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!
This episode of Fool Us was really entertaining. We had card magic, spiritualism, magic with fruit, and even some top-notch parlor magic! I was excited coming into it having seen the guest list about 2 minutes before starting the show, and it really didn't disappoint.
The fooler of the night's episode was Dani DaOrtiz. I told my kids, who have never seen him before, that he's one of my favorite magicians and they're going to love this episode. Unfortunately for me, now I have to elevate my own card magic game because after seeing him, they think I'm pretty mediocre =P
Dani needs no introduction on this blog (but if you're curious, just check out my other posts about him). When I saw his name in the line-up, my first thought was "well, I know who the fooler tonight is!"
The scene started with everyone sitting at the table. Penn, Teller, Alyson, Dani, and... Donny Osmond?! Yup, Donny Osmond was a guest star for the trick! He actually started the whole thing off too by taking the deck of cards and his trick was to verify that it was a real deck =P
Dani took the deck and, if you're familiar with his style, just went crazy with it. He had cards picked by dropping random piles on the table, cards picked by name, cards just cards just cards. It was impossible to follow all of the fun times and magic moments he brought to the table, but if you've read Freedom of Expression, you'll be able to see all of the awesome things that that book has to offer -- performed right there at the table!
All of these random and fast tricks were just the warmup though. Dani setup the stage for his final trick. He had Donny think of a number and Alyson think of a card. You see where this is going, right?
Splitting the deck into four packets, the four participants shuffled each. After some more crazy shuffling antics, he spread the deck across the table and counting to the thought-of number was, sure enough, Alyson's card!
Penn & Teller didn't even bother conversing, they just slapped that Fool Us trophy in Dani's hands so fast if you blinked you would've missed it!
Knight & Gayle
Becca Knight & Caroline Gayle are two friends who said that this was their first time performing together! Galye is a professional magician for 13 years now. Knight, on the other hand, has worked as more of an assistant and manager for her husband (who's a professional magician).. However, the two women are really good friends and are both into spooky and spiritual stuff, so it just clicked!
Their act contained a giant spiritual cabinet, but they had no intentions of conversing with dead friends or relatives. Oh no, they wanted to revive their dead cat, Buster! Things flew around, bells were rung, wrists were tied. At one point, Gayle was floating out of and above the spiritual cabinet!
The finale of the act had Alyson hop into the chair. She felt something touch the back of her neck, a bowl of kibble jumped next to her, and even the bell rang by itself before the cord burst into flames. Spooky, indeed.
Penn, who's a very outspoken opponent of spiritualism, was pretty kind towards this act. He enjoyed it because it was portrayed as a joke and directed towards an animal. The duo didn't fool the duo, but they did entertain them so that counts for something =]
Jonah Babins & Ben Train
Jonah Babins (@jonahbabinsmagic) and Ben Train (@train.ben) are two magician friends who have been hanging out together for years. During the pandemic, they started creating magic left and right and they came up with the routine they're performing for Penn & Teller then. However, they started things off with:
I tried (minimally) to find their YouTube channel and was unsuccessful. I found Jonah's (older? one), and a bunch of people performing Ben's tricks, but not a shared channel for the duo. If you know what it is, send it my way please!
Anywho, back to the act! They set the stage with the idea that everyone's been trying to pass a solid object through another. The trick is finding an object that's both solid and liquid, and they've done just that. A watermelon!
To summarize everything really quickly, Alyson held the watermelon and they tied a ribbon to a large needle and passed it straight through the middle of the melon. Then, they tied two ends of the ribbon around Alyson's hands on the outside of the melon. On the count of three they pulled both ends and it passed not only through the melon but also through Alyson's fingers!
Full disclosure, I'm writing this a day after watching the episode so I've had a little time to think about how they did it. And I'm still stumped. This just isn't my genre of magic so even with all of Penn's clues, which I'm pretty sure I understood, I don't think I could replicate this one myself. Penn and Teller, unfortunately for Jonah and Ben, weren't fooled with this one primarily because they spent a decent amount of time recently trying to make the same kind of trick! Penn did say that they failed, whereas Jonah and Ben succeeded, so to me that's kind of a win -- you didn't fool them, but you were able to do something that they couldn't!
Jason Fields, or Jason Jafo Fields (Facebook: getjafo), is a magician who's been on Fool Us once before. Back in Season 4 (2017), he performed under the name "Jafo"; this time, however, he performed as simply "Jason Fields." I'm not sure why, I don't recall his introduction mentioning this. Unless there's another Jason Fields that looks identical to him and also performs magic... (while there may be, it's definitely the same guy -- check out his Facebook page above =P).
Jason came out and performed a little parlor magic for us. Err, for Penn & Teller. He had a miniature pool table tablet that had a single hole in the middle of it. Through the hole he continued to pull billiard balls, make them disappear back through the hole and finally dropped each of them onto a table to show they were quite solid. Following three billiard balls came, out he pulled a piece of chalk. The real finale was when a full-sized pool stick came out!
I thought that it was a really nice performance. You can see during it where he's "grabbing something" from behind the board, or moving his hand differently when putting it back. However, what you don't see is where things are coming from or going. The distance between his hands is far, even if stretched. Penn's clues included the phrase "juggling", which just sounds crazy to me that he would've risked tossing things behind the board but hey, if he's performed this thousands of times then maybe he's just that good! What I really liked was that pool stick -- I've seen canes and wands appear, but a pool stick, now that's pretty cool.
Ah, right, Penn also mentioned that this was based on Jerry Andrus's trick named Zone Zero. I tend to dislike when Penn's clues involve giving the direct name of another magician's trick, at least when it's not subtle. Naming another magician, or slipping in the name of the trick it's based on in a sentence, could easily pass right by the audience. Saying something like "Jerry Andrus's Zone Zero, the trick that this is based on," is going to cause at least half of the viewers to hop onto the internet and look it up. They're likely to do it anyways, but make them work for it a little =P
Penn & Teller ended the show with a card trick! Penn was on stage with Alyson as a guest while Teller stayed behind for this one. During the break, Alyson was prepped to put two pieces of tape on her butt... you see where this is going, right?
Penn shuffled the deck and shuffled some more, then handed the deck to Alyson to put behind her back. She gave it a cut and took a card and stuck it to the left side, and another card stuck to the right side.
Penn then calls out that one of the cards that is on one of Alyson's sides is a 3 of Diamonds and another is the Queen of Diamonds. Penn then asked Alyson to name which is which. She guessed that the 3 of Diamonds was on the left, which by process of elimination meant the Queen was on the right.
She reached back pulled out the left card and wouldn't you believe it, the 3 of Diamonds! The right, the Queen of Diamonds!
Forcing a card is one thing. Forcing a card behind a spectator's back, in their hands, ok we can do that. Forcing two cards after a spectator cuts the deck behind their back ups the game to a whole new level. However, getting the same spectator to be able to guess which is which is pretty amazing.
This is one routine I would love to add to my repertoire. Perhaps without the tape on the butt part, but maybe something more simple like sticking the card in your left back pocket, then the right. Taking a quick peek (hint, hint), divining the selections would be doable. Getting them to guess properly may take a bit of equivoque though, so that's the part I'll need to work out.
Speaking of which, did you notice Penn's voice was much lower and less excited than usual?
All of the acts in this episode were good. I'm a little surprised that they started the show with Dani DaOrtiz though, given that his act was many tricks back-to-back-to-back. It kind of setup the impression that each performance would be more towards the energetic side of things, and possibly multiple foolers for the night, but the other three were a lot more relaxed than Dani. It does make me wonder if we'll see an episode with multiple foolers this year though. Hopefully we do!
Either way, I'm excited for the next round of magic!