Two characters are having an Argument Of Contradictions, an argument that eventually degenerates into something like "Am not!" "Are too!" One of them pretends to take up their opponent's position, and when their opponent takes up their position out of mindless contrariness, the switcher manages to win the argument.
This gag depends on the antagonist getting so caught up in the heat of the moment that they will act without thinking of their actual goals. Thus it shows up in many old 'screwball' cartoons and live-action situation comedies.
A rarer example will be the use of props with sound effects (i.e. a light switch) that will be turned on and off each time the sound effect is used. The pretender makes a (usually very bad) mimicking of the sound and will trick his opponent into switching the device to rivaling position.
Just for the record, it doesn't always work. Unless you're talking way too fast. And you act on instinct rather than knowing what you're doing.
Compare Politeness Judo, Reverse Psychology and see the parent trope Argument Of Contradictions
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At one point, Cartoon Network had a number of advertising spots in which two live-action brothers reproduced classic cartoon spots. One of their ads was this routine... done in a way that couldn't possibly work in real life.
In another Cartoon Network commercial, a man tried to use this when his boss was firing him. After a minute of "No I'm not." "Yes you are." the man finally switched to "Yes I am." Unfortunately, it didn't work and the boss replied with "Yes... you are." The Tagline: "You are not Bugs Bunny."
Naturally this gag appears in a Nike's commercial where Bugs Bunny and Michael Jordan pull one over on Marvin the Martian.
Used in spirit if not in full fact in One Piece, in which Robin takes advantage of the absolute obedience of Thriller Bark zombies by tricking Doktor Hogback to tell her to jump out of the building. Hogback, caught up in the moment per the trope, does just that and Robin moves so that the order is accidentally directed at the two zombies Hogback is controlling. They obediently leap out the high tower's window.
Used during the anime adaption of the Impel Down arc. After Bon Clay breaks into the control room for the gate, he turns into Warden Magellan and orders the gates to be opened. Just then, the REAL Magellan shows up and orders them to be shut. The two then go back and forth with 'DO IT!' 'DON'T DO IT!' while shouting this at a confused lackey before he just decides to shut it. Then Bon switches back and simply breaks the controls, keeping it open.
The first episode of Seitokai no Ichizon uses this with Kurimu stamping approval forms and Ken saying "Pettanko" (which she is) every time she says "approved." Then he switches.
Okay troops, line up. [begins handing out omelets] Ashley, mushroom. Amber, onion. Lenny, plain.
You said plain.
Okay fine, you win. Plain.
(He looks happy for a moment, then wanders off, looking confused)
Who says you can't learn anything from cartoons?
In the Laurel and Hardy film Sons of the Desert, Ollie is arguing with his wife over whether he's going to spend the weekend attending a fraternity convention with Stanley, or take her camping in the mountains. During the course of the argument, something like this pops up, though it's uncertain whether this is a deliberate trick on Ollie's part or something he inadvertently stumbles upon in his flustered state. It doesn't work, at any rate.
Ollie: I want this understood once and for all. I'm not going to the convention. I'm going to the mountains!
Mrs. Hardy: That's just what I said, that you're not going to the mountains, that you're going to the...that you're going to the mountains!
Used in Ali G Indahouse when Ali is arguing with the East Staines Massiv whether West side or East side is best.
This is both referenced and used in Corner Gas. Hank argues with Brent on how this trick is unrealistic and wouldn't work in real life and, of course, Hank falls for it.
Used in an episode of My Wife and Kids where Jaye uses this trick to get Michael to agree to let their daughter go to her prom. Realizing what happened a second later, Michael responds "Wait a minute, you Bugs Bunnied me!"
One episode of NUMB3RS uses a simpler version of this trope, skipping right to the switch without arguing. One of the characters even proceeds to compare it to Looney Tunes.
"Light Switch" example: In a Halloween episode of Perfect Strangers, Larry challenges Balki into watching horror movies in the dark. Balki refuses. Larry chides him for being afraid of the dark and turns off the light switch. Balki turns it back on and says "No I'm not". The process repeats several times, until Larry pretends to switch off the lights by holding his hand near the switch and snapping his finger. Balki inadvertently turns off the light and then starts screaming. After Larry turns on the light, Balki calms down and says "Yes I am."
Sonny and Chad engage in a bit of this with him starting with the fact that he doesn't care, and she starting that he does.
A non-confrontational variation is used in This Hour Has 22 Minutes. In the Sportsbag sketches, Greg Thomey plays an aging sports pundit who clearly had a few (hundred) head injuries during his own sports career, and talks completely in Non Sequiturs; in one sketch, his co-host plays along by talking in non sequiturs, causing Thomey's character to start making sense.
Attempted once by Jimmy to Kim in Yes Dear. Subverted because Kim called him out on it, rendering it ineffective.
During one of Christopher Hitchens's appearances on The Daily Show, he got sidetracked in the middle of a conversation about the Iraq War and asked what he'd been talking about beforehand.
The Circus Zoppé had a great scene in which their clown had the audience yell out "boss" while pointing to the ringleader, and "clown" while pointing to himself, then switched them, and thus told the ringleader that he (the ringleader) was the clown, and he (the clown) could do what he wanted, as he was the boss.
In Sam & Max Season One,in order to defeat an evil hypnotist, you take turns giving orders to his hypnotized minions, and have to trick him into saying "No, attack me!"
The trick is giving the order "Worship me!", which provokes Brady Culture into bawling "No, worship me!"; following this up immediately with "Attack me!" will prompt the attention freak into yelling the order that gets him beaten up.
There are a couple of variants in the "Do You Have Any...?" Running Gag. In "Situation Comedy", you ask British Bosco for a few random things, before asking "Do you have any ketchup?" He reflexively answers "No," before correcting himself. This is then subverted in "Reality 2.0" when you ask half-Elf Bosco if he has any self-respect. He answers "No," before admitting that he did understand the question, "all too well."
Used and Lampshaded in "The City that Dares Not Sleep", where you trick Sammun-Mak into opening the Moleman Processing Room by saying "Rabbit Season" at the right moment.
Used in the last "boss" of the Blazing Dragons adventure game. Flicker uses his first invention, the clicker (which was pointless for the whole game) to trick the evil wizard into exploding the transformed robotic evil dragon king, which they where inside at the time. Because the sound of the clicker was exactly the same sound as the switch on the self-destruct mechanism.
Mr. Mighty does this to Jane in Everyday Heroes. The first time he meets her with his mask off, he tells her that his real name is Marion, and adds, "It's OK, you can laugh." She denies laughing, and he questions her denial ... hey, she needs all the laughs she can get when she's in prison.
Successfully used on main character Finn in Sea Of Insanity. (Though Finn was very drunk at the time.)
Named for the classic "Duck season! Rabbit season!" argument in the Looney Tunes short Rabbit Fire. The exchange above is only the first part of a very funny gag. It's a combination of the normal trope as well as the "light switch" variant - Bugs and Daffy are actually pushing the barrel gun towards each-other every time they say their line. When Bugs says "rabbit season," he also takes the barrel and pushes it towards daffy, but then quickly back towards himself. When Daffy says "duck season," he points the gun back at himself.
The second film in the "Hunter's Trilogy", Rabbit Seasoning, pulls off a variant in the "Pronoun Trouble" gag:
Bugs: Would you like to shoot me now, or wait 'til you get home? Daffy: Shoot him now! Shoot him now! Bugs: You keep out of this! He doesn't have to shoot you now! Daffy: He does so have to shoot me now! (to Elmer) I demand that you shoot me now!!
The above example is immediately followed by a continuation of the gag; this example is perhaps even more impressive, as Daffy manages to pull this one off all by himself:
Daffy: Let's run through that again. Bugs: Okay! 'Would you like to shoot me now, or wait 'til you get home?' Daffy: 'Shoot him now, shoot him now.' Bugs: 'You keep out of this, he doesn't have to shoot you now.' Daffy: HA! That's it, hold it right there! (Aside Glance) Pronoun Trouble. (Beat) It's not "He doesn't have to shoot you now", it's "He doesn't have to shoot me now". Well, I say hedoeshave to shoot me now!So shoot me now!
Another Looney Tunes example is Bugs' argument with the fake umpire in the 1946 cartoon, "Baseball Bugs". This gag predates Rabbit Fire, released in 1950.
Fake Umpire: You're out! Bugs: Where do you get that malarkey? I'm safe! Fake Umpire: I said you're out! Bugs: I'm safe! Fake Umpire: You're out! Bugs: Safe! Fake Umpire: Out! Bugs: Safe! Fake Umpire: Out! Bugs: Safe! Fake Umpire: Out! Bugs: Safe! Out! Fake Umpire: Safe! Bugs: Out! Fake Umpire: Safe! Bugs: Out! Fake Umpire: I say you're safe! If you don't like it, you can go to the showers! Bugs: Okay then, doc. Have it your way. I'm safe.
And before that Daffy did this to Porky in Duck Soup To Nuts.
Daffy (after failing to trick Porky): You don't think I'm a fish?
Porky: No, I don't.
Daffy: Cynic! Well, if you don't think I'm a fish, I don't think you're a pig!
Porky: Th-th-that's ridiculous. Of course I'm a pig.
Daffy: Well, I think you're an eagle!
Porky: I'm a pig!
Daffy: You're an eagle!
Etc, etc. It ends with Porky jumping out of a tree to prove that he's an eagle. When he falls to the ground, he ends with "I told you I was a p-pig!"
Or the version where Bugs and Daffy are ripping signs off the same tree revealing "Duck season...Rabbit season...Elmer season..."
Elmer: Uh oh... (Runs off) Bugs:(In Elmer-style hunting clothes with a gun) Shh! Be vewy, vewy quiet. We're hunting Elmers. Daffy:(In Elmer-style hunting clothes with a gun) Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!
In Little Red Riding Rabbit, Bugs does one of these and ends up coaxing the Big Bad Wolf into joining him on a chorus of "Put on Your Old Grey Bonnet", which the Wolf continues by himself. Silly, ain't he?
Also done in 1948's Haredevil Hare, between Bugs and Marvin Martian's dog K-9, over who takes Marvin's Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space ModulaTOR (hey, that's the way he says it).
Bugs: Hey, what's the big idea? Give me that!
K-9: D'oh, no I won't!
Bugs: Oh, yes you will!
K-9: Oh, no I won't!
Bugs: Oh, yes you will!
K-9: No, I won't!
Bugs: Oh, no you won't!
K-9: D'oh, yes I will!
Bugs: Oh, no you won't!
K-9: Yes I will!
Bugs: Oh, no you won't!
K-9: You take it or I'll shove it down yer t'roat!
Bugs does a variation of this to Napoleon in "Napoleon Bunny-part" when the latter is using a map and figures to decide where to place infantry and artillery:
Bugs: Where ya putting the artillery?
Napoleon: There. (points to a cannon figure)
Bugs: Uh-uh. Here. (moves the cannon elsewhere)
Napoleon: No, no! Here! (moves it back)
Bugs: (moves it again) Here.
Napoleon: I am the emperor and I say here! (moves it back again)
Bugs: Isn't that a coincidence? That's just where I've decided it should be!
Napoleon: The emperor makes the decisions around here! It will go there! (moves it where Bugs kept putting it.)
Bugs: Okay, it goes there.
In "Mexican Joyride", Daffy uses this on a raging bull. The bull, oblivious that he's arguing with Daffy himself, insists that the black duck is hiding under the Mexican hat lying on the ground. Daffy initially states that Daffy isn't under the hat, then uses this trope to make the bull insist so, even making a large bet to this effect. The bull then proceeds to lift the hat, and sure enough, Daffy is there, somehow.
A non-verbal variation of this trope happens in the Donald Duck cartoon ''Lighthouse Keeping''. A pelican keeps blowing out the candle in a lighthouse's light, and Donald promptly re-lights it. After a few rounds of this, the pelican takes the lighter from Donald and re-lights the candle, causing Don to blow out the candle.
A discussion between Tigger and Piglet on a Winnie the Pooh animated series went through one of these reversals on whether a story was taking place at dawn or midnight. (For some reason, it wound up on "Evening" after this reversal.)
One episode of Tom And Jerry did it silently. It involved a lit firecracker being handed off.
In another cartoon, Tom and Spike are fighting over who gets to stay and who has to leave. At one point Tom sadly packs up a Bindle Stick and heads to the door. He shakes (right) hands with Spike, then hands Spike the bindle and shakes (left) hands, taking Jerry in the process, before patting Spike on the shoulder and gently ushering him out the door. Spike is halfway out of the yard when he realizes what happened and his head turns intoa jackass.
One of Gene Deitch's shorts has this done with a basement; every time Tom descends down the stairs to get to Jerry, Jerry turns off the light, forcing Tom to climb back up and switch it on. Eventually, Jerry doesn't turn off the lights. Tom still shakes his fist at him, then climbs back up, switches the light off, tries to descend and promptly tumbles down the stairs.
There's a variation of that in a Bugs Bunny cartoon: "The Wind-Blown Hare". Bugs is at the bottom of a staircase and the Big Bad Wolf is coming down to get him, and Bugs keeps turning off the light. What's different from the Tom and Jerry version is that there is an audible sound when the light gets turned on or off, so when Bugs invokes the trope, he simply says the word "Click", whereupon the Big Bad Wolf goes back up the stairs, turns off the light and falls down the stairs.
Done in the El Tigre episode "The Good, the Bad, and the Tigre":
White Pantera: This is your fault!
Puma Loco: Your fault!
White Pantera: Your fault!
Puma Loco: My fault!
White Pantera: My faul—your fault!
Puma Loco: HA! I tricked you.
PinkiePie does this in the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Putting Your Hoof Down", when haggling with a tomato vendor who made Fluttershy pay two bits instead of one for her produce. As usual, the vendor doesn't realize that she's inadvertently agreed to one bit per order until it's too late. She does it again when convincing Iron Will to wait a full day instead of half a day before trying to collect the fees for his assertiveness training from Fluttershy. Meanwhile, Fluttershy's attempt to do this on a cherry vendor fails so badly that she almost paid more than what it was originally priced.
The episode of American Dad "Jack's Back" has an unusual role-playing version of this trope. Hayley takes a job at Roger's bar to get her internship credit and starts role-playing in order to convince him to sign her form without her having to do any work. Eventually the scheme escalates into a rapid-fire improvisation battle and Hayley tricks Roger into disguising himself as her and "forging" his own signature on the form.
Yakko: Fine, if you don't want any cookies then just leave.
Einstein: I'm not going to leave, this is my house.
Yakko: Alright then, you leave.
Einstein: Fine. (Heads out the door)
Ben 10 Omniverse: While fighting Khyber, Rath remarks that it's "Khyber the Huntsman season", while Khyber retorts that it's "Appoplexian season." The back-and-forth continues even while they're fighting, but Khyber defeats Rath with a hephaestan neuro grip.
The Harlem Globetrotters use this gag.
Is there a parent of a toddler anywhere who didn't try this at least once, if only to see if it'll work?
No, it really doesn't. Contrary to popular belief children aren't idiots.
Also used by older siblings against younger ones. Winning arguments has never been so easy! (and never will again, once they grow older)
If it works, it only works once.
Adorably used here to get a child to walk. The boy wanted to go in the car and things turned into just "Yes! No! Yes! No!". When the father then said yes, they'd go in the car, the boy objected and they walked off happily.
A version that uses this mentality, ie. unthinking repetition, involves asking a question over and over again, then asking the opposite, so that the arguer unthinking supplies the previous answer, which now has an opposite connotation. For example: "Can I do this?" "No." "Can I do this?" "No." "Really?" "No." It, however, tends not to fool them for long. It's still highly amusing.
"If we’d have come out and said, 'well, this is a work of art,' they would have probably all said, 'no it's not, it's pornography.' So because we're saying, 'this is pornography,' they're saying, 'no it's not, it's art,' and people don't realise quite what they've said."
Tends to happen in arguments (especially on the internet) where one or both sides aren't entirely sure what their own position is; they just know that the other guy's wrong. The point at issue takes second place to the reflexive contradiction, until you see someone shift their own argument 180 degrees without even noticing.
Actually used as a necessary component of a real study on cognitive dissonance.