Mentalism - Is It Magic?

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Matthew Field
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Mentalism - Is It Magic?

Postby Matthew Field » January 3rd, 2002, 6:33 am

I went to see Marc Salem's "Mind Games, Too" on Broadway last night and really enjoyed it. I could start a thread on why some people (my wife, for example) really dislike mentalism, but I'd rather hear some opinions about whether mentalism is perceived by the audience as magic (trickery) or "second sight", either mystical or psychological.

There is interesting reading on this by Derren Brown in his new book "Perfect Magic" as well as in his earlier book "Pure Effect," and of course Gary Kurtz has switched from flurrying coins to fogging minds.

My thoughts after watching Marc last night, and seeing the packed theater (about 200 seats) ooh and aah and have a great time, concerned what the relationship of the experience was to the experience of magic. As Derren says, it's hard to get someone worked up about an "Oil and Water" effect, but if you can convince a spectator that her emotional thoughts are causing her ring to float in your hand -- well that's something alse again.

Marc Salem's approach is not as emotional as Derren Brown's, but he sure had 200 people amused and entertained -- and scratching their heads.

What has your experience been?

Matthew Field


Re: Mentalism - Is It Magic?

Postby Guest » January 3rd, 2002, 7:17 am

One of the first magic shows I ever saw was back in April 1991. I saw Tim Conover perform mentalism at a theatre in Reston, VA. The show was so powerful (I was still very much a layperson at that time) that it was actually frightning. Very few performances have been as memorable as that one.

I have never seen Derren Brown work (I did not care for "Pure Effects") nor have I seen Marc Salem, but I think if anyone had seen Tim Conover, they would have enjoyed him. He was very pleasant and alot of fun to watch. I have seen some people perform mentalism that I thought didn't do it justice.

I would like to see Marc Salem. Sounds like he goes over very well.

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Steve Bryant
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Re: Mentalism - Is It Magic?

Postby Steve Bryant » January 3rd, 2002, 7:40 am

In 1997 I attended a show by Kreskin, held in a country western barn at a local ski resort (this already sounds like a twilight zone experience). I listened closely to the audience members, and many of them were convinced, well before the show started, that Kreskin could read minds. And I well recall my elder family members telling me, when I was growing up, that Dunninger could read minds. Hence I know that some believe it, and that of course is part of the fascination of mentalism. My own friends are mostly scientists and do not believe in it, but are well open to being entertained by it. A more key question is what you should do when someone asks you what YOU think of the performer or situation. I've answered in various ways over the years and have learned that folks really want to have their own beliefs reinforced, or at least not refuted. If you perceive that they had a good time at a show by Kreskin or Marc Salem, you will make a far better impression on them if you say, "I've been in magic a long time, but what we saw tonight was really amazing," than if you explain exactly how you think they did it, or if you deprecate the performer by saying, "Oh, he was ok, but Max Maven is so much better." Others will ask you, after you've performed some impressive feat of mentalism yourself, what you think of astrology. If they are the type who read the astrology column in the paper every day, they really don't want you to explain it away as so much generality and mumbo jumbo. In his early specials, at least, David Blaine makes magic itself seem real. I am frequently asked, by laymen, "What do you think of that guy on the street? He bit a quarter!" It would be easy to dismiss David's magic as something "anyone could do with a gimmick from a magic shop" or even to explain exactly how David did whatever. But they want to believe that he is special (and in a very real sense he is!), and you will be regarded far more favorably by these fans if you reinforce their opinions than by contradicting them. Then, if you MUST perform something yourself because your ego is about to pop, do something that complements the situation. "Marc Salem is really amazing. I used to dabble in mind reading myself years ago. It's a little scary. Just think of a card ..." This is just basically Thumper advice. If you don't have something nice to say ...


Re: Mentalism - Is It Magic?

Postby Guest » January 4th, 2002, 6:41 pm

Mentalism, as a whole is NOT magic and in fact the absolute oposite mind set. We may use similar techniques but aside from that they are different. You might as well look at apples and compare them to oranges. Sure, they are both fruits but they are also uniquely different from the other.

Magicians look at a mentalists work and if they are entertained by it, chances are they are entertained by the fact that the mentalist fooled them. An example would be to listen to the comments from those that just watched Derren Brown's last television show in the UK. They are all espousing their theories on how he did it all.

Magicians as a whole only find things that they do not know how to do, entertaining. If they know how it is done, they do not usually consider the performance entertaining. In fact, when magicians come back stage after I have finished a show will usually reserve their "Wow, that was fantastic when you did..." refering to whatever I happened to do that performance that fooled them, not as to anything else that I had done.

Magicians generally look at performances by Mentalists (when they know how it is done) and in fact do when watching most performances (even of Copperfield) and are very quick to say "Well I could do that too" except for the fact that if they truly could, they would be the ones up there doing it and not sitting in the background and grumbling about it.

Laypeople are much quicker to accept what a Mentalist is doing and to suspend their disbeleif than with a magician. They are more apt to beleive that the mentalist read their mind than beleive that the magician could really walk on water, and in fact if you had the two of the performers (magician and mentalist) side by side performing the same thing, chances are that the audience would still beleive more in the mentalist's so called powers than the magicians.

A good mentalist is a hell of a lot harder than a good magician. Audience skills, with nothing but themselves and a microphone to entertain with is a damned difficult thing to do. Very few magicians could do that. No props to hide behind, no stock gags to use, just their wits and their personalities (assuming that they have one) to entertain.

I might also take this opportunity to also correct those that will say that they "do some mentalism in their magic act". Horse hockey. They are doing mental magic, unless of course their audience beleives that what they are doing just might actually be real.

PSIncerely Yours,
Paul Alberstat

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