Derren Brown’s Russian Roulette
You can’t pick up a newspaper these days without some lollygagger telling you there are too many guns on TV.
This is nonsense, of course. There aren’t
enough guns on TV.
You can never have too many guns on TV. Yet still this vicious
anti-gun prejudice remains.
"There aren’t enough guns on TV. You can never have too many guns on TV. Yet still this vicious anti-gun prejudice remains."
My idea involving Kathy Lette,
a revolver with six
live rounds and a dancing bear was
cruelly turned down by HBO (though the
newly sophisticated Channel 5 are expressing
an interest as I write).
Derren Brown’s understanding of the innate goodness of guns
brought forth his Derren Brown’s Russian Roulette stunt where a member of
the public, chosen by Brown from 12,000 applicants, loaded
a revolver with a single bullet. Then it would be Brown’s task
to figure out which chamber the round was in before firing
the gun at his own noggin.
The bulk of the programme was taken up by whittling down the
final 1000 applicants to five and then one by a series of psychological
tests to test their suggestibility and his ability to read
When James, the lucky individual, was chosen
the trick was based on Derren’s ability to read which chamber
of the six (helpfully labelled by a shadowy gun expert with
a Real IRA pixilated head) he had placed the bullet in. After
James loaded the gun, Brown pulled the trigger of the Smith & Wesson handgun twice while it was jammed to his temple. So far, so
Then he quickly turned his aim towards the sandbag that was
to absorb the live round. He squeezed the trigger and… nothing.
No bang, no rush of relief. Just the click-clack of the gun
hammer. He had got the wrong chamber.
"Derren Brown retains a dark, shamanic presence without ever lapsing into Blaine’s chumpish, end-of-pier mysticism"
A horrendous two-minute wait followed as Brown seemed transfixed
by the possibility that he could fail. He quickly snapped begun
to his temple, squeezed the trigger once and then turned and
shot the live round into the sandbag. The credits rolled as
he embraced James who have watched the drama from behind a
Where this was genuine or just showmanship it was a horribly
compelling moment making the audience complicit in this voyeurism.
It was almost unwatchable, yet you couldn’t tear your eyes
If his demeanour afterwards was anything to go by the stunt
was for real. His usual unshakeable confidence replaced by
the look of a man who’s just walked over his own grave.
As David Blaine rapidly becomes a national Aunt Sally as cheeseburgers
dangled by toy helicopters fly past his glass house over the
Thames, Derren Brown retains a dark, shamanic presence without ever
lapsing into Blaine’s chumpish, end-of-pier mysticism.
Respect is due.