Mentalist stage acts: how do they do it?

This is the judgement in one of the cases Geller pursued against Randi

The Court described Geller as a “self-proclaimed psychic.”

Unfortunately, I can’t find Geller’s original complaint, but it appears (I may be mistaken) that Geller claimed that it was slanderous for Randi to describe Geller’s feats as being tricks (again, without the original complaint, I can’t be sure that the complaint wasn’t that they were poorly performed tricks - though that would be a pure opinion and thus not slanderous at all).

Yeah, well, the burden of proof lies with the person making the claim. You are making the claim that he is a fraud, rather than a legitimate magician. You back it up.

Lets see you produce evidence. Show me three noted magicians, other than that one guy, who agree with you.

And note that I ask for magicians. People whose primary career is doing magic shows. Not Martin Gardner, who was primarily a mathematician, and puzzle creator. Not Johnny Carson, who was primarily a chat show host.

Ball’s in your court.

Milbourne Christopher, President of the Society of American Magicians, said “Geller is a clever charlatan” Magicians Term Israeli ‘Psychic’ a Fraud - The New York Times

Penn Jillette 'Magicians do not lie about the universe,' says performer Penn Jillette of The Amazing Randi | CBC Radio says "Uri Geller did just a terrible, terrible, embarrassing performance, because without being given the leniency he needed to snow people to get his tricks done, he was able to do nothing. "

Woah, dude. I claim he’s a fraud. You claim that the majority of magicians think his act is legitimate. These are not opposite claims. To back your claim up, you need to show evidence of what magicians think about his integrity. To back my claim up, I need to show that he’s a fraud. My claim says nothing about what magicians think (although I expressed skepticism about your claim, which turns out to be well-placed).

Now, are you seriously asking for evidence that Geller is a fraud, that he doesn’t actually have psychic powers?

Yes they are, and you need to prove your claim.

They really aren’t. I’m not claiming that the majority of magicians think he’s a fraud, so I don’t need to bring evidence involving what magicians think about him.

That said, you seem to have abandoned your claim that “the majority of magicians disagree” with gdave (apparently about whether Geller is a fraud). If you’ve abandoned that claim, after offering some irrelevant quotes as evidence, I appreciate your willingness to admit error.

That is a complete distortion of what I said.

I most certainly have not. I have given substantial evidence, but you just refuse to see it.

I counter with- you’ve failed to give any evidence that holds up and can’t see your failure.

Yes, evidence rarely holds up against faith.

Modnote: Let’s drop this hijack of the thread about Uri Gellar. It is detracting seriously from the thread and the thread is in no way about whether or not Uri is a magician.

Some “mentalist tricks” would be an absolute piece of cake, consisting of nothing but a speaker lying in a very believable way, using the anonymity of the audience’s large numbers as cover, and using deeds that statistically would be totally believable.

“I am a mind reader. Here in this audience, is a woman - whom I won’t name or identify - who secretly had an abortion at the age of 17. She didn’t tell her religious family, she didn’t tell her religious friends, the only one who knows is she herself, but this secret gnawed at her for a few years during college.”

Or, “Here in this crowd is a man who is homosexual. He’s never come out of the closet. I won’t name names, but you know who you are.”

Etc. etc. It could work as long as the speaker never names anyone specific, nor ever performs “mind-reading” for specific individuals on demand.

Last nights episode of AGT featured a mentalist/magician who flat-out claimed to have psychic abilities.

They always have one or two of those - it is part of the act. The rubes believe it is true (apparently including most of the judges), but thinking folks know better. And even those who know better can suspend rationality for the length of the act to enjoy it.

I mean, it isn’t much of a mentalist act to say “I’m going to use deceit and trickery to fool you into thinking I can read minds”.

IMHO, that can be okay if it’s part of the patter, the setup and story for all of it. Plenty of magicians I’ve watched will pretend to have magic powers for duration of the trick. It’s just expected these days that you know that magic (including psychic powers) isn’t actually real.

The question is whether or not these claims are made outside the duration of the trick, or if you actually try to create believable explanations and pass them off as the way the trick is actually done. The latter is my issue with Brown. He says he’ll let you in on the trick, which means this is outside the trick, but then pushes pseudoscience, which by its design sounds plausible. The former (claiming to have powers outside the trick) is where I say you cross the line into con artist. Then it’s no different than those shows that legitimately claim to be able to talk to “the other side.”

Eh, that’d be fine if you only want to awe a few percent of your audience. But an act where most of the audience goes home bored isn’t much of an act.

A friend of mine shattered her ankle years ago attempting to jump over a picket fence long before I knew her. It had been pieced back together with a bunch of stainless steel screws which, when I knew her in the mid eighties, were bothering her. Having no medical insurance she couldn’t afford to have them removed by regular surgeons.

This is when all the psychic surgeons were big in the news. She found a PS, Filipino variety I think, who was advertising rates of a couple hundred. She was skeptical but figured she had little to lose – she could afford that.

When she told them what she needed done, the surgeon refused. “I guess they weren’t ready to present a couple screws after the procedure was finished,” she commented.

With stories like that that showing how much preparation they go in for a trick there must be instances where they spent a lot of time and money preparing for a trick and then have the whole thing fall apart for some reason or another at the last minute.

That was a common plot point in Arrested Development, where Gob’s obsession with bigger and bigger “magic” stunts almost always end in disaster.

Is that the one with the pompus actor that does his own take on Hamlet’s Solioquy? Liken the klingons, when I heard his supposedly stupid version, I finally understood the real version.

I think so - next time I run across the book on my shelves, I’ll find that passage.