Recently (April 2004) I saw this man live, I had always been intrigued by him when I had seen him on television, and am now truly creeped out by him. Although some of his techniques are obvious but it doesn’t matter, what matters is they work. He doesn’t claim to have any special powers or to be mystic in some way; he just claims to be able to control how people think, which is, as far as I can tell, a very useful ability.

Derren Brown is a very talented man, his own words best sum up what he does:

“I began my career as a magician but slowly left behind the props and sleight-of-hand to work with the psychological techniques that are the real stuff of magic. I have to learn people's patterns, step inside their heads. Then I can play.”

Born in 1971 in Croydon, England Derren was always a very good liar, and so it was only natural for him to study law at University. He attended Bristol University, and it was here that he became interested in magic. Being a student and terminally short of cash he started performing to small audiences in pubs and bars. His analytical mind, honed by studying law allowed him to spot flaws in ideas very quickly, this made his act fairly successful. In his studies he used his skills to aid him in his studies, he could break down his revision into a short story about a trip to a department store. He was also very good at spotting patterns; this allowed him to guess what was likely to come up on the exam papers and cut down his studies accordingly, this left him time to perfect his abilities in the field of mind control.

Derren decided that a career in law was not for him and devoted himself to magic and mind control after graduating. In 1999 he was asked to put together a television show, which, after it was broadcast for the first time in December 2000 has been repeated several times and two more have also been made. There is now a series on Channel Four in which he shows off his abilities. It’s about half new stuff, and the next one is going to be all-new. At some point, reportedly in October Derren will engage in a live (when it begins at least) game of Russian Roulette with a member of the public. He has this to say on the subject “I hope it goes well.”

Seen live, Derren is unnerving, he darts around, speaks quickly and makes eye contact constantly, when he stares at you it is very much like sticking your finger in a plug, it’s really spooky. I won’t say what happens in the show because he said not to and I’m not one to disobey such a scary person. But it was very interesting. The one thing I will say though is that he does use a Ouija board in his act, he doesn’t claim it has any mystical properties, and is merely a prop, but it does seem to offend some people.

Derren is touring England from the 21st of March, a full list can be found at, he is well worth going to see, and often goes for a drink in the bar afterwards if you want a chat.

He owns a parrot named Figaro.


Derren has just (October 2003) succeeded in not shooting himself in the head. He played Russian Roulette, live on channel 4. There are allegations that he used a blank bullet, but, as he demonstrated in the show, this would have still killed him.

Derren Brown is one of the few stage magicians who actually knows what his job is. Unlike most of his contemporaries, he understands that once you've achieved a certain level of technical ability, professional success hinges on presentation, not further refinement of that technical ability to absurd levels that only other professional magicians will even notice. Whereas most magicians like to show off ever more complicated, intricate methods (in other words, tricks) to one another, Brown has learnt to stick with comparatively straightforward tricks, instead concentrating his effort on dressing up his performances as true spectacles of wonder. He doesn't give the audience the puzzle of how he did something; he gives them the possibility that he did something impossible.

With most magicians, you know that magic isn't real, therefore they must be using tricks. Brown is smarter than that, and realises that his audience is smarter too. He gives people several layers of patter (in other words, bullshit) to choose from when deciding what to believe. He'll dress up tricks in such a way that people who believe in mysticism will believe he's psychic despite his protests to the contrary, while more knowledgeable people who are slightly less gullible may instead believe he plants subliminal messages and reads body language to feign this ability. Indeed, he does plant subliminal messages and read body language occasionally, just not exclusively. As smarter audience members believe they see him using these techniques, however, only other magicians even think to look for sleight of hand at work.

These days, any magician can hide from the audience exactly which trick he's using, but only Brown can convince the audience that he's not even performing magic tricks in the first place. I think it speaks volumes about him that people often describe him as a mentalist who used to be a magician. He combines the showmanship of the psychic medium with the proven skills of the magician. This enables him to look more interesting than other magicians and more accurate than any psychics. I wholeheartedly recommend his stage shows, TV shows and especially his books to anyone.

Selected Bibliography

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.