. . . for a very small joke.
TMAN: Dude, tell me that thing again, with the numbers and the countries.
SWELLSMAN: . . . . Okay, let’s try this from the top. First, pick a number between 1 and 10.
TMAN: Got it.
SWELLSMAN: Tell me what it is.
TMAN: How is that a trick?
SWELLSMAN: It isn’t. But we fucked the trick up the last time we tried so let’s just do a dry run. What’s the number?
TMAN: It’s two.
SWELLSMAN: Swell, it’s two. So multiply that by 9, and waddaya got?
SWELLSMAN: Okay. Now, take all the digits in that last answer and add them together . . . waddaya got now?
TMAN: Nine. One and Eight equals Nine.
SWELLSMAN: Perfect. This is the heart of the trick. Now subtract 5 from your answer. Waddaya got?
SWELLSMAN: Great. Now count down the alphabet until you get to the letter that is that number. So “A” would be “one,” “B” would be “two,” etc.
SWELLSMAN: Okay. Now think of a country whose name begins with the same letter as the one you just counted down to.
SWELLSMAN: Good. Now think of an animal whose name begins with the last letter of the name of the country you just thought of.
SWELLSMAN: Good. Now think of a fruit that begins with the last letter of the name of the animal you just thought of.
SWELLSMAN: Good. It was “Denmark,” “kangaroo,” and “orange,” wasn’t it?
TMAN: Whoa. Not bad. How’d you do it?
SWELLSMAN: It’s not hard. Most of what you are doing when you do this trick is convincing people they have a lot more control over their answers than they really do.
For example, any number between 1 and 10 – when multiplied by 9 – yields a number whose digits add up to 9. 18, 27, 36, 45, etc. etc. So no matter what you ask the dupe to do, he’ll always end up with 9. Which means that when you tell him to subtract 5 from “whatever number he’s thinking of,” he’ll always end up with 4.
The fourth letter of the alphabet is “D,” and there are only a few countries that begin with ‘D” – Denmark is the one almost everyone goes with. Which means “K” is the first letter of the animal, and so almost everyone goes with Kangaroo.
And then “O” is the first letter of the fruit, and so that has gotta be Orange.
The key is to convince the dupe that he or she has any choice in the matter, despite the fact you are funneling him to a predetermined destination.
It is, in its way, a lot like voting.