Four different acts, four very different performances.
In this episode of Fool Us, we get a taste of so many different types of magic. An expertly crafted card trick that was blown up to be a full stage performance, coins appearing where they shouldn't, a grandma slamming her head onto a table, and a member of the Adam's Family performing some amazing ball and card manipulations. If you aren't entertained after this episode, are you sure you even like magic?
Keep on reading below to get an overview of the different acts, and to see who fooled Penn & Teller!
Alexandra - Silently Bound
Alexandra Burgio, or simply Alexandra, is a dancer, designer, magician, and dare I say, aspiring pro wrestler!
She doesn't have the largest of online profiles from what I can find. Her Instagram (@axburgio) hasn't been updated in a while and her Twitter account is currently suspended. With that in mind, most of the information I have about her career in magic is based on her intro for Fool Us.
She's been a magician's assistant for 16 years, currently performing in Canada at Greg Frewin Theatre. However, this looks like it's her debut coming out as a magician herself! With an act and performance like this, I can't wait to see what else she has in store for us.
This act took a neat turn in the middle, one of those "you had to be there to understand" kind of things. But, as a general walkthrough of Alexandra's performance, let's start at the beginning.
On stage there was a large, and I mean large spider-web looking contraption. What was it for? Well, after having her mouth taped, Alexandra was chained to the giant contraption by an assistant. Also, no words have been spoken up to this point!
The assistant then walked to close a curtain in front of the chained-up Alexandra and without stopping walked behind the curtain and out the other side... except, it was Alexandra that appeared on the other side and she immediately ripped down the curtain to show the assistant bound and chained where the magician was just a second ago!
And then, remember that "turn in the middle" I mentioned? And then, she wheeled over a chalkboard and threw an inflatable ball into the crowd.
As the ball bounced around the audience, she pointed to the chalkboard for the current holder of the ball, and they selected one of the values for the current turn. Values such as "Odd" or "Even", then "Red" or "Black". Eventually, the card that was freely selected by the audience was the 10 of Diamonds.
Tearing the tape from her mouth, that was placed there at the very beginning of the act, she pulled a card from her mouth and holy smokes, it was the 10 of Diamonds!
There were two very distinct and very different magical features in Alexandra's act, however, she very cleverly linked the two together via the very first thing that happened: her mouth was taped shut.
This single event, the taping of her mouth, set the stage for a lot in the trick. First, it fit well into her first trick of being bound to a spider-web thing. Second, it gave her justification for not speaking during her act, and effectively not being able to influence a selection. Lastly, it added even more suspense and mystery as to how the freely selected card was bound-and-sealed in her mouth the entire time!
Her first trick was flawless. She was clearly chained, and the assistant's flow never faltered, it was just a perfectly smooth and clean transposition. That alone was amazing to me. But then she went and brought out a chalkboard... and a beach ball.
The free-choice selection did feel like it took a little while longer than necessary, but the payoff was beyond worth it. I can only imagine how painful it was to remove the tape, but she consistently showed her hands to be empty -- in most other scenarios, the over-proof would have been annoyingly unnecessary but in her act, again, it was perfectly ideal!
Did She Fool Penn & Teller?
Penn went straight into it and called out the name of the first part of her act, fairly well categorized as "Assistant's Revenge". I was confident while watching that they would've known that one immediately, so this wasn't a surprise to me.
Moving on to the second part of the act, Penn mentioned that they believe it was a completely free choice and, "pointing with his index finger," asked if they would be able to inspect the board itself in case anything was hidden. Alexandra turned the board around to reveal a not-so-pretty but oh-so-common-in-magic backing of the prop on stage. Penn and Teller then went up to manually inspect the board and found nothing!
What a fooler!
I loved this whole act. Yes, I felt like the "free choice" selection took longer than I'd like, but in the grand scheme of things, I think that it made the revelation at the end so much stronger.
I'm a little upset that Penn name-dropped "Assistant's Revenge." I don't, personally, do any kind of stage magic so tricks like that are still mysterious to me. I've seen them before, and sure I have ideas as to how they're done, but I don't actually know how they're done. Knowing their names makes me slightly more curious to look it up. I won't, but I could easily do it now that I know...
I had two immediate thoughts about the card revelation when she started bringing it out from her mouth. The first was the same as Penn's hint, except I was thinking that her hair had something to do with it and not the board itself. However, she showed her hands empty before pulling it from her mouth, so that wasn't it. The second thought is still plausible, but she wouldn't have had access to all 52 card values in this case. Doable, yes... but it would've changed the entire presentation and the "free choice" would've not felt very free. But it did. So, while plausible, it would've required several other outs and, well, we'll never actually know!
Great job, Alexandra!
Artem - Manipulation Multiplied
Artem Shchukin has been around just a bit. He's been on America's Got Talent, having received 4 yesses during his audition round. He's won a gold medal at I.B.M., an annual magic convention, as well as being crowned the European Champion for Manipulation in 2021 and the World F.I.S.M. Champion for Manipulation in 2022! If you've seen his act on Fool Us, these things should come as no surprise (but continue reading below anyways!).
If you want to keep up with Artem, check out his Instagram page (@artem_shchukin_official).
This act started out all dark. Literally, there was only a silhouette of a man with a top hat!
As Artem came more into focus, his outfit still all dark, he removed his top hat and began playing with it curiously. Out of nowhere, a small white ball appeared. And just as easily, it disappeared!
Raising the hat above his head and tipping it over, the ball fell out, bounced on the floor and landed in his waiting hand. And thus, kickstarted the adventure of Artem's manipulation act.
The ball next travelled magically across the rim of the hat, Artem took the ball and it turned into a ribbon and then into a coin and back into a ball only to turn into a card.
Over the next few minutes, Artem produced cards, cards, and even more cards. The ribbon made a return, a thin card was seen, even a card turned fully transparent! All the end back as a lone ball.
All beautifully manipulated.
Did He Fool Penn & Teller?
It may come as no surprise, but Penn and Teller were not fooled by this act. They, or rather Penn, said that Artem's act was great, and he had "unbelievable chops", and the primary hint was that he was doing things with cards that you'd do with billiard balls and turn them all into images.
In the end:
I really enjoy acts like this. Like, really enjoy them. I think that Artem's act is not only a pure demonstration of skill and practice, but also creativity, character, and planning.
However, and this is an honest question, but what is their purpose on Fool Us? In my opinion, a manipulation act like this would never fool Penn and Teller -- and I don't think it's meant to. I'm almost of the opinion that Fool Us includes acts like this for entertainment, and it also helps with publicity for the performer too. I say "almost" because I do want to hold on to the idea that maybe they are including something in their manipulation that they're trying to make P&T go "wait, how'd he do that?!"
Anthony Dempsey - The Magical Taste
Grave dirt, comedy magic, and Fool Us. Sounds like a combination meant for Penn & Teller, and Anthony Dempsey brought it for real.
Besides a collector of grave dirt, he's both a magician and mentalist who's currently based in Dallas. Check out his Instagram (@anthony_entertains) for up-to-date posts and memes, and for more info about booking a gig, head on over to his website: anthonyentertains.com
Anthony began his act sitting at a table with his... magic grandma. On the table was a cup full of, what we learned to be, Scrabble tiles.
After a quick intro speech, he pulled Penn and Teller to join him and his... magic grandma... at the table. Once there, they began to play an interesting game of "I can hear letters as they're selected."
He had Penn and Teller each choose face-down tiles and place them into the cup, with a gentle shake he called out what they were. Soon, on a whiteboard held by the grandma, they had written FOO_ US, the "_" being a "blank tile".
Emptying out the cup, he asked Penn and Teller to confirm that they do indeed spell this. They didn't!
Shifting gears, Anthony asked them to come up with any word they wanted, using the tiles in front of them. They struggled slightly, perhaps the letters weren't the easiest to come up with words with. However, they eventually came up with a word and Anthony then revealed that his magic grandma is able to determine letters by taste!
They put the tiles that spelled the word into the grandma's mouth. Unfortunately, she began choking and smashed her head onto the table. Anthony lifted her head and asked Penn and Teller if the tiles stuck to her forehead made up their selected word:
Overall, the performance went smoothly. Letters were selected, miscalled, and things moved into the actual trick itself.
There were elements of the performance, however, that need refining. Misdirection via a spraying water bottle, for example, is kind of an odd thing to toss in there. Or maybe it wasn't misdirection at all and was just, a thing? And tiles stuck on the grandma's forehead when they clearly went into her mouth -- after all, that's what she's choking on -- rather discrepant.
Backing up to the middle of the routine, when Anthony poured out the selected tiles, it felt a little too nonchalant to be real. As a magician, I definitely get what he was going for. Don't draw attention to it, make it a normal, totally expected flow of clearing the table of tiles and emptying out the cup. Except, I think in this case it has the opposite effect of drawing suspicion. A little more proof, or fluff, added to the routine to demonstrate that these were in fact the tiles that Penn and Teller selected would have gone a long way.
Did He Fool Penn & Teller?
Ultimately, the act didn't fool Penn and Teller. Penn did say that the act was done in their style, so that's kind of a plus. He didn't give a huge overview of things, but his main hint was that, when trying to find a word, they were just kind of stuck there with "fox".
When trying to get the "you didn't fool us" words out, Penn had a bit of trouble and... well, yeah.
As soon as we saw the "magic grandma," my son asked me "why does that grandma look like a grown man wearing a really bad mask." I told him that that was a very mean and rude thing to say, some people look differe... oh wait, that does look like a horribly bad mask, and very manly arms.
Circling back to what I mentioned above in the Performance Overview, my very first thought when Anthony poured out the selected tiles was that he just switched them. All the build-up around hearing tile values, and then nothing? That was a disappointing start, only to be further disappointed by the attempted-to-be-smooth tile switch.
And seriously, why spray water everywhere?
The biggest discrepancy for me, and I work tirelessly to try to avoid discrepancy in tricks, was that the tiles ended up on her forehead. Then again, perhaps that was what the mask was for 🧲
I feel like there was a lot of great potential in this routine. Anthony knows how to perform and speak well -- I liked his personality and general style. But the actual routine needs work, even for "comedy magic."
Rune Carlsen - Just a Pill Box
Rune is a cybersecurity professional by day and a magician by night! At least, that's what his Fool Us intro said. If you take a look at his Instagram (@runecarlsen) or website (magiskunderholdning.no), he's a magician through-and-through!
Seriously though, his Instagram page alone is inspiring and fun, so I'm both a little upset and surprised I haven't heard of Rune before this episode. I'm looking forward to seeing more from him, or at least following him on IG =P
The act started with Rune standing at a table with Penn & Teller there with him. Seated on the table itself was an old chest, one that is said to have taken Rune 10 years to build. He opened the chest and smoke poured out... then he slammed it closed and said "that was it!" 🤣
After the quick comedy tension-cut, he produced a small metal cylindrical box. Inside he showed that it is used to hold three of his pills.
Very clearly, he took the pills into his hand and put them away into his pocket.
Placing the lid back on the box, he gave it a quick shake and upon opening it, a large coin magically appeared!
He poured the coin from the box and placed it on the table in front of him. Replacing the lid back on the box, he gave it a quick shake and upon opening it, another large coin magically appeared! Yet again, he placed this coin on the table.
Once more he repeated this and produced another large coin, and then another! Four large coins in total, stretching reality as there's no way those coins and the original pills could have fit in such a box.
And then, he placed the lid back on the box and gave it a quick shake. The three pills were in the box!
There isn't too much I can say about the performance itself other than it was smoothly performed and timed very well. I intently watched his hands, as would anyone who would be there with him, and they were as calm as I could imagine -- if it were me, I guarantee you my hands would have a slight tremor to them with that kind of pressure.
Rune's act didn't contain too much "fluff" in terms of story or patter, it was fairly straight to the point. Also, normally I dislike when a magician tries to force an idea into your head like "you see the card, it's a totally normal card right? it's normal, see?" -- but in this case, I was glad when Rune made a mention of the idea that those coins could not have physically fit into the container itself. It was a thought I had in my head after the second coin was produced thinking that there's no way anything else could be in there... but there was! It was, in this exact case, a confirmation of my thought that further solidified it and I think that that worked our very well!
Did He Fool Penn & Teller?
Penn didn't spend time beating around the bush, he went straight with name-dropping that it was an Okito Coin Box right off the bat. Most magicians would've already known that, but I'm not sure if the entire audience needed to know that -- give them something to Google later on. Then again, during the episode my son shouted out:
So, maybe even a lot of non-magicians know what an Okito box is.
Moving on though, Penn's next hint was a good smack in the face to me to learn more coin magic:
I mostly focus on card magic, but I've been expanding my skillset over the last year or so and coins have crept in a little. Not a lot, but a little. And this specific thing, or "sleight", I still can't grasp how it actually works in a live performance. Anytime I find out that a magician employs it in front of a real audience, hot damn. Hat tip to you good sir!
Penn ended things by saying that Rune did in fact fool him, but he didn't fool Teller.
I enjoyed this trick, I thought that it was overall a good example of a magic trick. Was it "Penn & Teller: Fool Us" worthy, I'm not sure. Rune started off by speaking about creativity, but I can't really tell you the difference between the trick that was presented here and a standard Okito box trick. Was it the pills? Maybe. But if so, is it really that much different?
Penn & Teller - Let's Juggle
This episode's performance by Penn & Teller was primarily Penn. Teller was involved too, but it was really just Penn. Though, in a fun twist, Teller was the comic relief. I don't follow the world-of-juggling very much, but from what I can tell, this performance was an homage to Michael Davis's juggling routine.
There wasn't magic involved in this skit, it was actually a performance of juggling skill. Penn prompted the audience for members to provide any objects and he will juggle them. Any objects at all. He turned down things like phones and a shoe, but then Teller consistently -- from the audience -- insisted on providing an object. So, Penn brought him up and up he came... briefcase and all.
From the briefcase, Teller produced three different balls. The first was an apple. I'm assuming it was a real apple. The second was a light-as-could-be ping pong ball. If you've ever tried juggling with one, it's actually pretty difficult. The final ball was a heavy, normal sized bowling ball!
Penn juggled all three of them together and it was, overall, a good demonstration of skill. Though, I do still wonder how that bowling ball fit into the briefcase...
Well, there you have it folks. We're 2 episodes into Season 10 and the magic's still ramping up and ready to go!
The season's first episode whetted my appetite for multiple foolers -- or at least more foolers this season. Tonight's episode had 1, which was still great. I can't wait to see what's next for Fool Us.