s say you’re 70 percent conscious and 30 percent subconscious.

You’re emotional, watching a movie, getting engaged, etc. As that begins to change more and more, you fall into sleep, this dreaming; then when you hit the snooze button in the morning, you get that 9 minutes of snoozing, that’s when you have the craziest dreams. You’re kind of in it, you’re kind of not. You’re dreaming and then all of a sudden there’s a phone ringing in your dreams, but you realize all of a sudden you wake up, and it’s your phone on the night table that came into your dream and became a part of it.

That’s the closest real connection I can say to someone who hasn’t been hypnotized. Now here’s my point: At one point when it becomes 51 percent subconscious and 49 percent conscious, that’s when hypnosis begins to happen. Now out of 10 people onstage, three or four may be 70 percent subconscious, and their conscious mind is about 30 percent active. They’re kind of aware of what’s happening, they’re not really sure what’s happening, weird things are going on, they’re a little puzzled, they’re relaxed and delayed, whereas three or four people would be 90 percent subconscious and 10 percent conscious where they’re completely out of it.

Then there are one or two people who are 100 percent subconscious and have no idea what’s happened and have no clue where they are. They actually think it’s 100 percent happening. So when I bring 30 people up onstage, I’m narrowing it down to the people who are the highest ratio of subconscious vs. conscious.

So to answer your question with the snake, I’ve now narrowed it down to the best 10 who have these types of characteristics. Out of the group of 10 you saw, three or four were super, super hypnotized. Another three or four were pretty good, and there were one or two who were a bit lighter, but they’re still in that state.

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Marc Savard and wife Joanna arrives at the grand opening of "Smokey Robinson Presents Human Nature: The Motown Show" at The Venetian on Friday, Feb. 22, 2013.

When I make the sound with the snake, a very small percentage of people will actually hallucinate and see the belt turn into a snake. You’ll hear them after the show describe it. They’ll even say what color it was. The majority of people won’t see it visually, but they will still experience all of the emotions. You’ll hear them talking after the show, “I knew it was a belt, but I couldn't stop my heart from racing and jumping back.”

The best way to describe that from an audience perspective is when you were watching it, their reactions are totally spontaneous. When I hiss, they all jump back immediately. How do you practice that? How do you think that? How do you time that? You can’t. That’s what shows the true power of what’s truly happening onstage.

You have the stripper pole and snake experiences; what’s another one that gets a great reaction from audiences?

The blow-up dolls on the stage, but we don’t post those on YouTube just because we respect them. If he’s a principal at a school, I don’t want him to lose his job because a video suddenly surfaces. We’re very careful about what we put on YouTube. I change the routines depending on the night.

A couple of months ago, I had a young guy come up, a war vet. He had an amputated leg, and during the warm-up routine when they play in an orchestra, he pops his leg off and starts playing his leg as a trumpet! I had never seen anything like that in my life. Then during the “Riverdance” number, his leg fell off!

Every night, you never know what you’re going to get from the audience. Another example is the backside pinching one. I shake the girl’s hand, and she thinks the person next to her is pinching her tush. So last night, I did it to a lady and normally when I move her, she thinks the person next to her did it. Well this lady wouldn’t let it go. She thought it was the first guy! So every time I would shake her hand, she would blame him even though he wasn’t anywhere near her. She would say, “I don’t know how he did it; it was him!”

Do you ever have nightmares that you bring 30 people up, and they all become duds?

Nope. To be honest, I’ve never had an issue where I couldn’t get anyone hypnotized because it is a natural state of consciousness. If you can sleep and dream, you can be hypnotized. It’s shocking that when I say who wants to participate, they swarm to the stage. They just swarm up there.

I shake my head sometimes about people ever volunteering for a show like this. Maybe with the popularity of “American Idol,” reality TV shows, “America’s Got Talent,” people will do anything to get onstage and let their inhibitions go.

When I write this, is it easier to explain that you are a navigator who takes people into a very natural state that you can have fun with?

I think that’s a great analogy. Hypnosis is such a terrible word. The Hypnos comes from the Greek goddess of sleep. These people aren’t sleeping; it’s a meditative state.

Is it true that every person can be hypnotized?

Yes, but in certain social environments. For example, Uncle Frank can be an attorney at a firm where he’s trying to make partner, and they’ve hired me for their Christmas party. They send him up onstage. He’s afraid of what he’s going to say, he doesn’t want to say anything that’s going to hurt his chances, he doesn’t want to insult the partners, he doesn’t want to do something too embarrassing, he can’t relax. He doesn’t enter the state of hypnosis very well.

A week later, they hire me for his family reunion, and now he’s Uncle Frank with a lampshade on his head who could care less about the things that we make him do while hypnotized.

Have you ever hypnotized yourself?

I have. I was in a car crash when I was 22. I broke my back, fractured my skull, and brain fluid leaked out of my nose. I got hit by a drunken driver and am very fortunate to be alive. I did all natural healing; I had just gotten out of that hypnosis training. It was that moment in my life where I could prove it or not.

Instead of teaching people about the power of the mind, here was an opportunity to use it. It was the time. I did all natural healing with no medication whatsoever and sort of became my own personal success story. I spoke about it a lot in high schools. I would tour around speaking about drinking and driving and the power of the mind and how I healed myself.

It’s a major part of my life and my wife’s life, and we’re implementing it into our children’s lives. I don’t hypnotize you; I bring hypnosis out of you. It’s an internal process.

Check out MarcSavard.com for Marc’s YouTube videos. His comedy hypnosis show plays every day except Fridays in V Theater. It features adult humor, so the audience must be ages 18 and older.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.

Follow Sun A&E Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

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