Stephen Fry asks questions about hypnosis, hallucinations and hysteria. With Ronni Ancona, Phill Jupitus, Robert Webb and Alan Davies.
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CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
Well, well, well, well, well,
howdy, howdy, howdy-doody and welcome.
Welcome to a QI that's all about hypnosis, hallucinations and hysteria.
And with me tonight are the hypnotic Ronni Ancona...
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
..the hysterical Robert Webb...
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
..the histrionic Phill Jupitus...
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
..and His Majesty Alan Davies.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
With such a theme, we're all buzzing with excitement of course
and Ronnie goes...
'You are feeling sleepy.'
And Robert goes...
And Phill goes...
'Your eyelids are heavy.'
And Alan goes...
So if I hypnotised you but then cut off your leg,
how much fuss would you make?
Doesn't it depend what you've gone in for the hypnosis for?
I mean, if you'd gone into stop smoking, I'd be a bit miffed really.
That's a very good point.
Assuming you'd gone in because you had gangrene
or you needed to lose your leg...
They never used hypnosis as an anaesthetic, did they?
Surely you'd be screaming in agony.
Oddly enough, no. It was used before ether in the 1830s very commonly
or reasonably commonly at least,
once Mesmer had sort of, as it were, introduced the world to the idea of hypnotism.
What seems to be the case is that most of the discomfort we feel -
even in an operation like sawing off a leg - is the ANXIETY of pain.
If you can relieve yourself of the anxiety,
an enormous amount of the pain goes
and a good example to prove this is people who are in some way
allergic to or resistant to anaesthetic
and so can't be put under because it's too risky.
So they're injected with Valium,
which is an anti-anxiety drug and all it does is tranquillise them.
It doesn't send them to sleep, it just makes them feel less anxious.
PHILL: If I was going in for surgery,
I'd feel anxious when I saw the man in the top hat with the crazy eyebrows.
You're kind of suggesting
that a lot of pain is just a manifestation of anxiety, isn't it?
The fact is, pain is created by the brain. It's not a real thing.
-It's just information, isn't it?
The brain can create it, the brain can be told not to.
-It's bloody sore information!
-It doesn't help.
You land a mallet on your thumb, "It's just information! It's just information!"
-It doesn't really help.
-Yes, hypnotic anaesthesia can be surprisingly effective
though it seems to work mostly by helping you relax.
You need answer only one of the following.
What's the best way to hypnotise either A - an alligator, B - a tiger shark or C - a chicken?
-I've seen them do it to sharks.
-And what do they do?
-Don't they lie them on their backs or something?
-Exactly right, you flip it over.
But I thought sharks had to keep moving in order to survive.
Which is why whales have learned to tip them over, to make them suffocate and it will kill them.
-There's a very small hammerhead shark being flipped.
-That is a toy shark.
Or a really big diver.
-A frighteningly big diver.
-I think we'd have heard of him!
-I think we would.
-'Your lids are heavy.'
I think I know how to do chickens.
-It's weird because it actually looks like you're...oppressing them
-quite violently, but you have to hold them to the ground and draw a line.
You draw a line from their beak along
and they just stare at it.
That's what they do. It's called tonic immobility in animals and that's an example of it.
There's another way to do it to chickens. Take a stick or a paddle...
In this case, a light flagellation paddle I happen to have in the house. You fix eyes to it
and hold it up to it and it will apparently stare at it forever.
Our producer tried it on his - we're the kind of show whose producers have chickens -
and he says it didn't work at all, they just went off to eat things.
You just made that up, didn't you?
No, no, it is in all the books. It says that that is a way to hypnotise them.
-In all the books?!
In all of the chicken-hypnotising books? All of them?
How many are there?
This is why you can't ever let your chickens watch the Muppets.
Frogs, lizards, crocodiles, sharks, all go into a trance
if they're turned over onto their backs and held there for just a few seconds.
Rabbits and guinea pigs do the same if you stroke them or roll them over first.
Do you know how you wake up rabbits and guinea pigs if they're in that state?
You let a dog in.
The kinder way is to blow on their nose.
-On the nose?
-Yes, a little blow on the nose will do.
-What have I hypnotised, do you know?
-No, I did on a television programme.
When I was in Maine, doing this documentary about America...
-What is the most famous animal in Maine?
A lobster, we have a lobster in here.
-There it is.
-Now how did I do this?
I stroked... I remember. There you are.
You stroke him here, that's it.
He goes completely still.
I remember the one I did in Maine, it was...
I could stand him up on his own.
You can see, there it is.
They seem smaller there.
There he is, completely still, not moving a muscle.
LAUGHTER AND APPLAUSE
There he is, completely still,
and if I lift him up,
his tail will come up usually
and he'll wake up.
Erm...have I killed you?
No, there he is.
He's all right. He's still asleep.
There we are, he's quite active now, under there.
So dinner's sorted.
So he's going back to the zoo, Stephen?
Of course, I'm going to throw him back into the sea, naturally.
You truly are a Renaissance man.
I wear tights, put it that way.
What about, though... I mean that's humans hypnotising animals.
Can animals hypnotise humans?
There was a dog - Oscar the hypno-dog -
who was... There he is, look.
-Those are pretty amazing eyes.
-I'm feeling it now.
I'll go and get the biscuits.
The thing is,
he can keep up that stare into a human's eyes for a very long time.
-Depending on what human wants to be stared at!
-Does he charge hourly?
-Pack it in, Oscar. Stop looking at me.
Hugh Lennon was his trainer. He did go missing and a reward
was posted for his return, though the public were warned not to look into his eyes.
Does that sound like a publicity stunt to try and get tickets?
"Oscar the hypno-dog is loose! Don't look at him!"
"I've seen him. He's in the park."
Presumably when he's running around, someone thought they'd find him and go, "It's Oscar the hypno-dog,"
and he'd go, "I'm not the dog you're looking for.
"I'm a Pomeranian."
So, yes, dogs can apparently hypnotise humans. Snakes...
maybe not humans, but they're said to be able to freeze a rabbit by staring at them.
-They're very gullible, rabbits.
-They believe anything.
-They're quite grumpy.
-They can be aggressive.
They're not supposed to be very good pets. They're very grumpy... and violent.
I like the Dutch ones you can ride.
They're huge, they're massive!
OK, maybe not ride.
-That is a rabbit costume.
-A Dutchman wearing a rabbit costume.
DUTCH ACCENT: "OK, I am wearing a saddle and it's time to go."
I love rabbits.
"Wow, I am thinking maybe I should have had a smaller celebrity."
So, yes, many animals can be put into a trance,
but it's probably better to practise on the ones lower down the food chain first.
So why not consult Zoe D Katze, PhD, CHt, DAPA?
That's a pretty good series of... I would say...
-Hell of an anagram.
Is she invisible? There's nobody there.
'Your eyelids are heavy.'
-Is she an animal hypnotherapist?
-She is an animal hypnotherapist.
She's a cat.
-Zoe D Katze is a cat with a PhD,
a CHt and that diploma.
I think Oscar is sitting opposite her.
It's a man called Steve Eichel who is an academic
who wanted to demonstrate the ease with which you can get
a doctorate online or any of these apparently important professional
Hypnotherapy Association qualifications,
-all of which were given to a cat.
The point is once you get one, you can use the others to parlay
until you get a whole list of them.
She has a doctorate in counselling psychology from a mail-order university
and the CHt is a certified hypnotherapist -
in the National Guild Of Hypnotists, no less -
and the DAPA is a Diplomat of the American Psychotherapy Association,
both qualifications which are supposed to connote genuine professional standing.
Oh, my cat's only got a BA!
It is astonishing, isn't it? There are also what are called diploma mills and degree mills,
which give out either a fake diploma from a real university
or, as it were, a real one from a fake college that doesn't exist,
like they make up one that says "Christ's College, Oxford" or something.
Are those hats falling from the sky or are there hands beneath them?
-Is that how you get your hat? They're dropped out of a plane and you have to catch one?
Throw it in the air at your excitement of having got a degree.
I like to think that underneath that photo there's about 60 cats.
The thing is, that if you were a cat,
because of the tassels, you wouldn't leave them alone, would you?
I've got diplomas for all of you. Alan, you can put that on the wall.
Ronni, ABSO. That's a QI award.
-Academy of Advanced Banter.
-It actually has...
Do you get letters from the American Biographers' Association or something?
And they say, "You have been selected as one of the men of the year..."
-Oh, it's a scam.
-"..by the American Biographers' Association for expertise in your field."
All you have to do is pay 700.
And it says, yes, "If you would send 695, we'll send you a plaque."
I've got 12.
-Well, there you are, yes,
pseudo-credentialling, it's a big issue.
Other qualifications which the same Eichel who gave Zoe the cat her...
or managed to get her these qualifications,
he found energy therapist qualifications easily got,
past-life regression therapist and alien abduction therapist.
-I want to do that course.
Yes. I'm going to get a guinea pig and make it an alien abduction therapist.
Yes, the Zoe the cat is a cat, but that doesn't make her a bad person.
I need your help. How can we persuade the audience to elect me Pope
without them noticing that we've done it?
My hand is not that liver-spotted!
I'm having that.
You wouldn't wear such cheap cassocks either.
No, I wouldn't either. No, that's so odd.
Is there a technique?
Suppose I wanted to sell them something without telling them.
-Some sort of mass suggestion.
Horribly cruel of me to try and pull it out of you
and then punish you for it.
No, the fact is, subliminal advertising has never been shown to work. It's a complete myth.
Although it's banned by most broadcasting authorities and the FCC in America,
it's not actually ever been shown to work.
In fact, the person who invented it in 1957 - a man called Vicary - in 1962
he admitted he'd falsified the evidence.
He claimed he'd used it and sold lots of cola and burgers
by putting in a flash frame, a single frame out of 24 frames a second.
Obviously the eye doesn't consciously register...
It just hasn't been shown to work. I remember they did one in the Young Ones.
-They did it all the time in the Young Ones.
-Yes, they did.
It's like going back to my childhood and I'm remembering it all now.
-Yes, Ronni, deal with it.
Anyway, sound - do we know any stories of audio subliminal messages?
Oh, the court cases about "backward masking" they call it, which is, you know, satanic messages.
-Yes, perhaps the most alarming story was two boys
who committed suicide, or attempted suicide,
-and their parents took Judas Priest to court.
Do you know what the message was supposedly in the track?
-It was... "Do it, do it now."
-"Do it, do it now." Yes.
So Halford, as part of the court case, went in with a load of records
and played them backwards and then just read out a list of things you could hear
in records when played backwards just to show how...
He also said, "I don't wish to paint myself as greedy,
"but if we were going to put a message in it would be, 'Buy more of our records.'" He also said,
"Do it doesn't mean kill yourself."
-Stephen, the song WAS called Suicide Solution.
-Oh, was it?
Finally, being in a pop quiz pays off!
Other subliminal images have been seen, Lenin, for example, was seen by some in the Labour Party rose,
-That's someone from Planet of the Apes.
-It's more like that, isn't it?
But there we are. So, yes, subliminal advertising doesn't...
work. Seriously though, I'd be very pleased.
Anyway, what kind of behaviour would you expect from a superstitious pigeon?
They always wear their feathers in exactly the same colour and exactly the same order every day.
Well, it is just that sort of superstition that pigeons have been found to exhibit.
It's quite interesting, a very well-known American psychiatrist called B F Skinner,
he found that if you feed pigeons at predetermined intervals,
the pigeons, because they can't predict when the food is coming,
they seem to register what they were doing at the time the food arrived
and repeat the action to make the food come next time, which is a very human thing.
It's like humans blowing on dice before a game of craps.
They would walk in anti-clockwise circles because maybe twice they were walking anticlockwise
when the food arrived and they think that must be why the food comes.
-That's not superstitious, that's just hopeful.
Last time I won this game, I was wearing one red sock and one blue, so I'll wear
a red sock and a blue sock again, sportsmen do it all the time.
-They repeat actions that happened before...
-People do it all the time.
-It's called magical thinking, where you think you're having an effect on the world.
-And you're not.
I can't watch this match because the last round, I didn't watch and we won.
Or I was standing up when England scored a goal, so I've got to stand up for the rest of the match.
-I'm going to go to the toilet now, we'll definitely score.
-All that. We do it all the time.
-My uncle, when he lights a cigar, we always score.
-Yes, it happens to all of us.
They're all dead now, because I killed them.
It's almost like a form of megalomania, isn't it, in a bizarre sort of way.
-That we could possibly affect the outcome.
-That is the nature of superstition.
It's quite hard, it has to be said,
to find any definition of superstition that doesn't also cover religion.
It makes the same promises, the same suggestions of individual actions...
You convince yourself you're involved
in the world somehow - if I wear my lucky scarf, then I'm really in the game.
-And you're just wearing a scarf.
-Yes, that's right, it is.
And each religion will regard other religions as superstition and theirs as not being.
I am religious, you are superstitious.
In the Catholic Church, it is a sin to be superstitious.
-You'll change that when you're Pope.
-I'll change that when I'm Pope, yes.
-No, no, stop.
What are we going to do with the gold?
"And as Pope Stephen walks out onto the balcony, underneath the ladder, with several black cats..."
American psychologist B F Skinner managed to train pigeons to be superstitious
by giving them arbitrary food rewards and keeping his fingers crossed, and best of luck to him.
Now, what's hysterical about wandering womb trouble?
-Hysterical as in, that's Janet Leigh in Psycho.
-It certainly is.
-But she didn't have a wandering womb, she was being stabbed to death by a maniac.
-She was hysterical for a very good reason.
-Yes. What does hysterical mean? Where does the word come from?
'You're feeling sleepy.'
-I think this is something to do with hysterectomies.
The Greek word for uterus is hystera, so the word hysteria?
Yes, it was Hippocrates also who thought
that there was a correlation between mental un-balance and the womb becoming wandering around the body.
He thought the womb, like an animal, moved around the female body.
I've got a very good female friend who's a gynaecologist who was telling me.
That is how the word hysteria came about,
it was associated entirely with women from the same root as hysterectomy.
-She's hysterical, slap her!
-Yes, slap her, that was the attitude that men had towards women's illnesses or
particularly neuroses, that somehow it was to do with them being women, and women of a certain age
were associated with all kinds of what were called hysterias, hysterical responses.
But it was Freud who said that almost
for every real condition, you might have a hysterical version which was created by the mind,
but it was as real, it wasn't feigned, that's the point.
-This was before hysterical became a synonym for hilarious?
"You have a hysterical condition." "Well, it doesn't feel very hysterical to me!"
But there is such a thing as hysterical blindness and muteness,
people will lose the ability to see, although physically there is nothing wrong with their eyes at all.
Anyway, hysteria, as Ronni rightly knew, used to be attributed
to the womb roaming about the body, interfering with other organs.
Doctors thought it would cause anything from a nervous breakdown to blindness.
Now a question which will test your reflexes. Watch the film here of the setting sun.
All I want you to do is to hit your buzzer at the moment the sun has dropped below the horizon.
It's speeded up, obviously.
'Eyelids are heavy.'
You got there first.
Well too late! Well too late!
That is the moment at which the sun is below the horizon.
What we see is a mirage.
I know it sounds crazy, but it's true.
You're looking at me as if to say...
-Is this to do with how far away it is?
-It's to do with
the bending of light and the eye not accepting it, but it is genuinely below the horizon.
Physically, the Earth has turned such that it is not there.
I know you're looking very cross and "That can't be true!" about it.
That's a film of it, though.
I know, but you can get thermal mirages and there's nothing there, on the roadside, water puddles.
You get rainbows and they're not there.
That's a photograph, but it's not there. There's no water there, it's just air.
I'll try and explain. Light from the setting sun passes through our atmosphere at a shallow angle
and gradually bends as the air density increases,
not dissimilar to the image of your legs in a swimming pool. The effect artificially raises
the sun in the last few minutes of its decline, and by coincidence,
the amount of bending is pretty much equal to the diameter of the sun.
So it's exactly as it's there, but it's actually disappeared.
-I hate this show.
-Be interested, please.
-The sun is there.
And you're like, "No."
"It's the sun!" "Not there. Mirage."
Have you ever seen a mirage?
-Travelling through the desert in America, you see them all the time.
The standard ones in the roads. What appear to be huge puddles of shimmering lakes of water,
which are not there. You must have seen those in the roads.
Yes, but I grew up in Scotland, and they are there.
-In New Zealand, you get quite bad sunstrike off the roads, causes accidents.
And what does that entail?
Because New Zealand is so low on the planet, if you see what I mean,
and the sun comes through quite a lot of atmosphere to get to it,
and the angle of it when it hits the road causes a lot of blindness in the eyes of drivers.
-I daresay that the drivers in New Zealand, as they see
the sun setting, are reassured to know that it's not there.
Yes, the fact is that despite Phill's reluctance to understand it,
that the setting sun is actually below the horizon the moment
that its lower edge seems to touch the sea.
So to the place where everything you think you know proves to be an illusion,
the nightmare that we call General Ignorance. Fingers on buzzers, please.
What shape is this staircase?
'Eyelids are heavy.'
-It's not there.
I'm very happy for you.
-'Eyelids are heavy.'
-It is a helix?
Yes, it's helical, well done, exactly right.
It's terribly pedantic, but a spiral is when it gets bigger and bigger and wider and wider,
-and a helix, it stays the same, as a staircase does.
-(I knew that!)
But you just wanted the forfeit, didn't you? Yes.
So, strictly speaking, a spiral staircase is actually helical.
So why are there so many lavatories in the Pentagon?
Er, one each?
-Do you know how many people work in the Pentagon?
There aren't 23,000 lavatories, so, no, I'm afraid it's a really ghastly reason.
-Where is it?
Virginia is a southern state and it had laws, not nice laws.
-Segregation. By law, you had to have one lavatory for white people
and one for black people, so there were double the number.
I'm afraid it's true, it's a horrible truth.
It shouldn't have happened, because it was built in the '40s under the presidency of FDR,
who had specifically outlawed racial segregation in federal...
he couldn't legislate for the states but he could say that no federal building...
So when he arrived for his first inspection, he was told,
he was furious that there were all these lavatories.
Well, it's not very PC, it's true, but have you ever been for a queue in the ladies' loo?
So it's nice for you that there are so many, yes. You racist.
But although they built them all for that reason,
they were banned from using it and they were never racially segregated.
Look at all the tennis courts they've got as well.
That centre bit alone, just to give you a sense of the scale of it, is five acres, just the middle bit.
17 and a half miles of corridor, at least 284 lavatories, six separate zip codes,
just the Pentagon, but apparently, it takes only seven minutes to walk from one place to another.
Only one cleaner, they have.
Yes, poor darling.
Name something invented by Vyacheslav Molotov.
A Molotov cocktail.
He didn't invent the Molotov cocktail.
He invented the Sloe Comfortable Screw Against the Wall.
-Which he is drinking there.
-Yes, having one right now. Pina colada.
Well, he invented some grim things like death lists.
The Molotov line, like the Maginot line, a defensive line, various other things.
-He was a Bolshevik.
-He was a Bolshevik, he was the Foreign Minister under Stalin, all the way.
He lived until 1986.
A very exciting job, Foreign Minister under Stalin.
-You can imagine, absolutely.
-Every day, "What are we going to do today?"
"I don't know. Have you asked him?" "He hasn't woken up yet."
He claimed his country, in the war against Finland, was dropping food parcels
when it was dropping cluster bombs.
So the Finns called them Molotov's breadbaskets, these bombs that came down.
When they fought against the Soviet tanks... Don't forget, the Finns beat the Russians.
It was quite an amazing war. They used petrol bombs and they said,
"These are Molotov cocktails to go with the bread you're giving us,"
so it was kind of their joke. But they humiliated Russia, Finland,
-it was an extraordinary achievement.
-Very, very well done.
-Yes, very well done, Finland, absolutely.
Which brings me to the real matter of the scores, and my goodness, are they interesting or not?
Well, they are quite interesting.
I'm afraid in fourth place, with minus 32, it's Robert Webb.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
And in third place with minus 17, Ronni Ancona.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE
-In second place, Alan Davies with minus eight.
-Thanks very much.
Which means our runaway winner,
our solar sceptic with minus two, Phill Jupitus.
CHEERING AND APPLAUSE I'm not here.
That's all from QI. Goodnight from Ronni, Robert, Phill, Alan and me,
and I will leave you with this thought.
You will tune in again next week, you will. Goodnight.
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