Penn & Teller: Fool Us, US run on CW

Okay, I spotted this show running on the CW, a small network on US television. It’s actually a series filmed in the UK back in 2011, which was discussed in a thread here.

I started reading that thread after watching the first episode, but they were discussing shows and tricks I didn’t see, and I found that annoying, I want to discuss the shows as I see them, without reveals on shows that haven’t aired in the US yet. So I’m starting this thread.

The premise of the show: invite magicians on to perform for Penn and Teller and a studio audience. If the magician can fool P&T, they get to go perform at one of P&T’s Vegas shows. But if P&T can guess how the trick is done, they may reveal it to the audience and tv show. And at the end of the show, P&T perform.

The first episode is titled Stab a Card, Any Card

The first performer is Mark Shortland. The trick:

He pulls out a regular 6-sided die and hands it to the host (Jonathan Ross). Then he pulls out 6 brown envelopes, and 5 cheap phones. He has Jonathan place each of the phones in a separate envelope and seal them, and then take out his own personal phone and place it in an envelope and seal it. After shuffling the envelopes so no one can tell which envelope has which phone, he then pulls out stickers and has Jonathan place a number 1 through 6 on each envelope. Then he places the die from before into a clear plastic box to roll the die in. Having Jonathan roll the die, he then uses a mallet to smash whichever number the die rolls, until he only has one left. He even had Penn come up an smash one of the phones. The last phone, of course, is Jonathan’s and is amazingly safe.

P&T review the trick, try to inspect the die, and then point out after a few rolls that “he’s really lucky. Really really lucky.” In other words, the die doesn’t have a side 4, which is the envelope number with the host’s phone. I think he constrains the phone into number 4 because he handles the envelopes after they are sealed but before the numbers are added, so he can tell by feel which is the host’s phone, and then lays them on the table in such a way and directs the numbering to ensure that is the 4 envelope. He swaps the die when taking it from the host and placing in the box.

Nice trick and well-performed.

Next act: Mathieu Bich

Bich hands Penn an inflatable beach ball and has him throw it randomly in the audience, and asks that lady for red or black (red). She throws it, and he asks for hearts or diamonds (diamonds). She throws it, he asks low or high (high). She throws it, he asks for 7 through K, the guy picks 9. So the selected card is 9 of Diamonds.

He then goes to a table where he has a wooden box with a special deck of cards. The deck is all blank, no writing, which he shows us in bits. He does a lot of cutting and stacking and moving around, to reveal three printed cards that say “Your” “Card” “Is the”. He then fans the rest of the cards and reveals on the edge writing that says “Nine of Diamonds”.

The trick is impressive enough, but Penn makes a stab at guessing. He points out the selection is convincingly random and not forced selection. Then he says that magicians often use props that they look like they don’t care about, that seem extraneous to the trick, but really are intrinsic to the trick, so he says he thinks the box is important, and that there is more than one deck of cards. Bich is Mr. Cool, opens the box to show the word “No”. :wink: So Penn declares they were fooled.

My comment: given the way he was stacking and handling the cards, I think he uses exactly the trick that P&T used in their trick with the body painters - you have all the options available and then by careful arrangement reveal whichever card as the obvious and only solution. He appeared to use the three printed cards to separate sections for card, “of”, and suit. I’m surprised P&T didn’t guess that option.

Third act: Young and Strange. Two young magicians as a duo with those last names. Catchy. They do a fairly conventional escape from a box trick. Young puts on a tutu, climbs into a trunk and into a bag in the trunk, which is tied. The lid closed, Young is locked in, right? Then Strange goes off to the side to get a flag and some cheesy music, and comes prancing out with the flag, which is apparently an American flag. He then goes and gets a large screen and rolls it in front of the trunk. Then he takes the flag and prances behind the screen, and Young comes out the other side with the flag but no tutu. Young then rolls the screen out of the way, opens the trunk to reveal - a woman wearing the tutu. And then Strange appears at the back of the room.

The gimmick is, of course, getting Strange from the stage behind the screen to the back of the audience in little time without being seen. Penn points out that he and Teller pegged pretty quick it was going to be a girl in the box and Strange at the back of the room, so the only real important part was explaining how he got there so quickly. No tunnel, but then Penn says “We’re a duo, you guys are a duo. If we knew every move you made exactly, and performed every move you made exactly, would we be able to do the trick the way you did?” To which Young and Strange said “Thank you for having us on.” Penn then goes on to say that if they can keep that secret, they’ll be able to have a great act.

Except I think he gives too much away, even with his circumspect approach. I’m going to be open because it goes to my point. I think the trick is that Strange has a twin brother (which is commented in the other thread and proven to be true). My point is that doesn’t seem the kind of thing that one can keep secret for long today with the world so interconnected and social media everywhere. In the past maybe you could get by with nobody knowing, but nowadays, you’re just one facebook page away from someone who grew up in his hometown and knows his family. And that’s assuming you don’t have an accidental facebook account staring out at the world. :smack:

Anyway, it was an entertaining duo, but not particularly challenging.

Fourth performer: Daniel Madison. Madison is a card trick specialist, who says he’s more about understanding the psychology than about fooling people. He has a pretty nifty trick for dealing a winning poker hand from a deck of cards provided by P&T, while blindfolded.

He starts off by having P&T provide a standard card deck and shuffle them. Then he hands Teller a blindfold and has Teller inspect it to make sure it isn’t gimmicked and really does block sight. After the blindfold is in place, Penn shuffles the cards, and then places them in Madison’s hands face down. Madison deals through the cards, and then every once in a while, turns a card face down on the table. When he gets to the end, he has Penn turn over the cards to reveal the 10, J, Q, K, and A of diamonds. Neato.

Penn says they may be more impressed because they know what he did. He then tells a story about a dear friend of his, Jerry Camero, who did the move dealing out the cards that Madison did, and that his move was so perfect, he would go around teaching it to magicians, but the magicians could never learn the move because it was so difficult. But Camero was able to perfect it because he spent 14 years in prison for first degree murder, practicing that move every day. So for this guy to do it that well and not have done hard time, that was impressive.

As for the move: I see two key places for the trick. First, the deck is face down because that allows Madison to palm in his stack of winning cards to the bottom of the deck as he takes it from his right hand to his left hand. She slides a few onto the bottom. Watching it in slowmo on TV, I can just see a moment when a few extra cards get lined up to the bottom. Then when he’s counting the cards through, he throws in a few false deals, i.e. he’s pulling the card from the deck and setting down in a discard stack, and misses his grab. That’s important to help people trying to count the cards to lose track. Throw in a smooth bottom deal whenever he wants to select a card. All that is reasonable.

The real trick, the one I think Penn means, comes at the end of the deck. He’s down to about 3 cards left, but actually has about 8 in his hand. He takes one, in his right hand, holding the remainder of the deck in his left, he sets the last few cards down holding one more card in his left. Then he weighs these two cards before selecting the right one and putting the left on the discard deck. What is really smooth is putting the discards in such a way that you aren’t supposed to realize he has too many cards left in his stack. The weighing/evaluating the two at the end gives him a way to set down several cards without dealing them one at a time.

It was very smooth, I almost didn’t see it the first time through. Slow-mo helps. Still, great trick.

The final act is, of course, Penn and Teller pulling off one of their famous tricks, Stab a Card. This trick involves Penn being a loud and annoying dick to Teller and to an audience member to get the audience in the right frame of mind to root for injury to Penn. They start with Teller riffling the deck and an audience member selecting a card at random. Teller shows the audience, then “loses” the card in the deck with a quick shuffle. As they move on, Penn begins to deride Teller for his “obvious elbow move”. That turns to going back to the lady, asking her if she thinks the card is lost in the deck, then seeing if she would bet 100 pounds that Teller really doesn’t know where that card is. Like I said, being obnoxious. So he demonstrates that the card is always where it needs to be. Then he has her select a new card, does a “false cut, false shuffle” and the card is “ostensibly lost in the deck”.

Then he takes American dollar coins and athletic tape and tapes the coins over Teller’s eyes to make a blindfold. Then he takes the deck over to another audience member, asks her to go through the deck and find the card, and then make sure it’s lost in the deck. While she’s looking, he sticks the selected card to his own forehead. And she doesn’t notice. Then, after explaining how he palmed the card right in front of her, he gives her the card to really lose in the deck.

Finally he takes the deck over to Teller, who is blindfolded and holding up a knife. He does a few more annoying tricks to Teller while he’s blindfolded - moving the cards, poking him, etc. Teller stabs at the board and just misses Penn’s hand. “Way not cool.” Then he does the knife stab to select a card, but it isn’t the right card. Penn reaches over ostensibly to spread the cards and look through them or something, when Teller stabs again, right through Penn’s hand, and oh, by the way, through the card that was previously selected. :smiley:

Join us again next week for round 2. (That’s this week. Hey, I’m behind.)

Great post! I had the same thoughts about the tricks in this episode as you did, so I have nothing to add here. But I’m looking forward to your take on the next episodes.

I haven’t seen that episode.

There are a couple of episodes I have seen where P&T are fooled and the tricks that fool them are just baffling. We have had threads about it. Even watching the tricks over and over frame by frame and applying collective minds to how the trick could work leaves you shaking your head as to how what was done was done.

Episode 2: How to Saw a Woman in Half (link for those playing the home game)

In their intro this time, they elaborate on why this show. It’s about recapturing that feeling of being mystified by the tricks.

First up: Ali Cook

Ali Cook has a fun little act with a duck, a chicken, and two lovely assistants. He starts with the assistant on the left holding a live white duck. He pulls a cloth and puts it around the ducks neck with the head sticking out, wiggles back and forth, and pulls the duck’s head off the body, so the assistant is holding the body and he has the head in the cloth. They do a little dance, duck head turning back and forth, then take the duck to a box, and stick the duck into the box with it’s head. Then he goes over to the assistant on the right, holding a brown chicken. (I love this assistant’s expressions.) He places the cloth around the chicken’s neck, and repeat with the chicken. (Watch her expressions.)

Now he has an assistant on the left with a box with a headless duck in it, an assistant on the right with a box with a headless chicken. He then takes the chicken head and moves it to the duck box, and takes the duck’s head and moves it to the chicken box. Duck head once again twitching.

He then has two boxes, opens the lids and sides drop down to reveal, a brown chicken on the right with a white duck’s head, and white duck on the left with a brown chicken’s head. Or at least that’s what you’re suggested to see. It’s really a brown duck with a white duck’s head and a white chicken with a brown chicken head.

It’s a funny and entertaining show, but not a mystery. Penn say’s it’s an ancient Egyptian trick that is talked about all the time but nobody in our lifetime has done it.

The gag uses puppets, two sets of birds (one painted), and special boxes that have two levels. It’s fairly obvious, the “stick the bird head under its wing” thing. The duck head is slightly bigger than the real duck head, the chicken head is not convincing. And the end result is fairly obvious it isn’t a chicken body with duck head and duck body with chicken head. But it’s cute.

Second up: Michael Vincent

Vincent is a card trickster of a classical bent. “Classical in approach, elegant in its interpretation” is how he describes his style. He does a lot of beautiful moves involving finding the Aces. First he acquires the black aces and places them on the top and bottom and the red aces in the middle. He hands the deck to Teller, and magically the red aces are on top and bottom and black aces are in the middle. A quick move, and the black aces are top and bottom again with reds in the middle. Another move, and there are no aces in the deck - he shows every card and they’re gone. Then he makes them come back one at a time. He then does some cuts, stacks, spreads on the table, splits it into to halves, puts one face up one face down and shuffles, takes the stack, spreads it, and it has all face down but the four aces. And then he shows that the cards are lined up by suits in order.

Penn said that it was beautiful classical sleight of hand showing decades of practice (four), but that Penn was burning one hand and Teller burned the other. And then he said the move in the end that he “rang in a cooler”. So not fooled at all. And even though Penn was trying to be cryptic, a moment on google explains that phrase.

Act 3 is John Archer. Archer is a retired cop with a goofy little act involving 5 envelopes with words on them, £100, and 4 commemorative John Archer 0 dollar bills that he printed up at home. The trick: 4 of the envelopes have the 0 dollar bills, one has the £100. He then explains the 5 envelopes. They are labeled “Something”, “Nothing”, “Yours”, “Mine”, and “Sex”. He has a long routine of word games to reveal the envelopes, with lots of jokes. He then asks 4 people from the audience to each pick one of the envelopes.

First guy picks Sex, gets the fake money. Second guy picks Nothing, gets the fake money. Third lady picks Yours, gets fake money. Fourth guy gets to pick either Something or Mine, and Archer tells him he’s intending to pick Something, which he agrees, then is offered to switch and doesn’t. So that leaves Archer with Mine. And each one revealed their fake money, leaving Archer on the stage, who then opens the envelope to show 5 £20 notes.

Penn and Teller converse for a few moments, and are thoroughly baffled.

They guess that he is holding a smaller envelope concealed within his stack, and then sticks it in the last one he’s holding at the end when he opens it to pull out the cash. Archer says that no, he doesn’t slide anything into any of the envelopes. So he successfully fooled Penn and Teller, and did it with a gimmicky act that they are almost annoyed to be fooled by.

My guess, given the smoothness of the banter and the way the jokes roll out, I think he’s playing a psychological game with the audience, the money is in Mine the whole time, and he’s relying on the banter and people’s expectations to get them to pick the other envelopes. Yeah, it’s risky, but it fits. Like when he tells the fourth guy that he was thinking of choosing Something. And the punchline of his whole gag is “if you’d just asked for what was Mine, you’d have gotten the money” (paraphrase). I suppose it’s possible to think up a catchy line for each of the words, but if he doesn’t stick something into the envelope at the end, how else does he clearly pull the money out of the Mine envelope?

Fourth act, Benjamin Earl. Earl is another card trick expert. He starts with a picture of a hand behind the back with a card palmed in it, as a visual image for inspiration. He then has P&T produce a shuffled deck of cards, which he spreads on the table and then memorizes. He then proceeds to stack and cut and shuffle the deck numerous ways and pull out the four aces one at a time. And it’s not neat shuffles, it’s sloppy shuffles with cards popping out on the table and thrown back in seemingly at random.

After pulling them out once, he shuffles them back in the deck, then does it one handed. He puts his left behind his back, and proceeds to shuffle and juggle the cards and pull three aces out of the deck, then turns around to reveal the fourth in his hand, just like the picture from the beginning.

P&T confer, they talk about how good the act is, how smooth and engaging. Penn says they weren’t fooled, but in the process of describing the act, he says that Earl used a “false shuffle”. He located the aces while telling us he’s memorizing the cards, then has to deftly move the aces into position for the reveals. But Earl states he didn’t use any false shuffles. Penn tries to clarify that Earl was retaining the aces, so it’s a partial false shuffle or something. Earl claims he locates and tracks them through the shuffles, but doesn’t separate them and retain them. The consultant gets the host on his earpiece and says that their aren’t any false shuffles, so he officially fooled P&T.

But I think he’s retaining the aces for the one handed version, if not the two handed version. You can watch him pull two of the cards off the top stack that doesn’t change, despite all his hand waving and card juggling. Watch him at the 33:25 mark, where he deftly palms the Ace of Spades off the top, to set up his final reveal. No, I don’t see the ace in his hand, but that’s when he sets the cards down, rubs his hands, then sticks his left hand behind his back, where it remains till the reveal. Web version doesn’t have slow mo (and my TV sticks an interface bar on screen right over the cards, so I can’t study the move that way), but look at 33:40. He flips the cards weird to pull the Ace of diamonds off the top, then takes the deck, lays out a couple of quick stacks, and then pulls the next card off the top of the deck as the Ace of Clubs. It’s not buried in the deck anywhere, that’s two cards pulled right off the top, right where he placed them when he gathered the cards after the first set of reveals. Then he does a stack, restack, flop and the top card is the right one. Now I’m not saying he palmed that card, yes he tracks the location, but those aren’t complex shuffles, they’re just stack and spread then stack then respread. Basically split the cards, stack left to right, then resplit at the same place and stack right to left, you end up with your initial card on top. Is that not a “false shuffle”?
Anyway, two winners this week.

Finally, Penn and Teller give us their performance, sawing a lady in half. They have a commercial saw a lady in half set up, with a box and a big saw blade, except they changed out the blade to a big steel blade. They have a Las Vegas showgirl come out, climb in the box lying down, then do the spinning blade down about halfway into the box and back out complete with really fake screams. And wiggling her feet. Then they put the blades in and separate the halves of the box for the reveal.

Then Penn begins the breakdown of how the trick works, that most magicians will rush this part and then put the lady back together, because this is the most vulnerable part of the trick. So they stand there and let the audience stare. Then Penn explains that the trick starts with the trick that people don’t notice a change in height going from vertical to horizontal, that their 6’3" showgirl is suddenly 5’10" long lying down. Then they point out the table is deceptive, the edge is thin but the black parts taper to much wider to give room to hide her body. And they remove the front panel to show it’s wider, and her torso sagging in the spot where the boxes are apart under the saw blade.

Then they turn on the saw and swing the blade down to demonstrate it doesn’t come near her body. They lift the blade, and Penn mentions that it’s safe, there’s a metal rod in place to stop the blade from coming down too far, and Teller helpfully pulls out the rod to show it off, while Penn is looking at the audience. And then Penn rocks the blade down again and OOPS, the rod isn’t in place any more, the saw is cutting through the dancer. And blood spills out, and they separate the halves and guts and stuff fall out, and it’s messy, and Penn says that it’s Teller’s fault and runs off stage. The end.

Well, I did link to it online. :slight_smile:

I definitely do not think this is the case. I think maybe that’s what he wants the audience to believe, that he can control their minds in such a way, but I believe that this is not possible.

Another amusing possibility is that there is no trick, and he just gambled. 20% chance to fool Penn and Teller. :slight_smile: (But that’s obviously not it either.)

So I think he did some other switcharoo, not the exact thing with putting an envelope inside another, but maybe exchanging envelopes or labels or something, I don’t know exactly.

The guy with the envelope trick sells it on his website. It isn’t psychological, but I do not know how it works as I haven’t bought it and those who do seem to be good folks who don’t blab.

Shawn Farqua does the best trick on the entire series run and you can see it here. It remains a secret, I think, how he does it.

It seems to me the only question is how he forced the 7D. A second deck switch perhaps? There’s a camera cut and a discontinuity at the critical moment (Penn has shuffled and returned the pack, then (camera-cut) SF fans the cards) – if that cut covers the move then that’s cheap).

I have a lot of questions.

First, to Irishman: you seem to know a lot about magic. Are you a magician?

Second: on Late Night With Seth Meyers the other night, P&T said that there was one act that didn’t fool them, but they liked the guy’s schtick so much that they invited him to Vegas anyway. Can someone please tell me his name, so I know whom to look out for?

Third: did anyone catch what the term for the ancient Egyptian trick is? Adeddi, or Adebbi, or something like that?

I don’t believe he forced the 7D. P&T caught the deck switch he did a few seconds later, Penn would have caught one right in front of him.

If you’ve ever seen him (Shawn) manipulate cards, it wouldn’t be that hard.

Even if he somehow forced the 7D, it still doesn’t explain “How he got the Goddamn card into the Goddamn deck!”

I don’t know, but I suspect John Archer can slide envelopes in and out of his jacket in some way. It’s possible he knows that he’ll usually end up with MINE so he never had to do a switch in that performance, thus fooling P&T.

Well, there don’t appear to be any labels to switch. His handling of the envelopes is just off enough for Penn to comment on it, but not off enough to show an actual tell, and certainly reasonable enough for a guy holding and juggling 5 envelopes without setting any down.

You do have a point. When Penn says something about the handling of the envelopes, Archer seems somewhat in agreement, but the host quickly presses Penn for more specifics. So it’s possible there is some other switcheroo, but it certainly fooled me.

Note that the envelopes are not sealed, the flaps are open. Also note that P&T inspect one of the envelopes, though not MINE. If there were labels or whatnot, I would think that would have grabbed their attention.

I did watch again his handling of the last choice, where the guy picks SOMETHING. While this is happening, he holds the last two envelopes in his hands completely overlapping, so only one is visible. He separates them to hand SOMETHING over, which suggests he is hiding something (not SOMETHING) to allow the switchover. But if so, P&T miss it. The camera cuts away after the handover, so I have to rely on P&T watching for any means of surreptitiously spiriting away whatever the gimmick could be.

Listening to Archer explain, he says “I can honestly say I don’t slide anything inside any of the envelopes.” Which leaves Teller pretty flabbergasted. So apparently there is something, but not that.

I would prefer not to discuss tricks in this thread that have not aired yet on the CW. That’s why I started this one instead of just rejuvenating the old one.

Not at all. Mostly because I lack the patience to develop the skill set necessary to pull off the tricks. However, I am the kind of person that, when seeing magic, rather than being astounded and being happy that I am astounded, I am irritated that I don’t know how it is done. So I have payed attention to any situations where I encounter opportunities to understand how tricks work. I watched those Masked Magician specials. I actually have not seen that much Penn and Teller magic, which I’m led to believe does reveal some secrets of tricks.

TriPolar, that’s an interesting guess.

I don’t think Archer puts anything into envelopes, but I do believe he removes something.

That’s another possibility, he was quite specific about not putting anything INTO the envelopes. P&T did examine one of the envelopes and would have picked up any obvious trick flaps, but the envelopes don’t seem to be sealed so it’s entirely possible.

I have a love/hate with magic reveals. On the one hand, it’s an ancient art that has been practiced for, literally, thousands of years, and deserves to be treated with respect. I and I appreciate being dumbfounded as much as the next guy. On the other hand, I get a perverse thrill in the whole “Why didn’t I think of that?!” aspect when a trick is revealed.

I don’t think Archer slides anything into the envelopes, which he denied. I think he simply has 6 envelopes, the one with the real money is always held close to the back of another. When it’s time for the reveal, he’s down to one envelope that the audience can see from the front and the one they can’t see has the real money held behind it. Open the hidden envelope flap and pull out the real money and it looks like the unchosen one had the cash all the time.

It’s well done with great banter, such as “You’ll notice MINE is bigger than YOURS…probably genetic”

Oh, I think it’s pretty simple, once you assume that he forced the card. Here’s a hint: this trick would work with Penn or Teller, but not with anyone else in the audience.

I’d love to tell you but **Irishman **is right, it would spoil it for others to know in advance how a trick they haven’t seen yet works.

I should have been thinking that to start with. The simplest approach is the best. He keeps the envelope with the money, so there’s no chance to see the extra envelope after he sticks it in his jacket. I’m surprised P&T didn’t pick that up to start with. His banter was excellent, and possibly the best way to fool the pros, by simply engaging them.

BTW: I think they did know how Benjamin Earl did his work, just not specifically enough. He was tracking the aces by his own admission, and there are a number of techniques for that, so it’s tough on the guys to state specifically how it’s done. Michael Vincent’s technique is well known, but he is certainly a master of that technique. Incredibly impressive card manipulation even when you know how it’s done.

Penn mentions how a card trick magician is using a technique that involves a lot of practice. As part of the act, the magician will show both sides of his hand, but the way he flips his hand always seems a tad bit off to me. Are they actually concealing the card behind their hand as they show the front side, then flipping the card as they turn the hand, which somehow cloaks the card during the hand’s motion? The physical dexterity to accomplish that is amazing enough by itself, if that’s the case.