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!
What a fun night of magic. We got a taste of interactive mentalism, milk, cards with expletives, and even some sword action! Did I mention the milk?
The fooler of the night's episode was Helen Coghlan. While all of the night's acts were good, her act (the one with the milk =P), was just pure magic. Her presentation was straightforward. She told you what she was doing, or not doing. And then, it happened... or didn't happen?! The act made you question the possibility of things, as did some parts of the other routines too. Keep reading below for all of the details!
Yann Yuro, mind hacker, professional liar, and inventor of the internet! At least, according to his Instagram profile (@yann_yuro). His act's intro was pretty neat and also set up the stage for his act which was, of course, mentalism.
He started off the routine by handing Alyson a large envelope with a prediction inside. Then, Yann showed 5 different cartoon pictures and had Alyson assign a number to each. He gave fun commentary on each selection and then finally asked Alyson to open the envelope... and it was empty?!
An assistant ran from off-stage to hand the papers and he quipped to just "edit it out", which was pretty hilarious. Unfortunately, the papers weren't correct! But, that fit into his routine - "to err is to human!"
Continuing the routine, he flipped around each picture and it spelled out the word "HUMAN". What a really nice routine and excellent presentation!
While I didn't predict the word "HUMAN", I did expect the ending to be revealed on the back of the pictures. As he turned them around, the lighting on the stage immediately revealed to me exactly how it was done. While I don't know if it was because of the camera angles or not, Penn's coded message said the same. While he didn't fool them, it was a pleasure to watch.
Ah, Helen Coghlan -- do we need an introduction for her? She's only been on Fool Us four times prior to this one, and fooled Penn & Teller all four of those times! Her father is Arther Coghlan, arthurcoghlan.com, and together they've been showing off magic and illusions that stun all of their audiences. She's said that he dad builds the routines and she comes on to perform them for Penn & Teller.
Helen started off by letting them know that she's going to go full circle and use milk like she did the first time she fooled them. She showed off an empty glass and then put it in between two planks of wood, then filled it with milk. Pausing on that one, she flipped over to another table on the stage and said she's going to do a second trick first. She claimed she'll be changing the rules and if one of the two tricks fool them, she wins!
Showing a steel pitcher and a pail, she visually poured milk from the pail into the pitcher and said that it didn't actually happen. To prove it, she again visually poured the milk from the pitcher back into the pail... and then showed that it was impossible to have happened because the pitcher didn't have a bottom! It was completely hollow, end-to-end!
Strolling back over to the glass of milk, she topped it off and then put two more planks of wood around it, fully surrounding the sides. She took a metal rod and inserted it through a hole in the planks which pierced the glass of milk in between. I was a little skeptic at first, but the camera panned to a top-down view and showed the glass of milk with a rod through it! She removed the rod and planks and the glass was full of milk! Holy smokes!!!
Penn had some pretty color commentary about her changing the rules on them. He went on and on for about a solid 2 minutes. He ended it with shouting "You Fooled Us!" -- you'd need to watch it to see her reaction, it was great!
Oh, "four fools and counting" -- now I see where the name of the episode came from =]
Jason's a magician, with Tourette's! I had to explain this to my kids because they didn't know what it was and all they took away from it was that he says bad words -- go figure. But that aside, Jason has found that, through magic, he's able to keep his syndrome at bay and help spread joy to others. There's a lot more info available at jasonmichaelsmagic.com.
Jason performed a fun card trick using a deck of alphabet cards. He aimed to spell different words but, channeling his Tourette's, the cards always spelled obscenities. It was a really funny presentation, but the two big magical points of the routine were the deck changing from shuffled order to perfect alphabetical order, and then at the end a stack of four cards changing from "hell" into "damn". What's fun about that is that both times, it was supposed to be "fool".
Penn's coded message was really praising, both for the comedy and presentation. He didn't quite fool them, but it was a fun routine nonetheless.
Alex is a magician who, just by looking at his Instagram account (@boycealex), has gotten around to some really cool gigs. He's a corporate and party magician by profession, and a performer at Speakeasy Magick.
Alex brought out Alyson to assist and kept asking fun questions like "did you bring n antique, 5 inch miniature sword and an ornate mahogany display with you?" and "did you bring a bell?" Of course, Alyson didn't have any but that was okay, he had all of the props necessary.
With all of the props in place, he borrowed a ring from Alyson and vanished it inside a wooden box. Then, the ring was found skewered on the sword that was held in place on a stand, under a cloth bag!
He didn't fool the magical duo, though he did technically fool me. I say technically because I can't explain how it's done; however, I had made a guess about it based on what I saw on the screen and the guess aligned with Penn's coded message of a "Vegas tilt." No idea if there's actually a magic term that's expressed that way, but the tilt was pretty visible on screen.
I enjoyed the performance though. It was different than a lot of the other acts that you see. Maybe because of the very different props!
Penn & Teller ended the show with "Pluma Y Cajero" and started the whole skit off letting us know that they simply bought someone else's trick. They bought it from a magician named Woody, from Spain, and they paid him $784 for it!
$784, the most we've ever spent on a trick.
The trick came in a big envelope and was a giant instruction book, all in Spanish. Penn knew some Spanish, so he opted to translate it and perform it on the fly. Also in the envelope was a tiny red handkerchief and a spoon.
Reading the instructions, Penn and Teller stretched the tiny red handkerchief to be quite large, large enough to make a giant monkey appear! And what was the spoon for? For the bowl of soup, that appeared next!
Unfortunately, Penn realized that the second half of the instructions were all in English and he had been translating wrong! It wasn't supposed to be a monkey. Rather, he was supposed to tie a knot in the handkerchief, blow on it, and make it disappear!
The whole routine was a perfect Penn and Teller one, so happy to have seen it!
What a night, what a night. Of the guests, Helen was my favorite performance, hands down. It's routines like that that make me not want to branch out beyond card magic too much so that the mystery stays! Then again, if guys like Penn & Teller can still be amazed and fooled by it, maybe learning more won't hurt as bad as I think. Speaking of the duo though, their finale performance was my favorite out of all from the episode. They went big, and it paid off really, really well!
Either way, I'm excited for the next round of magic!
To watch this full episode, check it out here, on the CW!