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.

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Martin S Taylor said...

All good stuff, but I really try hard *not* to embarrass people on stage and I certainly don't make them cluck like a chicken.

It's one of the hallmarks of my show that the subjects will enjoy it *more* than people in the audience.

Martin S Taylor

William_Tapscott said...


Thanks for the correction!

We would all love to hear about your own experiences with Derren Brown, or anything further you can share.