Penn Jillette, in Conversation

Penn Jillette, in a terrific interview with David Marchese for Vulture:

Q: But why is the audience willing to get emotionally engaged even after you’ve explicitly said the trick is done with thread?

A: It’s because there’s a secret that I would like to take credit for uncovering: The audience is smart. That’s all. Our goal when we started was “Let’s do a magic show for people smarter than us.” No other magicians have ever said that sentence. I hated the whole idea that some smarmy motherfucker who couldn’t get laid was out there saying, “I can do this; you can’t.” So when Teller and I first got together I said, “I want to do a magic show that’s honest and has complete respect for the audience.” And when you start being honest with the audience, they start to play a game within themselves. Here’s an example that kills me: People who have just talked to Teller will come over to me after the show and say, “I think it’s great that Teller never says anything.” Internalizing a counterfactual is just something people can do.

I absolutely love Penn and Teller. I’ve seen their show in Vegas at least four times, maybe five, and I never tire of it because it’s exactly what he says it is. Honest and respectful of the audience’s intelligence. And damn entertaining.

(A few years ago, I was chosen from the audience by Teller to go on stage for a trick in which they made my iPhone disappear. It wound up inside a plastic bag inside a dead fish inside an ice box under an audience member’s seat.)

Tuesday, 14 August 2018