Interview with Derren Brown

Derren Brown is an English illusionist, mentalist, trickster, hypnotist, painter, writer, and sceptic. He is known for his appearances in television specials, stage productions, and British television series such as Trick of the Mind and Trick or Treat. Since the first broadcast of his show Derren Brown: Mind Control in 2000, Brown has become increasingly well known for his mind-reading act. He has written books for magicians as well as the general public.
Though Brown’s performances of mind-reading and other feats of mentalism may appear to be the result of psychic or paranormal practices, he claims no such abilities and frequently denounces those who do. He states at the beginning of his Trick of the Mind programmes that he achieves his results using a combination of “magic, suggestion, psychology, misdirection, and showmanship”.
Brown relies heavily on misdirection for his tricks, helped by the audience viewing him as having deep psychological insights. He relies on a wide array of techniques to prevent audiences from deducing the techniques he has used.
In a Daily Telegraph article published in 2003 Simon Singh criticised Brown’s early TV appearances, arguing that he presented standard magic and mentalism effects—such as the classic ten-card poker deal trick—as genuine psychological manipulation. On Brown’s television and live shows he often appears to show the audience how a particular effect was created—claiming to use techniques such as subliminal suggestion, hypnosis, and body language reading. Singh’s suggestion is that these explanations are dishonest. Furthermore, Singh took exception to the programme’s website being categorised under Channel 4’s “Science” section. The mini-site was moved to “Entertainment” for later series.
In an October 2010 interview, Brown conceded that Singh may have had a point, explaining that at the start of his television career “I was overstating the case, overstating my skills. I thought there’ll only be one show, there’ll never be a repeat, so I might as well go for it.” In his book Tricks of the Mind, Brown writes,
I am often dishonest in my techniques, but always honest about my dishonesty. As I say in each show, ‘I mix magic, suggestion, psychology, misdirection and showmanship’. I happily admit cheating, as it’s all part of the game. I hope some of the fun for the viewer comes from not knowing what’s real and what isn’t. I am an entertainer first and foremost, and I am careful not to cross any moral line that would take me into manipulating people’s real-life decisions or belief systems.
Brown claims to never use actors or “stooges” in his work without informing the viewers. In Tricks of the Mind, Brown writes that to use such a ploy is “artistically repugnant and simply unnecessary”; furthermore, he “would not want any participant to watch the TV show when it airs and see a different or radically re-edited version of what he understood to have happened”

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