A long while ago (must be almost 20 years) a stage hypnotist named Marshall Silver appeared on Letterman’s NBC show. It was both hilarious, sad, and embarrassing because Dave didn’t buy any of it for even a second! The guy selected a woman from the audience and tried to do his whole spiel. Dave kept commenting and even yelling at the guy, mainly because he didn’t like the way Silver appeared to be almost groping her at times. The woman just kept laughing.
Silver was a good sport overall, but he clearly wasn’t real happy. He claimed that Dave’s comments were preventing it from ‘working’. He must have whined a lot afterwords because they had him on again a few weeks later. This time he brought his own ‘volunteers’ who clucked and barked at his command etc. Dave just kind of sat on the sidelines and laughed knowing that everybody watching still wasn’t buying it.
It was the ‘Showbiz-is-all-bullshit’ Letterman at his best. And to be fair Silver was a great performer. He had a real stage presence about him. He always wore a pair of dark sunglasses which, when he turned his back to the camera and took them off and looked at Letterman, even Dave couldn’t help but play along and pretend he was getting the whammy from the guy!
And in a way Silver was right about Dave’s comments preventing it from working, in that like the above post says its not about hypnosis but the power of suggestion and, mostly, the power of conformity. The people who volunteer are intrinsically afraid that if they don’t play along, if they make the host look like the ass that he is the audience will still be on his side and somehow blame them for ruining the show! And to a large degree they’re absolutely right!