Cancel anytime. Across the millennia, philosophers have thought long and hard about happiness. They have defined it in many different ways and come up with myriad strategies for living the good life. Drawing on this vast body of work, in Happy Derren Brown explores changing concepts of happiness - from the surprisingly modern wisdom of the Stoics and Epicureans in classical times right up until today, when the self-help industry has attempted to claim happiness as its own.
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H as there ever been a performer so sure of himself on stage and so lacking in self-belief off? God knows what he was like before. He predicts the lottery numbers and plays Russian roulette on live TV. He even convinced a man who was scared of flying to emergency-land a plane, and encouraged a law-abiding citizen to carry out an armed robbery. But I'm not sure why. Before we meet, I'm hoping for one thing — to be hypnotised. But it's not going to happen. In interview after interview, Brown has refused to do tricks on journalists, let alone put them into an altered state.
He insists there is nothing magical or supernatural in what he does; it's all about finding suitably suggestible people to work with — and, as a rule, that does not include journalists.
His voicer is quieter, more diffident than on stage, and he's impeccably polite. From the off, he tells me how his act was rooted in his insecurities. He grew up in Purley, south London, and attended the school where his father was the swimming instructor. While his dad was strong and fit, Brown suggests he was an effete irritant.
He was useless at sport, clever, unpopular and craved attention. It was a group that liked classical music. He was also a talented artist, and gradually drew his way into his fellow pupils' affections. I was probably insufferable. Going back and catching up with teachers has confirmed that I was a bit of a dick. That was when he first came into contact with magic.
He went to see a hypnotist perform who also did tricks, and was transfixed. This, he decided, was the way to woo people. There was a time when he tried to prove himself by stealing — the kleptomania years.
It was the techniques, picking up a few things, slipping one in your bag as you go. It was before I was doing magic. I remember once looking round my bedroom and going, 'God, I've nicked pretty much everything.
How did I put that in my pocket? Looking back, he says, it's not surprising others were so quick to take the piss out of him. Proselytising to people, that makes me cringe. The funny thing is, Brown says, they weren't even practising Christians; they just thought it was the right thing to do. These days, Brown is a confirmed atheist, and has come to believe that religion was a useful prop for him — when he was trying to come to terms with who he was or, perhaps more pertinently, was desperately trying to deny it.
Four years ago, Brown came out as gay. For much of his early life, he says, he tried to project himself as asexual, somehow above sex. Christianity gave him the perfect opportunity to reject feelings and subjects that discomfited him, to the extent that he came across as a prig, while giving him the identity he so craved. And if you feel not very impressive, it's a good feeling to be able to go, 'Oh, sorry, could you not make that joke please, because I'm a Christian. For a long time, he says, he tried to train himself out of his homosexuality.
But to no avail. One of the things that made him so unhappy, he says, was he felt so removed from a world with which he would have loved to have been at ease. That feeling of alienation can turn into an envy, and it becomes an issue. Sexuality is often tied in with something you feel you lack in yourself and look for in others. That is where the act came in so useful.
Once he could do a few tricks, he became interesting to those who had fiercely rejected him. I was suddenly an authority in this world. Perhaps it was inevitable. His Christian friends were appalled at his new hobby, and many thought he had been hijacked by the devil. Just as he created a character out of his Christianity, he did so out of his magic. As he talks, I'm watching closely for those little hand gestures he uses to put people to sleep on stage, or repeated word patterns that will put thoughts into my head.
But he's too busy beating himself up to manipulate me. Finally, I just come out with it: "Is there no way you could make me do something stupid to show off your powers? Only I tell him that I'm infinitely suggestible, and plead pathetically. And look down at your left hand. Imagine a balloon, and the balloon is attached to the wrist of the hand. A helium balloon. And the balloon pulls at the string and the string pulls at the wrist of the hand.
And as you watch the back of the hand, you can just imagine the hand getting lighter. Some minutes later, I'm aware my arm is straight up in the air, my eyes are glued tight and I'm slumped. I feel sure I can open them easily, but something is stopping me.
I'll count you awake: 10, 9 and 8, you can just start to feel yourself becoming more refreshed and waking up… And then whenever you're ready to be fully wide awake And you can open your eyes. It feels nice. Always a tendency to smile. I open my eyes and smile like a stoner. It's the first time I have fallen asleep in an interview. I beg for longer, explaining that I've been out of it for the past 20 minutes.
She gives me a funny look and walks off. I'm beginning to sound aggressive. We talk about how his work has evolved. Initially, he says, he had to be at the heart of everything. The ultimate example was the time he played Russian roulette in Jersey. Again, there was controversy. Jersey police claimed he had used blank bullets. He insists that's not true though he used blanks to practise and that the police statement could have had terrible repercussions.
That could happen and we'd have been seen as responsible for it. Could he have killed himself? It's my job. I have secret ways. At the time it was a way of drawing a lot of attention to myself — as a show, it was making my mark, and I don't want to do that kind of thing any more.
Nor could he see himself doing something like the lottery show again. I was fairly happy with the prediction show; the actual trick itself.
What happened, he says, is that everything spun out of control. His lottery prediction was front-page news, questions were asked in parliament, the BBC was under scrutiny and he didn't really know how to cope. He was expecting to put out a show for his fans, who would accept a fishy explanation or laugh it off. But this time the whole country was waiting for an answer, and didn't get an acceptable one.
Was the show a complete con? Clearly I can't actually predict a future event. He recently suggested that 's The Heist , in which he encourages members of the public to do an armed robbery, was the first honest programme he's made. What did he mean by that? He says his subsequent TV shows have also been honest — if not in the literal sense. Matt also shows his new-found courage by lying on a rail track locked into a straitjacket with a train hurtling at him.
Again, the truth is more emotional than real. What if Matt had not managed to get out of the straitjacket in time? Was there a chance he could have been mashed by the train? It's clearly our train we're in control of, it's got cameras on it. And we had a stuntman standing by; we had a way of quick-releasing Matt from the stuff he was in.
Not that fast. But from where he is, which is also our camera angle, it's terrifying and looks fast enough, thank you. The reality is that it's fast enough to give him that experience and slow enough to make sure it didn't chop his head off. We don't see all the people he rejects. Time flies when you're hypnotised. Brown's got to get on a train to Doncaster to finish recording his new shows, so we jump in a cab to King's Cross.
Derren Brown on the time a magic trick went badly wrong
H as there ever been a performer so sure of himself on stage and so lacking in self-belief off? God knows what he was like before. He predicts the lottery numbers and plays Russian roulette on live TV. He even convinced a man who was scared of flying to emergency-land a plane, and encouraged a law-abiding citizen to carry out an armed robbery.
A few days later, I was sitting in a capacity audience at a theatre in Covent Garden. A slim, pale, vulpine man in his mid-thirties, with well-tended light-brown hair and a goatee, came onstage, dressed in a trim black suit and a black shirt. Brown spent the next two and a half hours performing a series of increasingly inconceivable set pieces, organized around the theme of how susceptible we are to hidden influence. He gave demonstrations of subliminal persuasion, lie detection, instant trance induction, and mass hypnosis, as well as manipulation of his own mental state to control his response to pain. To show that participants were selected at random, he hurled a stuffed monkey into the auditorium, and whoever caught it would come up onstage. You can see a later performance of the show on YouTube.
How Derren Brown Remade Mind Reading for Skeptics
Derren Brown born 27 February is an English mentalist , illusionist , and author. Since his television debut with Derren Brown: Mind Control in , Brown has produced several other shows for the stage and television in both series and specials. He made his Broadway debut with his stage show Secret. He has also written books for magicians as well as the general public. Brown does not claim to possess any supernatural powers and his acts are often designed to expose the methods of those who do assert such claims, such as faith healers and mediums. In his performances, he often says that his effects are achieved through "magic, suggestion, psychology, misdirection, and showmanship". Brown was privately educated at Whitgift School in Croydon, where his father was a swimming coach,  and studied Law and German at the University of Bristol.
While most of the seemingly impossible things Derren does are really just cleverly disguised magic tricks, we can't say the same about hypnosis. Derren actually is a long time practitioner of hypnosis, and uses it in combination with magic in exciting and innovative ways. However, there are still a few things you should know about hypnosis to really have a clear picture of what is going on. Most importantly, you should understand some of the most common misconceptions about hypnosis, and be able to distinguish hypnosis from magic in Derren's shows. So, what hypnosis actually is?