When Larry Soffer tells people he is a mentalist, they immediately think he spends his days unravelling crimes and putting offenders in prison, just like the lead character in the American drama television series The Mentalist.
The truth is the only likeness Soffer has to Simon Baker’s character Patrick Jane is their passion for entertainment. “Although I have been approached several times to help crack a crime, this is not something I feel comfortable doing. My aim has always been to entertain and inspire,” he says. The misperception generally stems from the fact that people simply do not know what mentalism really is. We all know that magic encompasses a whole range of different things, from illusions on stage to closeup magic tricks, among others. It’s a performing art in which audiences are entertained by seemingly impossible feats using natural powers. Mentalism comes under the ‘magic’ umbrella and could perhaps be best described as the magic of the mind. It is a sophisticated practice and an incredible skill that takes years to develop.
“A mentalist uses specialist techniques to demonstrate their art and skill of mind reading, metal bending, second sighting and predicting the thoughts of others. In truth, it involves anything that reveals the power of the mind and requires the ability to read body language and micro facial expressions. It basically utilises each of the five human senses to create the impression of a sixth sense,” explains Soffer. Done well, mentalism can positively impact the person watching the performance unfold. Not only does it allow the audience to step outside their mundane, everyday life, but it also transports them to a different reality, and inspires them to believe in the impossible to create a better future for themselves. After witnessing his fair share of mentalists and magicians perform all over the world, Soffer believes the following five qualities are what sets apart the good ones from the not so good.
Focus on the audience
Some mentalists perform so that they can feel great, validated, and admired, but this makes their performance a one-sided affair. A great performer is able to focus on the audience’s experience and how it will connect with them emotionally. He always tries to give the audience the best experience they can have. The focus should always be on them and the feelings and emotions they will walk away with.
Have great intuition
You can spend years studying mentalism, but nothing quite compares to being born with amazing intuition. Even as a child, Soffer perceived things that other people didn’t, which is probably what drew him to mentalism when he was studying magic.
Don’t be afraid to take risks
Pulling off scary stunts like putting a spike through your hand, making spoons and forks bend, lightbulbs burst, or broken watches come back to life can be tricky. Imagine having millions of listeners to a radio station for you to predict the incorrect newspaper headlines! But always push yourself to do risky things, as this has the biggest payoff.
Eat, sleep and breathe mentalism
Mentalism requires you to successfully blur the lines between reality and the supernatural. To do this well, you need to be more than just good at your craft. Only then will audiences believe that what you did was something impossible. You need to get even the biggest cynics to walk away in awe.
Create a memorable impression
People must remember the experience they had with you for years and years. Only then will you have impacted them with your performance and skill. Soffer performed at the J&B Met years ago and ran into someone that saw him there a few years later. The gentleman came up to Soffer to tell him that he kept a spoon that he bent for him for all these years because it reminded him that there was more to life, and this kept him rehabilitated from drugs.