Sunday, May 18, 2008

.:My Personal Heroes Of Mind And Magic, Part 2: The International Man Of (Mind) Mystery:.

Originally called “My Personal Heroes Of Magic And Mentalism”, I decided to change the series name in order to give reference to a classic game, “Heroes Of Might And Magic”. It does sound catchier, doesn't it?

Last week, I wrote about my favorite duo act, Penn and Teller, and how despite the fact that I disagree with some of their personal views, I still love them as performers, and how they've influenced my concept of “comedy magic” about as much as another guy I know (Whom you guys will hear about in a future installment...).

Now, if Penn and Teller influenced my philosophy of how to entertain people with my performance, this next guy is the man who has certainly influenced me in my foundations in my favorite genre of the art, that is, mentalism.

The master at work.

Richard Osterlind may not ring a bell to the average person, but in the world of mentalism, he is one of the most popular names in the industry to ever hail from America. Carrying himself in a very casual, even fatherly manner, Osterlind's performance style is very natural and relaxed, and unlike most of his contemporaries, he does not seem to make any pretenses to maintaining a “mentalist persona” whenever he performs (For contrast, see Max Maven.). Richard is very straightforward, yet his open-armed sincerity is precisely what keeps his fans coming back for more as he astounds and mystifies them with feats of the human mind we often assume impossible.

As the man behind the groundbreaking “Mind Mysteries” and “Easy To Master Mental Miracles” series for mentalists from all walks of life, Richard Osterlind has influenced an entire generation of mentalists who can only hope to have half of the natural charisma that he oozes with whenever he performs, again, despite the lack of an attempt to maintain a hint of a persona. While Derren Brown may be regarded as the quintessential mentalist of this generation, Osterlind is the man people turn to when they want to learn how to do mentalism, mainly because Derren doesn't really teach his material the way Osterlind does.

Osterlind's website is also very helpful in answering what it means to be a mentalist vis-a-vis being a magician, and he even provides a very helpful FAQ that answers some of the more common questions thrown at mentalists. Few people have helped elevate the art of mentalism the way Osterlind has, from teaching aspiring mentalists the secrets to unlocking the mysteries of the mind, all the way to coming up with new and ingenious items meant to enhance the performance of any mentalist worth his salt.

Richard Osterlind: Mental Magician?

Osterlind's critics tend to disparage him because of his tendency to include magic tricks in his mentalism acts, and unlike Derren Brown, he makes no attempt to mask it as a mentalism feat whatsoever. For instance, in one of his videos, he does the infamous “Paddle move”, and feebly passes it off as hypnosis on the audience.

While this is a valid criticism, it cannot be denied that Richard Osterlind is still a genuine mentalist insofar as he knows the ins and outs of the mindset, and in the sheer command he has over his audience, despite the sometimes-ludicrous premise he sets upon his own performances. While he may be guilty of doing mere “mental magic” at times, Osterlind still manages to shine simply because he is so earnest that people can't help but still assume what he is doing is outright mentalism. Purists may understandably cringe, but the man hasn't been in business all over the world for three or so decades already if people didn't appreciate his material.

What He Means To Me

Osterlind will always be one of the first mentalists I have learned from, along with Banachek, Max Maven, and to a limited but important extent, Morgan Strebler (Yet another influence of mine. More on him in the future.). As a performer, I always ask myself, “what would Richard do?” This is because as a veteran mentalist for decades, Osterlind has honed his craft to a point where his material is a fit for nearly any kind of mentalist, no matter what personality or performing style you may choose to employ.

While few people reading this right now would ever get to know the man the way fellow performers already do, I think Richard Osterlind, as one of the men who has inspired this generation of mentalists, deserves a tribute for all his contributions to the art, especially to the significant influence he has exerted on me, including routines I have performed thanks to him, such as the Blindfolded Rubik's Solve, the 20-Card Test, the Acid Test, and 4-Dimensional Telepathy. As a prolific thinker whose ideas know no bounds, Osterlind's massive volume of material on video will never lack an audience of eager learners.

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