By Chris Mowder • ListenUpMB@Gmail.com
More and more people are turning to hypnosis as a treatment for everything from quitting smoking to weight loss, but thanks to a new south end theater, locals can now see the craft’s most hilarious treatment on display nightly: getting big laughs.
Opened in January, Big Laughs Theater is located in Surfside Beach, a 268-seat theatre nestled into a strip mall storefront which formerly housed El Cerro Grande.
Though its outside appearance may be unassuming, what happens inside is anything but subdued.
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The theater offers a pair of shows, including the family-friendly “Mild” show at 7 p.m. and the adult-themed “Wild” show at 9:15 p.m.
Currently the shows run one night per week on Saturdays, but the couple plans to expand its schedule to three or four nights a week at the end of March and to six nights a week throughout the summer.
“At the mild show participants could be riding on a rollercoaster or driving on a go-kart and eating cotton candy, which then turns into a burrito and then they all of a sudden realize that the person next to them passes gas,” said Wylde, explaining the typically silly actions on stage.
Wylde says during the family show, they invite not only adults but also children 12 and older to participate.
“We like to see moms and dads up there first. But we’ve seen kids push other kids out of the way to get on stage. They really love to be a part of it,” she said.
With more than 300 skits in the Wyldes repertoire of tricks, Elizabeth says the type of participants they have on any given night really determines the direction of the show.
“Every single show is different,” said Elizabeth. “We don’t have any ‘plants’ that do the show for you. This is actual hypnosis and these are actual audience members getting hypnotized.”
Once an audience member is chosen to be one of the shows “stars” the Wyldes bring them up on stage, hypnotize them into a deep sleep and then, through hypnotic suggestion, the couple “makes them do fun things” including skits, games and more.
“We don’t make fun of our stars, we have fun with our stars,” said Wylde.
Though good-nature fun is the name of the game throughout Big Laughs Theatre, things do get a bit more intense when it comes to the “Wild” show, where attendees can expect to hear plenty of adult innuendo and at least a few swear words.
“It’s basically on the same level as an ‘American Pie’ or ‘The Hangover.’ It’s nothing extremely vulgar by any means,” she said.
Though it’s not a common occurrence, Wylde does warn that the show has had some unintentional nudity in the past.
“There’s no nudity in the show … unless of course you get a girl that’s not wearing any panties and a short skirt and decides they want to spread their legs on stage,” said Wylde. “We’ve had that happen a few times, but if we notice it we’ll definitely try to keep their dignity and ours as well. We’re not here to offend folks and I don’t want to see that.”
But despite the unpredictable nature of the show, Wylde says there’s no need to worry about attending if you don’t want to be hypnotized. All participants in the show are volunteers.
However, she admits there are often some reluctant volunteers who get pressed into doing so by friends or family.
“We get the big, burly biker guys that are basically forced up there by their family. They’re often the most fun because you can get some real shock value from having them do outrageous things that are really out of character and that’s when the audience really gets it that these are real people. This stuff isn’t staged,” said Wylde.
Though the idea of a theater dedicated to hypnosis is new to the Grand Strand, it’s one the Wyldes have been looking forward to for nearly a decade.
“We fell in love with this area about 10 years ago and thought about doing this then,” said Elizabeth. “But we wanted to wait until the kids were out of school and when that happened we said ‘That’s it, we’re going to retire and move to Myrtle Beach.’”
The pair, who Elizabeth says are the only husband-and-wife hypnotist duo in the U.S., have compiled quite a resume during 14 years of performing together.
“We’ve done a lot of shows out at Stardust in Las Vegas, we’ve traveled coast to coast, we’ve been the official hypnotists for ‘The Jerry Springer Show,’” she said.
Over the past eight years the couple has performed full-time, honing their craft in their home state of Wisconsin at Wisconsin Dells Resort. For the past several years before their move the Wyldes also owned a comedy club, where they would often perform their act.
“Over the past several years we owned not only one of the Midwest’s largest comedy clubs, but also a restaurant and bar. It was a nightmare. We were working 18-hour days and never saw each other,” she said. “Most nights the only time we spent together was on stage.”
So while opening a theater in the ultra-competitive Myrtle Beach market may not seem like retirement to most, running Big Laughs is actually a step back for them.
“This is a perfect size for us. This is our semi-retirement. We didn’t want to go to near 600 seats like what we had up north,” she said.
Wylde says that with everything structurally in place for them to build Big Laughs, the building they chose to host the theater was like a blank canvas.
“There wasn’t very much stuff except putting in our stage, so it worked out terrific. We really like the location,” she said.
Though Elizabeth admits she’s not quite sure what to expect as the season ramps up and the show settles into its new digs, there are some things about the show she’s positive of.
“It’s going to be the funniest show on the Strand. You will laugh so hard and you will always remember the show, especially if someone from your family volunteers.”
Big Laughs Theater is located at 2696 Beaver Run Blvd., in the Millenium Run Plaza near Wal-Mart off of S.C. 544. Upcoming “wild” show dates are Feb. 9, 16, 18 and 23 (see website for more dates). Tickets are $19.95 for “wild” show, $26.95 for adults and $9.95 for kids for the “mild” show. For more showtimes and information visit big-laughs.com or call 750-0514.