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.

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