Derren Victor Brown (born 27 February 1971) is an English magician, illusionist, mentalist, painter and sceptic. He was born in Croydon, South London, educated at Whitgift School, where his father coached swimming, and studied Law and German at the University of Bristol. While there, he attended a show by the hypnotist Martin Taylor, which inspired him to turn to illusion and hypnosis as a career. Whilst an undergraduate, he started working as a conjuror, practising the traditional skills of close-up magic. In 1992, he started performing stage hypnosis shows at the University of Bristol under the stage name Darren V. Brown.
Derren Brown has also given performances relating to mind-reading. Shortly after, he was commissioned to do a pilot for his Channel 4 television series, Mind Control. Much of his work is written in collaboration with Andy Nyman.
Derren Brown performances challenge widely held notions about both human behaviour and what hypnosis really is. For many years, an academic debate has raged over whether hypnosis is a distinct state, or simply a collection of compliant behaviours. Brown's performances, and his statements about them, suggest that he subscribes to, and demonstrates, the latter viewpoint. Certainly his performances show that people are more compliant and manipulable than is commonly believed. In Mind Control 3 he got shoppers in a mall to raise their right arms by simply giving an apparently regular sales patter over a loud-hailer. But, in his patter were disguised embedded commands: "Come right arm up!" In another show, he predicted the exact campaign that two advertising executives would come up with, and in a rare departure showed us how he'd done it. Brown and his team had put pictures and phrases on T-shirts, parcels, and pub signs the execs would encounter on their route to the office. The execs were unconscious of the information they had absorbed on their journey, and amazed at how predictable their response was.
Since the first broadcast of his Channel 4 television show Derren Brown: Mind Control in 2000, he has become increasingly well known for his "mind-reading" act. Brown 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". Using his knowledge and skill, he appears to be able to predict and influence people's thoughts with subtle suggestion, manipulate the decision making process and read the subtle physical signs or body language that indicate what a person is thinking.
He began his television work with three sixty-minute specials over two years which led up to the six part series Mind Control, which incorporated new footage with the best of the hour long shows. Selected highlights from the first series are available on DVD and video entitled Derren Brown - Inside Your Mind.
Trick of the Mind Trick of the Mind was the title for Brown's next series, which ran for three consecutive series. Unlike Mind Control it is all completely new material. The second series started on E4 on 11 April 2005 and was repeated on Channel 4. The third series started on 26 March 2006. Trick of the Mind series 1 and 2 are also available to buy on DVD.
Waking Dead In June 2005, a clip from the second series was widely circulated on the internet. In this clip, Brown claims to have created a video game he calls "Waking Dead" which "is able to put roughly 1/3 of the people who play it into a catatonic trance". In this episode, he places the video game in a pub to lure a supposedly unsuspecting patron into playing the game. He then "kidnaps" the catatonic "victim" and places him in a real-life recreation of the video game, having him fire an air gun at actors, pretending to be zombies and outfitted with explosive squibs.
The episode raised considerable controversy. Mick Grierson, credited in the episode as "Zombie Game Designer", put up a website linking to various articles about the episode.
In Brown's shows, he has produced hypnotic amnesia, anesthesia, command compliance, hallucinosis - and although it is currently illegal to show hypnotic induction on British television, he insists that there is no hypnotic induction anyway. "It's about getting people in a psychological pattern of response which has to do with their belief in the situation and the way they are being handled. This can happen very quickly as opposed to taking half an hour with an induction script."
Mind Control with Derren Brown
On 26 July 2007, the US based SCI FI Channel began showing six one-hour episodes of a series titled Mind Control with Derren Brown. Andrew O'Connor was executive producer, and the show was produced by Simon Mills who had produced the two previous series of Trick Or Treat as well as The Heist and The System for Objective Productions. Journalists in New York at the press announcement were shown preview clips of Brown "manipulating human behaviour" and given the promise of more surprises to come. Sci Fi's press release described the show as an "original US produced version". The show was a mix of new segments filmed in the US and older clips shown in earlier UK TV shows. The first showing release schedule was:
* Episode 1 "Shopping Mall Carpark" 26 July
* Episode 2 "Lying Car Salesman" 2 August
* Episode 3 "Exotic Dancers" 8 August
* Episode 4 "Receptive Children" 15 August - with a guest star Simon Pegg
* Episode 5 "Assault Course" 22 August
* Episode 6 "Disappearing Sun" 29 August
Derren Brown has written three books on magic: Absolute Magic, Pure Effect, and Tricks of the Mind; another is planned. The first two books he penned are intended solely for practitioners of magic and mentalism, whilst his book Tricks of the Mind is aimed at the general public. The two magic books are out of print; they and the two magic video products are useful only to those who already possess a solid and knowledgeable foundation in the theory and practice of magic.
Absolute Magic, subtitled A Model for Powerful Close-Up Performance, is not so much about magical methodology as about how magicians can make their performances magical; it is written in a variety of styles: sometimes humorous, sometimes serious. He warns against an act that conveys the feeling of "Here are some tricks I've bought" and urges magicians to make their performances experiential and memorable by involving the audience. In some respects a lot of what he says is evocative of the content of Darwin Ortiz's Strong Magic but his book expresses it in the context of his experiences, performance style and theories of how performance should be. (Out of print)
Pure Effect is a more traditional book of trickery and technique and offers an insight into some of the methods that Brown employs, and offers a starting point for development for the reader's own use. (Out of print)
Tricks of the Mind is Brown's first book intended for the general public. It is a wide-ranging book in which Brown reveals some of the techniques he uses in his performances, delves into the structure and psychology of magic and discusses hypnosis. He also applies his insight to the paranormal industry, looking at the structure of beliefs and how psychology can explain why people become 'true believers'. He also offers autobiographical stories about his own experiences as a former Christian, and discusses his scepticism about religion, allegedly 'psychic' mediums and sundry other belief systems.
Brown has recorded some audio extracts from Tricks of the Mind. In them he expounds on the three subjects essential to his performance--Magic, Memory and Hypnosis. The extracts last around 40 minutes each, disclosing tips and techniques Brown uses in his acts (as well as day-to-day) and narrating the highlights of his book.