Brad Henderson wrote:as someone said, give them an experience they value more than knowing the method and they will work to maintain that experience - they will strive to maintain the deception even becoming willfully complicit to it
It is an important point, and one which would seem to be solidly supported by the Canasta/Parkinson video posted by Jack.
That being said, having watched the video again several times, I believe the audience's conviction that they had witnessed something extraordinary and their desire to see him succeed was further boosted by the coalescence of two significant factors which Chan masterfully brought into play:
(1) Time misdirection
. After Chan asked the host what page he had selected and the host said "106," Chan audaciously said, "OK, Let's turn to 106 of the book." (paraphrasing). He then took the book from the host and did precisely as he said he was going to do - opened to 106 - and he then got a gander at the 6th line. But then, he immediately distracted everyone's attention onto a detour by saying, "But let me ask you a question, were you at any point thinking of any other page?" (again I'm paraphrasing). The host said that yes, he had also thought of page 142. That is when Chan chimed in that he (Chan) had been thinking of a different page (i.e. 80). He then handed the book to the host to look up line 6 on page 80 and to read the line - which was "to the shop" - the words Chan had announced earlier as being the words on line 6 of the (then-unknown) page the host had selected. That is when Chan stated "I failed" in that he allegedly believed the page selected was 80. Only then, after all of this business, the passage of significant time, and the allowance of memories to dim, did Chan say that he knew the words on line 6 of 106, and he proceeded to say what they were, followed up by the host opening up to 106 to confirm, and thus, yet more time was eaten up since Chan's earlier look at page 106.
(2) Chan's apparent vulnerability and admission of failure
. Bringing his very formidable acting abilities, and understanding of human nature to bear, Chan's apparent failure and his multiple "candid" admissions that he "failed" had the psychological impact of the audience wanting him to succeed. The audience related to his apparent vulnerability and imperfection, and his admission of "failure" and this had them completely on his side and pulling for him.