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!
The night's episode started out with a routine that was quick, but extremely strong. It set the stage for the episode and I was hoping the rest of the acts would be that level, or higher. Not all were, unfortunately, but they did show off different variations of magic, so there's not a lot to complain about.
The fooler of the night's episode was Hector Mancha. His laid back and carefree personality made his routine just that much more impossible. After that though, we saw a guy nail a block of wood to his face (yeah, you read that right), a "pick an envelope" trick scaled up to human size, and a new gameshow that uses magic to make you always win!
Interested in hearing more? Keep on reading below =]
Hector Mancha, @hector.mancha, is one silly fireman! At least, that's what they talked about on the show. A magician from Spain, and one with a great sense of humor, I knew this guy would be great. I also could have sworn I heard of him before... as soon as the show was over, I came to my office and saw his latest book on my shelf: The Wonderous World of Pickpocketing -- what an interesting guy!
Hector's routine was quick and to the point. He had a card put into a glass which was visible to everyone the entire time. Then, he had Alyson make a video phone call to... someone. I'm actually not sure who the person was, or how or why Alyson had it all ready to go. However, give the rules of Fool Us, it had to be a legitimate call.
The boy on the other end of the call was asked to name any card, and given the opportunity to change the choice too.
His named card, yup - it was the card in the glass!
I just want to start off by saying, the whole video thing confused me. Hector's performance style was fantastic - I really enjoyed it, and the act itself was great. But, the phone call felt too fake, but perhaps it was the best thing to do without an actual audience? Assuming the call was legitimate, I'm fooled six ways to Sunday!
Penn started his portion of the chat with saying:
I laughed pretty hard at this because, well, I feel the same way!
Penn did have a guess at how it was possibly done, but it turned out to not be the method. Hector fooled them!
Here's a guy I've never heard of before, but would like to see more from. His IG (@parisiadam) is full of books and comical things, and his performance on Fool Us -- while not exactly my type of trick -- shows not only skill but some good creativity.
Adam began everything by describing the story of how he and his kids picked their first family pet. This involved making up names and writing them on blank cards -- which he showed the large list of animals like dog, cat, pig, sloth, duck, and more.
He then had Penn pick a card to select one of the animals. He stopped at "fish".
Then, he said that that might not have been fair, so they're going to select it a different way. He had Alyson select a bag from a pile of them, then dropped all of the cards into it.
Pulling out a nail, he poked it through the bag and then proceeded to nail it into his nose. Yes, straight into his nose!
Ripping the bag away, he was left with a single card hanging on the nail -- which was still in his nose -- and it read "fish"!
Ending the routine, he pulled out the world's tiniest goldfish bowl that had a real goldfish in it!
Penn was really quick to call out Block Head, the carny trick used to nail, well, a nail into your nose. The overall trick didn't fool Penn and Teller, but if that goldfish bowl was larger, I'm sure it could have at least left them guessing!
Ben's a man of many talents, but one of his largest creations is Smokus Pocus, a magic show centered around, well, smoking. So much for DARE, amiright? He's not incredibly active on IG (@benzabinmagic) or other social platforms from what I can tell, but he may post updates on his website every now-and-then (benzabin.com).
Ben's routine started off with 6 guys on stage, each with a number written on them. Rather, that's how the stage was set -- his routine didn't start until much later.
Instead, he started telling a 2-minute-long story that made me question whether I should've let me kids, who aren't even old enough to have phones yet, watch the show. He went on and on about how he was being extorted, or blackmailed, into paying money to prevent naked pictures of himself from being sent to his friends and family. Ouch!
Annnnd then we realized, that whole intro wasn't actually part of the trick. Dude...
So, back to the guys on the stage, each with a number on them. He took a stack of folders that supposedly had pictures in them and handed one to each guy, in order.
Next, he took 6 cards that had numbers 1 through 6 on them and had Alyson mix them and select one. She picked the card with number 1.
Having each guy, 2 through 6, open their folders, they had the same picture - an army private. The final envelope, he had Penn come on stage and Ben opened it for him - "in private". Penn confirmed it was the unique picture. And, that was that.
Unfortunately for Ben, he didn't fool Penn and Teller. Penn said they enjoyed the trick and that it was one of the best things he's seen on the show -- the naked picture, to be clear -- but he gave enough clues to show that they knew how the routine was done.
In my opinion, the routine itself wasn't strong. That, or the performance of it was lacking. A number was selected, the others were eliminated one-by-one and then Ben himself opened the final envelope (for Penn). There was no excitement, and since Ben opened the final envelope on his own, it screamed "method".
Mix the folders around, or have the guys randomly pick them, or have them swap based on selections or something. Then, have someone other than the magician open the final one. Any of these things could've made the performance have a little extra umph! Just a suggestion =]
Robert's been in the magic business for quite a while, but looking into his background a bit, he has a different kind of profile that I don't see too often (which could easily be just because I don't pay attention =P). He's a magician, but from what I gather from his website (strongentertainment.com), he doesn't necessarily go and do magic shows or walkarounds -- rather, he MC's and gives speeches, and also performs magic at those events too. It's an interesting take on things, one that oddly enough aligns with things that I do... it's making me wonder if I've finally found a way to incorporate magic into my day job 🤔
Robert performed in a rather interesting way. He had a table out that had a camera mounted directly on top of it. I've never seen this setup on Fool Us before, so it was quite neat.
The premise of the performance was a magical game show named Fool Hardy.
On the table in front of him, he had a line of cards that had the letter "Q" on the back, below them each had a number, 1 through 5, and below those he would be placing cards that had the letter "A" on the back. Q & A, question and answer.
He mixed up the A cards and had Penn and Teller call out "stop", then specify what number to put the card under. He did this for all 5.
After placing all 5 A's, he flipped an A, the "answer", and then flipped the corresponding Q to show the matching question!
Penn and Teller... weren't fooled. Penn's clue originally didn't mesh with how I thought the trick was done. A word he used made me think of something else entirely, and I didn't pick up any of the other words. After writing this paragraph the first time, I wanted to quote his clue but couldn't remember the words, so I went and played it back ... and it did actually match my guess, fairly accurately! He was just really clever with his word-choice and it flew right over my head. If I was a magician on stage and that had happened, yikes! I wonder if that's happened before (where they don't understand the hints Penn's giving)?
Penn & Teller
Penn & Teller ended the show with a great comedy routine with a single deck of cards and just the two of them. The idea was that Teller is the magician and Penn, well, isn't. But, Teller's been teaching Penn how to perform card tricks and the very first thing he's taught him is how to do a false shuffle.
Penn takes a deck that's in new-deck-order, and cuts it into two piles. Never actually touching the piles, he mimics the "riffle shuffle" sound. Then, puts the two halves back together.
Spreading the deck shows that it's completely shuffled! What?! How?!
Teller takes the deck and does the same thing and after spreading it, it's back in perfect new-deck-order!
What a great idea for a quick and mind-blowing routine. I almost ordered a deck right after watching the episode, not going to lie =P
Was I excited that Hector won right away and the potential of having a second fooler in the episode, finally? Yes. Was I disappointed that there wasn't a second fooler? Yes =P
Overall, it was a night of magic. Hector's was my favorite of the performers themselves, and I also really liked Penn and Teller's piece. But I am still holding out for a night when there will be multiple magicians that best the duo!
Either way, I'm excited for the next round of magic!