Brian Brushwood | Scam School & The Modern Rogue (Episode 628)

Brian Brushwood | Scam School & The Modern Rogue (Episode 628)

Brian Brushwood | Scam School & The Modern Rogue (Episode 628)

Brian Brushwood (@shwood) has spent the last twenty years performing onstage, on TV, and on the Internet, entertaining and teaching people how to harness the deceptive (and self-deceptive) skills of scientists, spies, criminals, and con artists.

“The moment a magician says, ‘Now we begin,’ you’re already screwed!” -Brian Brushwood

The Cheat Sheet:

  • Why being interesting isn’t a gift — it’s a practice.
  • Fixed action patterns and how they help us get others to do what we want them to do. (Important note: for good — not evil!)
  • How to control a conversation by asking the right questions.
  • The best way to convince someone to help us? By making it their idea.
  • Why we’re all capable of being duped in spite of our highly developed human brains — and how practicing magic can train us to be more resistant to the fraudulent.
  • And so much more…


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(Download Transcript Here)

The line between a scam and a magic trick can be pretty thin. They both involve some degree of deception, though the latter use is generally for entertainment rather than depriving the unsuspecting of their life savings.

Luckily, Brian Brushwood of Scam School, The Modern Rogue, and Night Attack only wants you to buy him a drink for sharing what he knows about the fine art of deception. But what he really hopes to do is instill a low-grade alarm in all of us to be on guard for those times when the intentions of our would-be deceivers are a little less benign. Listen, learn, and enjoy!

More About This Show

You don’t have to be a sucker to fall for a well-rehearsed routine — whether it’s performed by a stage magician or a con artist. Brian Brushwood of Scam School, The Modern Rogue, and Night Attack found himself mesmerized by the psychology behind deception when, as a high school student, he was scammed by a pair of grifters while working the register at a movie theater.

It was a husband and wife team pulling a version of the old short-change scam. One would ask for change while the other would serve as a distraction. There was a rhythm and flow to the operation that — even while Brian felt the cold chill of knowing he was being taken — fascinated him. Sure enough, when the till was counted at the end of the night, it was fifty dollars short.

Already interested in the techniques of magic at that point in life, Brian considers this event a relatively inexpensive introduction to the correlation between con artistry and parlor tricks.

“I was like, ‘that’s amazing!'” says Brian. “That’s when I realized that the structure of a magic trick — the art of deception — was not limited just to magic itself. I wasn’t there yet — obviously I got taken — but I realized that if I could educate other people; if other people knew magic the way I knew magic, then that would put them in a position where they would have that low-grade alarm ready to go off at all times. So I became fascinated with the structure and the psychology behind scams partly to learn how to defend and how to tell other people to defend themselves, but also to enhance the quality of my performance.”

Being Interesting Isn’t a Gift — It’s a Practice

As we’ve discussed in past episodes, Brian reminds us that becoming comfortable with the possibility of discomfort is the only way to really grow — this applies to fighter pilots, magicians, teachers, beat cops, or even just anyone who wants to improve their interactions with others in social situations.

Someone who’s endured difficulties along the way to wherever they’re going will certainly have way more interesting stories to share than someone who has only ever chosen the path of least resistance. Would you rather be stuck at a dinner table with the guy who can tell you tales about hopping boxcars across the country as a youth or with the guy who’s always been too afraid to take a bus across town?

Exposing ourselves to potentially uncomfortable situations doesn’t just give us opportunities to grow, but it provides us with the grist for good stories we may well be telling for the rest of our lives. Like Producer Jason when he talks about being on one of the first episodes of Scam School, presented here for your enjoyment:

Listen to this episode of The Art of Charm in its entirety to learn more about how live audiences can be primed to expect (and be rewarded by) an amazing show before even walking into a venue, stories of scams we’ve witnessed in the wild, how cultural biases can be manipulated, priming behavior in others with fixed action patterns as detailed by previous guest Robert Cialdini, creating social hooks and providing value to others with simple bar tricks, the power of social proof (illustrated by Brian’s foray into the realm of erotic fiction), changing our language to shape the response of others, and lots more.

Make sure to set your DVR to catch the first episode of Scam School TV on Saturday, June 24th on The Science Channel at 8:00 a.m. EDT (5:00 a.m. PDT) — or watch it live with the family like it’s Saturday morning cartoons!


If you enjoyed this session with Brian Brushwood, let him know by clicking on the link below and sending him a quick shout out at Twitter:

Click here to thank Brian Brushwood at Twitter!

Click here to let Jordan know about your number one takeaway from this episode!

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