Arts Entertainments

Derren Brown vs. David Blaine

On Friday 11th September 2009 a special 2 hour magic was shown on Channel 4 in the UK. First it was Derren Brown explaining how he predicted the lottery and this was followed by David Blaine performing What Is Magic. The next day a new topic of conversation was born:

Who is the better magician David Blaine or Derren Brown?

Both DB-UK and DB-USA started out as close-up magicians and both got their big break by demonstrating card magic. Derren played Smoke and David performed a host of card tricks, including; Ambitious card and 2 cards Mount respectfully. Ironically, neither of them is considered “a magician”, David Blaine is more of a resistance artist and Derren is a psychological illusionist.

So what makes a good magician?

Identity / Brand Having a strong identity in magic is one of the main keys to success, Houdini was the escapologist, Paul Daniels was the cheeky close-up magician, David Copperfield the illusionist, Penn & Teller, the aggressive revelers of magic. David Blaine became the street magician who could levitate and smash through a deck of cards through a window. Derren brown became the mind reader who could control people’s decisions to the extent that he would risk his life in defying the Russian Revolution. Both Derren and David have established a good, strong and consistent identity: -Derren: sophisticated, cheeky, playful, intelligent, mischievous David: Mysterious, deep, troubled, calm, spiritual.

Result: Tie

Tricks performed David Blaine’s most talked about trick was the card through the window. Even now, around 10 years after it was first aired on television, wizards are still being asked how he accomplished the feat. Like Michael Jackson did not invent the Moonwalk; David Blaine did not invent the idea for this trick or even the method, but it is still widely known to the public as David Blaine’s “Card Through Window”. Derren Brown has performed more stunts on television than David, has had more television series broadcasts, and has had roughly the same amount of 1 television special. He also performs a theatrical show annually throughout the UK. For some strange reason, people talk about how amazing Derren was, but they don’t pick a specific memorable stunt. So even though Derren wins the battle for quantity, David Bliane has more talk time after his shows.

Result: David Blaine

Entertainment Value After David Blaine started endurance testing, his entertainment value dropped significantly. He seemed to master staying in the same place for a long time without doing anything. Derren performs a branch of magic known in the business as mentalism. Mentalism is often thought of as boring, but Derren incorporates humor to break the act.

Result: Derren Brown

Originality David Blaine has taken many non-original effects to his own and incorporated them into his act with his playing style.

Similarly, Derren has incorporated a lot of other people’s effects, but Derren can take an effect like nice silks, a trick with 2 knotted handkerchiefs, and somehow turn it into a mind-reading effect.

Result: Derren

Sympathy factor Possibly the most important weapon in a magician’s arsenal is the sympathy factor. If the audience doesn’t like the magician, they won’t care about his tricks. It was Paul Daniels’ main downfall. In the wizarding world he is incredibly highly respected; but, it almost seems cool not to like it. People generally say it became annoying, but it’s more of a case of familiarity that breeds contempt.

David Blaine has never really been a likeable character because he’s so aloof and his eye on the hand trick with Eamonn Holmes was a PR nightmare. However, with recent voice-overs during his series about his childhood and the return to his roots in street magic. His sympathy factor has grown considerably. On the other hand, Derren’s popularity has dropped recently. With the third-highest number of complaints with his Russian Revolution stunt, his baffling explanation of the lottery prediction and his inability to get his audience glued to their chairs has lowered his sympathy factor. This won’t bother Derren in the least though, as he goes out of his way in his posts to offend certain groups of people.

This is a tough call because until recently Derren has been more popular, but as of this writing, the pendulum has tilted in favor of …

Result: David Blaine

Overall result: tie

Since I’ve never been one to sit on the fence and I’m a massive Derren Brown fan, I’ve decided to create another category)

Technical ability

This should not influence the overall decision, but it would be unfair not to mention it. The wizarding fraternity considers one’s skill with a deck of cards like Jedi Knights look at one’s skill with a lightsaber. So even though they are both strong with the force, Derren is granted a higher degree of respect in the wizarding world.

David Blaine works with methods that do not rely on complex digital dexterity, and many magicians can often replicate his tricks. However, Derren Brown performs several tricks that rely on complex card manipulation that magicians cannot easily replicate.

Result: Derren

Final Result: Derren 3 David 2 Winner Derren Brown

In the true definition of who is the best magician, David Blaine would win because he makes people believe in magic. However, if people investigate David’s tricks, they will discover his methods. Derren Brown has started to “reveal” the methods of how the tricks are done. His goal is to educate people that if we focus on something, it can be achieved. If people investigate this … they will find out that it is true. This essay is an opinion essay, the facts may be incorrect, and it is largely biased and subjective. I hope you enjoyed reading it, but if you are going to quote any part, think carefully and do the proper research.

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