Brown in 2009
27 February 1971 |
Purley, London, England
|Other names||Darren V. Brown|
|Occupation||Illusionist, mentalist, hypnotist, painter, writer, sceptic|
Derren Brown (born 27 February 1971) 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 was born to Chris and Bob Brown in Purley, London, and has a brother nine years his junior. Brown was privately educated at Whitgift School in South Croydon (where his father coached swimming), and studied Law and German at the University of Bristol. While there, he attended a hypnotist show by Martin S Taylor, which inspired him to turn to illusion and hypnosis as a career. Whilst an undergraduate, he started working as a conjuror, performing the traditional skills of close-up magic in bars and restaurants. In 1992, he started performing stage shows at the University of Bristol under the stage name Darren V. Brown.
Brown was an Evangelical Christian in his teens, and became an atheist in his twenties. This is discussed by Brown in the "Messiah" special, and in his book Tricks of the Mind. An interview as part of Richard Dawkins' two-part documentary series The Enemies of Reason, where Brown explained various psychological techniques used by purported psychics and spiritual mediums to manipulate their audiences, Brown also said he sought to strengthen his belief and provide answers to common criticisms of religion by reading the Bible and other Christian religious texts, but upon doing so found none of the answers he sought and came to the conclusion that his belief (in Christianity) had no basis.
Brown uses a variety of methods to achieve his illusions including traditional magic/conjuring techniques, memory techniques, hypnosis, body language reading, cognitive psychology, cold reading and psychological, subliminal (specifically the use of PWA – "perception without awareness") and ideomotor suggestion.
In an interview in New Scientist in 2005, when asked how he "acquired his psychological skills", Brown says that he learnt skills as a hypnotist, which he was not sure how to apply until he started performing close-up magic. When asked whether he is able to detect lies, Brown claimed to be able to read subtle cues such as a micro-muscle movements that indicate to him if someone is lying. Concerning his apparent success at hypnotizing people, he stated that he can normally spot a suggestible type of person and chooses that person to be his participant. He believes that the presence of a television camera also increases suggestibility.
Several authors have claimed that Brown uses neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) in his act which "consists of a range of magical 'tricks', misdirection and, most intriguing, setting up audiences to provide the response that he wishes them to provide by using subtle subliminal cues in his conversation with them." In response to the accusation that he unfairly claims to be using NLP whenever he performs, Brown writes "The truth is I have never mentioned it outside of my book". Brown does have an off-stage curiosity about the system, and discusses it in the larger context of hypnotism and suggestion. In his book Tricks of the Mind, Brown mentions that he attended an NLP course with Richard Bandler, co-creator of NLP and mentor of Paul McKenna. He also describes the NLP concept of eye accessing cues as a technique of "limited use" in his book Pure Effect. The language patterns which he uses to suggest behaviours are very similar in style to those used by Richard Bandler and by the hypnotist from whom Bandler learnt his skill, Milton H. Erickson. Brown also mentions in Tricks of the Mind that NLP students were given a certificate after a four-day course, certifying them to practice NLP as a therapist. A year after Brown attended the class, he received a number of letters saying that he would receive another certificate, not for passing a test (as he discontinued practising NLP following the course), but for keeping in touch. After ignoring their request, he later received the new certificate for NLP in his mailbox, unsolicited.
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".
In an interview with The Independent in 2007 Brown stated that he is gay. In an interview with Radio Times in 2011, Brown talked more about his sexuality, stating that he is in a relationship with a man named Mark. He said, "I spent a lot of time thinking about me and working on what I wanted to be before I came into a relationship. In some ways, it's bad because you come into relationship quite late without a lot of experience and you have a lot to learn. But that can also be exciting. Certainly, it's lovely to have somebody love you and it's lovely to love someone else."
Since 2004, Brown has been the patron of the registered charity the Parrot Zoo Trust in Friskney, Lincolnshire. In an interview with LeftLion magazine, he said, "I'm a big fan of parrots – I think they're fascinating creatures. Many of them live for longer than us humans and it's interesting to me the way they learn to mimic human voices even though they don't really comprehend what they're saying."
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- 10 things you need to know about the magician Daily Mirror. Retrieved 25 March 2012
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- 'The Enemies of Reason', Channel 4
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- John Ozimek. Journal of Database marketing & Customer Strategy Management. London: Apr 2007. Vol. 14, Iss. 3; p. 161, 3 pages
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- Brown, Derren (2000). "Pure Effect". p. 108.
- Derren Brown, Tricks of the Mind, Transworld Publishers, 2006, ISBN 978-1-905026-38-8 Specifically Part Four: Hypnosis and Suggestibility, Section Neuro Linguistic Programming, Sub section, The eyes have it (some of the time)
- Hill, Annette (2010). Paranormal media : audiences, spirits, and magic in popular culture (1. publ. ed.). London: Routledge. pp. 142–149. ISBN 0415544629.
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- "Interview – The Times". Derren Brown. Retrieved 2013-12-03.
- "Our Patron". The Parrot Zoo. Retrieved 2013-12-03.
- Wilson, Jared (1 April 2012). "He's Not The Messiah, He's a Very Naughty Boy". LeftLion. Retrieved 29 November 2013.
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