We were thinking about the television show “Fool Us,” starring Penn & Teller. It is a great show and has taken off with magician and non-magician viewers alike. But we continued our thought.
Isn’t Fool Us the last thing we want to do as magicians?
We eschew two types of tricks: ones that make the audience volunteer look foolish; the brunt of a gotcha trick. You know the ones – the magician is smart and the volunteer looks stupid. We’ve been on the receiving end of such a trick and even with our comfort on stage generally, being a volunteer is a stress-inducing situation. The last thing we wanted was to look like an idiot in front of a crowd. We would much prefer to do that on our own – that didn’t come out right but you know what we mean. We did Sucker Sliding Die Box for more the 20 years and have no place to issue such a blanket statement but we just did so sue us.
The second type of tricks we don’t care to see or perform are effects that are really just puzzles. This category seems related to the one above. We have important exceptions to this rule though for Magic Squares and sophisticated “memory” effects.
So back to Penn & Teller’s show. While it is titled “Fool Us” it could be titled “Entertain Us.”
This is what audiences seek. We don’t go to the orchestra to see how well the cellist fingers and applies her bow to the strings. First of all, we wouldn’t know what to look for; second of all, we’re there for the music. We have done a complete search of all posters ever generated for orchestral performances (in English, French and German – we could find none in Esperanto) and not one of those posters invited audiences to attend the show to watch individual musicians play their instruments. We did find one reference to Dizzy Gillespie with enlarged cheeks whilst blowing his horn as no one else has or will. But that was a one-off.
We know a magician who begins his close-up performance with about five minutes of banter and introduction to the audience before a single card is shuffled (it is philosophical idea, we know a single card cannot be shuffled). There is entertainment and later in the act the audience and the magician appear amazed at the effect performed. They have shared a relationship that began with introductions, communications and a short-lived bind. But it wouldn’t make the first cut for “Fool Us.”
All of this is just our random thought as we looked up the next showing of “Fool Us” because we find the show so entertaining.