Penn & Teller to UK, “FU!”


First, they were described as “the Bad Boys of Magic” because they allegedly exposed our most sacred secrets; except they didn’t.

Penn & Teller were iconoclastic rebels ready to stick it to The Man with outrageous and non-traditional performance pieces; except that is not accurate either. After all, while they were allegedly engaging in the clasting of icons, they were performing nightly in a posh theater named for them in Las Vegas.

Next, there was hue and cry when they refused to update their act, abandon the trite magic stage show, to accost people on the street and perform endurance stunts. They eschewed standing on the top of a pole on a pole for a week, being frozen, nearly drowning, subjected to static electricity shocks, or being suspended by gossamer threads tied to meat hooks sunk into the fatty tissue between their shoulder blades.{{1}}
Where is this going and whence did it come?

This morning, The Guardian (UK) published a savage review of Penn & Teller’s new show for ITV1, “Penn & Teller: Fool Us!”

It begins with an attack on Penn’s size and proceeds down the low road from there. The review describes the show’s premise as “Magicians do tricks for [Penn & Teller]; they have to say how they’re done. If they can’t work it out, the contestant goes to Las Vegas, which is just about the last place on earth where “magician” is a job title.”

Hence the “Whatever!” as our introduction to this article.

But the reviewer is really cheesed-off because Penn & Teller behave like real magicians – not the “Bad Boys of Magic.” “When they do unlock the mystery, they don’t share it. Instead, they make opaque remarks, to convey to the performer that the games up, without telling the audience how anything’s done.”

He gives one of the “opaque” remarks as “as far as the rope tie, this was used extensively in spirit cabinets.”

We think that is a perfect way of hiding secrets but communicating with a fellow magician.

Nay says the reviewer, “It doesn’t so much impart information as make a noise with some words. When they can’t work out how the trick was done, they look vexed and thwarted, which is sort of against the spirit of feel good mentoring that this is meant to encapsulate. And yet, of course the shady atmosphere is to protect our innocence, otherwise we wouldn’t be amazed.”

That is where this rant started before winding its way from Berlin to Chicago to London and back to Mystic Hollow, Michigan.

In future episodes lucky UK audiences will be able to see Shawn Farquhar, Mathieu Bich, and Manuel Martinez aka Loki.

TV review: Penn and Teller: Fool Us; Law and Order: UK; and Mildred Pierce | Television and radio | The Guardian.

[[1]]The parallels to Louis Sullivan (“Form Forever Follows Function”) and Mies van der Rohe (“Form is Function”) are obvious. The latter architect’s embrace of the former’s approach did not mimic or grossly distort the Chicago School’s essence.  The German immigrant understood the purpose (or “function”) of the Chicago School was to build a “tall building”).  (See  Louis Sullivan’s real article in Lippincott’s Magazine, Volume 57 (1896) pp. 403-9, “The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered.” He continued in the tradition but in an era where modern building materials were readily available.

Louis Sullivan’s Carson, Pierre, Scott and Company building resonates with Mies Van Der Rohe’s posthumously completed IBM Plaza in Chicago and his Toronto-Dominion Centre.

Teller performs silently but nonetheless performs. (See our fake article in Architectural Research Quarterly, 15, pp. 22-39; “Bauhaus or Bologna: The ‘New School’ Phenomenon in Architecture, Magic and Economics – How Followers Miss the Point of their Inspiration”). [[1]]

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