Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Derren Brown

It is April. In celebration of this blogs two year existence, the whole month will be winner time. Only the coolest and best members of our elite circle of nerds will be featured.

Today: Derren Brown!

I was hesitant to put him on the list. Simply because he is not a magician but a freaking mentalist. And while most magicians seem not to draw a line between the two I do. But Derren Brown has done for mentalism what David Blaine has done for magic. He brought it to a level where people actually believe it is genuine.

Here is the thing. Predictions are a weird. They have a build in power claim that is hard to take serious. A prediction means that the mentalist can see into the future and see events that will occur.

What Derren has done to it is nothing new, but he certainly has done it well. Derren cultivates an aura of psychological genius. To the audience he doesn't predict the future, but he has decided what the future event is going to be, and he does all his mental tricks to make it happen.

And you know what. That is a believable premise for a prediction. In fact his whole show is designed around this idea.

Here is the whole show Evening of Wonders. I don't know how legal this is, so watch them while you can:

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4
Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8

I don't like mentalism, but I can still see how good this is. And I see that people do enjoy this.


Trickster said...

Discussions about how great Derren Brown is always leave me feeling left out and a little bit like an outcast. It's obvious I'm in the minority, but I just find him boring, so boring I can hardy even watch an entire show, usually after a few minutes I'm drifting off to sleep or wondering if I need to do the washing etc.

Justin said...

You can find him boring--and heh, yes, you'd be in the minority--but you can't deny his technical prowess, his damned attention to his own integrity, and his ability to make magic classy and interesting and fucking cool to laymen again.

I think Blaine was an apt comparison.

Trickster said...

I wouldn't even try to deny his technical prowess (ignoring the lotto prediction fiasco), his attention to his own integrity...interesting statement. His attention to detail is definitely excellent. He certainly has introduced a lot of layman to magic (mentalism) and yeh, I agree with the Blaine comparison.
There's a very fine line between being classy, and coming across as a prat, Derren does seem to lean towards the former, but hard to ignore the tendency to look like the latter.

Mike said...

ooh hard one.

Classy with great presence ---tick

Great showman---tick

Bordering on the reckless with his persuading people that its all psychology and mind control ---tick.

My problem is that his style of presentation and the pseudo-science he wraps around it actually has a large number of people believing this is real.

I don't like that at all.

You can watch a film and be royally entertained a nd drawn in without having to be conned into thinking its all real. Derren crosses the line badly for me in this regard.

Mike said...

In support of my argument-

Read this load of old bollocks:-

The scariest thing is that if you read any of Derrens books you'll see he has some scathing things to say about NLP. But a lot of NLP'iers flogging their wares can give Derrens bullshit explanations as evidence it works !!!!

hayes22 said...

A really interesting point, Derren is actually one of the best card magicians you will ever see, even Sadowitz spoke highly of his ability with a deck of cards!

石榮狼 said...

Agreed; the way he constructs (or "constructed", since it appears he doesn't do that anymore) his card tricks is pure genius, and he definitely has the hands to back up all the smart thinking with matching technical skills.
His version of OOTW (from a spectator-shuffled deck and with no mid-course interruption nor dubious bold final swap) may be the best around, and his more personal routines are tremendously magical.
The world lost a first-rate cardician the day Derren decided to devote himself to pure mentalism.

Magnus Asbjorn said...

Even though it's a really old comment I'd like to object to the the idea that Derren Brown is the reason some think it's real. Those people that believe it to be real went in with that mindset to begin with, they were just looking for confirmation for their beliefs. No one leaves a Derren Brown show going I used to think "_______" was bollocks but now I know it works. Like Dunninger said "For those who believe, no explanation is necessary; for those who do not believe, no explanation will suffice."

石榮狼 said...

I beg to disagree. Derren copiously generates - and, at the very least, strongly encourages - this phenomenon by deliberately suggesting (or explicitly providing) 'explanations' skillfully selected within the realm of the reasonably believable (as opposed to "did you know black ink is heavier than red ink?" and other similarly silly stock patter the audience isn't even EXPECTED to believe).
Note that I don't blame him for doing so, I'm still kind of a fence-sitter regarding this kind of thing... I've occasionally done the same (with OOTW, for instance), and there's no denying it favourably affects the impact the trick has on the spectator, ergo the said spectator's enjoyment. But whether it's a good or a bad thing, most of the responsibility definitely rests on the performer, not on the spectator. When you tell a deliberate lie (regardless of whether you're justified in doing so), you're responsible for your vis-à-vis believing it: saying "they believed my lie because they wanted to" was never a valid defense, or so said the judge last time I, er... hum, nevermind. :)

Magnus Asbjorn said...

I disagree because he's a performer not a lecturer. His job is to create an enjoyable experience and part of the enjoyability of mentalism comes from its believability. That's why so many mentalists keep up the persona 24/7. He's not selling the idea that those things work, he's using existing ignorance and belief to sell his effects. He's not responsible for the people who can't separate entertainment from reality. When he starts writing books about how to do NLP then he can be considered to be contributing to the problem.

石榮狼 said...

We're in agreement on the fact that what would be unacceptable from a lecturer isn't so when coming from a performer; which is why, again, I have no problem with the finely engineered believability of Derren's act (indeed, despite a few minor points whereof I disapprove, I remain a huge fan of his).

I do, however, take issue with his denying others the right to do just what he indulges in himself.
Take for instance a mentalist like Uri Geller who, not unlike Derren now, based pretty much his whole carreer on the claim that he was genuinely using telepathy, psychokinesis, ESP, etc... I dislike the guy, but from a strictly professional point of view (and, given how you feel about Derren I think you'll agree with me on this one), my ethical beef with him starts in the eighties when he started selling books about his claimed powers - thus going from performer to "lecturer".
Derren has been rather vocal in calling the likes of him out on "fraud", but as far as I am aware he has done so not on the grounds of their dubious books, but on those of their claim to genuineness - something DB is rather ill-placed to do in my humble opinion. Granted, my "Geller-is-a-fraud-but-gets-called-one-for-the-wrong-reasons" position may seem like hair-splitting (it is), but coming from someone like Derren I'd say such hairs are in great need of being split.

Magnus Asbjorn said...

Geller was just a bit before my time unfortunately, so I don't know much about him. But yeah you shouldn't call out others for the same thing you do.