Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Nekros000 Snags the Hypno Pig

Previously, I announced the auction of Derren Brown's hypno pig. The auction has ended, with the pig going to nekros000 for £205.00

In other news, Derren's new blog has about 20 posts per day (I might be exaggerating slightly - but it's a lot). Is this a case of beginning blogger's enthusiasm, or will DB maintain this pace?

The best entry so far is a long piece about upcoming projects, written by Derren himself. HIs next TV appearance will be a Christmas 2008 airing of his "Evening of Wonders" TV show.

Another amusing entry, written by Coops, relates to Obama's election.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Derren Talks to DigitalSpy -- Reveals Upcoming Projects

In an interview with DigitalSpy posted today, Derren Brown reveals the following about his upcoming programs:

[A] series that's going out next September, so it's quite early but we're getting started on it now. I don't quite know what the shape of it is yet. I think it'll be four one hours instead of six half hours. Before then, though, I'm doing some documentaries which will be going out in spring. They're documentaries concerned with people involved in paranormal areas. It's taking off a little from where Messiah left off. I've only done one of those at the moment, so I've got another few to do. The next series is out next September, so that's a way off yet. The next thing is the Christmas special which will be the stage show I did this year called 'An Evening of Wonders'.

Unfortunately, DB gives no hint about the status of his postponed SciFi Channel series. He does, however, iscuss a fan "who thought I was psychically assaulting them in their dreams." That's worth a read.

In other news, DB's assistant, Coops, has started a strange new blog: http://derrenbrownart.com/blog/

Friday, October 31, 2008

Derren Tricks Booksellers: Or, The Phantom Derren Brown Book

Derren Brown has apparently been playing tricks of some kind on UK booksellers. The story comes from a blog called "Open a Bookshop, What Could Possibly Go Wrong?"

The blogger writes:

About 4-5 years ago,... there was a number of people in a short space of time who came into the shop to ask if we stocked a copy of the new book by Derren Brown. We looked on the computer and found that there wasn't anything available.... The customers were absolutely sure they'd seen something about the book on a poster or in a newspaper recently but couldn't remember the name of the book. Nothing unusual about this, but the strange thing is that every one of the customers who came in were so so sure they'd seen an advert about this book, they simply couldn't understand why we couldn't find it on the computer.... Katie and I have talked about this a few times and laughingly suggested that maybe these people had been hypnotised into thinking that the book existed.

But what's most provocative about the story is that several other booksellers report the same phenomenon -- see the comments section on the blog post.

What is going on here? Did Derren advertise a book, which was never released? Was this part of a trick? Any ideas?

Monday, October 27, 2008

Derren Brown's Hypno Pig

Derren Brown is involved in a new charity project. He is one of several celebrities who have decorated piggy banks, which will be auctioned on-line with proceeds to benefit a Bristol-based medical organization. Other participating celebrities reportedly include John Cleese and Steven Merchant.

DB's piggy bank has a familiar-looking goatee. One side of the pig sports a hypnotic swirl, while the other contains the words: "You are under my command; Give me your money!"

You can see a picture of the pig here, along with a photo of Derren apparently mind-controlling his creation.

What the piggy bank lacks in creativity, it makes up in style. And for the right price, it can be yours: PiggyBankAuction.com The 7-day auction begins November 4.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Derren Brown Mingles with Artsy Types

Last week, it was reported that Derren Brown will make his acting debut in BBC4's Crooked House this Christmas (see The Stage and iTricks). That's not technically true, because Derren appeared in a previous film. Clearly, though, he is interested in acting.

It should come as no surprise, therefore, that he was hobnobbing with artsy types this past weekend in London. Artinfo reports that Derren attended the post-production party at Victoria Mira Gallery after the play Drama Queens at the Old Vic theater.

Kevin Spacey was also at the party. He participated in the production, as did Jeremy Irons and Joseph Fiennes.

Friday, September 26, 2008

New 2009 Tour Dates for Derren?

Earlier this month, iTricks reported that tickets for Derren Brown's 2009 tour were being sold, even though the tour has not been announced.

Then, yesterday's Grimsby Telegraph's announced that Derren will perform in Grimsby May 15-16, 2009. Apparently, local venues have scheduled Derren's tour dates but the full schedule has not been released to the public.

If you want to see DB in person next year, and you know of a local venue where he has performed in the past, you might want to call and see if there are tickets to be had.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

You Can Contribute to Derren Brown's Official Website

The news section of Derren's official site recently reported that DB has a new web design team. Hopefully, the new team will give us more frequent news updates, meatier biographical information, and some worthwhile downloads.

DB's assistant, Coops, has also posted a call for content:

[W]e also want user-submitted content so are calling on any of you who know of interesting web articles or research that come under the broad categories of Pseudo-Science, Magic or Psychology to submit them (for approval) to links@derrenbrown.co.uk.

This is your chance to contribute to the official site's overhaul. If you're wondering what links to submit to DB, I hear they have an excellent magic-themed website at AboutDerrenBrown.blogspot.com.

Friday, September 5, 2008

We Predicted It: Derren Brown and Joan Rivers

The July 8, 2008 post on AboutDerrenBrown -- entitled "Derren Brown and Joan Rivers, together at last?" -- was meant as joke, not a suggestion.

But check out WhatsOnStage.com, to see a photo of Derren Brown with Joan Rivers last night at the opening of Ms. Rivers' new show.

As you will recall from the prior entry, a PR agency called Clout Communications now represents both Derren Brown and Joan Rivers. I was hoping Clout would have the good sense to keep the two separate.

What's next? Joan Rivers cameos in Trick or Treat 3?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Derren Brown Meets "Cat Man"

According to the gossip pages, Derren was at the opening a Ripley's Believe It Or Not in Piccadilly last night:

OK.co.uk spotted Mica Paris and Michelle Gayle enjoying the free bar and convincing the barman to add more gin to their cocktails, while Derren Brown attempted to play mind games on guests.

It sounds like Derren was performing close-up magic.

Also in attendance were "Cat Man" and "Lizardman," billed as "the world's most modified men" (they have lots of tattoos).

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Derren Brown's New Book (of Portraits)

While we can only speculate about the contents of Derren Brown's next book about illusion, we know precisely what his next published book will contain: Portraits.

The Art Book

Derren's official website revealed several months ago that DB is working on a book of portrait paintings, which will hopefully be out by Christmas. Sanders the Great has posted some of DB's portraits of magicians.

Derren's portraits are exaggerated, cartoonish drawings that -- in some cases, at least -- really seem to capture the essence of his subjects (take, for example, the excellent David Tennant drawing).

Derren's Portrait Hobby

According to the Independent, DB started painting portraits at age 12:

It all began after I finished a maths exam early and started caricaturing the teacher. I have a thing about faces. I am a keen portrait photographer, too.

Derren recalls a telephone call from one of his portrait subjects. He answered the phone, and the caller said, "Guess who it is, Derren. Use your mind power."

It was Uri Geller, who had recently received a print of DB's portrait of him. Geller advised Derren to shift his career from magic to art. "I think he meant it as a compliment."

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Can Kevin Hogan Teach You to Be Like Derren Brown? Volunteers, anyone?

The dog-track gambling segment is my favorite Derren Brown trick. That's the one where he cashes in losing tickets by (apparently) using some type of subliminal suggestion on the dog-track employees.

Derren's ability to use covert hypnosis (aka conversational hypnosis) on unsuspecting victims is, to me, the most intriguing aspect of his performances (another good example is the Russian scam segment, where he gets people to voluntarily give him their wallets). Naturally, I would like to learn how he does it.

Numerous on-line courses claim to teach the art of covert hypnosis. I have considered buying Kevin Hogan's course.  At $47, it is one of the most affordable ones, and Kevin Hogan has some credibility (he is also the author of the book Covert Hypnosis: An Operator's Manual). Has anyone tried this course, or one of the others? If not, then --

Would anyone like to volunteer to try the Hogan course? If so, I might be willing to chip in part of the cost if you are willing to share your experiences with the course in an upcoming blog entry here at AboutDerrenBrown.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Mentalist Chris Cox has a Run-In With Derren Brown

This past week, the Times Online posted a piece about mentalism, including a discussion of 24-year-old mentalist Chris Cox's experiences with Derren Brown:

When he was 18, [Cox] interviewed Derren Brown for a student newspaper in Bristol. They got on well, and later Brown offered him a job as his assistant tour manager. Cox opted to stay at university. Then he put on his first show at a tiny Bristol theatre, for which he “borrowed” a couple of Brown's tricks. A magician was in the audience, and told Brown what had happened.
Cox got an e-mail from Brown. “It taught me the word ‘galling',” he says. “I had to go and look it up in the dictionary. I felt so embarrassed and ashamed.” He sent apologetic e-mails, but the two haven't met since. And when Brown visited his workplace one day - Cox's day job is working for Radio 1 - he hid until Brown had left the building. “I went through a stage when I wouldn't watch any of his stuff so I couldn't be influenced by it,” says Cox. “The only good thing about it is that it's made me find my own persona.”

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Derren Brown's New SciFi Series Postponed

As iTricks noted earlier this week, the SciFi Channel has postponed Derren Brown's new Mind Control series.

Derren's official website broke the news, stating (on Aug 5, 2008):

Filming for the new installment of Derren's U.S Sci-Fi series has been postponed, more news on this when I get it.

Let's hope this is a temporary delay. Those of us in the U.S. were really looking forward to the new series.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Derren Brown Flashback: Russian Roulette, Part 2

After months of publicity, Derren Brown's Russian Roulette special aired on October 5, 2003, at 9 PM. It was broadcast in the Netherlands and Australia, as well as Great Britain.

In Great Britain, the special was preceded by a documentary that dealt with the topic of suicide. Between the two programs, Channel 4 ran an advertisement encouraging people with thoughts of suicide to call a help-line number provided. The network was understandably accused of insensitivity when it proceeded to broadcast a game of Russian roulette.

The Show

The broadcast described the process of selecting Derren Brown's assistant. From an initial pool of 12,000 applicants, five people were selected. Over the course of the broadcast, Derren performed tricks using these five, and ultimately selected a single volunteer to assist in his stunt.

Like the other finalists, the winning volunteer, a reserved man named James, had been investigated and analyzed by psychologists prior to his selection.

Derren lifted the gun to his head and pulled the trigger once, and then a second time. He fired the third shot away from himself, only to reveal that the bullet was not in that chamber, either. He again raised the gun to his head and pulled the trigger.

Nothing happened. Then he aimed at a sandbag and pulled the trigger a fifth time, this time correctly identifying the location of the bullet. Sand flowed out of a hole in the sandbag.

Did he intentionally make an incorrect guess on the third shot, or was it truly a mistake? The error heightened the drama of an already tense situation by making it appear that Derren did not know which chamber the bullet was in.

A spokeswoman for Channel 4 reportedly commented, "If it was a mistake, so what? At least he made the mistake with the sandbag and not with his own head."

After the show, a representative of Derren Brown delivered the following message from Derren: "I'm relieved it's all over. I'm off to have a few whiskies." Brown's parents were reportedly relieved, as well.

Public Reaction

For Derren, the good news kept coming as it was reported that approximately 3 million UK residents had tuned in for the event (12% of the viewing audience), with 3.3 million watching the critical last few minutes of the show.

On October 7, 2003, the Guardian reported that Derren Brown's special had not been filmed in a jurisdiction immune from British gun laws. In fact, the show was filmed in Jersey and police there made certain that no gun laws were violated. Channel 4 reportedly assured the Jersey police that there was no risk of danger. According to the Guardian report, the Jersey police verified that the bullet loaded into Derren Brown's gun was a blank – not a real bullet.

This, of course, contradicted the pre-show hype in which both Channel 4 and Derren Brown claimed that a real bullet would be used. A Jersey police officer was quoted as saying: "This programme was made by a TV company very experienced in pyrotechnics, in making smoke and bullet holes appear. It was no different to film which uses special effects."

Derren's Reaction

Despite the accusations that his trick was a sham, Derren was pleased, specifically commenting that he was delighted with the press coverage his special had generated:

"Coming back after the weekend and seeing this press question of whether it was real or not real, I could not have hoped for a better response… [T]o have the question of was the whole thing real or was it not real, was it a hoax, then that is great. Any magic performer out there in the country would just give their right arm for that. As a performer you want to create a piece of really riveting television and an event that people will talk about."

Monday, August 4, 2008

Derren Brown Flashback: Russian Roulette, Part 1

Derren Brown first became an international media sensation in 2003 when his Russian Roulette special aired. The stunt was simultaneously seen as a milestone in television history, a landmark in depravity, and an incredibly successful illusion.

This is part 1 of a 2-part account of the trick. I have not linked to all of the cited sources, but will do so at a future date, time permitting.

Derren Brown Flashback: Russian Roulette, Part 1

On May 14, 2003, the Guardian reported that Derren Brown was planning a Russian roulette stunt. Brown planned to choose a volunteer to place a single bullet in one of six numbered chambers of a gun. Then, as the nation watched via television, he would pull the trigger repeatedly until he arrived at the bullet, which he would shoot away from himself.

DB expressed some optimism, stating that, "If you put six items on a table and asked someone to pick one, I can always work out which one [they chose]."

When asked how he invented the stunt, Derren answered: "Oh you know, you go out, you have a few drinks, the next thing you know you've agreed to shoot your head off."

The planning of Russian Roulette was probably somewhat less spontaneous than Derren lets on. It combined one of Derren's simplest tricks with stakes high enough – and shocking enough – to generate a great deal of free publicity.

When asked where the Russian roulette special would be filmed, producer Andrew O'Connor was evasive. "It's only legal in certain countries to have a gun with live bullets and, possibly, commit suicide," he explained without identifying a filming location.

Regarding the risk of death, O'Connor commented that: "We are, of course, confident that it won't go wrong. Even so, Channel 4's decision to go with it is brave."

Derren was reportedly to use a 348 Smith & Wesson for the stunt. He attempted to allay fears by stating: "If I am not 100% sure, I will not pull the trigger. It would be humiliating but it would be preferable to the other consequences."

Prior to the stunt, Brown stated that: "It is a real gun with a real bullet and I am really putting it against my head." [afterwards he stated that even a blank would have killed him]

The day before the stunt, the Guardian ran an article entitled, "Inviting viewers to see a man risk his life is a landmark in depravity." The piece acknowledged that defenders of Brown's show could argue that it is no different than other high-risk broadcasts, such as racecar driving, in which participants can and do die on live television. The Guardian argued, however, that those other shows do not entice viewers by promising that they might see a death. That, many believed, was where Derren Brown crossed the line.

Various police officers and government officials warned that the stunt could result in copycat deaths. Brown objected to such concerns. "It does not glamorise gun violence,… We are dealing with it in the most serious and strenuous way possible. The drama will not come from the gun part, but from the fun and games and entertainment that comes from the selection process."

For his part, Derren went about his business as if he were truly preparing for a brush with death. He reportedly drafted a new will.

To be continued...

Friday, August 1, 2008

Chronology of Derren Brown Performances

I was considering putting together a chronology of Derren Brown's television shows and live performances.

Fortunately, before going to the trouble I discovered the Derren Brown and Mentalism Resources webpage. It summarizes each of Derren's TV programs, listing each trick performed. Even the live shows are described in detail.

Although the DBMR page is an unofficial fan page, it is current on DB's shows.

Other Derren Brown News

Over the past week, there have been several news articles about Sarah, a parrot at the National Parrot Sanctuary, who now has her own Facebook page. This is relevant because Derren Brown is the patron of the NPS and apparently visits Sarah occasionally.

You can read more about that at Sanders the Great, an excellent source for news about Derren and magic in general.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Derren Brown Takes to the Big Screen

We don't know whether Derren Brown uses actors, but now we know that he is an actor.

My prior post, about Derren's apparent use of an actress in his voodoo ring trick, has stirred up a good deal of debate. As stated previously, I prefer not to believe that the participant, Magda Rodriguez, was acting. But the jury is still out on that issue.

One thing we know for sure, though: Derren Brown is an actor. A post in the Derren Brown Fan Forum brought the following to my attention (from Southern Railway):

[Actress Sara Stewart] is fresh from filming an intriguing short film with illusionist Derren Brown which is set to premiere at the Berlin film festival next month. 'It's rather film noir in style,' she explains. 'It's called Medium Rare and I play the owner of a restaurant who ends up hiding a man under one of my tables who is being chased by hoodlums.

Derren plays the part of a waiter, and you can read more about the film at British Film Magazine. A quick Google search revealed that the film has apparently already been shown at a number of film festivals. The director of Medium Rare is Stefan Stuckert, who previously worked for Objective Productions on Derren Brown's TV shows.

Is Derren seriously pursuing an acting career, or is this just a favor for Stuckert? We'll have to wait and see.

The official Medium Rare website contains a calendar of upcoming screenings (at various film festivals).

Thursday, July 24, 2008

REVEALED: Derren Brown Used an Actress in Trick of the Mind

Despite his standard disclaimer, Derren Brown did use an actress in an episode of Trick of the Mind. Thanks to an anonymous tip, I can reveal the following.

The Disclaimer

Derren's Trick of the Mind series, which ran for several years, opened each episode with the following disclaimer:

This program fuses magic, suggestion, psychology, misdirection and showmanship. I achieve all the results you'll see through a varied mixture of those techniques. At no point are actors or stooges used in the show.

Even though we know that Derren uses various forms of deception in his shows, it has been generally accepted that he does not use actors. As Derren has explained on several occasions, he could not get away with using actors even if he wanted to, because eventually one of them would expose him as a fraud.

The Voodoo Doll Trick

That brings us to the "voodoo doll" segment from Trick of the Mind, which is available on-line on Channel 4's official Derren Brown page (where it is called "the magic doll").

In this segment, as you will recall, Derren appears to speak with a true-believer in new-age religion. She says she has been healed with crystals, and so forth. He takes a ring from her and places it inside of a voodoo doll, explaining that he is inserting the woman's soul into the doll.

DB then makes the doll do various things (wave its arms, etc.), and the woman seems to imitate the doll against her will. In the end, Derren shows that the ring was never in the doll, and that he was merely manipulating the woman's faith in such things.

Like several of Derren Brown's other tricks, this one reminds me of a stage hypnotist's show, and I have no trouble believing he could accomplish it without the aid of an actor.

The Actress

As it turns out, though, the new-age believer in the episode is none other than Magda Rodriguez, an actress.

Her resume, available on IMDB, makes it clear that she was a professional actor before appearing on Trick of the Mind. She even includes the appearance on her resume, where she calls the show the "Derrin Brown Show," and describes her role as "Vudu Mind Player." [Spelling is apparently not her strong suit.]

In Defense of Derren

Maybe DB didn't know she was an actress. That is unlikely, because her purpose in going on the show was probably to promote her acting career.

Maybe he knew she was an actress, but she was not really acting in the episode (i.e., acting is her day job, but she was appearing on Derren's show off the clock, as a sincere crystal-healing devotee). I actually believe this is probably the case.

But it does make you wonder, doesn't it? Watch the Voodoo segment again, and see if she seems to be acting. If she was, then how many of Derren's other subjects have been acting?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Scientists Scrutinize Derren Brown and Others

A Wired.com piece entitle "Magic Tricks Reveal Inner Workings of the Brain" reviewed yesterday's edition of the scientific journal, Trends in Cognitive Sciences. Psychologists David Rensink and David Kuhn believe that successful illusionists know more about the human mind than does modern science.

Rensink and Kuhn, therefore, have begun studying famous modern magicians. Several other articles today suggest that the psychologists are studying illusionists like Derren Brown (See UK Press Association, NewsLite, and Journal Live). I have not read the Trends in Cognitive Sciences piece, though, so I do not know whether it specifically references Derren.

Be sure to read the Wired article, which describes the following methods used by illusionists:

1. Physical misdirection
2. Psychological misdirection
3. Optical Illusion
4. Cognitive Illusion
5. Physical force and mental force

In other news, a new post on the LA Times blog has good things to say about Derren Brown's youtube clips.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Deciphering Derren: The CARFAX Clue

In episode 1 of Trick or Treat 2, Derren Brown puzzled us all by apparently teaching Glen Brighton a speed-learning system that enabled Glen to take second place in a pub quiz tournament.

Here at About Derren Brown, we speculated about how the trick was done. We even heard from Glen Brighton himself.

The Carfax Clue

A cryptic comment from dvdwlsh offered the following clue to unraveling DB's trick:

"Carfax". Explore that and you find your answers. Well played, Derren.

"Carfax" was one of two correct answers given by Glen to trivia questions asked by Derren in the episode.

totalsuperbot expanded on that clue by commenting:

I searched Carfax and found some papers/articles on...''Capture and rumination, functional avoidance, and executive control (CaRFAX): Three processes that underlie overgeneral memory ''Google Carfax Memory. I didn't get time to look into it further.

A Little Research

I did, in fact, Google "Carfax Memory." The results were not helpful, but they all pointed to a particular book, entitled Autobiographical Memory Specificity and Psychopathology (a special issue of "Cognition & Emotion" published by Psychology Press).

I was determined to get to the bottom of this Carfax issue, even if it ended up being a red herring. So, I went to work locating a copy of the book. (I unfortunately did not have a copy in my personal library, having inadvertently allowed my subscription to "Cognition & Emotion" to lapse).

The book arrived today and is, for the most part, indecipherable. A collection of scientific papers about memory, it is clearly written for an audience of psychological scholars. Despite the technical language, though, I think the book's concluding remarks might shed some light on the theory behind Derren's memory trick:

The papers in this collection show enormous promise that the phenomenon of overgeneral memory is being understood more and more clearly, both what causes it and the mechanisms that underlie it. As we said at the outset, memory is like a crossroads. Our ability to learn from experience and to remember what has happened in the immediate and remote past stands at the centre of all information processing, and at the centre of how we understand ourselves and navigate successfully through our world. We have seen that memory can be adversely affected (a) when our retrieval is hijacked by other material that is self-relevant, triggering analytic, conceptually based processing (capture and rumination: CaR); (b) when our retrieval is aborted due to learned passive avoidance strategies (functional avoidance: FA); (c) when retrieval is affected either at the early specification stage or at the affective gating stage by reduced effort, initiative or resources (executive control or capacity: X). We started by comparing memory with the crossroads at the centre of Oxford. You may already know the name of this crossroads, or may have guessed: It is called Carfax.


If this CaRFAX psychological theory is relevant to Derren's Brown's trick, maybe DB used psychological principles to remove one or more of the three mental processes listed above, and therefore improve Glen's ability to remember specific facts (i.e., to not over-generalize).

In defense of this theory, Derren does frequently refer to studies about the mind in his shows.

On the other hand, the Carfax reference could be to the crossroads at Oxford, to crossroads generally, or to nothing at all.

If you have any thoughts on the matter, please let me know via comment (below) or e-mail.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Be Like Derren Part 5: Learn Some Mind-Reading Tricks

Even if you have no intention of becoming a stage performer, you can enjoy learning a few simple mind-reading tricks to entertain your friends. There are numerous mentalism books available in book stores.

I recently read Easy Mind-Reading Tricks by Robert Mandelberg. For a complete novice like myself, it is an excellent introduction to mentalism.

Before I began reading Mandelberg's book, I was afraid it would be loaded with transparent illusions. While the tricks are simple, however, they are not childish. Most of them really are impressive to an adult audience.

Here is a description of one of the effects, which is typical of those provided by Mandelberg (you will have to refer to the book to see how it is performed):

Page, Line, Word. The mentalist writes a word on a slip of paper and seals it in an envelope, which is entrusted to an audience member. A volunteer then writes down three numbers, which are intended to refer to the page, line, and word number of a word in a specific large book. A second volunteer takes these coordinates and locates them in the book. The mentalist's envelope is opened, revealing that he/she correctly predicted the word that would be chosen from the book.

Mandelberg provides helpful performance tips throughout, as well as observations about the techniques mentalists employ. Highly recommended for those who have never performed mind-reading tricks!

For more "Be Like Derren" info, see the list of Recommended Materials.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

How Jerry Sadowitz Launched Derren Brown

Jerry Sadowitz is a popular, boundary-pushing comedian and magician. He's best known for his profanity-laced comic tirades (I would provide a link to his website if it were not so offensive), but is also recognized as a talented magician.

Sadowitz became acquainted with a very young Derren Brown in the mid-1990's, and ultimately helped launch his career by introducing him to television producers Andrew O'Connor and Michael Vine.

As early as 1997, O'Connor and Vine had been searching for a mind reader to include in a television series. Kevin Lygo, Channel 4’s head of entertainment, agreed that a mind-reading show could work. O'Connor initially approached Andy Nyman, an actor and magician, to create the mind control series. Nyman preferred to focus on his acting career, and therefore turned down the opportunity.

At the time, Michael Vine was managing Jerry Sadowitz. Vine traveled to Glasgow to see the magician perform. While there, he confided in Sadowitz that he and O’Connor were looking for a mentalist, and Sadowitz recommended Derren Brown for the television role.

Derren Brown was still performing traditional magic tricks, but he was becoming increasingly interested in mentalism. Accordingly, his act was gradually transitioning toward mind reading effects.

Vine, who would later become Derren’s manager, invited the young mentalist to London to meet with O’Connor. Derren met with O’Connor and Vine for dinner and impressed them with a couple of tricks. Soon thereafter, O’Connor saw Derren perform at the Mind Magic convention in London.

O'Connor described his first viewing of a Derren Brown performance: "When I saw Derren I was blown away. He uses no cards or props. He has created a unique fusion of neuro-linguistic programming, magic tricks and pop psychology that even leaves magicians baffled."

O'Connor still wanted Andy Nyman involved in the production, though, and managed to sign him on as a writer on the show. For his part, Nyman has expressed no regret about taking a backseat to Derren Brown. "Derren was a far better choice for the job than me because he's a genuinely odd bloke,… He's really quite unsettling."

The rest is history. Derren and Nyman have delivered numerous successful series for O'Connor, and they don't give any sign of stopping.

At some level, I am sure Jerry Sadowitz derives satisfaction from having launched Derren Brown's career.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Kluge Cites Derren Brown

Today's Telegraph reviews the book Kluge by Gary Marcus (which was released several months ago), and provides the following note relating to Derren Brown:

Marcus brings a schoolboyish brio to the table, exulting in rude spoonerisms and littering the footnotes with links to Derren Brown on YouTube - indeed, the whole thing might have been pitched at a teenage readership.

I pulled the book Kluge and found that it is not exactly "littered" with footnotes about Derren Brown. But there is one footnote to a Derren Brown YouTube clip -- the "person swap" episode.

"Person swap" is the one in which Derren is on a sidewalk asking a random person for directions, and while the person is busy explaining directions, someone else carrying a large object passes between the person and Derren. DB walks off behind the object and is replaced by a completely different person.

In most cases, the person giving directions does not notice that he/she is no longer speaking to Derren. The mind is so caught up in the task at hand that it is oblivious to a rather obvious change.

If you want to check Kluge yourself, the Derren Brown footnote is on page 20. Author Marcus uses DB to demonstrate that the human mind is not constructed perfectly, which is part of the larger argument that evolution creates usable -- but not perfect -- solutions to problems. These imperfect solutions are called kluges.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Derren Brown and Joan Rivers, together at last?

The Stage News just announced the formation of a new PR agency called Clout Communications, which will, among other things, represent Derren Brown.

The group's founders include Greg Day, who used to do PR for Channel 4. I assume that is where the Derren Brown connection comes from (because Channel 4 has broadcast all of his UK shows to date).

Clout Communications' other clients include Joan Rivers. Let's hope she is not incorporated into any of Derren's future programs...

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Derren Brown and Atheism

A new post today on the gospelmagic4u blog (written by an Anglican priest and magician) discusses Derren Brown's atheism.

As you are likely aware, Derren’s successful (and entertaining) book, “Tricks of the Mind,” provides enticing clues as to how his tricks are performed. Those clues, however, are sandwiched between two sermons on atheism. The book begins with a 15-page account of how Derren rejected his Christian faith and concludes with a 99-page section about “bad thinking” which seems primarily targeted at religion.

Gospelmagic4u's blog entry is apparently directed to other Christians, and uses Derren's life as an example of how some overbearing religious people alienate others. It also offers a mild rebuttal of Derren's atheistic views.

Derren’s account of his own religious history is, essentially, that: He was raised as a devout Christian, became innocently involved in a practice (hypnotism) that his fellow parishioners rejected, reexamined his beliefs, decided that the beliefs were irrational, and therefore became an atheist.

Derren has commented that at age 29 he decided he no longer believed in God. That was about the time his first television special aired.

Derren claims that as a young Christian he zealously tried to evangelize others, smugly making arguments for the existence of God. Critics might point out that the adult Derren Brown is fairly smug about the pro-atheism arguments with which he evangelizes his millions of viewers.

An illusionist's religious views are unlikely to affect many believers. But, surely, a committed skeptic like Derren Brown would want his fans to be skeptical of all claims made by authority figures – even his own.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

New Version of Derren Brown's "Tricks of the Mind"

Hold onto your copy of Derren Brown's "Tricks of the Mind" -- as iTricks noted this week, it is now a collector's item.

The Independent reported this week that future copies of the book will not include the portion where DB criticizes Richard Bandler, the founder of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP).

Although the Independent didn't say so, obviously Bandler must have threatened a defamation lawsuit against Derren. I don't recall DB's comments about Bandler being overly critical -- in fact, the harshest statement quoted in the article was Derren's comment that it is "hard to tell whether [Bandler is] hugely effective or a great, brilliant, captivating con."

Oh, well -- no one likes to be sued.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

New Derren Brown Book and Survey Results

BBC News posted a piece called "Inside the mind of Derren Brown" today. They didn't delve too far into DB's mind, giving us a brief sampling of well-known biographical facts.

They did, however, provide the following juicy news:

...Brown is planning his next project. He is writing a book for the general public, which will explore many of his techniques. Although many of his tricks and illusions are hard to believe, he insisted that all it takes is practice.

Although the article does not provide much more information about the book, it strongly suggests that the book will reveal secrets of Derren's tricks (we'll believe that when we see it).

A new post on Derren's official site today does not discuss the forthcoming book, but does reveal that a new DVD set containing four of his TV specials is on the way, as well as a TV broadcast of his "Mind Reader: An Evening of Wonders."

Poll Results

And, finally, I have the results of this week's AboutDerrenBrown survey. As you will recall, the survey asked whether DB's recent shows had too much psychology in the place of actual tricks.

The 31 respondents said that DB's shows have:

1. Too much lecturing -- not enough magic. (5 votes or 16.13%)

2. Too much magic -- not enough psychological lecturing. (3 votes or 9.68%)

3. Just the right mix (23 votes or 74.19%)

In summary, then, people who read this blog are pretty happy with Derren's shows. I suppose that makes sense. Here are some of the specific comments people left:

1. Its been a trend of a lot of individuals as of late, being all denouncing of people who use such tech for their own gain. Its not just him, but after a while a lot of magicians and scientists and the like seem to fall into it. I say bring back the awe of magic, and avoid too much lecturing. Teller is a rolemodel of mine (not so much Penn) because he doesn't speak on stage, he just wows people with good performance. A true entertainer.

2. I like the current approach, but I can understand those who don't.

3. The psychological aspect is the reason why this show is above all the other magic-shows/programs out there. The lecture part of that is just fine (not always his Derren tells the truth). Lets face it - "just magic"; is kind of boring.

4. He uses both his psychological skills and his magician skills to create the perfect show.

5. I came to the Derren Brown party a little late, being an ex-pat Brit living in the US. However, I have watched a lot of his programmes on YouTube and find him to be generally very entertaining. I would agree, though, that "The System"; and the latest series of "trick or Treat"; seem to be more about how we can create our own illusions by false thinking than they were about Derren doing any major magic or mentalism performances. In his current TV work, he seems to be expanding upon the views he expresses in his "Tricks of the Mind" book. Given that he has just finished a lengthy tour performing regular stage mentalism, perhaps he wanted to do something a little different for his TV shows.

6. Although good moral messaging, can only be watched once, maybe twice unlike the classics which i can watch forever (russian)

7. He does a service to us all by the 'preaching' - hopefully some people who are superstitious etc will take this into account!

8. I'm not entirely convinced there's a dichotomy, but I really like the psychological stuff. I really wish I could tell when one or the other was being employed. :)

Monday, June 16, 2008

Absolute Magic or Pure Psychology?

Over the past few years, Derren Brown's television shows have become slightly preachy.

In the beginning, his act was non-stop illusion (i.e., mind-reading and magic tricks). Since then, he has increasingly used his public platform as an opportunity to lecture about how easily people are deceived by faulty reasoning.

After the System aired early this year, many complained that the main trick was not a magic trick at all. Instead, it was a predictable con that anyone could have pulled off.

Similarly, the finale of Trick or Treat 2 was a psychological experiment that required no sleight-of-hand and no mind-reading. Sure, there were magic tricks mixed in, but the main attraction was not an illusion.

Personally, I enjoy all of Derren's shows, but I have heard a lot of complaining about his move away from pure illusion. What do you think?

Vote in this week's poll -->

Results will follow shortly!

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Derren Brown NLP - The Results

Before we discuss the finale of Derren Brown's Trick or Treat 2 series, here are the results of this week's survey --

The question we asked was simply, Does Derren Brown use NLP? Strong feelings were held on both sides of the debate, but the voting was one-sided:

77% of voters said DB does use NLP
23% said he does not

A total of 37 people voted. Here are some of the comments:

1. You use what works, and magicians do find ways to use what works to pull off the most elaborate events.

2. I'm an avid DB fan and have seen him use rapport and mirroring in very obvious ways. I think he buys into a few NLP techniques but dissmisses the rest as hogwash.

3. Derren has always openly said he uses a whole mis mash of techniques to bring about an effect for the purposes of entertainment. He has previously said that some NLP techniques have value, and therefore why not use them! Obviously NLP does not do everything it (now at least) claims to do, but certainly some aspects of it are surprisingly effective!

4. NLP among other things...I think Derren boost Jason’s self esteem with a lot of different techniques. No doubt about it. But editing is a big factor here. You can make the reality you want with 20-30 answers from different girls. Notice how the girls are not so good looking in the second round of speed dating. I think the hero-act is only remotely related to his new self esteem – maybe there was more to the mirroring-exercise than shown to us.

5. The mental imaging, where Jason was told to visualize himself as confident in bright color etc. is an NLP technique. Whether or not this was merely done for the benefit of the camera as misdirection is open to debate.

6. NLP requires more than what he conveys.

As I noted in the prior entry, DB has been somewhat critical of NLP. Most of his criticism, however, seems targeted at the way certain fans treat NLP as the ultimate secret to the universe when, in DB's view, it is just one of many useful tools.

Stay tuned for discussion of the Trick or Treat 2 finale...

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Did Derren Brown Use NLP to Get Jason a Date?

In last week's episode of Trick or Treat 2 (episode 5), Derren Brown apparently improved Jason's self-esteem so he could get dates and chase down purse thieves.

It certainly looked like Derren was using NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) to create this change. The middle segment of the program was an elaborate mirroring exercise, the mental imaging routine smacked of NLP, and the glass-eating reminded me of the hot-coal-walking Tony Robbins uses to inspire confidence in his conference attendees.

But magicians who like Derren Brown frequently argue that DB does not practice NLP, and that he only uses it as a form of misdirection in his tricks (i.e., viewers are led to believe that he's using NLP when in fact his illusions rely on sleight-of-hand and hypnosis).

Derren himself criticized the followers of NLP in his book, Tricks of the Mind, but at the same time acknowledged that some NLP techniques work.

So, does DB use NLP or not?

Weigh in by answering this week's survey question, to the right of this entry -->>

I will post the results later this week. And if you have any theories specific to episode 5 of Trick or Treat, please leave them as comments on this blog entry.

Friday, May 23, 2008

How Derren Brown Made David Tennant Predict the Future

How did David Tennant predict the future in the most recent episode of Trick or Treat 2?

Anthony and ellenore have shared their theories in the comments section of a prior post regarding how David Tennant predicted the future.

Additionally, the following comments were left in response to our survey:

1. I agree with your suggestion...the article involves a court case and DB could have gotten inside knowledge from an old Law School buddy. The other option is an envelope switch where a forger has used words from both the original document and the news article. A third (and more complex) option is that DB convinced DT that the automatic writing was made on the Monday (and that 3 days had passed) where it was in fact filmed earlier that day (and only 3 hours had passed).

2. Perhaps Derren knew an article would appear on a particular subject, so selected those details. Anything else could be put down to confirmation bias, I'd imagine. Perhaps he hypnotised David beforehand and told him to forget hearing the particular words, but to write them when told to? ;)

3. He switched the envelope. - James Joystick

4. David Tennant wasn't actually in the pool on Monday, but rather on Wednesday evening, when the first edition of the Guardian had already been printed.

5. I'm not quite sure to be honest. I think he could 'cheat' to some degree. Derren as mentioned before might have known what was going to be in the paper, and almost certinly knew when they were then going through the writing and comparing it to the paper. This means he could have said words looked like something even if they were undeciferable and could use suggestion to make David think that's what the word looked like. I find Derren amazing at these 'predicting the future' tricks. As mentioned he doesn't believe in predicting the future yet I went to one of his live shows last night and he'd predicted what was going to happen throughout the night and hung it infront of us all night. I guess it would have been done with a slight of hand but it is still amazing watching these things happen in person.

6. David acted!

7. I would liek to coorrect you if i may, It was 4 days afetr teh writing that they bought a copy of teh paper and not 2 days as you stated in your blog. Kind Regards

8. Used an associate


I think the general consensus is that Derren switched the envelopes. That seems to be the simplest explanation. It is also likely that the timeline in the episode was distorted by editing.

Enjoy tonight's episode. Channel 4 gives the following description:

In Episode 4, agency worker Angela is ambushed by Derren in total blackout in an office.
Over the following weeks, she is given a number of tasks to fulfil, both physical and mental.
She needs to complete them to ensure she is ready to face probably the most challenging experience of her life.
For she is to be kidnapped and subjected to a terrifying ordeal and will have to use psychological techniques, given to her by Derren, to escape her predicament.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Glen Brighton Talks About Derren Brown's Speed-Learning System

If you want to know how Derren Brown's speed-learning system works, who better to ask than Glen Brighton, the man who learned the system from DB himself?

We at AboutDerrenBrown had a good time speculating about how the super-learning system in episode 1 of Trick or Treat 2 worked. As you will recall, DB taught Glen Brighton a system for learning trivia. A week later, the one-man team of "Just Glen" finished second place in a pub quiz, against numerous five-man teams.

Since episode 1 aired, thousands and thousands of people have visited this blog searching for "derren brown super learning system" or some variation on that theme.

Imagine how pleased I was when Glen Brighton, the star of episode 1, contacted me. Glen was very gracious and shared the following observations about his experience:

I read your BLOG. I am not sure what has been more interesting, being in the show...or the conspiracy theories afterwards! I loved the one about me already knowing a lot of trivia!

What I will tell you is that what you saw really happened, there were no tricks that I know about and it really was me answering those questions. I spent a lot of time with Derren talking about memory and how it can be trained. I am sure you have read his books and he has some unique theories.

I am glad you enjoyed the show, it was great fun and the people at Objective were a joy to be with. I hope you enjoy the rest of the series.

I asked about Glen's interaction with Derren, and he commented:

Derren was fascinating and interesting, I spent quite a bit of time with him and I was lucky enough to be able to talk to him about lots of issues and some of the things he has done.

Glen, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us. Of course, we'll have to revise our conspiracy theories now.

Be sure to check back later this week when we will post the results of our latest survey regarding the David Tennant episode.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

David Tennant's Time Travel Trick - How did he do it?

Episode 3 of Derren Brown's Trick or Treat 2 featured time traveller David Tennant.

Early in the show, he was given a sealed envelope and hypnotized to travel backward through time and experience a historical event. He then related details of the event, which were virtually identical to details provided in the sealed envelope.

Near the end of the show, Tennant tried to do some "automatic writing" to predict the future, while Derren distracted him with various questions. Two days later, the automatic writing sample was reviewed and found to contain words that seemed to predict an article in that day's newspaper.

How did he do it?

Of the two tricks, the second seems more baffling. Derren Brown does not believe in automatic writing. Nor does he believe that it is possible to predict the future. Either (1) he knew about the article in advance or (2) he was able to make the writing sample appear to match the article when in fact it did not.

Because the writing sample included a complex and unusual name that was also in the article, I think option 1 is more probable. I have not yet had time to look up the actual newspaper article on-line. From what I saw in the show, though, it was a large, feature-type article. It appeared to be at least one full page with graphics/illustrations. It was not, therefore, breaking news.

It is entirely possible that Derren knew about the article two days before it ran, and was therefore able to select relevant words from the article to embed in David's automatic writing. How did he embed the words? I'm not sure.

What do you think?

Once again, I am posting a survey to get your feedback on how Derren did his trick. See survey to the right of this entry -->>

This week, instead of giving you a finite list of options, I am simply asking for a text response. If you have an idea how DB did it, leave a comment. I will post a representative sample of the responses later this week.

In other news

Remember Glen Brighton from episode 1 of Trick or Treat 2? With a little help from DB, Glen won a pub quiz in what has been the most interesting episode so far this season.

I have had the good fortune of corresponding with Glen since the episode ran. With his permission, I will post his comments about the experience later this week. Be sure to check back (or subscribe to the aboutderrenbrown RSS feed) -- you won't want to miss this.

Friday, May 16, 2008

David Tennant on Trick or Treat 2 -- Plus survey results

We are only a few hours away from the David Tennant episode of Trick or Treat 2.
Dr. Who will, reportedly, experience the feeling of time travel, going back to the 1930's and attempting to predict future events.
You can watch a teaser of the episode on Channel 4's website.
Before we get to episode 3, though, let's review the survey results from episode 2 -
As you will recall, DB appeared to use negative suggestion to make Lauren press a button that would electrocute a kitten.
Our survey this week asked why she pushed the button. Here are the results:
1. Derren gave her negative suggestions, as shown on the broadcast - 10 votes, 41.67%
2. Derren filmed dozens of people in this situation, and it was inevitable that someone would push it - 7 votes, 29.17%
3. Derren hypnotized her - 4 votes, 16.67%
4. Lauren was an actor - 1 vote, 4.17%
5. Other - 2 votes, 8.33%
Our "other" voters both left good comments:
A. People will do anything to get on telly....Lauren knows that if she does not comply the show would not go on. Even though she is not an actor, she is acting, just as we see people do in lame stage hypnotist shows.
B. I think it was a mix of Negative Suggestion and Hypnotism. Derren's strength comes from throwing out apparent explanations, when in fact a more simple/complex method is employed. We only have some truth and some red herrings to go on.
The episode reminded me very much of a stage hypnotist's show and, in fact, Derren was a stage hypnotist before he got into magic.
The high-wire-walker segment of the episode featured the same basic trick as the cat-killing segment -- DB used negative suggestions to make the tightrope walker fall. Did you notice the handshake induction used on the tightrope walker right before DB gave him negative suggestions?
I think Lauren was covertly hypnotized, as well, using a variety of methods. But that is just my opinion.
About half as many people participated in this week's poll as in the prior week's. In the media, too, the reaction to episode 2 was less favorable than to episode 1.
Let's hope that star power (David Tennant) will create some extra enthusiasm for tonight's episode. Enjoy the show!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Why Did Lauren Kill the Cat? -- Negative Suggestions with Derren Brown

Last Friday's episode of Trick or Treat 2 upset animal lovers, but pleased Derren Brown fans.

Derren offered his victim, Lauren, 500 pounds if she could resist the temptation to push a button that would electrocute a cat. DB gave Lauren numerous negative suggestions ("don't kill the cat... whatever you, do not KILL THE CAT").

The cuddly little pet didn't have a chance. And we were all left wondering -- why did Lauren kill the cat?

Ace99 posted a controversial theory as a comment on my prior blog entry, and claimed that it is based on inside information. Add your own opinion by voting in the survey to the right of this entry. -->

The results will be posted in the next 48 hours or so.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Trick or Treat 2 - Episode 2 -- It's Hard Not to Kill the Kitten

In tonight's episode of Trick or Treat 2:

Social anthropology student Lauren experiences an extreme example of negative suggestion by having to resist killing a kitten in Episode 2.

Sounds like she picked the "trick" card. Enjoy the show!

Next week we will run another survey on this blog to see how you think Derren Brown pulled off his latest trick.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Speed Learning Survey: The Results Are In

Thank you to the 52 people who took the time to respond to the survey I posted two nights ago. In the wake of last week's Trick or Treat 2 episode, the survey asked: How did Derren Brown make Glen Brighton place second at a pub quiz?

The votes broke down like this:

1. Derren has supernatural powers. 1 vote, 1.92%

2. DB taught Glen a super-learning system, as shown in the broadcast. 6 votes, 11.54%

3. DB taught Glen a super-learning system, but the real system was not shown on TV. 37 votes, 71.15%

4. The quiz show was rigged. 4 votes, 7.69%

5. Other. 4 votes, 7.69%

Three of the "Other" votes shared their theories:
a. money, earpiece and a contract of silence
b. None of it happened
c. DB knew answers and "planted" them into Glenn's mind

Also of note, two readers left comments on the prior blog entry, positing their own theories:

The first comment suggested that the pub quiz trick might be like the piano-player trick from season 1 of Trick or Treat. As you'll recall, DB led viewers to believe that he was using hypnosis to teach a woman to play the piano. In fact, she was already a concert pianist and he was merely restoring the state of mind (confidence, concentration, etc.) that she needed to play well.

Comment 1 is suggesting that Glenn already knew a lot of trivia, and Derren was restoring his confidence or helping him develop the right state of mind to perform well at the quiz.

The second comment was a little more cryptic:

"Carfax". Explore that and you find your answers. Well played, Derren.

I can only assume that this was left by one of the magicians who read this blog, and who actually can figure out how the tricks are done.

"Carfax" was the answer to one of the two trivia questions Derren asked Glenn.

I looked up the definition of "carfax." In the UK, it is the "intersection of four roads." or, stated differently, "the intersection of two roads that change their names." Is the fact that the roads change their names a hint that the "speed learning" system is not what Derren says it is? I don't know.

The pub quiz trick reminds me most strongly of Derren's photoreading trick. He went to a university library, scanned a book very quickly, and then appeared to be able to recite a passage chosen randomly by a librarian. Later, in an interview, Derren acknowledged that he was not actually photoreading -- that he was instead using a magic trick.

But if the speed-learning system was not real, how could Derren be certain that Glen would perform well at the quiz? No idea.

In summary, the first episode of Trick or Treat 2 was excellent, but I'm not going to spend a lot of time scanning textbooks.

Correction to the Previous Blog Entry

David Tennant's website is now saying that the episode of Trick or Treat 2 in which he appears will air May 16th, 2008.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Derren Brown's Speed Learning -- How Did He Do It?

Last Friday, Derren Brown opened the second season of Trick or Treat with an excellent episode in which DB (apparently) used a photoreading-like technique to help a "treat" recipient learn trivia and place second in a pub quiz.

[UPDATE: read what participant Glen Brighton said about the trick]

As always, it was quite entertaining. Since the episode aired, this blog has been visited by hundreds of people searching for some variation of the phrase "Derren Brown speed learning system." It's become obvious that we are all wondering how he did it.

A Few Theories

1. In its recap of the episode, the Mirror made the not-too-original suggestion that Derren Brown must be in league with the devil, as did the Guardian.

2. But the Mirror also made the amusing suggestion that DB set up numerous pub quizzes, filmed them all, and only showed the one in which his pupil placed well in the quiz (a la DB's method in the System).

3. Many bloggers seem to have accepted that the super-learning technique works as shown.

4. Others accept that DB really did teach his pupil a super-learning technique, but maintain that the system is different from (or more complicated than) what was shown in the episode.

5. Finally, the extreme skeptics are saying that the quiz was rigged.

Cast your vote (or propose a new theory) in the survey to the right of this entry -->>

I will post the results later this week.

Future Episodes

If you are wondering what the remaining Trick or Treat 2 episodes hold in store, see Zootoday.com, which reports that one episode will examine the skills mediums use to escape from ropes very quickly in the dark.

Another episode will feature David Tennant and will air on May 23, 2008, according to the actor's official website.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Inside Info from a Participant in Trick or Treat 2, Episode 1

Davorg left a comment on my prior post (REVEALED: Episode 1 of Derren Brown's Trick or Treat 2).

He participated in the "Night of Champions" pub quiz that is featured in episode 1 of the new series. Be sure to read his full account at davblog, which includes the following:

For a number of years now we've taken part in a weekly quiz in a local pub.... So we weren't too surprised to be invited to one a couple of months ago. The difference with this one was that it was being filmed by Channel 4. According to the quizmaster, they had been in touch with him as they wanted to make a documentary about the rise in pub quizzes in London. They had asked him to put on a night that they could film. He got together about thirty of his best teams and Channel 4 added in another couple of teams - one of which was one man one his own.

The one-man team was, obviously, Glen Brighton, the Trick or Treat contestant who had been coached by Derren Brown.

Davorg declined to give any spoilers about the competition because he signed a release form with Channel 4, promising not to disclose details of the event.

After the episode airs this Friday, I am hoping Davorg will post a complete account of how the episode was filmed.

Monday, April 28, 2008

REVEALED: Episode 1 of Derren Brown's Trick or Treat 2

Today's Telegraph revealed the contents of Episode 1 of Derren Brown's Trick or Treat 2 series, which airs this Friday on Channel 4:

[Glen] Brighton, 40,... took on more than 100 of the finest general knowledge brains in Britain in a "champion of champions" contest - surprising everyone with an astonishing performance....

[To prepare], he speed-read mountains of text by mentally "photographing" it in his mind, taking only a few seconds per page. Then he associated the words on the page with visual images which enabled him to recall them easily....

His objective was to enter the Night of Champions quiz.... The event is one of the biggest in the pub quiz calendar, drawing champions from pubs across the South East to compete....

Mr Brighton was taught the techniques by Derren Brown, the magician, for a Channel 4 television series.

His performance, and the final result of the quiz, will be revealed in the first episode of Derren Brown: Trick Or Treat, which will be broadcast on Friday.

I'm guessing Mr. Brighton will do quite well.

BONUS: check out this YouTube video -- it's a clip from an old NLP/hypnotism training course, and you can see a very young Derren Brown in the audience.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Derren's "News" -- Tacky or Calculated?

As you are likely aware, this past week, on April 21, 2008, the Sun published an article announcing that Derren Brown is a homosexual.

As iTricks quickly pointed out, Derren had announced his sexual orientation a year ago in an article in the Independent. Unlike the prior announcement, though, this week's announcement was repeated in other mainstream newspapers (see, e.g., the Daily Mail), as well as numerous small-circulation periodicals and, of course, the web.

Why would Derren make this announcement a second time?

1. The Official Story

Derren answers the question himself on his official website, under the heading "second coming":

For anyone confused as to why Derren would seem to be 'coming out' again, and this time to the tabloids: the article in the Sun yesterday was something of a suprise. Derren had answered a couple of questions from a Sun journalist within a half-hour interview about the TV series, that were concerned with why he discreetly mentioned all that man-on-man business in the Independent a few months ago. Derren politely answered that it was a necessary evil: not really anyone's business, but if you don't do it then it becomes perceived as a secret. The Sun then printed this as if Derren had chosen to come out there and then to them, complete with 'Exclusive' across the top of the article. As if. Other papers then picked up on this, and suddenly it was new news.
So, yes, for those who thought it was a bit odd and tacky, it was.

Derren says the tabloid newspaper misrepresented his comments. That could be true. But --

2. The Psychological Illusionist Conspiracy Theory

The story did create a lot of buzz in the British media, and the timing is convenient (less than two weeks prior to the premier of Trick or Treat 2, Derren's new TV series).

Isn't it at least possible that Derren orchestrated the whole thing?

We here at AboutDerrenBrown are seldom critical of DB. But we have to point out that someone who can perform a magic trick and call it psychology could also execute a media campaign and call it a misunderstanding.

There, we've said it. Make up your own mind.

While we're being slightly critical of DB, though, check out the announcement under the heading "Are you a talented web designer?" on his official website. He is looking for a web designer who will work pro bono.

Hmm... If you are a web designer looking for a charity project, you might be able to find someone more needy than DB.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Martin Taylor, the Man Who Inspired Derren Brown

In interviews, Derren Brown frequently credits his interest in hypnotism, psychological illusion, and performance entertainment generally to Martin Taylor, a stage hypnotist.

In his first year of college, at age 19, Derren attended Taylor's show. It was typical of stage hypnotism, with performances designed to embarrass participants for the amusement of onlookers (e.g., making a subject cluck like a chicken). [See Martin Taylor's comment below for an explanation of this correction.]

Derren spent much of his first year of college learning the art of hypnotism. He was obsessed with figuring out how Mr. Taylor did it, and he practiced on college friends. After a year or so of practice, Derren began performing legitimate hypnosis shows. He even considered a career as a hypnotherapist before moving on to stage magic.

Taylor's take on hypnotism is similar to Derren's -- he does not believe that a "hypnotic state" exists. Instead, he believes that what we call hypnotism is simply a state of heightened suggestion due to human tendencies to obey authority figures and conform to group expectations.

Taylor considers Derren a friend and is proud of his success. In a 2005 interview, he listed three things about Derren which deserve to be more widely known:

1. If he decided not to be a mind-reader, he could easily be (in fact, he is) one of the top sleight-of-hand magicians in the country, if not the world.

2. If he decided not to be a magician at all, he could easily be (in fact, he is) one of the best caricaturists in the country, if not the world.

3. He has worked prodigiously hard to get where he is. Even if I had his talent, there is simply no way that I have the self-discipline and drive to make it work for me the way Derren has. All credit to him.

Martin Taylor still performs, and you can see his official site here. He also performs as a magician.

[Thanks to the many readers who have already completed my blog-content survey. If you have not done it yet, please do. It is located on the right side of this window, and only takes a few seconds to complete.]

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Derren Brown Tricks Doctor Who

A post on David Tennant's website today revealed that Trick or Treat 2 will air May 2, 2008 on Channel 4. [thanks to Andrea for the tip] UK TVGuide confirms this date, listing the 30-minute season premier at 10:00 pm.

What does David Tennant have to do with Trick or Treat 2? The Doctor Who star is featured in the new series. His website explains that:

David has been doing a bit of time travelling with the help of magician Derren Brown.

He was fooled into thinking he could see into the past and future for a stunt on the new series of Trick Or Treat.

Derren swooped after hiding in David’s make-up truck, on the set of Doctor Who, he said: "David's the only person who has ever screamed when I surprised them. But he reacted well to the trick, which used visualisation and suggestion techniques. He seemed to enjoy it."

Derren's Trick Or Treat will start airing on Channel 4 on Friday 2nd May.

This information is repeated in today's Sun.

DB is evidently continuing his recent trend of involving celebrities in his shows.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Peek Inside Derren's Stage Show - An Evening of Wonders

Naquada has posted an excellent account of Derren's current stage show, An Evening of Wonders. It does contain spoilers, so read at your own risk.

After you've done that, take 30 seconds to complete the survey to the right of this entry. I am trying to improve the mix of content on AboutDerrenBrown, and I need your input. Thanks!

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Trick or Treat 2 with Derren Brown -- Information from a Contestant

Last I checked, Derren Brown's website claimed the Trick or Treat 2 series would begin on April 13, 2008. Channel 4's TV listings do not, however, list the show on that date.

We don't know when the new series is coming, but it definitely is coming. Ronk, a participant in the production of Trick or Treat 2 left a comment on AboutDerrenBrown with the following inside information:

I was shortlisted for Trick or Treat 2 but unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, didn’t hear anymore.

Last year I spotted an advertisement in the London Lite asking people to visit http://www.trickortreat2.com/ if they were interested in being in the next series of Trick or Treat. I answered all the questions and sent a video. After a week or so I was invited to an informal audition session.

I didn’t know what to expect but for some strange reason before this audition session I also received a black envelope with my name and address written with a gold paint pen. Inside the envelope was a red card with Derren’s devilish profile printed in black with the words ‘You are being considered’ on the reverse.

At the audition there were around 70 other people, photo’s were taken and forms were filled in before being asked to enter a hall where there were lines of seats set out like an examination room.

The producer form Objective Productions, Simon I think, introduced himself and gave a brief explanation about what would happen next. I’m no sure if it was intentional, but up until that point there was no indication that Derren would actually be there. Then all of a sudden Derren was introduced as he popped out of a side door next to the stage.

Derren explained that he would go through various hypnosis tests and that we should be honest with our responses. People would not be picked based on how often they responded to the hypnosis tests and if we faked it we wouldn’t be doing ourselves any favours.

If people didn’t respond to a test they were asked to sit to one side of the hall. Eventually there were around 12 people left and it ended with two guys who were made to forget the number 7.

It was a very enjoyable evening but I must admit I felt a bit odd during the next day. I haven’t been hypnotised before and would say I wouldn’t like to be again.

I was told a few weeks later I was shortlisted but wouldn’t here any more due to the nature of the programme. Being that the timescale was up to the end of February I guess I’ve not been picked. A relief to be honest…RonK

Thanks for the great information, RonK! I don't think I would feel too relieved yet, though. Making the unwary participant think she has been rejected from the show was a common ruse of Derren Brown's in Trick or Treat 1.

The producer named "Simon" in the above account is, presumably, Simon Mills, who worked on the first Trick or Treat series.

If anyone knows when Trick or Treat 2 will be aired, please drop me a line. Thanks!