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!
Four acts came on, as usual, and four acts entertained us all! There was a lot of mind reading, or not-mind-reading rather. But... mind reading. Mentalism ruled the episode and we saw everything from classic props to custom-designed cards. Penn's clues for each routine were a lot less clue-like than usual, but in one of the cases it's because the magician told him to flat-out say how it was done. What a fun one!
The fooler of the night's episode was Alan Hudson. His plastic-wrapped routine was entertaining, and while Penn and Teller had an actual guess that sounded plausible, it wasn't how he did it! The other acts were fun too, each having to do with a type of mentalism. I would say that mentalism was the theme of the episode, but Alan's trick wasn't... maybe that's the secret?
Dustin was introduced on the show as the "TikTok Trickster". Not using that app myself, I had to look it up and sure enough, that's fairly accurate. He likes to post videos debunking other magicians -- specifically mentalists who err on the side of being a psychic. That aside though, he's actually a magician himself and he does actual gigs. You can check out all about it on his website, dustindeanmentalist.com, or on Instagram (@dustindeanmentalist).
Dustin started his set by saying that he hopes, if he doesn't fool Penn and Teller, that they don't speak in code and say exactly how he did his tricks -- which fits with his whole schtick of debunking psychics.
His first trick dealt with telekinesis, the ability to move objects with your mind. He used a Psi Wheel which is a needle with a piece of paper balanced on top, under a glass jar. Using telekinesis, he spun the paper around the needle, using only his mind!
Up second, he showed off the power of Pyrokinesis. This is the ability to control fire with your mind. He had Alyson help and choose two matches, one for herself and one for him. The goal of the trick was to light the match and try to put it out -- with your mind. Alyson, of course, couldn't. However, Dustin's went out really nicely.
Finally, he demonstrated chrono-kinesis -- the ability to control time. He had Alyson name a number (9) and then pulled out his phone. The time on the phone read 8:25 and he rewound it by 9 minutes to 8:16. Looking at Alyson's phone, and then Penn & Teller's, sure enough, he "controlled" time everywhere by 9 minutes.
He didn't fool Penn and Teller, and Penn asked a few times whether he was serious about them being totally honest. Upon receiving confirmation, Penn broke down -- rather quickly -- exactly how he did each trick! Even with that information though, I don't know how he did the first two =P
Alan Hudson, where do I know that name? Oh, right! Alan was a magician that appeared on the very first season of Penn and Teller -- the original one back in England! He's been a magician for quite a while and even offered (and still offers) a large virtual Zoom magic show for remote appearances, but as you'll see in this episode of Fool Us, he has something great to offer in-person too! You can see more of his magic on his website (alanhudson.net) and Instagram (@alanhudsonmagic).
He started off his routine by saying exactly what he was going to do, he would find a playing card not once, but twice. The first time, he'd use sleight of hand and the second time, real magic!
Alan called over Alyson to sign a playing card and then he "lost" it in the deck.
After a cut or two of the deck, he did an aerial flourish where a card flew out of the deck and he caught it. It wasn't Alyson's signed card, but it did change into it (via a Top Change -- which he stated out loud =P).
Next, he put the card back into the middle of the deck and pulled out a roll of plastic wrap! Alyson's job? To wrap him from toe to head in plastic wrap! Or, at least, from knees to shoulders.
Out of nowhere, all of the cards shot out of the table where he sat the deck and one -- the signed card -- was tucked underneath the plastic wrap!
Penn provided a decent guess of how the trick was done. Unable to come up with suitable "code", he said that he thinks that Alan's arm could move and he had the card palmed. During the cards shooting up, he moved his arm and placed the card. Unfortunately for the duo, this wasn't how the trick was done! He straight up fooled them!
I actually liked that he didn't go through the whole charade of "pick a card and then sign it". He just handed her a card to get the trick started. Suspicious, slightly -- but only if anything that followed warranted a "modified" card. That aside, and I think this is highly dependent on the fact that I've been practicing a Marlo trick or two that are similar, when he began showing "what other magicians would do" to find the card, I predicted that the card would be under his jacket. Sure, I didn't know he was about to wrap with cellophane -- and I don't know how he actually sprung the card out from there -- but I'm happy that I followed it that far =]
Dr. Kruti Parekh
Dr. Kruti Parekh is a mentalist from India. Or, as she stated, she wants to bring everyone a little Mumbai Magic! The "about" page on her website, krutiparekh.com), says that she has a Phd in Magical Entertainment and Humanities from USA -- but there is no such degree as far as I'm aware, so the "Dr." in her name may be part of her stage name. Keep up with her fun acts around the world by watching her IG - @officialkrutiparekh.
Dr. Kruti came out and said:
Bringing Alyson over, she did some breathing exercises and said that she traveled 5 minutes into the future and witnessed Penn and Teller play a game of Tic Tac Toe. You see where this is going, right?
Showing a large Tic Tac Toe board on the table, and square-shaped cards with X's and O's, she had Alyson specify where each card should be placed on the board. Each card was placed face down, nobody knew which was which.
Then, Penn and Teller actually played a game of Tic Tac Toe on a sheet of paper with markers.
Flipping over the cards, one by one, they each match the actual game that was played... until two in a row didn't match. And then two more didn't match. But wait! The board was sideways -- rotating it one turn had a perfect match.
The trick didn't fool the magic duo, but Penn did call out that he thinks it was an original premise. At least, the time travel portion of it. His big clue was that, similar to having a choice between X's and O's as a player of the game, she also had a choice. That fits with my guess as to how it was done, which was only based on her handling of turning over each card, but I'm not extremely confident with my guess so I'm going with a "she fooled me" =]
Kyle's been in the magic scene for over 15 years now, and while he's great at performing, he likes to say that he's even better at inventing. I do fully acknowledge that his inventions are pretty great, but having seen him perform in person -- he's damn good at that too. See for yourself on his Instagram, @kyle_purnell_magic!
Kyle started his set with the above quote, but then introduced the latest and greatest in alien clairvoyant technology that he got at a truck-stop in Area 51. He showed off these little black cards that were full of tiny holes.
He pulled Penn on stage and asked him to think of a random 2-digit number. Penn wrote the number on a piece of paper, put them in a little box that was then put into a box.
The stated goal was to use the alien cards to find Penn's number. Sounds simple enough, right?
Kyle started by asking a simple question:
He asked a few more questions and for each one, he held up a card and then put it down. After placing each card down, he pulled out a bright light and lined up the cards. Sure enough, they read Penn's random number: 98!
Penn and Teller weren't fooled by the routine, but I found the clues Penn gave to be really fun and on-point. I spoke with Kyle at Magifest after his lecture, still before this episode aired, and he actually showed me these "alien cards" -- and how to perform with them -- so I came into this trick with a little bit of pre-show knowledge. Knowing how it worked though makes me appreciate Kyle's performance even more because truth-be-told, "how he did it" isn't clear in the episode at all!
Penn & Teller
Penn & Teller ended the show with a really fun "behind the scenes" style trick where they demoed how other magicians might perform tricks using technology.
They stood in front of a green-screen with a green-man assistant and showed both views, the green-screen and also what it looked like "with technology".
They did a few fun little tricks that were just to show off the green-screen, but then they covered Teller with a cloth and levitated him. Magically, he disappeared and the green-man took off his hood to reveal ... you guessed it, Teller!
I enjoyed this episode. Even though there were three mentalists on, they each provided different styled routines and showed off their respective skills. Alan's card trick was pretty fun too and, while I won't be wrapping myself up in plastic wrap anytime soon, it's a fun idea that might be able to inspire new ways to reveal a card! I'm still waiting for an episode to have more than one fooler though, surely there has to be one soon, right?
Either way, I'm excited for the next round of magic!