My earliest memory of Penn and Teller is a TV show that had a section where they got you to record the show so that you could then use that recording as the reveal in a card trick on an unsuspecting member of the family.
I’ve always enjoyed watching them perform. Sometimes, I’ve enjoyed where they “reveal” how a magic trick is done, only to then re-do the trick in a way that their previous explanation just wouldn’t cope with. At other times, I’ve loved the sheer skill of the trick, where you just watch in wonderment and admiration of the hours of practice it would have taken to make it look so effortless.
When I realised I had the opportunity to visit Las Vegas on my own, thankfully my wife didn’t take much persuading to allow me to go & see their show at the Rio. Tonight, I’ve just seen that show and here are my thoughts …
My main takeaway from the show is that it is primarily aimed at an American audience and I say this for two reasons:
1. As a UK resident, I’ve recently seen Penn & Teller in two seasons of a show called “Penn & Teller: Fool Us” where magicians were challenged to perform a trick right in from of them in the hope that they wouldn’t know how it was done. At the end of each show, they performed one of their own tricks for the audience. Unfortunately, a fair number of these have made their way into their Rio show. Now, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, particularly since US audiences are unlikely to have seen “Fool Us” and they are very good routines, but it takes a little bit of the edge off.
2. There were a number of references to the Constitution and Amendments. As a non-US citizen, I don’t know which Amendment covers what, so that dialogue left me a bit in the dark and wondering what the patter was all about.
That aside, it was a great show – over a bit too quickly for my liking but the fact that time went very quickly is a sign of how much I enjoyed myself. Stand-out routines were Teller as a Little Teapot – a routine that at first glance seems to be very trivial and simple but I rather suspect belies the amount of thought and effort that has gone into it – and Teller manipulating a large red ball with a hoop. This was actually a very good example of P&T telling us how the routine is done – with a thread – but is an excellent example of how the routine itself goes way beyond that simple example, with Teller manipulating the ball in ways that leaves your brain thinking “err, if the ball is attached to the thread, how did he get it to do that?”.
For me, the weakest point in the show was the “close up magic” routine. Unfortunately, I found myself waiting for the reveal that I predicted pretty much the moment it started. As a result, the patter and routine left me a bit cold. A shame as I suspect I would have really enjoyed it if I hadn’t been expecting the denouement. If anything, a really good example of why you don’t want to know how magic tricks are done. It just spoils it.
I’m glad I went to see them, though. They are a fantastically great double-act and complement each other’s skills and attributes brilliantly.