Sunday, December 16, 2007

How Derren Brown Broke Into Television

In an excellent 2003 interview, Derren Brown describes how his early UK TV specials came about.

In 1999, Brown was performing magic and hypnotism shows. He was beginning to experiment with psychology-based illusions, but with no intent of becoming a mentalist.

His manager called him to London to meet with Andrew O'Connor, a television producer. Brown performed a few tricks and impressed O'Connor. In November 1999, he signed on to do the first special.

Production did not begin until September 2000. The show took eight weeks to film, and DB claims he was not paid much.

Even after the special aired, Brown continued to perform in small venues. He recalls that he would perform in restaurants and people would come up to him and ask if he had seen the mentalist on television the night before. "I'd say, 'Well, that was me!' and they just couldn't quite ...they just didn't expect to see me in a restaurant working the tables."

The second TV special was much more successful than the first, and DB seems to have realized his days as a small-time performer were over. He released a video of his old magic tricks, entitled "Devil's Picture Videobook," and then virtually abandoned magic in favor of mentalism. He reveals in the interview that he initially stopped doing card tricks (even of the mind-reading variety), because he wanted to distance himself from traditional magic.

A third special followed, and the rest is history.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Uri Geller is a Psychic...or IS he?

Mentalism has received some media attention recently because of the NBC contest show, Phenomenon. Three weeks ago, Mike Super won the contest with his mind-reading / suggestion tricks. None of the acts featured on the show reached the Derren Brown level of mental illusion, but they were entertaining.

I just learned today of a controversy surrounding Uri Geller. In the final episode of Phenomenon, Criss Angel (of Mindfreak), Geller's co-host on the series, held up an envelope and offered $1 million to any psychic who could tell him what was inside. He specifically asked Geller to make a prediction.

Uri Geller made some rambling statements, but was cut off by Angel who announced that the envelope contained the number 911, referring to the September 21, 2001 terrorist attacks. Angel explained that if psychic powers really existed someone would have warned the world about the attacks in advance.

But here is the strange part: If you listen to the statements Geller made before the envelope was opened, he stated the number 119 (i.e., 911 in reverse). Watch the video on Youtube.

I do not believe Uri Geller has psychic powers, but after the cavalier way in which Criss Angel insulted him on national television, I almost wish he did.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Derren Brown and Embedded Commands

While searching on for references to Derren Brown, I came across a self-published book called "Ad and Jo's Guide to Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy."

The book calls DB a "master of indirect suggestion," and discusses various methods of making such suggestions.

For example, it discusses "embedded commands." An example given in the text is the following statement: "You may feel that it is better to take your medicine now," which includes the imbedded statement "Feel Better Now."

If you have watched DB, there is no question that he uses embedded commands and other methods of indirect suggestion.

What struck me most about this self-published book is its comment that the more obvious an indirect suggestion is, the more likely it is to work.

That certainly has been my experience. By the way, I have continued to try my mind-reading trick using subliminal suggestions. I have had mixed results, but it seems that my failures all come when I try too hard to be covert. When I am blatant to the point that I think someone will catch me (though only one person has so far), the technique works.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Derren Brown Is Not on MySpace

I am not now, nor have I ever been, Derren Brown. Apparently, I am much more candid about that fact than other people who run DB fansites.

As I reported in October, DB's official website issued a stern warning to a particular individual who ran a MySpace-based Derren Brown fansite, and who was deceptively representing that he was, in fact, DB.

Now the official site reports that the MySpace site in question has been shut down. The official story is that the MySpace impostor engaged in e-mail communication with DB fans, posing as DB himself. When contacted by representatives of DB, he refused to cooperate.

The MySpace site, which I had visited, actually did provide some good information. The notice on Derren Brown's official site promises that the official site will do a better job of providing DB news in the future.