Penn & Teller are no easy marks for show’s illusionist hopefuls.

For a group who have dedicated their lives to filling others with a childlike sense of awe and wonder, magicians are a mostly reviled lot. But what is it about them that we find so unsavoury?

Is it the shiny clothes? Maybe it's their bizarre predilection for sawing perfectly whole women in half? Or is it the inevitable pencil goatee that's barely scratching out a foul existence around their yammering mouths?

I don't know. But after thinking about magicians for far longer than any non-magician should, I think it all comes down to the fact that no one likes to be made a fool of. And that's exactly what the best magicians do.

Hands down the best magicians in the world when it comes to fooling people are the Las Vegas duo of Penn and Teller. As a combo they're practically a performing cliche.


First, you have the hulking, over-the-top loudmouth Penn Jillette. He doesn't so much speak as roar, a larger-than-life presence who stomps around the stage gesticulating wildly with all the subtlety and grace of a pissed-off rhino.

He's coupled with the diminutive Teller. A miniature mute whose sole means of communication is mime and mannerisms. His face fixed in an expressionless blank, he pulls off mind-boggling magic tricks with an effortless grace that belies the thousands of hours the dude must have spent working extremely hard at making it look so easy. They make a formidable duo. Despite his unwieldly frame, Penn is no slouch in the subtle sleight of hand that top-level magic requires. But his main contribution appears to be the sheer force of showmanship he brings to the stage.

He openly acknowledges magicians' trickery while simultaneously presenting elaborate illusions full of macabre humour that embraces the bloody and bizarre.

But the real brain behind the duo is the little quiet fella standing off to the side.

Teller is widely regarded as being a bona fide genius magician; a walking, non-talking encyclopaedia of magic tricks and the methods behind them.

When it comes to magic, well, there's just no fooling these two.

Or is there? Because fooling these two is the exact premise of Penn & Teller: Fool Us (Choice TV, 7:30pm Sunday).

Each week, three pro or semi-pro magicians of varying skillsets and success come on stage and perform a single trick with the sole intention of fooling Penn and Teller.


If they can pull off a piece of magic that leaves these two grandmasters in a state of befuddlement at how it was accomplished then they win and get to open for the pair in Las Vegas.

And if they don't fool them? Well, er, nothing really. Though they do have to stand there sheepishly as Penn skirts around the details of how the magician did it without actually saying how the magician did it.

I guess that's because of that whole annoying "magician's code" thing where magicians swear never to reveal another magician's secrets.

It's the only bummer of the show because I would dearly love to know how these incredible feats are being pulled off.

But no matter, it's still a terrific show and I love it. It's full of talented people presenting their A-game to the undisputed masters of the craft and occasionally, even managing to best them. I've seen the duo frantically conferring, I've seen Teller furiously scribbling down diagrams attempting to piece together elements of what he's just seen and I've seen Penn stand up, stomp on to the stage and bellow, "You sir, fooled us", while vigorously shaking the hand of a shiny suit-sporting, goatee-adorned magician.

So if those guys can fool these guys then what hope do us fools watching at home have of figuring out what's going on?

I'll tell you: absolutely none.

But that's okay. We're not supposed to work anything out. Our job is to simply sit back in amazement and be made a fool of.