Why do Penn & Teller seem to dislike Mentalism so much?

What friedo said.

You know those cheapo magicians that just buy off-the-shelf old gags from the magic shop? Practice it a couple times and poof they’re a magician.

Very few mentalists do any sort of skilled, original act. There is a ton of simple same-old-same-old. Mentalist or stage magician, P&T hate that.

Kreskin used to have to vary his claims based on what state he was in. Some places didn’t allow people to claim to read minds, etc. But he generally did claim having psychic powers.

WHAT??? Cmon man.

No child who attended an assembly featuring a magician was harmed by said magician saying “Its Magiiiicccc!”

I dunno. They seemed impressed by that one guy’s act linked here, and there wasn’t much to it as far as skill. You or I could do it if we had the printer.

Also not a fan when they are “fooled” by a technicality. So the guy moved the printer or had it on him rather than under the table. Penn and Teller still figured out the trick as easily as the people in the comments under that video.

Reminds me of when Stephen Hawking threw a party for time travelers.
He put together the trappings of a party without telling anyone and waited for people to show up. He announced at a later date that he was having a party in the past that had already happened. Presumably if any time travelers got the message they could have dropped in. No one did.

FWIW here is a mentalism act P&T enjoyed (and they tell us a bit about why they hate mentalism…short version: they over complicate things to obfuscate what is happening…this act did not do that): - YouTube

Now that one is interesting, given that he didn’t use the ring. And apparently nothing he did was extraneous, suggesting the whole milking thing was useful. Did he plant something on Hannigan?

I don’t buy the comment theory that he could just see if she was holding it, because she could hold it in various ways to prevent that. And you want your trick to be 100% on that stage: Some even say there is a requirement that your trick be reproducible.

It might be worth mentioning that some magicians, and good ones at that, do use “easy tricks bought from the magic shop”. Magic is, first and foremost, a performance, and a good performer can make any act entertaining. And the most entertaining trick is not necessarily the one that’s the hardest to pull off.

Heck, The Amazing Jonathan had an act where he randomly selected an audience member, and “read” all sorts of things about her from a piece of jewelry she was wearing, concluding with “reading” that she was actually his wife. No trick at all, there, but he made it funny, so it’s all good.

On the counter, this act (the final reveal) is so straightforward that you sort of have to slap yourself on the forehead.

Timestamp: 2:55

To some extent, people are just so easily fooled that even just blatantly cheating right in front of them doesn’t stop them from believing you because the blatancy just seems so foreign that our brains assume it couldn’t happen.

Geller has been the most targeted for debunking because of those claims. James “The Amazing” Randi has practically made a career of debunking Geller, showing that he can reproduce anything Geller does, notably the melting spoon trick.

I didn’t get the whole ring discussion. What was Penn getting at?


You’re right, and yet I have an important point that I can’t figure out what the hell it is.

ETA: I think perhaps my point is about tricking you into believing outside-the-show stuff that is potentially detrimental to you.

When ‘Mentalsts’ convince people that psychic powers are real, that helps create a culture in which con men like spirit guides, fortune tellers, dowsers and other mystical scumbags can extract more money from the gullible and the grieving.

I teach a magic club to elementary kids sometimes, and I tell them that the joy of a magic performance is this: you’ve told your audience a plausible, impossible story, and they can’t match what they saw to what they know about the universe. Folks who like magic shows either like them because they love that happy confusion, or because they want to solve the puzzle.

If you insist during the show that it’s magic, but it’s with a wink, then the audience gets either the puzzle, or the happy confusion, their choice.

If you insist later, with no wink, that it’s real, you deny the happy confusion, and you move into fraud.

Specifically psychics and mediums who claimed to be speaking to his late mother in English, IIRC. She’d have been conversing in German.