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Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Penn & Teller Fooled

Penn & Teller have a new project for British TV called "Fool Us." They challenged magicians to perform for them (and an audience and cameras), and if they were couldn't figure out how the trick was done, the magician would be flown all-expenses paid to Las Vegas, where they'd take to the P&T Theater stage at the Rio in front of a packed house (and cameras).

Seven shows were recorded, with some three dozen acts taking a shot. The first episode aired in January. The remaining six will begin a weekly run later this month. A final episode will air at the end of the year, showing the Vegas visit of the winners.

On the TV show, hosted by Jonathan Ross, P&T showed their appreciation for the skill of the various magicians, commented on the quality of the presentation, and seemed happily surprised at a couple of the acts. Nonetheless, for almost all of the magicians, P&T knew how the illusion was done, although they didn't expose any secrets (in one case, Teller drew a diagram, which he did not let the cameras see), as the idea was not to show up the performers. Rather, it was to showcase some talented magicians and perhaps find one or two doing something truly original.

Last Saturday, Penn tweeted that anyone who wanted to see the winning acts could come to their theater at The Rio after their regular stage show and join the audience. Since I was already down the hall at the World Series Of Poker, I went over and watched from the balcony as Penn & Teller introduced the two magicians who did fool them in England: John Archer and Benjamin Earl.

Their acts were hardly alike -- the former is a big, funny, talkative guy who interacts with the audience, while the latter is a close-up specialist who lets his hands do the talking (not unlike P&T, come to think of it). Archer, by virtue of his personality, was the crowd favorite, but both of them were terrific, so I thought you'd like to see the bits they did that fooled Penn & Teller...