How to flambe?

I watch a lot of shows on TV where the cooks (somehow) swirl their pans and a nice little flame appears. It looks impressive. But my question is firstly: how do they do that safely? And secondly, other than the drama, what practical purpose does it serve? Finally redid my kitchen and am now the happy owner of a gas stove. Could this be a Kenji question? Any help would be much appreciated!

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