It's a classic trope in comedy. The Simpsons has used it at least twice.

Once where Dr Hibbard describes the stages of grief to Homer after he ate badly prepared fugu.
(One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish: 1991)

Another when Bart reacts to the inexperienced school nurse reading out symptoms of a disease from a medical textbook.
(Bart Gets an "F": 1990)

Another one is Airplane! (1980) when Leslie Nielsen's Doctor describes the prognosis of eating the fish meal as Peter Graves's Captain Oveur acts them all out.

(slightly NSFW due to a risque joke at the end)

I recall it happening in many other media, too. What's the earliest example of this happening that we know of?

  • Read the title, came here to cite Airplane! Commented Feb 10, 2022 at 15:46

2 Answers 2


Let's try The Sword In The Stone (1963) to begin with. Anything earlier?

  • 1
    Video unavailable This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Disney Enterprises
    – SQB
    Commented Jul 25, 2023 at 10:58

TVTropes calls this Sequential Symptom Syndrome

Sequential Symptom Syndrome is a gag in which one character (usually a doctor, but not always) describes the effects of a disease or a poison while someone else (usually another character who happens to be close by) experiences those same symptoms in exactly the sequence the first character is describing.

The earliest example I've seen is from a Bugs Bunny Cartoon "Hare Tonic" from 1945:

As Bugs tells Elmer that he doesn't have the symptoms of Rabbititis, he manifests the symptoms as he mentions them.

At the end, Bugs tells the audience that if they had Rabbititis, they'd see red and yellow spots before their eyes. As he says that, the screen is filled with red and yellow spots. Then Bugs says that the dots would start swirling around, and the dots do just that. Finally, he says that everything would go black and the screen fades to black, with Bugs snickering.

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