Fooling Garwulf
"Teller Plays with a Full Deck," and Putting Art into Performance

Robert B. Marks | 25 Aug 2015 15:00
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Once again, last night's episode of Penn & Teller: Fool Us was pre-empted on some CW channels by a baseball game (for those who couldn't watch last night, you can see it here). That's a pity, because this was a pretty decent episode, with some new approaches to classic tricks.

So, as always, onto the performers:

Blake Vogt: The linking rings is an old staple of magic. By using two halves of a dollar bill instead, Vogt managed to make it new again. And, Vogt took a trick that is traditionally seen at a distance and transformed it into an intimate piece of close-up magic, to the point of allowing Penn and Teller to examine the linked "rings" (which should be impossible). It was a stunning and deceptive trick, and while it didn't fool Penn and Teller, it was a great start to the show.

Joshua Jay: This was the best performance of the night, and not by a small margin. Jay knocked his routine out of the park. The trick itself was baffling - I have no real idea of how it was done, and neither did Penn and Teller. But just being deceptive is not what made this routine special... it was the patter, and the story of the little blind girl. Ultimately, Jay's trick was about making a little girl happy, and that makes us - the audience - immediately invested, because we want to know that the little blind girl was amazed at the end. I don't know if the story is true or just a framing device, but, deep down inside, I want it to be real.

Levent: This was a charming performance, and another case of an old classic - the "Sympathetic Silks" - with a new spin, along with some channelling of Laurel and Hardy (think "Who's on First"). One of the merits of this trick is that the props are basic, which helps a lot in creating the feeling of magic. Everybody knows what a piece of cloth is, and what it should and should not be able to do. The production of the bottle and the rabbit at the end was a great example of escalation, and a perfect climax to the trick. It's very entertaining, but I'm a bit torn by the performance. It's a good routine as Levent presents it, but it's also a very visual and self-explanatory one, and I can't help wondering if the best modern presentation is silent, or with the barest minimum of patter. But that is just my own speculation - the performance was lovely, and while it didn't fool Penn and Teller, it was wonderful all the same.

Ben Seidman: I really want to be more positive about this performance than I'm going to have to be. The fact is that Seidman is a great magician, and a great stand-up comic, and both shone through in his presentation. His version of "The Hold-Up," by Tommy Wonder (1953-2006) was really good. His jokes had me in stitches. The problem is that the two parts of his presentation - stand-up comedy and magic - were not unified. The stand-up was too much of a segue away from the magic trick, and it felt like two separate acts jammed together, with a jarring transition between the two. It was a good effort, but it didn't fool Penn and Teller, and the patter needed to be more streamlined and on-topic.

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