Brighton Fringe 2011
Doug Segal: I Know What You’re Thinking
Laughing Horse @ The Quadrant
Festival: Brighton Fringe
This man is no Derren Brown – and thankfully, he’s all the better for it. Here is a "mind-reading" act without pretension, arrogance or even mystique: instead, a light-hearted, casual – but no less impressive – display of psychological tricks, audience manipulation, and as the man puts it himself, a fair bit of "cheating and lying".
Doug Segal knows what you’re thinking – but what he does is more Sherlock Holmes than Mystic Meg. This is, in many ways, far more impressive. With anyone who claimed to be a genuine psychic, the audience would be incredulous, disbelieving, even resistant – but by claiming very early on that many of these tricks come from a background in psychology and advertising, Segal cleverly relaxes his audience, relieves them of suspicion, and in turn makes them more susceptible to what he does. This is the biggest trick he plays on the whole room. Segal calls himself a "part-time comedian" as well as a full-time mind-reader, but he knows how to manipulate a crowd better than most circuit stand-ups. How much of the act is genuine audience guidance and how much is deception is beyond someone like me – but it doesn’t matter. Segal not only admits to both at the start of the show, but aptly demonstrates that he is capable of both – and he blends them together imperceptibly.
The concept behind the show – that "mind-reading" is a skill that anyone could achieve with sufficient knowledge and practice – doesn’t undermine his tricks. On the contrary: his apparent openness and willingness to share with his audience makes each routine even more impressive. Of course, Segal doesn’t reveal his true secrets – but he’s smart enough to provide a clear view of what he’s doing without revealing all the mechanisms behind it. Everything he does and says is part of the act – but he’s happy to make that crystal clear throughout.
Segal is a warm and endearing presence on-stage – charming, chatty, open and (mostly!) relaxed. Having the audience on-side is vital for what he does, and he keeps his packed-out room engaged the whole time. The pay-offs for each trick are genuinely delightful and win well-deserved laughter, gasps and applause. His professionalism and wit deserve as many plaudits as his tricks, and by giving the final round of applause to an audience volunteer – and thereby encouraging a standing ovation to round things off – he puts himself out as a generous, friendly and immensely likeable chap. I’m not the man to guess or second-guess the inner workings of his routines and his act in general, but I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed. Doug Segal is a fantastic entertainer – very highly recommended.