Fooling Garwulf
"Now THAT'S Bunny," and Making Audiences Care

Robert B. Marks | 11 Aug 2015 15:00
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Another week, and another episode of Penn & Teller: Fool Us - and as usual, without further ado, the performers:

Jay Sankey: This was a high energy performance that, as Penn said, used its fire theme quite well. It was a set instead of a single trick, and a great use of escalation - the first trick was a rising card trick, which has a number of methods. The second is a lovely version of an object being torn and restored, but the third with the sparkler was almost jaw dropping. It didn't fool Penn and Teller, but the third one did fool me, and it was a great opening to the show.

Greg Wilson: I had hoped I would see this in some capacity during this season. The trick itself was outstanding, a combination of a sword box and "Metamorphosis" (an illusion that may have been invented by Houdini), but with a see-through box. What's great about this is that it is a routine that destroys expectations throughout - the elements of each part of the trick are well known, but from other tricks... so you never quite know what is going to happen next. The reveal of Wilson's parents, Mark Wilson and Nani Darnell, two legends who helped make televised magic credible with their show The Magic Land of Allakazam (1960-1964), was just wonderful. It fooled Penn and Teller and was the best performance of the night.

Trigg Watson: This was a lovely routine, but unfortunately it was also got the escalation wrong, thereby stealing its own thunder. Watson's first trick with the flowers and the tablet was wonderful and baffling, a great example of the new electronic magic that we saw a couple of episodes ago from Simon Pierro. Watson's second trick with the quick changing prediction was delightful, but not nearly as amazing or stunning, so it came out as a bit of an anti-climax. Still, even though it didn't fool Penn and Teller, it was an entertaining routine.

(The inventor of the second trick, Billy McComb, 1922-2006, was an British comedy magician known for inventing illusions, as well as making appearances in American movies and television.)

Jen Kramer: There was a lot going on in this performance, although it probably made more impact on magicians than the audience. There is an entire field of card magic involving memorization and mathematics, requiring the magician to be - as Penn said - faster with their mind than their hands. It's not easy to do, and Kramer did it wonderfully, even if she didn't fool Penn and Teller.

(Penn mentioned two magicians in his commentary. The first, Juan Tamariz, is a Spanish magician who wrote The Magic Way, one of the more influential books on performance theory. Simon Aronson is an amateur American magician who specializes in inventing new tricks.)

Penn and Teller: It's not often that you see anybody pull a rabbit from a hat these days, and it was delightful to watch Penn and Teller do it. Their breakdown of why the trick isn't done much today, and their performance of the trick itself, was wonderful. It's been a crowd pleaser for a while, in large part because of how family-friendly it is, although Penn and Teller did miss one important element of how it was often done: a little girl. Magicians like Howard Thurston (1869-1936) and Harry Blackstone Sr. (1885-1965) would usually present it using a little girl from the audience as a volunteer, and give her the rabbit at the end of the trick. Making somebody's daughter's day brighter on stage is a good way to engage the audience, and this brings me to this week's commentary.

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