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 was all about animals! Specifically, magic with animals. In each performance, including Penn & Teller's at the end of the show, an animal was included and often was the medium through which the magic was performed. Typically, Fool Us episodes are pieced together from different acts throughout the season; however, it was clear that this was specifically an all-animal episode filmed on purpose. Alyson made several comments as such, which could have been simply recorded after the season was ready to be honest, however, Nick Paul -- one of the performers -- did say that he was excited to be there on the "all animal episode". So that's cool =]
The fooler of the night's episode was Jo De Rijck. Each of the performances were unique, mostly because of the animals, but also similar because they all involved either a prediction, or the animal finding a selection. The performers themselves were all very different. Read on below to get the nitty-gritty of each routine!
Jo De Rijck
Jo has been performing his whole life, just about. There was even a brief stint there where he was a professional clown -- a man after Penn's heart =P. https://www.joderijck.com/His website has some interesting information about him, but the most relevant is his pet chicken named Curry. Curry is the chicken that Jo used to fool Penn and Teller the first time around. Apparently, this chicken knows more than 20 different stunts! Mind blowing 🤯
Jo's performance was a mentalism routine, specifically of the mind-reading nature. However, he wasn't the one doing the mind reading. No, his pet snake (who identifies as a dolphin) was the one with the special powers.
Backing up a bit though, Jo started the routine by having Teller take 5 objects from the stage and placing them into a big bucket. After returning to his seat, Penn and Teller selected one of the objects and placed it into a smaller bucket with a lid -- all while Jo's had a bucket over his own head. And here's where things got interesting.
Jo brought out his pet dolphin, Willy. Willy was actually a snake, but again, a snake who identifies as a dolphin =P.
Terrified Alyson had the task of holding Willy and feeling his communication methods, whatever it is that those are. She went up to each spot where one of the original 5 objects had sat and held Willy up to each spot. The premise was that Willy would be able to communicate to Alyson when he thought that that was the object that was placed in the bucket.
One-by-one, Alyson took Willy to the spots where the objects were and when they reached the last spot where the "coral" was, Alyson said yes. Teller opened the bucket and pulled out the coral!
Penn and Teller conversed, as usual, and when Penn was giving his speech at the end he didn't even bother guessing or trying to link the routine to anything else, he just flat out said that they were fooled by Willy! I... also have no idea how this was done. It was rather quick and to the point, but fooling altogether.
Nick is a magician and comedian based in Los Angeles, and boy does he have some cheesy puns =P. I haven't seen any of his work before this episode of Fool Us, so I only know of his comedy from here. It was very well themed, so I give him scripting credits for it. He's done a ton of work in the field though and has been on several shows. Check out his IG (@realnickpaul) to get a peek into some of his work!
Nick's performance was mentalism and magic all wrapped into one. And, add to that the "failed magician in trouble" aspect, it had all the makings of a really good trick.
The name of Nick's routine was "name any animal," and he began everything with just that -- having Alyson come up with a name for an animal. She said "George".
Next up, Nick showed a list of 99 different animals. Penn and Teller came up with a number together, 77, which led to the animal "Lobster". Alyson was holding the list of animals and didn't say it out loud, but did say the animal above it and below it in the list.
He then pulled out a photo prediction he had made -- one that was sitting in front of the camera the whole time -- and it was a picture of, wait for it, a dog! Wait, what?! He failed =[
Alyson told him it was a lobster, so he unfolded the picture and it turned out to be a dog in a lobster costume! Then, an assistant brought out the live dog, also dressed in a lobster costume. Totally adorable.
Taking things to the next level, Nick then had his dog involved in a trick. He brought out a long bag that had 6 sleeves on it, each labeled A through F. Alyson, or the dog, picked one (D) and when Nick pulled out the card from the sleeve and turned it around, the back said "Treat"! Turning the whole bag around, all of the other cards said "Poop Bag" on the back!
Finally, grabbing a bag of dog treats he pulled a single treat out and said that inside of dog treats there are fortunes. He cracked it open and sure enough, a tiny piece of paper was inside. Unrolling the paper read:
So not only did he predict that "Lobster" would be the selected animal, but also that "George" was the name!
Penn and Teller weren't fooled by the routine. They, or Penn, gave a rather short statement or two about the performance and that was that.
There were a handful of things that stuck out to me as peculiar during this routine. First, why did Nick ask for the animal name above and below the selected one? He gave no explanation for it at all. Having read more than my fair share of magic and mentalism books, I know an answer to this. However, performance-wise, he should have spruced it up a bit with something like:
The other parts of the routine, from the actual animal selection itself, to the A-F selection, and the treat with a fortune inside, I know how they were done. However, knowing how it was done didn't make it any less enjoyable to watch. This was my favorite performance of the episode -- really well done Nick!
I wasn't able to find much about Sachin on social media. He has a Facebook account, but it hasn't been updated since 2020. He has a few tricks for sale on Penguin Magic though, but that doesn't give us much in terms of a bio. The only big thing I found was that he's been in magic for over 20 years -- so that's cool!
Sachin's performance was recorded and streamed from his home country of India. He had a spectator select a card from a fairly tight spread, but nobody, not even the spectator, looked at it. After signing the back of the card with a silver marker, the spectator selected several other cards from the deck. They were all put together and mixed up. Then, turning them face up they were mixed further.
Sachin laid all of the cards in a row and allowed the spectator to mix them up even more, which he did. And then, out came the bird!
This pigeon was a spectacle to behold. Giant feathers ruffled here and there, it just waltzed straight out to the line of cards and pecked one. After pecking, it went back to the cage. What a well trained animal!
Sachin then turned over each card to reveal that the one the bird pecked was in fact the spectator's selection!
Overall, the routine was kind of lackluster in the effect-department. While it would be fun to see it in person and not streamed (streamed and on TV, no less), it still isn't a very strong routine in my opinion.
Initially, I was suspicious of the way the card was selected. He, Sachin, let the spectator pick cards twice -- once for the original selection and again for the other cards. The problem from a presentation perspective is that the selection processes were very different. The first, important, selection felt very forced because the spread between his hands was so tight and the spectator didn't actually get to pull a card out, Sachin simply laid it down for him... in a very controlled way. The second selection was open; he spread the entire deck across the table and let the spectator openly pull out cards. This discrepancy, whether true or not, gives me a plausible method to the routine too.
Christopher T and Sam
Christopher T., what a vibrant character. Just looking at this guy, I knew he was a kids' magician. Sure enough, that's his big audience. I've never heard of him -- which seems to be a side-theme of tonight's episode -- but he seems really fun. If you take a look at his website, he offers a few different types of shows, but they are all kid themed. However, truth be told they sound rather fun for adults too. His IG (@christophertmagician) has a lot of non-kid content though so I don't think he limits himself to only young audiences. Variety, it's the spice of life =]
This routine was pretty quick, so I'll get straight to it. Christopher T sat on a couch with his little dog, Sam. Bringing out a deck of cards, he spread through the cards and Sam pulled one out with his mouth. It was the 5 of Hearts.
Christopher pulled out a "prediction" envelope that had a paper inside with two bones drawn on it. Canine-ese, is what it was written in, and meant "5 of Hearts." Wiping the paper made parts of the bones disappear and it did in fact reveal the "5❤️"!
Taking it a step further, he turned the paper around and it was printed on a large 5❤️ card! But wait, there's more -- Sam's nametag on his collar also had the words "five of hearts" written on it. This card selection was very, very well predicted!
This, of course, didn't fool Penn and Teller. They didn't really appear to drop many clues as to knowing how it was done, not that they needed to, but they straight-up said "we don't think you fooled us".
I think that the idea was cute, incorporating a dog into the card magic routine. The card selection itself wasn't the best for on-camera though given that they zoomed in and we could see that one card was sticking out more than another, and Christopher very not nonchalantly forced it into Sam's grasp. For a single card selection, the number of predictions were a bit overkill too. At least, for me they were.
Penn & Teller
Penn & Teller ended the show with a pretty hilarious act. Alyson was standing in front of a podium table that had a magician's hat on it, upside down. Penn and Teller were standing on either side of her and Penn began his speech.
He went on and on about one of their performances on The Tonight Show with David Letterman and how they had the same setup that we saw there. Under the hat, when Letterman lifted it, was a ton of cockroaches. There were a lot of cockroaches. Alyson was apprehensive, to say the least.
"Lift the hat." Penn said. "Lift the hat."
She lifted the hat, and nothing was under it. Phew.
She put the hat back down and Penn says immediately, "Lift the hat again."
Alyson is on edge now, but she lifts the hat and there's a tiny box. Opening it and there's nothing frightening, it's a little stuffed animal. Phew.
"Lift the hat again."
She lifts the hat and expletives start flying, as do a bunch of butterflies all around her. All of the suspense and tension worked exactly on point!
Last but not least, turning the hat over revealed a live bunny! The animal style episode ended with the classic pulling a rabbit out of a hat routine. Perfection!
What an interesting theme for the night of magic. Other than holiday specials, I can't recall if they've ever done a themed night before. My guess is that they had 4 different acts all wanting to do magic with animals, so they decided a joint show would be neat. And neat it was! I wonder if they'll do any other themes in the future?
Either way, I'm excited for the next round of magic!
If you're interested in chatting more in-depth about any of the routines, feel free to reach out.