Derren Brown has been back on our screens recently with a series of big events. It’s brought him a lot of publicity, and a lot of the public comment has been amusing to say the least. I’ve been watching everyone comment on the TV and Radio that he’s a trickster, and his explanations of how he does things are often bogus.
Yes…. Yes… That’s the point. He’s a magician, a showman, he tells you right up front at the start of the show. Misdirection, magic, showmanship and more. It’s entertainment. He is the first to make it clear that what he does is a trick. He doesn’t claim otherwise. If you can’t bring yourself to enjoy that, I humbly suggest you watch something else. And while we are on it, I’m relieved people see it’s a trick. I think David Blaine’s closeup magic is among the most impressive I have ever seen, and I shudder when those around him don’t even seem to consider it’s just a trick.
Personally, I love Derren, I love his cheeky smug as hell smile as he gets away with it. I enjoy his faked discomfiture. I enjoy it when he fakes near success in tricks to make them more convincing. I enjoy calling him names as I laugh as he lies through his teeth to the audience. I have casually studied a bit of magic in my time, and he is a fine magician. Many big stage magicians rely on assistants, who actually do all the hard work, but he is clearly the architect of most of his own tricks. I’m reading his book and it is informative and very amusing to me, and I very much respect him as a fellow in fight against (rampant) irrationality (a little bit can be a fine thing).
Sadly I’ve missed a few of the “events”, since it clashes with my Iaido class and I wasn’t organised enough to record it. I’m slowly catching up on 4OD. But I did see the program on how he stole the lottery. And I’m a mathematician, and I laughed and laughed at it. I didn’t believe a word of it, but even the deceit was cleverly convincing and it’s not trivial to say exactly what he really did.
He claims he averaged the results of a crowd of people picking lottery numbers. There’s a consequence to this. Consider this: how many ways can 50 people pick a number that averages to 1? How many ways can they pick numbers that average to 30? If you understand this point you’ll see the possible “answers” from the crowd have an odd distribution. But the cover story was very amusing in its own right. You don’t want to know how he really did it, it’ll be shockingly dull.
So yes. We know he didn’t show the numbers in advance of the draw. Yes, we know his explanation is nonsense. It’s a trick. That’s the point. Enjoy it and smile along with his insufferable smugness :-).