Derren Brown has become one of the UK's best known mentalists and illusionists over the last two decades, with his shows winning him Laurence Olivier Awards and his televised specials being watched by millions.


Brown's career hasn't been without controversy however, with some of his televised shows being criticised by some for featuring themes of gun culture, death, suicide and religion.

Speaking to for The Big RT Interview, Brown addressed the criticism around the dark themes in his shows, saying: "There's always been a good reason for it."

When asked whether his shows require an element of shock to work, Brown said: "I wouldn't say shock. There's two things that me and the couple of guys that write the show aim for.

"One is a strong idea like a one line summary of what it is that would make you want to watch it and then with that, a good reason for doing it," he said. "Particularly if it's something that is going to be quite dark. You want to have a good reason for it. If you try to be shocking or try to be controversial, you're never going to get it right. It's always going to be weighted the wrong way."

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He used his show The Great Art Robbery, a show about pensioners stealing a painting from a gallery, as an example.

"I think it was a strong one-line show, as in a one line idea for the show, and there was a good reason for doing it about sort of marginalisation of older people, it was playing very much on the feelings of invisibility that many people do have at that age, and then using that as a strength."

As for his more controversial shows, Brown added: "I suppose plenty have been – there's been a lot of guns and a lot of shooting and a lot of life or death stuff. There's an old story-writing adage that you reveal character through crisis and you reveal deep character through deep crisis.

"Over the years people have been through some dark journeys but there's always been a good reason for it and it's always been ultimately a very positive experience for them and genuinely life-changing thing.

"I wouldn't dream of taking credit for anything happens to their lives after that, but they're all people I've kept in touch with and stayed friends with. And it's, you know, shows always seems to have done, it's done its job, which I'm proud of."

The Big RT Interview with Derren Brown arrives on this weekend.

Derren Brown’s Boot Camp for Life, an original podcast is available to download now (free for Audible members, free with Audible’s 30-day trial) exclusively at


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