‘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.


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