Tag: Penn & Teller

Penn & Teller’s Fool Us Soars in Ratings

Penn & Teller’s Fool Us hit a series high with last night’s episode – according to the industry trade publication Variety.

The show seems to be catching on with American audiences and we have our fingers crossed that the CW network will develop a second season, set in the United States. Penn has been discussing the possibility on his weekly podcast, Penn’s Sunday School, but has been very sketchy about whether the CW will pick up the series for a new round.

We hope the ratings boost proves to the folks at the CW to develop the show here with American magicians. We will keep you up-to-date on any developments.

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Penn & Teller’s Fool Us Television Show Starts Tonight!

Penn & Teller’s Fool Us appears in the United States starting tonight. We are excited. We usually hate Wednesdays which we call “hump day” because it was when we were usually forced to visit our hunchback great aunt. Now we have a reason to love Wednesdays.

Fool Us was a big hit in the UK last year and it is our understanding its US run will consist of 9 episodes from that series. If folks here enjoy it as much as they did over there, Penn & Teller say the network may launch the show for American audiences with more American magicians.

In an interview with The Chicago Sun-Times, Penn gives fans of the show hope of a US version:

We shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves here, but if U.S. audiences like this, and the ratings justify it, the CW tells us we’ll do a second American season — with American magicians. Although there are wonderful, wonderful magicians in the U.K., there quite simply better ones — and more of them — in the U.S.A. It’s simply that America is a bigger country with more magicians out there. That’s all it is.

Penn, Teller and all real magicians enjoy being fooled. We echo Penn’s declaration except for the part about his mom:

Those that fooled us, fooled the pants off us! It was the exact feeling I had when my mom did the first magic trick for me when I was 6! I got that same feeling with this show. It’s a feeling of your whole world being discombobulated for a moment. It’s just glorious!

The show’s premise is simple. A magician comes on, performs a trick and if he or she fools Penn & Teller then he or she wins. If they can figure out how the trick was done, he or she loses.

We appreciated how Penn & Teller took great care to make sure they did not expose methods but provided just enough information to the contestant to confirm that they knew the secret.

Our favorite performers of the series were Piff the Magic Dragon and Shawn Farquhar. Piff makes us laugh no matter what he says. Shawn blows our mind no matter what he does. We were blown away by his card effect and hope it is in the series shown here in the US.

So now you know where we will be tonight. We have a flat screen television viewable from our kitchen in our apartment next to the bakery for dog treats here in West Hollywood. True, it is not our television but in the apartment across the alley but we bought a remote on eBay that works and know for a fact that the young couple who live there will be out tonight. We will be perched on our kitchen counter watching – and if our neighbors have left their windows open, listening.

Read a great interview with Penn about the show in The Sun-Times here.

Penn & Teller Dish from London

Penn & Teller are in London and the toast of the town with great press. We read this morning’s Telegraph for a nice interview with the duo. They express their admiration for Derren Brown, “He’s one of the best live performers I’ve ever seen. He really puts a lot of intelligence and thought into it. He’s an artist,” said Teller.

They profess only luke-warm enthusiasm for Dynamo, “Teller says that while they admire his skills, ‘we know people like Johnny Thompson who’s 78 – and by comparison with whom [Dynamo’s] skills are somewhat… minimal. Compared with some of the old masters of this stuff.’”

They respect David Copperfield’s incredible work-ethic but bemoan the otherwise dormant magic scene.

“[Copperfield] does really good tricks, and he’s always doing new ones. But there aren’t many [magicians], you know?” Penn says heavily. Yes, there’s Siegfried and Roy, “but since Roy got his head bit off by a tiger, that slows him down somewhat. David Blaine doesn’t really do anything now. Why not? I don’t know. I don’t think he made that much money.”

We note that this is the latest in their 40 years of giving interviews where they fail to mention Inside Magic. Perhaps they are saving their effusive praise for our dogged coverage for a big presser once they return to Las Vegas. Yes, that is most certainly it. After all, tens of readers over the course of twenty years adds up to a statistical probability that they have heard of us.

We are most fascinated by behind the scenes stuff. We love logistics. So, for us, the key nuggets came at the end of the article wherein we learn the two get together on Tuesdays each week to brainstorm new tricks. That is the kind of geeky, inside information that makes us giddy. We would love to be present during one of those sessions. We wouldn’t say a word or even give some sort of indication of our existence – sort of as if we were a fly or insect in the room – we would just listen and relish the moment.

We learned that they have been working on a new effect that sounds pretty interesting. They are looking for a way to perform the Vanishing Elephant but with a live cow dressed as an elephant. We don’t know why that sounds cool but it does. We cannot imagine it is easy to work with cows and note that very few magicians have used cows in their acts in the last twenty years.

We knew of a former husband and wife act (former because they divorced) in which the husband referred to his wife as a cow on stage but that does not count. She didn’t vanish but did get a lawyer. He is doing close-up now and has “returned to ‘real magic’” with just a deck of cards and a few coins.” We suspect his new emphasis on cards and coins had something to do with the results of his divorce settlement.

Penn & Teller, like David Copperfield, seem to be asked the same questions by all interviewers. They do their best to give interesting answers and some reporters follow-up with interesting questions that lead to new information. Not often, though. That is not their fault. The Telegraph article is one of the better interview pieces we have read and worth your consideration.

Is Penn & Teller’s Fool Us Coming to US TV?

According to reports from the Television Critics Association meeting, the CW just purchased nine episodes of Penn & Teller: Fool Us for U.S. broadcast.

The show is fantastic but previously only available in the UK.

Aspiring magicians perform their best trick and if Penn & Teller cannot figure out the secret, the magician wins a trip to Vegas to perform at the Rio Hotel and Casino.

There have been some great performances including that of Inside Magic Favorite Shawn Farquhar.  Check out the YouTube version of his work here.

It appears the CW deal is to purchase the rights for the nine episodes already filmed.  There was no word on whether the broadcaster would have rights to make a second season for the US.

Here’s hoping.

Penn & Teller: First Ever UK Tour Dates Announced

Magicians of great ability Penn & Teller will be returning to the United Kingdom in February 2014 to entertain  fans in Manchester, Birmingham and London.

The incredible duo bring their Vegas act to Manchester, then Birmingham and onto London for a five big nights at the Eventim Apollo Hammersmith in London.

This is their first UK tour but they are familiar with the environs as hosts of their own ITV television show, Fool Us.

Tour promoters promise no two shows will be the same and so to us it makes sense to attend every show in every location.

Penn & Teller have about four decades of sold out runs on Broadway, world tours and of course Las Vegas.  Their television shows have garnered Emmys and an ever-increasing fan base.

Named ‘Las Vegas Magicians of the Year’ six times for their nightly performance at The Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, they have repeat visits from magicians, magic-lovers and folks out for a profoundly entertaining evening.

We have it on very good authority that Penn and Teller will be appear in June 2014 at Manchester Palace Theatre on Friday the 13th, Birmingham Alexandra Theatre on Sunday the 15th and from Wednesday the 18th through to the 22nd at London’s Eventim Apollo Hammersmith.

Tickets go on sale Friday 6th December at www.livenation.co.uk or www.ticketmaster.co.uk.

Pilobolus, Penn & Teller This Summer

We first heard of Pilobolus on Penn Jillette’s Sunday School podcast when Teller outlined his plans for a magic-influenced rendition of Shakespeare’s The Tempest.

Teller is following up on his very successful tour of Macbeth and provided his initial thoughts on how he would present The Tempest.

He told the podcast listeners the staging will reflect influence from Harry Willard and Tom Waits.

You need to listen to the full interview; we cannot do justice to Teller’s description and ability to describe a scene.

There are few people we can listen to for longer than five minutes.  Teller is someone to whom we could listen for days.  Perhaps it is his obvious love for magic or the great stories he has to share or his dramatic tone.

We do not know how or why but we can say we love listening to what he has to say.

Teller suggested they may enlist the assistance of the talented dance troupe Pilobolus to portray the monster Caliban.  He and Penn heaped praise a plenty on Pilobolus for a good ten minutes of the podcast.  We made a mental note to learn more of these dancing people.  If they are good enough for Penn & Teller, they are certainly good enough for us assembled philistines.

As usual, we digress.

Anyway, The New York Times reported today that the very same Pilobolus will be performing at the Joyce Theater this summer.  Penn & Teller will appear in Pilobolus’ new piece [esc], presenting “the ultimate in gripping, do-not-try-this-at-home choreography.”   Continue reading “Pilobolus, Penn & Teller This Summer”

The Year of Penn Continues

Penn & Teller joined the select few included in the UNLV Entertainer & Artist Hall of Fame this weekend. Siegfried Fischbacher and Lance Burton attended, showing their support for the magic duo.

Former Nevada Lieutenant Governor, lounge singer and hall of fame member Lorraine Hunt-Bono presented the team their beautiful and pointy crystal trophies. Teller broke his silence to say "thanks" to the attendees.

Las Vegas Sun columnist John Katsilometes has deigned 2012 to be The Year of Penn:

I'd joked that 2012 was shaping up as the Year of Penn, given his ubiquitous-ness in the first 4 months of this year. Jillette even showed up at Marty Allen's 90th birthday party celebration at Palace Station on Saturday afternoon, joining a similarly odd collection of celebs and newsmakers onstage at Louie Anderson Theater that included Allen, Mayor Carolyn Goodman (presenting Allen with a key to the city), former mayor Oscar Goodman, Anderson and Allen's wife, Karon Kate Blackwell.

It does seem Penn is appearing in more places and garnering more television time. We have seen him on political talk shows, British stump the magician series and of course The Celebrity Apprentice. He survived last night's episode and thus continues his fund-raising for Opportunity Village, a Las Vegas foundation providing vocational training for our fellow citizens with intellectual disabilities.

"If I worked all the time I was on 'Celebrity Apprentice,' and gave all that money instead to Opportunity Village (laughs), they would do better," he says. "But I give them a lot of attention, no question about that, I have raised awareness. So you can't be too cynical about it."

Penn & Teller continue to entertain capacity crowds at the Rio All-Suites Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas and offer the best magic per dollar spent in town.

Penn Jillette: Card Trick as Rhetorical Tool

Penn Jillette is a gifted and entertaining writer of things magic and otherwise.  We have reviewed his written work on this unworthy magic web site in the past and we’ll have a review of his newest book, God, No! Signs You May Already be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales next week.

Mr. Jillette could probably write a pretty decent Magic for Beginners book and teach basic sleights effectively.  But that’s not how he chooses to use his remarkable talent.  Like his silent partner, Teller, Mr. Jillette uses magic as a device or tool to offer his unique and usually correct perspective (from our point o’ view) of the topic or issue he has chosen to explain.

His writing seems effortless and spontaneous.  We would like to think that style is a result of thousands of drafts, re-writes, third-party editing, and gut-wrenching revisions.

We presume, however, his writing style reflects his true persona.  We don’t have that gift.  In fact, the sentence, “We don’t have that gift” took two and a half hours to craft.  We began with “we not as good as he is at writing that way,” worked our way towards “he is better at writing than speaking and he is very good at speaking too,” and finally “We don’t have that same ability that he, Penn Jillette has.”

Our point?  We like Penn Jillette’s writing.

In fact, we are not ashamed to say we would marry his writing if such a thing were possible.  We don’t know if that makes us gay for wanting to marry the writing style of a man, but if it does, we’ll take those slings and arrows and make lemonade served in slings with arrows for stirrers.
Continue reading “Penn Jillette: Card Trick as Rhetorical Tool”

Teller’s Favorite Films

Teller of Penn & Teller fame, is more than an incredible magician, writer, historian and inventor. He has a life outside the Penn & Teller Theater (that’s “Theatre” in metric).

He graduated from prestigious Amherst College in 1969 under the nom d’études (metric for “student name”) of Raymond Joseph Teller.

To ensure that our posting on the topic will be the most derivative of all on the topic, we cite Tom Shay from MassLive.com who in turn credits New York Magazine for the bird’s eye lowdown on Teller’s favorite movies about Magicians.

“The Great Buck Howard: The most accurate depiction of what it’s like to be in magic anywhere, because it’s so sad!
“A-Haunting We Will Go: One of the movies that made me fall in love with stage magic. Laurel and Harding encounter the actual magician Dante, and there’s a whole bunch of slapstick mix-ups.
“The Man from Beyond: It’s melodramatic crap, but it’s got Houdini, for crying out loud! You’re actually seeing Houdini on the screen!
“Nightmare Alley: Tyrone Power starts off as a sideshow magician, then does a mind-reading act, and he’s gradually tempted into being an evil crook. A hideously black downward spiral; and
“The Lady Vanishes: One of the most perfect movies ever made. And the fact that the evilest bad guy takes cover as a magician – that makes me laugh.”

You can read Tom Shay’s version of this list at MassLive.com here. We checked and checked but could not find a New York Magazine article on Teller or his favorite movies. We don’t doubt Tom Shay’s word, we just wanted to give credit where it was due.

Magician Shawn Farquhar and Love at First Sight

In our discussion of Penn & Teller’s new UK television series Fool Us! earlier this week, we mentioned that Inside Magic favorite Shawn Farquhar thoroughly stumped the duo.  We offered the incident to show how gracious and excited Penn & Teller were to be fooled.

We provided a YouTube link to Mr. Farquhar’s segment to prove the alleged “Bad Boys of Magic” are no different from any of us. They love magic and love to be fooled.

There were three contestants in this year’s International Brotherhood of Magicians Stage Competition who fooled us badly.  It was a wonderful feeling.  Our peanut size and shaped brain instantly switched from “figure it out” mode to “enjoy it” mode.  Once we gave into the reality that the unreal was happening, we felt the same exhilaration experienced at the start of our 43 years in magic.

Back then it was a red plastic ball that appeared and disappeared from an interesting-looking royal blue plastic vase.  We had no clue how it could be done and, as we say at the special meetings we are required to attend, “it’s okay.”

The sesame seed sized portion of our peanut-esque brain responsible for accepting or rejecting visual images based on their conformity some established measure of reality was delighted to take a break and let the impossible flow unhindered into our active consciousness.  The effect is similar to shoving a peanut butter sandwich into a DVD player.

In our experience, most magicians want to be fooled.

They also want to learn secrets or hypothesize methods but that process comes later.  Similar to falling in love at first sight, the experience of being mystified is precious, unique and always unanticipated.  Love may fade immediately after the first sight and the baffled magician may wonder how he or she could have been fooled once the trick’s secret is known.

Most magicians chase the prospect of being truly amazed.  There  may be years between those epiphanies but that’s enough to keep us in the hunt.
Continue reading “Magician Shawn Farquhar and Love at First Sight”