The Magic Café
Username:
Password:
[ Lost Password ]
  [ Forgot Username ]
The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Penny for your thoughts » » Presenting oneself as a mentalist. I like Becker's approach. (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

doowopper
View Profile
Elite user
491 Posts

Profile of doowopper
I was thinking about some of the threads here about "psychics," and how those discussions relate to how one should present oneself as a mentalist, so as to avoid creating the impression of having ongoing supernatural powers - being a very special person with all the sociological and political problems inherent in such a view. So, one could claim to be a psychic or some such thing. Or one could claim to be a magician, so as to be perfectly honest - also an extreme and unacceptable alternative.

Generally I am of the belief that a mentalist should create an ambience that helps spectators to suspend temporarily their beliefs about the known laws of reality (emphasis on the word temporarily) without claiming to be a person with special ongoing psychic powers.

I like Larry Becker's approach, seen at the beginning of his live performance on the Mental Masterpieces video. He seems to be somewhere in the middle of the two extremes, perhaps leaning a bit toward the psychic end of the psychic-magician spectrum. In the introduction to his audience on that tape, he stated something to the effect that what they will see is a demonstration of his ability to use the five senses to create the illusion of a sixth sense, that will apparently enable him to do psychic effects.

He said it much more elegantly than I am writing it here, but I like his use of the phrase, "Create the illusion of a sixth sense," and the word, "apparently." To me this is a very creative and honest way of introducing mentalism without going over the top, that is, by claiming to be a genuine psychic. He seems to be claiming that his special ability is creating the illusion of being a psychic (rather than being one - implied). I don't think that view compromises the power of his wonderful mentalism one bit and it is very honest.

I am curious about what others think of this issue.

Thanks.

Richard
JamesCheung
View Profile
Loyal user
London, UK
214 Posts

Profile of JamesCheung
Banachek presents himself as a 'psychic' entertainer, someone who uses various techniques to give the impression of real psychic skills. Banachek's definition of what he does is IMHO, the most complete description of what a modern mentalist does. It in no way misrepresents his skills yet creates a grounding in reality which is then completely shattered by the things he does. It is very clever how you can tell someone that what you do is an illusion but still manage to blow them away. It's a great balance, it's honest and it works.

Derren Brown's description of 'psychological illusionist' is also a great one but it is deceptive as Derren would have you believe that the effect is happening purely in your head but his reliance on classical conjuring methods is still inherent nonetheless. However, it works for Derren and whether you believe his schtick about psychology and psychophysiology and the basis of his act on that, it is compelling as the viewing public at least have some frame of reference for some of the stunts unlike those who base their talents purely on paranormal powers.
Jim Reynolds
View Profile
Elite user
Special Guest
431 Posts

Profile of Jim Reynolds
I like Max Mavens' approach (paraphrasing):

"Whether it's body language, NLP, muscle tension, intuition...one way or another, I read minds for a living."

jr
adolphus
View Profile
Loyal user
229 Posts

Profile of adolphus
Twilight always offers the widest,and most dramatic shades to experience. Smile

I like all the disclaimers, though Derren's NLP jive sounds especially tempting to me! You stay "relevant" by keeping just over the edge of what seems novel, mysterious and powerful to the public. People at times thought that electricity, hypnosis, or atomic radiation were capable of doing extraordinary and strange things. In a few decades, mentalists will be introducing themselves as products of the latest secret, or experimental, genetic research! (experiMENTALISTS?) Smile

I've played with every kind of disclaimer. A vague, but playful one I tried to develop is reviewing the common coincidences that everyone experiences. Rather than commenting on what they are, or their cause, I simply introduce myself as a "coincidentalist" around whom these events just seem to occur more frequently. I guess you can play this as a series of comedic surprises, or pose as a more sober, (if not haunted), "facilitator." I couldn't always make up my mind, either! Smile
"Unlike the mere Conjuror, the Mentalist reaches into that space which a hat normally covers. And from there, he withdraws something more fleeting - and at times, far fuzzier - than any rabbit"
John Smetana
View Profile
???? - 2009
499 Posts

Profile of John Smetana
I'd just like to pick a knit, if I may. The phrase, "I use my five senses to create the illusion of a sixth" was created by Ned Rutledge,not Larry Becker.
I don't say this to take anything away from Larry, who is one of the most creative guys around, but simply to keep the history on track.

Best thoughts,
John Smetana Smile
espmagic
View Profile
Special user
909 Posts

Profile of espmagic
Oh, I must...

The use of a disclaimer is to justify the use of a lie in performance, when you don't want the lie to be examined. Since we agree that no one believes in "real" magic anymore (since the days of wizards and greater superstition) why is it that the "magicians" never use disclaimers? Could it be because they don't want the audience to think that they are using something other then "magic"?

How ridiculous! A great line was: "At the end they shouldn't ask 'How did you do that?' - they should ask 'How did you know that?'". So, if you are using techniques that are getting people to wonder HOW you do what you do, you don't need a disclaimer, because everyone already knows that what you do isn't "real".

But, if people think that what you do IS real, then ask yourself why you cannot sleep at night? Are you stealing their money? Talking to their dead relatives? Are you a con man (or woman), masquerading as a gypsy? Or are you an entertainer?

Bottom line is: why are you worried about it at all?

Lee Smile
Bob Sanders
View Profile
Grammar Supervisor
Magic Valley Ranch, Clanton, Alabama
20518 Posts

Profile of Bob Sanders
I never make any bones about the fact that I am performing tricks to creat the illusion of real magic. Usually, in my very first effect, I intentionally say "Watch me, given the chance, I will trick you." To me it is a matter of professional integrity. I claim only the magical power to entertain.

Bob
Bob Sanders

Magic By Sander / The Amazed Wiz

AmazedWiz@Yahoo.com
Thoughtreader
View Profile
Inner circle
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
1565 Posts

Profile of Thoughtreader
By the nature of the actual meaning of the words, by using a disclaimer makes one into a magician performing mental magic tricks does it not? The use of a disclaimer stating that you are doing tricks, prevents the audience from suspending their disbelief. When not using one, the audience has an easier time to consider that perhaps it or some of it may just be real.

PSIncerely Yours,

Paul Alberstat
Canada's Leading Mentalist
http://www.mindguy.com
AB StageCraft
http://www.mindguy.com/store
Greg Owen
View Profile
Special user
623 Posts

Profile of Greg Owen
For me, the question is...

...real _what_?

- Greg Owen
Author of The Alpha Stack ebook - the balanced memorized stack
gobeatty@yahoo.com
chriscox
View Profile
Regular user
London
173 Posts

Profile of chriscox
I'm a fan of using the idea of psychology and how the brain works to create the impression of "mind reading", yet it's all about the language and situation.

I think it works perfectly for a modern more thinking audience...but after all it's what you want them to believe. If they want to believe I'm psychic, I have no problem in that!
Ramsay
View Profile
Special user
England
638 Posts

Profile of Ramsay
I script my performances to allow those who wish to think I am the "real deal" walk away thinking so. However, it also allows those wanting to think it is all based in science to think so also. This way I am not cutting any of the "markets" out but still manage to avoid the "if you're real..." questions from the science people.

For those interested, my scripting appeared in the last issue of the Centre Tear Magazine.

I never offer an open "disclaimer" for the reasons that Mr. Alberstat has already covered. I think he hit the nail on the had as far as I am concerned anyway.

Luke Jermay.
MrCyNic
View Profile
Loyal user
England
238 Posts

Profile of MrCyNic
Quote:
On 2004-02-02 14:26, Thoughtreader wrote:
The use of a disclaimer stating that you are doing tricks, prevents the audience from suspending their disbelief.


As the great Willy Wonka once said, "Strike that. Reverse it." Smile

In my own opinion, being up-front about the nature of our performances is what actually enables our audiences to suspend their disbelief. Suspension of disbelief is a conscious act; a willing collusion between the performer and the audience, and one in which most spectators are only too happy to co-operate. The only sure-fire way to prevent a spectator from willingly suspending disbelief is to refuse to offer them the opportunity to participate in their own deception.

I would say that misrepresenting our fictions as genuine paranormal phenomena denies the spectator this opportunity to participate, thereby changing the entire nature of the performance relationship into what I would consider to be an abusive one.

I'm just speaking for myself here, but I would consider any such deception perpetrated on me to be a tremendous act of disrespect, and would react accordingly.

This is my opinion on the matter and, as always, I do know where I can stick it. Smile

Cheers,

Cy.
John LeBlanc
View Profile
Special user
Houston, TX
524 Posts

Profile of John LeBlanc
Quote:
On 2004-02-03 10:39, MrCyNic wrote:
In my own opinion, being up-front about the nature of our performances is what actually "enables" our audiences to suspend their disbelief.


That's fine, so far as it goes. I just don't happen to believe I need to create a "room" inside which an audience needs to enter in order to swim in mystery.

Consider that some performers---myself included---make no claims one way or another. I just do my stuff and work off of the response.


Quote:
Suspension of disbelief is a conscious act; a willing collusion between the performer and the audience, and one in which most spectators are only too happy to cooperate.


I disagree with this. Sometimes, yes. All the time? I don't think so. Sometimes spectators are dragged into a double-bind between what they know to be "real" and what they are seeing with their own eyes. Sometimes that suspension of disbelief occurs after some kicking and screaming. That's the sweetest kind, in my opinion.


Quote:
The only sure-fire way to prevent a spectator from willingly suspending disbelief is to refuse to offer them the opportunity to participate in their own deception.


Which, to me, means either not allowing them to watch a performance, or telling them that what they are about to see are a bunch of tricks.

It's the same punishment I inflict on myself sometimes when I buy a new DVD. If I watch the "How This Was Made...", I find it distracting to watch the movie because I'm waiting for the SFX (trick) part.

That I do to myself; it's my choice. If I do that to a spectator, I take away their choice in the matter.

Quote:
I would say that misrepresenting our fictions as genuine paranormal phenomena denies the spectator this opportunity to participate, thereby changing the entire nature of the performance relationship into what I would consider to be an abusive one.


I'm not sure I'd totally agree, but I certainly don't totally disagree.

But this is pointing to something other than disclaimers or no disclaimers; this is pointing to stating as fact you, as a performer, actually can do the things you do without trickery.

John LeBlanc
Houston, TX
Escamoteurettes, my blog.

"One thought fills immensity." -- William Blake
MrCyNic
View Profile
Loyal user
England
238 Posts

Profile of MrCyNic
Thanks for your input, John. You make some interesting points...

Quote:
On 2004-02-03 12:41, John W. LeBlanc wrote:

I just don't happen to believe I need to create a "room" inside which an audience needs to enter in order to swim in mystery.

Consider that some performers -- myself included -- make no claims one way or another. I just do my stuff and work off of the response.



In general, I have much less of an issue with this attitude. However, if I'm going to accept payment for a performance, I'd always prefer to be totally honest about the nature of the service I'm providing. I say this purely because I know that's how I'd prefer to be treated myself. It is, for me, a very personal issue and, as others have pointed out, there are ways of addressing it without issuing a blanket disclaimer.

Quote:

Sometimes spectators are dragged into a double-bind between what they know to be "real" and what they are seeing with their own eyes. Sometimes that suspension of disbelief occurs after some kicking and screaming. That's the sweetest kind, in my opinion.



I'm not sure I've understood this point. Certainly, I've encountered spectators who are unwilling to suspend their disbelief for the duration of a performance (some people just don't like to be fooled), but I invest a great deal of my performing energy into creating a non-confrontational atmosphere, and I've never felt the need to drag a "kicking and screaming" spectator anywhere. I'm not trying to prove I'm cleverer or more "powerful" than anyone (I'm not suggesting that you're trying to do that, either). Since I don't pretend to be representing reality in my magic, there is no conflict between what they know to be real and what they are seeing. My audiences are simply suspending their disbelief as they would for any engaging work of fiction, permitting me the honour of fooling them.

Quote:

Which, to me, means either not allowing them to watch a performance, or telling them that what they are about to see are a bunch of tricks.



Interesting, and possibly even critical, point. I'm not at all ashamed to be performing "a bunch of tricks". If my presentation of these tricks is good, the audience's willing suspension of disbelief will be rewarded. As Lobowolfxxx pointed out in another thread, the spectators who think that I'm tricking them are the ones who are right.

Quote:
It's the same punishment I inflict on myself sometimes when I buy a new DVD. If I watch the "How This Was Made..." I find it distracting to watch the movie because I'm waiting for the SFX (trick) part.

That I do to myself; it's my choice. If I do that to a spectator, I take away their choice in the matter.



This particular parallel with narrative fiction is one I've seen often, and never agreed with. With movies/books/whatever, the audience has already committed itself to suspending its disbelief for the duration of the story. No-one really believes that Bruce Willis jumped off an exploding building with a fire hose wrapped around his waist. I'm not telling anyone how my tricks are done (to follow your DVD extras "How This Was Made" analogy), but neither am I pretending that I'm making a documentary.

Quote:

But this is pointing to something other than disclaimers or no disclaimers; this is pointing to stating as fact you, as a performer, actually can do the things you do without trickery.



Indeed, and I understand and appreciate that you do no such thing.

Again, thanks for your input.

Cheers,

Cy.
Steve Martin
View Profile
Inner circle
1119 Posts

Profile of Steve Martin
I think audiences on the whole view "magic tricks" as just that - tricks. Even though what they see seems inexplicable, you are unlikely to find someone who genuinely believes that you used "real magic" (i.e. a supernatural force that behaves independently of you, or that you are able to harness).

When it comes to magic/illusion presented as "mentalism" or "mind-reading" or with an element of possible "hypnosis" or "applied psychology" (such as Derren Brown does), the lines are more blurred. It is still unlikely that someone would say that "magic" (as defined above) is at work - but it is more likely that someone would say that the performer has perfected techniques/abilities that are extraordinary - in that they produce effects that really do seem to be something more than just "tricks".

The difficulty is that someone not well versed in magic or mentalism trickery, is unlikely to be able to see the boundary between what is purely a "trick" (e.g. a billet-reading presented as pure though-transfer) and a phenomenon that is more "real" (such as controlling someone by a hypnotic suggestion).

This leaves such a performer with a massive opportunity to use the "tricks" to further persuade the spectator that extraordinary factors are at play.

I for one (as many do) recognise that Derren Brown does this - and does it very effectively. There are many people in his audiences who are inclined to attribute more "extraordinary abilities" to him than he actually uses. I guess the reason for this is that we are naturally more inclined to want to believe in something special that we don't understand. And many people would take the step to believing it before they have thoroughly thought it through. It provides that supernatural thrill that many desire. I think that the various world religions play upon that desire to greater or lesser extents.

For me, with magicians - scepticism rules, and personally I would not be quick to attribute "extraordinary abilities" to anyone until I had completely ruled out all alternative possible trickery.

However, that does not prevent me from suspending my disbelief for a moment, to enjoy the wonder and astonishment that can be created. I think most intelligent people (who wish to be entertained) are ready to do that on their own initiative. I do not think it is necessary or desirable for the performer to explain up front that tricks are in play.
Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.
Albert Einstein
The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Penny for your thoughts » » Presenting oneself as a mentalist. I like Becker's approach. (0 Likes)
[ Top of Page ]
All content & postings Copyright © 2001-2021 Steve Brooks. All Rights Reserved.
This page was created in 0.26 seconds requiring 5 database queries.
The views and comments expressed on The Magic Café
are not necessarily those of The Magic Café, Steve Brooks, or Steve Brooks Magic.
> Privacy Statement <

ROTFL Billions and billions served! ROTFL