Penn & Teller: Fool Us is a TV talent show that is filmed in front of a live audience (or, virtual audience during the pandemic). Oh, and we can't forget to mention that Penn and Teller are there too -- they're the judges!
During each episode, four magicians perform a magic act for Penn & Teller which, at the end of each act the magician-comedian duo try to deduce how the trick was done. In very articulate speech, Penn -- as Teller remains characteristically silent -- commends the magician on a job well done. If the magic act fooled Penn & Teller, they win a sweet Fool Us trophy and a trip to Vegas to be the opening act for Penn & Teller's show!
I want my opinions below to reflect those of a spectator who just saw a performance live. To achieve this, I've only watched this episode once. In real time - no pausing. No slow motion. Once through, with commercials and with my kids enjoying it with me too. Did I remember everything I saw? Did I see everything that happened? Do I remember the exact words that were said? Maybe, but likely not -- which means if I over-portray an effect below then it was just that great of a trick. If I under-portray it, well, yeah. So let's see what this episode's got in store for us!
Two performances of the night were team performances, which is always fun. Paranormal activity, acrobatics, a throwback card trick, and a street-magic trick brought to the stage -- what an action-packed episode of magic! I certainly had fun watching this one, but the real question is: who fooled Penn & Teller?
The fooler of the night's episode was... wait for it... wait for it.... nobody! There hasn't been a season that's gone by without at least one episode where nobody fooled the comedy duo and this episode happened to be one of them. There were definitely parts of some of these acts that fooled me, that's for certain -- but they didn't seem to get anything by Penn & Teller. Check out the performance descriptions below to see if you'd be able to figure them out!
Sean-Paul & Juliana Fay
Sean-Paul & Juliana Fay performed a paranormal style duo routine where they were ridding the Penn & Teller theater of Fool-dini's ghost, the spirit that's been haunting it since the 1800's! The episode's name, Ghostbusters, came from this act and I can see why; it was by-far the most entertaining of the night. That's not saying the other's weren't, it's just this one was all over the place!
You can find more about Sean-Paul & Juliana Fay at Intrigue Theater.
It started with the introduction of Fool-dini, the spirit that's been haunting the theater -- which is built on an ancient magician burial ground. To have him pass, they have to channel his thoughts. Alyson first heard Fool-dini's thoughts and selected a word from a notebook. Then it was Teller's turn to "hear" a year, and then Penn's to select a magical murder weapon.
All three choices appeared to be quite fair and yet, Sean-Paul & Juliana Fay were able to discern all three!
There were more sprinklings of magic throughout the act, like a table shaking on its own, Juliana levitating above a stool, and a very beautiful red paper turning to ash, then repairing to paper again -- with the written word on it! My favorite one was just a gag at the end though where they made a candle flip by itself! Each of these extras weren't focused on, they were just part of the routine which made them extra special in my mind.
I have my own ideas on how they were able to discern the word selection, written number, and "weapon choice," but that candle flip... how on earth?! It's the little things that make stuff extra magical, you know?
Disguido is actually a duo too; husband and wife, no less! The magic-comedy pair, Isabella and Guido, are full time professional entertainers and you can find them on Instagram at @disguidomagic (they have other social's available, but I can't do all of the work for you =P).
Their act was straightforward and, altogether not the most magical albeit it was fun to watch. There was a wooden beam with several wine glasses, each filled with water, lined up in a row. They were each holding a glass of wine, which they just poured from a bottle and then Guido added these two glasses to the existing line.
Isabella explained that Guido will perform two miracles: walking on water and turning water into wine. And he did just that!
He acrobatically walked across the top of every glass in the row and as soon as he stepped on each glass of water, it miraculously turned into a glass of red wine!
My son's first reaction was "he must have red dye in his shoes, you can see the how it looks like something's dropped into the water and then it all changes." While there isn't dye in his shoes, the camera zooming in on the glasses really didn't help the effect appear magical because it did, in fact, show how something's changing the water. The best quote from my son was at the end of it though: "All of the water glasses are a different shade of red than the two wine glasses. They should have matched them to make it appear more realistic." Hmm... he might be on to something!
Dr. Scott Kahn
Dr. Scott Kahn, or the man with shaking hands as I now like to refer to him as, came out and presented a bullet from 1998. The bullet was actually from a Penn & Teller act, The Bullet Catch, that they had performed in one of their shows and Kahn's dad was the spectator that received it. Kahn's routine was built around that magic bullet -- how cool!
Dr. Kahn is an actual doctor, but also practices and performs magic which is even cooler. You can see more about him at Kahnjuring.
The trick itself was a card trick, using transparent plastic cards. Penn & Teller selected a card, and then Kahn selected a card. Each card was signed, and one was placed inside the transparent case -- and it was shown to be in there. The "magic bullet" was placed atop the case and the other card was rubbed on it's tip. Magically, both cards switched places... except, the signatures of the cards remained! So it was technically a double transposition effect, which was pretty awesome.
I know of a way to do this routine with a regular deck of cards, but it's not as open and forgive the pun but transparent as this one was. As best as my memory serves me, I came up with my transposition variation on my own (it's not super difficult to figure out, if you're going after the effect), but Penn's clues at the end point to Scarne having a routine just like this. I quickly turned to Scarne on Card Tricks but having not read through it yet I was at a loss to find a routine that matched. I flipped through routines that had names that sounded like possible matches but none of them were. It could also be that this isn't the book with the trick. And I doubt Scarne used transparent cards so it might be that different.
The way the routine was performed, at least how my memory recollects it, it fooled me =]
Oh, and his hands were shaking like crazy the entire time. Purely nerves, I imagine. I feel for him because mine do the same thing, even when performing for family and friends. I wonder if that ever goes away?
Related / unrelated, I found the deck that he used in the routine. I've never heard of the brand, but you can find it here. Personally, I'm more a fan of the Transparent Playing Cards by MPC (available on Vanishing Inc.); they have a much cooler design and come in red or black.
Star Newman came out and I had high hopes that she'd be the fooler of the night, considering there wasn't one yet. I liked her hippie-ish intro, it was fun. If you want to see more from her, check her out on Instagram at @star_newman_magician.
Now, as for the routine itself. On the table, she had a single prop and it looked kind of small. "This is gonna be great, just watch!" I thought to myself.
She stuck her hand in and had Alyson twist the box around and around. Oh. It's over already?
But wait, there's more!
"Phew, okay, on to the real trick!" I thought to myself.
She put her hand on a piece of plexiglass and had Teller and Alyson twist it around and around. Oh. It's over already?
I've seen street performers do this routine, except instead of plexiglass they put their hand on the ground and twist it around. Honestly, in my opinion, that is a better way to do it because with the plexiglass, staring right at your arm and body it's extremely clear that there's nothing happening. How did this act make it on the show?!
Now, I want to take a step back and repeat that this is purely my opinion. I really think it was an extremely basic act that any magician would know and maybe would be used as a warm-up just to get the crowd ready to see some great stuff. But no, it was the entire thing and it really, really disappointed me.
And then, my kids. They were fooled beyond belief. "How is that possible?!" my youngest said. "There's no way she wouldn't have broken her arm with that, there has to be a trick or something. But we saw her arm the whole time!" my oldest said.
Wow! Okay... taking a further step back and looking at it from a magic point of view, this is the whole point of performing! To entertain the audience and get them to, for lack of better words at this exact moment, question reality. And Star accomplished this.
I may not have liked the routine, but credit should be given where credit is due and she managed to entertain and fool the (non-magic) audience. I applaud that =]
Penn & Teller
Penn & Teller ended the show with a virtual card trick. The remote spectators chose a card and Penn named a number. They counted down that many cards and sure enough, the card was at that number.
So far, so good. A straightforward trick, albeit the semi-hands-off approach did add a level of difficulty to it. And then, the real doozy came.
The spectator chose a second card. Teller shuffled the deck and spread it across the table. Then, the spectator named a number. They counted down that many cards and ... the card was there.
I want to say that this is a classic "A Card at Any Number" (ACAAN) routine, but I don't know if I've ever seen one that clean. Where the spectator named a number after the deck has been spread and the card is there. No forced numbers, no funny business moving cards around. It was just there.
At least a dozen possible ways have sped through my head since watching this, but none of them are as clean as this was. Multiple outs, trick decks, extra handling -- everything that this presentation didn't have. I have to say, it was the routine that fooled me the most!
According to the "info" screen on the TV last night, this episode was the season finale. 14 episodes this season, but hey, at least it's one more than the normal 13! I know that we do typically get to see at least one episode per season where there's more than one fooler, but I'd really like to see more. This episode, having no foolers though, could have been better. Not because there weren't foolers, don't get me wrong. It's perfectly fine if nobody gets past Penn & Teller -- but it's more entertaining when the acts are strong, and it really lets Penn go crazy with his talking. They didn't really seem too enthusiastic about any of the routines, which made it less entertaining for me (e.g., the audience).
I saw online that the show has been renewed for another season, so I'm excited to pick back up next year! Can't wait to see some more magic try to fool Penn & Teller!!!