Friday, January 16, 2009

Does Derren Brown Use Google?

This past Wednesday, Derren Brown's "Evening of Wonders" stage show aired on British television. Media reaction was mixed. The Times Online published a mostly positive review, which included the following speculation:

A caption promised at the start [of Derren's televised stage show]: “None of the members of tonight's audience were actors or stooges. Neither Derren nor his production team had any contact with them before the show.” But did that mean they had not been spied upon in the lobby or their names, after they had booked tickets, checked on Google or Facebook?

I have encountered many explanations of Derren's mind-reading effects, but this is a new one. If the Times is right, then DB, like a crooked televangelist, stands up on stage with an earpiece while his staff read him background information about his audience volunteers.

It could work, but with 1000 guests in a single stage show, it would be too burdensome to do background research on everyone. Also, most of his tricks could be accomplished in a simpler way. Possible, though...

Are Derren's assistants backstage Googling his guests? Thoughts?

14 comments:

Alex Zavalny said...

I have some thoughts on this, and would like to hear what you thing about them.

How people get tickets to the show? Well, some of them just buy in some ticket-shop, but I believe that many buy from the Internet. And left their names there, perhaps. Maybe entered there their addresses. Maybe some of them (at random) was shown a little bit another page with some hidden suggestions like for andy to ask about shaving scrotum. I don't know.

William_Tapscott said...

Alex,

DB could also get information from people when they arrive for a show (e.g., when they pick up "will call" tickets, buy DB materials, or speak with show staff).

Even if Derren only had information about a small portion -- say 10% -- of his audience, he could use it to great effect. During the course of his performance, several volunteers go on stage, so there would be a good chance of having background info about at least 1 volunteer in the course of a show.

DB varies his performance (i.e., the tricks are not always the same), so he could perform certain tricks only when he has a volunteer about whom he has background info.

Alex Zavalny said...

That's all is true. But as you know, DB has developed an ability to say what numbers/letters are people thinking of. I think this is amazing thing, so, I would believe he can somehow read that woman has question about her dress, for example.

Jose said...

For sure he googles his audience. It's called hot reading. He sells it very good though.

Sekhmet said...

This is very interesting and something I hadn't even thought about. I don't think Derren is all he claims but then again he admits he is honest about his dishonesty!

gcooke said...

I saw this show in Dublin as well as on C4 and it was absolutely brilliant. The "cock" thing was also used in Dublin, so that's obviously a plant. The other "readings", however, he got spot on. The Facebook method sounds plausible as all he'd need is a list of names and to run a search for people in a specific city. I don't think, however, he's using an earpiece. Firstly, he goes out of his was to show that he's not wearing one, and secondly he's spectacularly good at remembering lists of information as he discusses in his book.

Alex Zavalny said...

gcooke, Well, if only we could find some of those people who were on the show, to find whether the really had written on facebook about buying cats, winning houses and going to Island on their own...

Leon said...

The solution is much simpler - people write the information he "reads" on a piece of paper during the break. Then, one at a time, people put the papers in a big bowl on stage. Like he sais, he is not using stooges during the show...

William_Tapscott said...

Regardless of what Derren is doing now in terms of "hot reading," the possibilities of future tricks are exciting --

Google started using face-recognition technology in its image searching software in 2007.

In the near future, it will be possible to scan people's faces as they enter a theater, and then find information about them on-line.

Rich said...

Leon, that works for the main questions and would be the easiest solution, but how do you account for the 'extra' things he appears to know, such as the fact that someone changed their hair colour today?

Leon said...

@Rich

it's the combination of things that makes Derren so great. Some of it is cheating, some of it is just great observation. He once explained in a TV show that he can recognise the scent of different types of dogs. So to answer the "I coloured my hair" question, I don't think Google will help him with that ;) He was just able to recognize this either from a distance or by listening in on her during the break. The "contestants" of the readings are selected when they put the questions in the bowl.

Leon said...

And furthermore, did you see the questions on the paper people had to fill in? I couldn't find one at the live show, but it's a whole questionaire instead of a simple "What is your question?".

usucdik said...

There were also the moments where Derren read their current thoughts, such as when he pointed out stuff like: "sorry, are you thinking about whether you should dye your hair, at the moment (she agrees), could you please put out of your head, just keep focusing..."

Also now that I watched part of the show again now, you can just barely see some possible sleight of hand when people stick their fingers down into the bowl and sort of shuffle them up for no reason. I don't know if it was purposefully edited in.

Lastly, did the people write down the answers? Because Derren was guessing that part, too.

Alex Zavalny said...

2 usucdik:
No doubts, that Derren can "read mind" through body language and tiny muscle movements.

Watch his old video here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=At6BdO9bqlY