Fooling Garwulf
"Where There's Smoke, There's Magic" ...and Hacking the Brain

Robert B. Marks | 15 Sep 2015 15:00
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After a week off, Penn & Teller: Fool Us returned to our screens last night with a very strong episode. This was one of the harder ones to judge, too - all of the acts were really strong, and picking out the best performance of the night was not easy. So, without further ado, the performers:

Joel Meyers & Spidey: Selecting the best performance of the night ultimately comes down to one key criteria - what performance will people still be talking about the next day, and the day after that? Meyers and Spidey were the first of two strong contenders in this episode. Their act was an escalation from a basic mentalism trick to a much harder one that appeared to randomize everything, throwing in a redemption at the very end. As this went on, Meyers served as a commentator, interrupting and guiding Spidey's performance. I loved it - the commentary within the routine added an extra dimension that pushed it over the top, and really made it "pop." They didn't fool Penn and Teller, yet they did take the best performance of the night...but only by the skin of their teeth.

Rick Lax: This was the second contender for best performance of the night, and it was a routine that had a lot going on inside it. At its heart, this was a feat of magic skill, not unlike watching a strongman lift a heavy weight. Lax performed his card sorting trick while reciting the classic poem "Casey at the Bat," by Ernest Thayer. On the surface, the poem was a great way to kill dead time as he sorted the cards, but there was much more to it than that. It is a poem about failure (mighty Casey does not save the day) used as the background for an escalating card trick that is a success. This makes it a lovely juxtaposition of winning and losing and adds that extra dimension that makes the performance more than the sum of its parts. And, to top it off, Lax fooled them... and if he hadn't been following Meyers and Spidey, he would have taken best performance of the night.

Penn and Teller Fool Us

Marcus Eddie: This is another case where I want to be a lot more positive than I'm going to have to be. Eddie had a very good routine. I liked his message that nothing is impossible, and it was a lovely, high energy performance that harkened back to Houdini's magic and escapes. However, it could have been great. I think, in the end, it was a problem with pacing - the more time a performer gives to an effect, the more weight it has with the audience. The big finale to Eddie's trick went by too fast. It needed more of a dramatic pause, and a bit more "oomph" to drive it home to the audience. He may not have fooled Penn and Teller, but he's already very good, has a tremendous amount of potential to be great, and I can't wait to see what he does next.

(In his commentary, Penn mentioned Robert Harbin, 1908-1978, who was a British magician and author. He also mentioned Bob Sheets, who is a magician and comedian currently active in Washington, DC.)

Bruce Gold: As Penn said, magic and comedy are really hard to balance out and get right, and Gold managed that quite well. His act was funny, and the psychic toaster was nice and playful. If his routine suffered, it was because he is in the shadow of Jon Armstrong's little plunger from the season premiere, which is a very hard act to follow. Still, it was a good, solid performance, even if it didn't fool Penn and Teller.

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