Mind manipulator Segal tours East Anglia with hot new show
Radio One DJ Zane Lowe wants him out of his head and Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl wants him staked through the heart. Entertainment writer WAYNE SAVAGE pits his wits against Suffolk’s master mentalist Doug Segal - and loses.
THE only thing I’m certain of is I’ve just seen a master-class in mentalism; or is that what our answer to Derren Brown wants me to think?
Either way, Doug’s use of his psychology and advertising background to - in his own words - abuse hard science in the name of entertainment is guaranteed to leave audiences gasping.
He doesn’t claim to be a magician, clairvoyant or a hypnotist; using statistical know-how, suggestion, misdirection, subliminal influence, body language, grasp of the human mind, cheating and bold faced lies to know what you’re thinking or rather think you’re thinking.
“When I do a routine where I’m working out what someone’s thinking, a lot of it’s almost jazz,” he smiles rakishly. “I promise to explain what I’m doing as I go along; not in step-by-step detail but enough for you to go away going ‘I’ve learnt something’ while keeping enough of the mystery.”
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I’m still in the dark about the number trick he pulled on me involving an imaginary fruit machine.
“What you really need to ask is how early I started planning that,” he teases.
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In demand Doug loves working with the crowd, who he teaches to detect lies, read minds, implant subliminal suggestions and predict the national lottery - “I’ve been opening with the lottery for about four years, longer than Derren,” he laughs.
“I work really hard to make the audience the star and treat everyone with respect; they don’t come out of it looking silly.”
Corporate gigs may be his bread and butter, but Doug - who had 14 night sell-out runs at London’s Barons Court Theatre and the Jermyn Street Theatre, Piccadilly, smashing the former venue’s 17-year box office record in the process - gets his biggest buzz performing public shows.
“I adore them, they’re really good fun. The pace is different; I can slow down and tell a story.”
Doug started life using his skills to sell advertising space for newspapers before jumping the fence to work as a hugely successful advertising pyschologist at various agencies.
“When I was at uni I used to do little party pieces to win drinks in bars if I’m completely honest,” he laughs.
“I’d go to lunch with a client and do stuff and one said ‘you should come and do our conference’. He bullied me into pulling a show together. I started doing it a bit more; then I did a show for another friend whose sister was a producer for BBC News.
“She put me on BBC One on New Year’s Eve and I realised I could sell up and do this for a living. That was about six years ago.”
Doug doesn’t believe he’s blessed with more intuitiveness than anybody else; he’s just spent time developing a gift we all have, like a high wire walker hones their sense of balance.
“Everything we do as human beings carries with it a suggestion, every single motion we make. If we were in a restaurant and I put my wallet on the table the waitress might think I was ready to pay the bill,” he explains, doing just that.
“There is a single playing card in there,” he gestures. “And you’re going to know what it is, although you won’t know why.”
I picture one slowly coming into focus as it floats to the top of a murky pond and can’t help but say the queen of spades. Guess which card he pulls out of a zipped compartment?
“It’s a process, dropping things into conversation, then there are hand gestures leading you one way or another; I talked about forming a picture which is going to push you towards a picture card,” he says before naming the card I first thought of and discarded.
I have to ask, has he ever used his powers to his advantage?
“I always get asked do you use this to pick up women... with great power comes great responsibility,” he laughs.
Doug Segal - I Know What You’re Thinking, comes to Jimmy’s Farm, Wherstead, Thursday night; Benson Blake’s, Bury St Edmunds, May 7 and The Forum, Norwich, June 4.