In a place like Destin, where a family could easily drop well over $1,000 on a single day’s worth of meals and entertainment, anything offered for free is met with intrigue—and skepticism.
Such was the mindset of both myself and Johnny Crisco, the man seated beside be at a recent performance of The Stoked Show, which began its three-month run at HarborWalk Village’s Bart Rockett Theater last month.
Whether Terry Stokes, a long-time Las Vegas entertainer and headliner of the three-man act, was actually able to get his volunteers’ conscious minds to take a hike for a while and let their ids do the driving, or they were just playing to the audience, is irrelevant.
The 90-minute family-friendly show was so much fun, filled with music, comedy, laughter, a hilarious appearance from Elvis, and audience participation—yes, I was one of the guinea pigs, but more on that later—that authenticity takes a back seat to its pure entertainment value. Crisco didn’t even volunteer to get up on stage, but he was so impressed that he purchased a couple souvenir videos.
“I didn’t expect it to be that entertaining, but I had tears running down my face,” he admitted. “The kid with the Band-Aids, the toilet seat, the ‘Who’s your daddy?’ guy…and your x-ray vision glasses, you really told on yourself on that one.”
The performance began with Paul “Stokes” Brevard singing his YouTube hit “Soldiers in Blue,” an homage to law enforcement, firefighters, nurses and EMTs, which was accompanied by a video. He later told the audience it was released in 2015, following a series of strokes he’d suffered.
“The video shows my best friend who was shot. He was a police officer,” he explained later. “It is what got me ‘Stoked’ to do this again, so we felt it would be a good song to kick things off—that sometimes you have to get stoked in life to get things going again and not get on disability like they wanted me to.”
Soon after, Stokes took to the stage and started messing with the audience, much to everyone’s delight. I love it when entertainers interact with the audience, like when he told one young woman who was celebrating her birthday that she’d “wake up in your birthday suit,” teasing another about her laugh (which was almost always punctuated with a snort) and when Brevard—dressed as Elvis— showered one table with pieces of toilet paper while crooning a ballad.
After several “suggestibility tests” designed to test how impressionable they are, Stokes put out the call for eight volunteers, and I found myself walking toward the stage. I briefly fantasized about being as deeply hypnotized as Ron Livingston in Office Space, so I could forget about how much my life sucks.
Stokes says there are a couple telltale signs that someone’s under his spell, or at least relaxed, rather than just pretending. Their pulse rates slow and they exhibit rapid eye movement, an indication that his visualization and relaxation techniques are working. Only one of the volunteers, a young boy, didn’t make the cut.
“Most people actually don’t think they are hypnotized because they can hear,” he said before that night’s performance. “People think they’re not supposed to be able to hear. They think ‘I’m not hypnotized,’ but then they realize, ‘Boy, I really have an urge to do this.’ You always know what’s going on, but you’re so relaxed that you don’t care.”
It’s probably pretty rare for someone to be in such a deep, trance-like state that they can be made to unwittingly play peek-a-boo with a toilet seat, blow the whistle on people suspected of pooping or peeing in their pants from laughing too hard, or slapping Band-Aids on imaginary wounds—all of which happened during our time on stage.
Maybe the others really were in a deep hypnotic state; some people are more open to the power of suggestion than others. Remember Jonestown and Heaven’s Gate? I’d like to believe I’m above all that, but then look at how many stupid relationships and jobs I’ve stayed in for that very reason.
Anyway, no one wants to be a wet blanket, and rubbing a guy’s bald spot when prompted by the word “genie” is something I’d probably do anyway. But I can definitely say that during the relaxation and visualization exercises, I felt myself relax and my mind drifted off, like it does during a Yoga class or after a couple Bourbon and Cokes.
“You get hypnotized every day of your life,” Stokes said during our pre-show talk. “Have you ever been watching television, really involved in the program, and someone walks in the room and asks you a question? You answer the question but a few minutes later when the show’s over, you say, ‘Did you say something to me?’
“Some people call that marriage, but if you think about it, part of your mind heard a question, analyzed the question, thought up an answer, delivered the answer, and you don’t ever remember doing it,” he continued. “You do it when you’re driving down the road, and suddenly realize your exit was five miles back. In fact, that’s even called ‘road hypnosis.’”
Did our subconscious minds really emerge from the depths during those 45 minutes? Were some of us just playing the part for the benefit of the audience? Or could it have been, as logic would suggest, that anyone who volunteers to get up in front of a room full of strangers and subject themselves to the whim of a Las Vegas showman is a little uninhibited to begin with and therefore more willing to act stupid for the greater good?
As far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t matter. Stokes says the show is doing better than expected, and they’re getting a lot of repeat business. After seeing it for myself, I’m not surprised.
The Stoked Show runs Wednesday through Saturdays through May 28. Snacks and drinks— including beer and wine—are available for purchase. And while admission is free, it’s a cold, cold heart that doesn’t tip at the end of the show to reward a job well done. These guys really pour their hearts and souls into each performance.