‘Post-Hypnotic Suggestion’ — “The Two Ronnies”

"The Two Ronnies" was a British comedy team of Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett. Their BBC program of the same name involved a variety of different comedy modes, including sketches, monologues, serials and the show closer, a parody of news programs. Short jokes (Ronnie Corbet was significantly shorter than his partner) were also a stock component of their repertoire.

Ronnie B: And now a sketch about an enormous embarrassment at a small, intimate party. Ronnie Corbett will play the small, intimate party.
Ronnie C: And Ronnie Barker will play the enormous embarrassment.

Their most impressive production was "The Picnic", a half-hour show, the day in the life of a minor noble family and their servants, which had no dialog just sight and sound gags. The series is available in DVD only in Region 2 PAL formats.

One of their sketches was entitled 'Post-Hypnotic Suggestion' and was one of the better examples of the comedy post-hypnotic suggestion trope. This sketch can be found in Season 2, Episode 8. Here, a number of people were given a post-hypnotic suggestion to do something funny at a stage hypnosis show and it was never removed, and now its causing them problems.

  • George sneezes every time food is mentioned.
  • Henry yells 'Cockadoodledoo' everytime he hears the name of a bird.
  • Robin says "Booom!" every time he hears a German word.
  • Emma says "Wheeeee!" every time she hears an apology.

They've all come to this restaurant because they discovered the hypnotist, "The Great Mysto" is there and wants him to remove their suggestions. Of course, that doesn't stop them from getting triggered. For example:

Henry: No, we'll keep right off all awkward things.
George: Once bitten, eh?
Robin: Bitter? Boooom!
George: No, I said "bitten".
Henry: Bittern? Cockadoodledoo!
Robin:, No, he said "bitten" as in "I have bitten the scone".
George: Atishoo!
Robin: Oh, sorry.
Emma: Wheeee!

The show sketch quickly devolves into chaos as they all inadvertently and continuously triggers each other's suggestion. Finally, when the Great Mysto shows up, he tells them that he doesn't do hypnotism any longer and is just a waiter, but when he announces when he brought them, he triggers everyone one's suggestion, and the sketch ends with continuous sneezes, "Boom!"s, "Cockadoodledoo!"s and "Wheee!"s.

Commentary: Count the comedic hypnosis tropes and stereotypes: 1) unremoved (and ever-lasting) post-hypnotic suggestions, 2) embarrassing post-hypnotic suggestions, 3) unexpected (and unwanted) triggering of suggestions, 4) belief that only the original hypnotist can remove the suggestion. That pretty much covers the most prevalent ones and puts them all in one package. However, anyone knowledgeable about the subject understands that these are just stereotypes, and incorrect ones, as well:

1) Unless frequently reinforced, post-hypnotic suggestions will eventually fade. In this case, though, they are constantly being triggered, but as long as the individual avoids situations that would trigger the suggestion, the post-hypnotic suggestion would eventually lose their effect.

2) In a stage hypnosis setting, embarrassing post-hypnotic suggestions are part of the program, so people accept them and carry them out. In normal situations, though, especially in public, there would be a natural reluctance to carry them out that would eventually cause the suggestions to begin failing. Once the subject is aware of that, the process of overcoming the suggestion would be greatly advanced.

3) Hypnosis only happens with the concurrence of the subject. If the subject believes carrying out the suggestion, especially on an unconscius level, then the suggestion would be eventually ignored.

4) Whatever happens through hypnosis takes place in the mind of the subject. The idea that a suggestion placed by a particular hypnotist can only be removed by that hypnotist only works if the person believes that, but that belief can be challenged and eventually overcome, should the subject desire it.

Of course, all four of these people could be dong this because they're either desperate for attention or for sympathy, the former being a good indicator to demonstrate whether they would be good subjects for a stage hypnosis show.

Trivia: A number of the members of "Monty Python's Flying Circus" were also writers for this show, specifically John Cleese, Michael Palin and Terry Jones, as well as prominent British comedian Spike Milligan.

References:

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