Is Al Franken reading my thoughts right now? (Card trick.)

I wasn’t sure whether to put this here or in General Questions, but it does concern a radio show, so here it is.

Yesterday (Monday) I was listening to the Al Franken Show on Air America radio. (I listen over the Internet at work.) Franken and his co-host, Kathryn Lanpher, were broadcasting from the Magic Castle in LA, so Al thought it would be appropriate to do a card trick, both for the live audience there and for the folks at home.

Okay; I perked up, wondering how the hell you do a card trick over the radio. What he did was this: he asked everybody to visualize a deck of cards and mentally pick a specific card, whichever they wanted, from the deck. I did this, first picking the Ace of Spades but then settling on the Jack of Clubs.

After asking if everybody had their card firmly in mind, Franken paused dramatically, then announced, “The card is… the Jack of Clubs!” I heard several people in the audience literally gasp, and then there was applause. I was a little taken aback myself; it was a brief moment that felt unreal and also somehow familiar.

Franken then said that the trick was related to “pushing” a card. I have some inkling of how that works in a face-to-face card trick, but not in this case.

If everybody listening made a random choice, then the Jack of Clubs would have been right for 1 out of 52 listeners (ignoring Jokers). I would guess that people are more likely to think of face cards, but beyond that I can’t imagine how to narrow it down. (In my specific case, I’m likely to pick the Jack of Clubs because it corresponds in Tarot to the Knave of Wands, a card I found symbolically appealing as a teenager.)

So, I’m wondering if anybody else here was listening to the same show, and what they experienced? Was my case just a fluke? I’d appreciate the insight of somebody with some inside knowledge of stage magic, but WAG’s are also welcome. Thanks!

Maybe it’s just one of those statistical anomalies that crop up now and then and it just happens that when asked to think of a card more people think of the J of Cs than any other specific card?

I’ve not heard of this trick, but perhaps the logic goes something like:

  • most people choose an ace or face card because they’re easier to visualise
  • the Ace of Spades is probably the obvious first choice
  • people think it’s too obvious, so they move away from it to the other end of the face cards (jacks) and the other end of the suits (clubs)

This seems similar to the Birthday Paradox, where a group of people is surprised to discover how many of them have the same birthday. Since Franken had a 52-card deck, this made it even more likely than the 1/365 chance for a birthday.

Mmm… not really. Not unless Franken got everyone to visualise a card, then went along the front row of the audience getting them to name their card, and waiting for someone else to shout out that they had chosen the same.
Which isn’t what he did.

Maybe the OP was just the one in 52? Are there another 51 SD users going “Well that trick didn’t work”? :smiley:

There are other tricks like that.

There’s a somewhat famous one where they guy goes, “think of a number between 1 and 50”

“But. . .the first and last numbers have to be odd.”



There’s also tricks like that where they trick you into thinking of a specific shape or vegetable.

Franken might have said something like, “think of a card. . .you know, a number, a face card, anything” (so you’re thinking about a face card)

And then, “any one of the suits, hearts, diamonds, clubs. . .”

Or maybe they’ve just done a “study” where people tend to pick the JofC a lot.

Or maybe, he just NAILED 1 out of 52 people, but I’ve seen enough of these tricks to believe he was probably right on a LOT of people.

So I played along during your recounting, and picked the 8 of Clubs. I guess you could say it didn’t work for me.

And my number was 39. So that didn’t work either.

But Franken’s choosing a card makes him a participant. Of course, it’s not quite the same since the probability rests on picking a specific second card, rather than two matching cards from a pool, but I still think it’s about simple probability, not psychology (like the 37 trick above). Besides, how many people in the audience got it right? If it’s just a few out of several hundred that’s hardly impressive. Couple that with people’s tendency to think of face cards (just like births are more frequent during certain months) and you’ve got a likely scenario.

Obviously, there is no way to predict what one specific person will pick.

I’m not sure how Al’s trick works, but I had 11 for the number trick posted to this thread and right picking it I guessed what the number in the spoiler box would be. So, I suppose I’m meta-psychic.

My guess is that there are a number of random facts and techniques that mentalists and other trick makers have collected through trial and error that can be put together into tricks of this nature. While there are a few experiments in this area most tend to be abstracted away from the more interesting aspects of the tricks. I wonder if it is possible to construct these tricks such that they appear to offer a large number of options but push an arbitrary option.

My username comes from the fact that I perform Mentalism. I did not hear the program but I will say it can make a huge difference what was said when the audience was told to visualize a card.

I often do this:

“If I walked up to a random person and asked them to name a card in a deck of cards, most people would name the Ace of Spades or the King or Queen of Hearts, or some rather obvious card. I want you to name a card in a deck but don’t make it an obvious card.”

Most people (but definately nowhere near all) will pick the 3 or 4 of diamonds.

If Franken said that it was related to pushing a card, I think it’s likely that the wording he used was designed to subliminally lead as many people as possible to the Jack of clubs, as Trunk noted. If we could only get a verbatim transcript of the show.

Where’s ianzin when you need him?

There was an ad in the movie theater with David Blaine that worked similarly. He’d tell you to pick a card you see, and then rifle the deck in front of the camera. Although there were cards legible earlier, the first card that usually “registers” is the one he pulls from the deck. Once you’ve seen the ad more than once, you know what to look for, but the first time, I laughed it up quite a bit at the fact that he got it “right”.

Well that was close. I picked the 3 of hearts. In the other one my number was also 39.

Holy Crap! You got me.

While reading the original post, I actually thought of a few cards before settling on the 3 of Diamonds

Close. Four of hearts.

I picked 15 for Trunk’s number trick, the Deuce of Spades for MentalGuy’s card trick. I wish I could remember Franken’s exact wording. For me, the Jack of Clubs is pretty much my default card. My guess is that most people tend to pick face cards or Aces, and so “Jack of Clubs” would “hit” with maybe one in twenty listeners.

But just in case, I’m sacrificing a goat before my picture of Al Franken.

Me too. Scoot over Al Franken: my new, improved god is… MentalGuy!

I got 33 for the number question. That trick has a one in ten chance of working: 11, 13, 15, 17, 19, 31, 33, 35, 37, 39. 37 is probably the most likely choice because of the two odd numbers for the tens column, 3 is more recognizable as an odd number, unlike the one in this case which is associated with the -teen suffix. Then people go two odd numbers up for the ones column, because they’re trying to put some thought into it, but not too much, because it’s just a game, right? As you can see, I was just lazy: picked 3 because it was easy, and another 3 because, hey, I had an odd number already, let’s get on with this!

I had the seven of spades as my card pick, but that’s because I’d been talking with someone about The Young Ones, and my mind immediately jumped to the two mice playing cards, one of whom declares that he has that card. I could just as successfully have beaten the number test by choosing 33 because it’s the Rolling Rock number.

You know that test where everyone gets a gray elephant from Denmark? Twice I tried that, and twice I did not get a gray elephant from Denmark. See, the math part is set up so your final number will be 4, so you have to choose a country whose name starts with the fourth letter of the alphabet. The first time, I picked Dakar, because there was an exchange student at my school who was from there, so I ended up with a green armadillo. (I don’t know what color an armadillo really is.) Years later, having forgotten, I ran into it again on the net. This time, I did choose Denmark, but my elephant was pink, like the spotted elephant from the Island of Misfit Toys.

It’s easy to be led if you’re actively trying to comply with the person administering the test. “Don’t pick the ace of spades,” and so on. But try making choces based on your own preferences, and see if you can make them be the one to go :smack: