A tip for comedians: the TV technique Tony Benn learned from Adolf Hitler

A friend drew my attention to a piece about Twitter in a three-year-old edition of Psychology Today which says:

“I used to design videogames, so I’m pretty good at tuning gameplay ‘action’… Twitter is definitely designed to encourage addictive usage. When I designed games, we would measure eyeblink rates to see if the player was entering a state of “flow” during gameplay. If the blink rate dropped precipitously after a few minutes of play, the game would most likely be a hit. And if you test a heavy Twitter user in the same way, I’ll bet that a similar thing is happening – a drop in the blink rate, some pupil dilation, and a surge in neuro-adrenaline.”

I take this to mean that the less someone blinks, the more interested they are and the more mesmeric the video game has become.

Somewhere-or-other in the long centuries-gone-by, I read two stories about highly self-obsessed politician Tony ‘name-shrinker’ Benn. Or ‘Mr Benn’ as I like to call him (after the TV cartoon fantasist).

One fact I read about him (the self-obsessed politician) was that, if he drank as much tea as he said he did, he would be dead.

The other was that he had modelled his TV style on Adolf Hitler.

Adolf Hitler, allegedly, would never blink when he was being filmed making speeches. If he needed to blink, he would turn his head slightly away from the camera, do the blink and then turn back. This gave him a more self-assured, stronger image and, it was felt, gave his speeches a more mesmeric, can’t-stop-watching quality.

Mr Benn (the politician) on television apparently copied Herr Hitler on film.

I have no idea if that is true about Hitler or about Benn, but it would make a lot of sense. And it might be something other performers interested in techniques of persuasion should think about.

Especially dodgy politicians and comedians.

Of course, one potential downside is it might also make you look mad…

2 Comments

Filed under Politics, Psychology

2 responses to “A tip for comedians: the TV technique Tony Benn learned from Adolf Hitler

  1. Jim Thompson

    I always thought that Mr. Benn was looking suspiciously into the camera to see if someone was using the wrong lens. Cartoonists at the time always made him look mad-eyed for this reason.

    He was an expert at using the media though. My favourite story about this was that he would send a speech he was about to make to journalists; then say in his actual speech “The media lies, not one word of what I say to you today will be in the papers tomorrow”, and deliver a completely different speech.

    For troubles in blinking, ask an actor who has been in Satre’s Huis Clos. Halfway through the play, one character tells another that he doesn’t blink. From then on, it’s all the audience looks for.

  2. Confused. Could be the cartoon character.

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