In May I shared my visit to the MGM Grand at Foxwoods, where I had the opportunity to catch Penn & Teller live. They’re incredibly talented and put on a hell of a show. But they don’t just do live acts; they’ve also had various television shows to spread their magic, in both literal and figurative senses, far and wide.
In the U.S. the most known show is, of course, “Bullshit,” which aired on Showtime for quite a few seasons. But closer to their magic roots was a short-run series in the U.K. called “Penn & Teller: Fool Us.”
The pair perform tricks, of course, but the main point of the show is for other magicians to take a stab at tricking the tricksters. If they could present a trick that fooled Penn & Teller in that they didn’t know how it was done, they’d get to perform the trick in Las Vegas, where Penn & Teller have had a longstanding residency.
Part of the fun of the show was watching when they were genuinely fooled or confused. It happened a number of times in the series, and even when it didn’t happen, you could tell a genuine appreciation for the magicians presenting, as well as the craft.
All of the episodes are on YouTube, but my favorite is above. Two segments jump out; one features a minor who was showing serious promise with the tricks he performed, and another, Romany, who uses sex appeal and humor to pull off a great tie-up rope trick. They are the first two segments of the show, but all of the episodes and acts are awfully fun to watch.
It’s a shame magic isn’t on TV much anymore; it used to be amazing to see the latest David Copperfield special or even those somewhat lame Fox “Masked Magician” specials. Penn & Teller are still my favorites, though, and it’s great to see them encouraging other magicians through the show. Sadly, it wasn’t picked up for more episodes, but fortunately, the 9 episodes, featuring dozens of acts, live on.