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Penn & Teller: Fool Us is a magic competition show that first ran on ITV before being picked up by The CW. It was originally hosted by Jonathan Ross (Seasons 1 & 2) and is currently hosted by Alyson Hannigan (Seasons 3-present).

The show's premise is simple: magicians come onto the show and perform a trick in front of the eponymous duo. Penn & Teller then have to figure out how the trick was performed. If they are fooled, the magician then gets to perform their act as an opener to Penn & Teller's long-running Las Vegas stage show.

Each episode ends with Penn and Teller themselves performing a trick for the audience.


This series contains examples of:

  • Affectionate Pickpocket: Ben Seidman's routine revolves around an encounter with one.
  • All There in the Manual: There is a behind-the-scenes team who knows how each featured trick is performed and act as the final judge as to whether or not Penn & Teller have come to the right conclusion.
  • Ambiguously Brown: Mentalist Henok Negash utilizes his ambiguous features as part of his routine. As part of his routine, he challenges Penn and Teller to guess what his ethnicity is. At the end of the act, Henok reveals he is half-Irish and half-Ethiopian, neither of which were guessed by the judges, but they know his routine and were not fooled by that.
  • Ascended Meme: By Season 7, the show and its hosts are fully aware that the audience loves watching Alyson recoil in horror and disgust at a magician's props or the things that they will do to them.
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  • Ass Shove: Implied. Vinny Grosso's first appearance had him do a card trick nude. After the cards are knocked off of the edge of the screen that covered his naughty bits, he takes out a fresh pack of cards...wrapped in a plastic glove.
  • Awesome McCoolname: Mike Super. In his intro, he "admits" that it's actually a stage name and his real name is "Johnny von Awesome".
  • Bait-and-Switch Comment:
    • When introducing himself, Piff the Magic Dragon remarks that the audience may be more familiar with his older brother... Steve.
    • After watching Nick Einhorn's act, Penn says that to a lay audience it must have seemed remarkable, but to experienced magicians like himself and Teller, with all their combined knowledge... it's completely inexplicable.
    • After Shin Lim's second performance, Penn pulls this on him at the beginning of the critique.
    Penn: You know, we like you. But you're starting to annoy us.
  • Bait-and-Switch: A common technique of magic called misdirection, many magicians take it one step further and use known tricks but do them in novel ways in an attempt to fool Penn and Teller by making them look for the wrong method.
    • Kostya Kimlat:
      • In his first act, he uses a well-known trick that Penn and Teller themselves used on the Today Show just a few months before his appearance on the show. He knows that Penn and Teller know every method for doing the trick (of which there are several). To solve this problem, he simply invents yet another novel method for doing the trick, much more technically difficult than almost all of the standard methods, that Penn and Teller have never seen before, and then does the trick in such a way to sequentially prove that he isn't using any known method of doing the trick. At the end of the act, Penn asks to see the cards (in order to check if it's a stripper deck, shaved to be narrower at one end), to which Kimlat readily agrees, disproving the last possible known method.
      • In his second appearance, his trick is exposed by Penn as not being a trick involving any kind of sneaky sleights or swaps, and that he does legitimately reach into the falling cascade of cards and pluck out the right one at the right moment, counting the cards as they fall. Either he's very protective of his particular method, and is willing to forgo a second victory for the sake of it and simply agree Penn had outed him, or he is simply that impressive at handling cards which is in itself a marvel, and his entire 'fool' is that there is no fool. According to Kimlat's youtube channel, it is the latter, and even shows how it is done.
    • Shawn Farquhar's second appearance makes use of this. He pretends to do a "memory trick", claiming to have "memorized" an entire Sherlock Holmes novel that he gives to the host (Alyson) to read. Standing back to back with her, he pulls out another copy of the book, along with a pair of reading glasses, and then "reads" from that book in order to answer Allison's questions. It seems like it is just a gag, but then at the end, he turns around and reveals the book he was reading was blank the whole time, and that there aren't even any lenses in his "reading glasses".
    • Piff the Magic Dragon has an audience member pick a card (the Jack of Spades), then sign it. He claims to have made a prediction before the show about what card the audience member picked. He has them reveal the card he predicted she would pick before the show... and it was the nine of hearts. "So, she picked wrong." He then transforms the signed card into a nine of hearts to make his prediction "true".
    • Adrián Carratalá's trick involved picking out a woman from the audience, asking to borrow a ring she was wearing and making it disappear. He has planted a ring box on top of a small ladder on the stage, and when he opens the ring box... it's empty, with Adrián himself noting that if the ring had been there, that would have been too obvious. The ring is actually tied to Adrián's shoe lace. He then disprove's Penn's theory that he had a reel system set up in his clothes to pull the ring down to his shoe by ripping off his tearaway suit to show he had nothing hidden on him.
  • Batman Gambit: Magician Eric Mead employs one at the start of his performance. He notes that to an average person, if they are fooled by 90% of the trick but understand the last 10%, then they will state they aren't fooled. Conversely, if another magician understands 90% of the trick but fail to understand the final 10%, they will admit they are fooled. He then openly admits in code several of the tricks he will be using but challenges Penn and Teller to figure out the remaining part. Penn calls him out on this tactic and acknowledges that he and Teller do recognize those confessed parts and could call it a lose for Eric. However, game theory is part of magic and getting into the audience's head is part of that. This self-imposed challenge Eric wants them to take on isn't something they are required to do, but his showmanship and skills in all aspects of the performance merit them acquiescing and stating they have been fooled.
  • Beggar with a Signboard: Piff the Magic Dragon's intro video includes a shot of him levitating his canine sidekick in the street behind a carboard sign reading "World's First Levitating Chihuahua — Will Float For Food".
  • Bewitched Amphibians: Jorge Blass's act involves a story about a prince who is turned into a frog by a wicked witch.
  • Beyond the Impossible: The tricks that fool Penn & Teller tend to be this. If it's something that they can't figure out, the chances of a layperson getting it are next to zero.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Swedish magician Axel Adler offers to explain exactly how his routine was done — in Swedish, which is not subtitled or otherwise translated.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Played with in the "Teller's Salute to Recycling" routine, which Penn and Teller perform at the end of one episode. At the climax of the routine, Teller pretends to drop an innocent rabbit into a wood chipper, producing a fountain of fur but no blood. And of course the rabbit is then produced, alive and well... only for Teller to "accidentally" drop it into the wood chipper again, this time resulting in a spray of red liquid that gets Teller right in the face.
  • Bookends: Bryan Saint's routine begins with him recite an "on hold" dialogue after introducing himself as a voice actor. He then frames his routine as an infomercial on a phone charger, which he ends with another "on hold" dialogue.
  • Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: Inverted when Andi Gladwin attempts to divine what occupation an audience volunteer is thinking of: "Chicken farmer? ... Just a farmer? ... Just a chicken?"
  • Brick Joke: Mac King begins by announcing that he's trying out a new trick, which means he needs a guinea pig, and calls up an audience volunteer. At the end of the act, he makes an actual guinea pig appear out of nowhere.
    • Young & Strange begin by talking about how most magic performances include an attractive female assisstant, at the end of their trick one shows up in the box.
  • Briefcase Full of Money:
    • Mark Shortland's intro video, setting up his act by talking about how lucky he is, includes him finding a briefcase full of money abandoned in the street.
    • Used as a prop in Brian Brushwood's version of the classic vanishing-and-reappearing dollar bill bit.
  • Brig Ball Bouncing: The intro video for Aiden Sinclair, who was a conman and did time before deciding to straighten up and use his deceptive powers for good, has a shot of him re-enacting the Brig Ball Bouncing scene from The Great Escape.
  • Bring It: The title sequence ends with Penn and Teller standing in front of the title card doing "bring it" gestures.
  • British Teeth: Mentioned by Jonathan as part of an opening monologue after the move to Vegas, as part of a joke about the differences between the UK and the US.
  • Bullet Catch: Penn and Teller do their "Magic Bullet" routine, in which they apparently catch bullets in their teeth, at the end of one episode.
  • The Bus Came Back: Magicians who leave an impression on Penn & Teller and the audience (whether or not they're successful Foolers) are invited back to the show. One interesting example is Piff the Magic Dragon, who made a couple of return appearances not to fool Penn & Teller, but to perform alongside them and to provide Teller someone to talk to when Penn tried to become a Fooler himself.
  • Call-Back: When he returns for his second attempt to fool Penn and Teller, Shawn Farquahar remarks that the phrase "deja vu" comes to mind, calling back to a joke he made on his first appearance. He took it Up to Eleven in his third appearance, as he took elements of the tricks he did in his previous appearances and melded them into a larger trick.
  • The Cameo:
    • One episode in the first season includes an act by Martin Daniels, son of the English celebrity magician Paul Daniels, who makes a surprise guest appearance in the act.
    • The act by father and daughter team David and Claire Garrard features a surprise guest appearance (which is a surprise even to Penn and Teller) by Penn's own daughter, Moxie.
    • Louie Anderson appears in the role of audience volunteer for an act in the fourth season. The magician he helps didn't even know he was going to be there. She was just told to introduce him.
    • In a later episode, Ralphie May does likewise.
    • Gilbert Gottfried helps Vinnie Grosso in his second "Fool Us" appearance.
    • David Copperfield is brought in as a guest judge for the first episode of Season 6, in which Penn & Teller debut a trick for him.
  • Card Sharp:
    • Richard Turner demonstrates how card mechanics can stack a deck so smoothly that not even magicians with decades of experience can see what's happening.
    • Mahdi Gilbert managed to fool the duo with his version of what the duo referred to as an "oil and water" card trick. The basic trick is nothing new, and Penn noted that they knew plenty of variations of it, but never had they encountered a variant of it designed for a man with no hands.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Eric Meade notes in his opening monolouge about the nature of being "fooled." To professional magicians, the idea of missing 10% of of the trick is enough for the magician to consider themselves fooled. Several seasons later when David Copperfield is judging Penn and Teller, he recognizes and gets most of the act but not all of it. True to this previous assessment, David admits Penn and Teller fooled him.
  • Clingy MacGuffin: Sergio Starman's act involves a character, implied to have had an unhappy break-up, trying to throw away his wedding ring, only for it to keep reappearing. He also screws up and disposes of his wife's photo, and it keeps reappearing too.
  • Commercial Break Cliffhanger: Generally avoided, with one or two complete acts in each program segment. However, when Penn & Teller do their water tank finale (which runs around ten minutes and can't be edited down without losing the effect) at the end of the first season, there's a commercial break at the point where Penn realizes the trick has gone horribly wrong.
    • When Penn & Teller themselves performed in order to fool guest judge David Copperfield, the verdict was broadcast after a commercial break.
  • Creepy Doll:
    • The centerpiece of Aiden Sinclair's spiritualism-themed act is a doll that's supposedly possessed by a former owner who died violently, and which moves apparently by itself at one point in the act.
    • Magician Raffaele Scircoli has a human-size puppet as part of his act, and the audience member wears a mask, he mimics the doll's movements. Penn even calls the doll "the creepiest thing they've ever seen."
  • Cryptic Conversation: Because Penn & Teller don't want to reveal how other magicians perform their tricks, Penn will often hide magic terminology, clues and insinuations in his critique of the performance, with the performers themselves responding in kind. Sometimes, Penn or Teller will also make gestures that to a layperson just look like conversational accenting, but are actually a reference to some of the sleight of hand moves made in the act. For most fans and viewers, the only thing understandable about those conversations is when they end with "Fooled" or "Not fooled".
  • Defeating the Undefeatable: A lot of the acts that appear on Fool Us regard doing exactly that — fooling Penn & Teller with their routines — as this trope, and flat out admit that since the duo have been in the business for so long, the odds of pulling it off are very slim.
  • Determinator: Shin Lim. He had to give up playing classical piano at the highest level in college due to developing carpal tunnel syndrome, so he turned to magic and ended up fooling Penn & Teller during his first appearance, after only seven years of practice. Then he suffered an injury that severed the tendons in his left thumb (incredibly bad for a card magician who doesn't have the benefit of dialogue to distract the audience), but went back on the show even though he still didn't have full sensation back in his thumb. He fooled them again, and they were so certain he would, Penn did a card force trick for Shin that resulted in him drawing a card which read "You fooled us!"
  • Don't Try This at Home:
    • Jonathan makes the disclaimer after Teller does his needle-swallowing routine at the end of one episode, and before Penn and Teller do their "Magic Bullet" routine at the end of another says that viewers should not try to replicate it at home "or anywhere else".
    • Following Matthew Holtzclaw's act, in which he apparently threads a piece of string into his mouth and out through an eye socket, Jonathan remarks that it calls for a "don't try this at home" but he can't imagine why anybody would want to.
    • Manuel Martinez, during a routine involving staple guns: "Kids, if you're out there, don't try this until you get home."
    • Matthew Laslo prefaces his version of the bullet catch trick with the warning: "Like all guns, these can be very dangerous, so please do not try what I'm about to attempt at home. Go to your friend's house."
    • Jon Allen, doing an act involving the risk of impaling his hand on a metal spike, gives an entirely straight Don't Try This At Home warning (but follows it up with an Our Lawyers Advised This Trope joke instead).
    • Escape artist Matt Johnson makes the disclaimer before doing his routine, which involves being locked inside a box full of water.
    • Jan Reinder's act involves crossing 100 rat traps, with this disclaimer prominently posted behind them.
  • Dragons Prefer Princesses: Piff the Magic Dragon claims that the two things dragons really love are card tricks and kidnapping princesses.
  • Dramatic Thunder: Dyno Staats's Steampunk themed act has a running gag where every time he says "science" — or, rather, "SCIENCE!" — there's a dramatic flash of artificial lightning/Tesla coils. (Penn does it a couple of times too during his after-act commentary, just for the fun of it.)
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Sergio Starman's act involves a man trying to drown his sorrows with a bottle of whiskey, but never actually getting to drink because of the whiskey disappearing from his glass, the bottle levitating, and other mysterious occurrences.
  • The End... Or Is It?: The conclusion of the Dracula themed act Penn and Teller do at the end of one episode.
  • Evolving Credits:
    • In the first season, the backdrop of the opening titles shows a London skyline on the right and a Vegas skyline on the left, reflecting the premise that it's a competition being held in London for a chance to perform in Vegas. From the second season, where the competition is held in Vegas itself at the Rio Hotel, the London skyline is replaced with more Vegas skyline, with the Rio prominently featured.
    • For the fourth season, the live-action elements of the opening sequence were reshot to update Penn's and Teller's looks (particularly Penn, who had lost a lot of weight and made a major hairstyle change since the show started).
    • The sixth season intro was refilmed, this time with different tricks.
  • Failed a Spot Check: There are times when the performance is so entertaining that Penn and Teller will enjoy the work too much and not stay vigilant on keeping their eyes peeled for every trick done.
  • Flipping the Bird:
    • While Penn and Teller are discussing Manuel Martinez's act, Jonathan asks Martinez if he thinks they've been successfully fooled. Martinez remarks that they're pretty smart, to which Jonathan responds that one of them is. Penn flips him the bird without pausing in his conversation with Teller.
    • In one episode, the magician on stage specifically prompts Teller for a verbal response. Instead, he's greeted with this.
  • Formula-Breaking Episode:
    • The Season 6 premiere flipped the script somewhat and had Penn & Teller perform their end-of-show trick in front of David Copperfield to see if they could fool him.
    • Season 7 episode 2 had Penn perform a trick to try and fool Teller, which he did.
  • Gasp!: After Jandro reveals to Penn and Teller the method of his trick for his fourth appearance in the show, Penn lets out one before the two concede to give Jandro his fourth trophy.
  • Graceful Loser:
    • A majority of the contestants who fail to fool the masters accept the defeat well, and usually are grateful for the honor of even being on the show.
    • For the most part, unless the magician really irks the pair, Penn and Teller will accept when their one good guess has missed the mark and got fooled by the magician without any consternation.
  • Gratuitous French: French magician Alexandra Duvivier drops random French words into the English she uses in her routine, and after she's done, is asked to provide a translation for Penn & Teller.
    Penn: We just have one question: how do you say 'You fooled us' in French?
  • Handicapped Badass:
    • Richard Turner, who lost much of his sight to scarlet fever at age 9 and is now a top level card mechanic (plus a black belt). Penn and Teller don't even need to do any discussion and immediately say he fooled them.
    • Mahdi Gilbert was born without hands and feet, and had to create all his own techniques from scratch since every manual ever written on how to do illusions assumes that you have working hands. He also ended up fooling them.
    • Christopher Castellini suffers from muscular dystrophy, and rather than give up his dream of being a magician upon losing the ability to walk, he overhauled many of his tricks so that he could do them from a wheelchair.
  • Helium Speech: At the end of one episode, Penn and Teller do an act in which Teller escapes from an enormous trash bag full of helium. After pumping the helium into the bag, Penn asks if he's doing okay in there and receives a squeaky response.
  • Home Game: The Penn & Teller Fool Everyone Magic Kit for ages eight and up.
  • Honor Before Reason: Part of the joke of Penn & Teller's water tank finale, which they perform at the end of the first season, is that Teller could get out of the tank any time but has given his word not to until Penn has finished his part of the trick. When the trick goes wrong, Penn tries to call it off and let Teller out but Teller refuses and insists he continue. Penn remarks that you have to admire a man willing to die for a principle he believes in, even if it is just an insignificant card trick.
  • I Know You Know I Know:
    • In Shawn Farquhar's second appearance, a "memory trick" where Farquhar pretends to read lines from a blank Sherlock Holmes book to answer questions about it, Penn notes that Farquhar clearly was leading the audience to believe that there had been a book switch, because it was the obvious way of doing the trick. But he knew that Farquhar knew that was the obvious way of doing the trick, and therefore, he wouldn't do the trick that way, because it was too obvious, and thus wouldn't fool Penn and Teller. He even hypothesized that Farquhar might even have another book hidden away on his person somewhere, but it was blank, too. (Farquhar later admitted that he did not, but he did have a sign secreted on his person that said "NOPE!") He then went on to guess it actually was a memory trick, but that Farquhar had been using some tricks to force particular pages that he had memorized sections of. He was wrong; Farquhar used yet another different technique.
    • Kostya Kimlat performs a famous trick that Penn and Teller had themselves performed. Kimlat knew they knew every method for doing the trick. To the audience, his trick is normal, but every step of his trick is actually done in a specific way to disprove each and every known method of doing the trick. Because Penn and Teller are looking for the known ways of doing the trick, they miss his novel method for doing the trick, which is much more technically difficult than every other way of doing the trick.
    • Invoked in the discussion for Ondřej Pšenička's second visit, about how much of his trick was what they expected and how much was not. Eventually they gave him the information they had, and he had to decide if they knew enough. (They didn't, and he got his second trophy.)
  • Immediate Self-Contradiction: Liberty Larsen begins her act by talking about how uncomfortable she is lying to people, even though that's a major handicap for an illusionist, and solemnly promises that she will tell nothing but the truth during her act — and immediately follows it up by announcing that she has a time machine.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: Hannigan frequently includes one in her patter when introducing and dismissing a host, as well as
  • Instantly Proven Wrong: Sean-Paul & Juliane's act features a trained monkey who communicates by pressing buttons that illuminate a green light for "yes" and a red light for "no", and has a running gag that the monkey keeps undercutting Sean-Paul's patter by pressing the red button whenever he tells a lie. At one point, after a particularly flagrant and self-aggrandizing lie, Juliane leans over and presses the red button herself.
  • Internal Reveal: When Penn's Spy Speak and gestures don't adequately telegraph his guess, Teller will occassionally step up approach the magician. With his mouth away from the cameras, he will show his personal notes about their guess to clear up the confusion of Penn' guess.
  • Interchangeable Antimatter Keys: A rare real-life example; minus the "antimatter" part, this is what Penn and Teller correctly guess is the secret to an escape trick early in the third season. The trick involves being submerged in a tank and having to find the correct key from dozens on the tank's bottom; Penn surmises that any of the keys will work.
  • Invisible Holes: On their second appearance, Young & Strange do a version of the trick where the assistant gets into a box that has swords thrust through it by the magician. After Young emerges apparently unscathed from the box, he takes a drink and streams of water spring out from his torso.
  • Jaw Drop:
    • Penn has an absolutely epic one when Adrián Carratalá reveals that he's one step ahead of the duo when they guess how he did his trick. When assuming that Carratalá concealed a gadget under his clothes to transfer a ring from his hands to tied in his shoelaces, he rips his entire dress suit off and hands it to Penn & Teller.
    • Penn makes an equally impressive one at the end of Boris Wild's Season 7 routine. Wild anticipated the duo's thoughts about Wild's handling of the cards and therefore had the duo handle the deck for most of the trick.
    • Teller likewise produces jawdrops when he's simply amazed by someone's routine and/or showmanship during it.
    • A notable one for the audience is literally everyone dropping jaw when Teller actually speaks in his regular voice in a Penn & Teller-led routine in Season 7.
  • Jewish Mother: During his act, Ben Seidman remarks that what it means to be a non-observant Jew is that your mother still nags you, but when you pray for her to shut up nothing happens.
  • Knife-Throwing Act: At the end of one episode, Penn and Teller perform a comedic deconstructed knife-throwing act that is blatantly phony from start to finish, complete with an equally phony explanation of how the trick is "really" done.
  • Laser Sight: When Penn and Teller do their catching-bullets-in-their-teeth routine at the end of an episode, they use revolvers fitted with laser sights as a way of increasing the drama and showing the audience that they're aiming at each others' mouths. Penn lampshades the fact that a laser sight on a revolver has no practical value.
  • Latex Perfection: Chris Dugdale's trick involves him disguised as a bald African-American man with a full-head silicone mask and gloves and sunglasses, posing as a "random audience member."
  • Left It In: The intro video for the first appearance by the duo Young & Strange has a gag where Strange admits that he hasn't even finished building their props yet, let alone practiced with them, and Young asks the cameraman if that bit can be cut out.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Penn, Teller, and the host wear the same outfits in every episode of a given season to allow the producers to rearrange the acts as necessary so that the winning acts are spread out over the season and so that there's not, for instance, an episode consisting entirely of Pick a Card routines.
  • Lost in Translation: When dealing with non-English speaking magicians, or ones who aren't at least fluent in the Spy Speak terms Penn uses, there are times when the magician is confused on what Penn is subtly asking them about. It sometimes takes the hidden judges answer the question of whether Penn and Teller have guessed the correct answer.
  • Loophole Abuse: There is one time when Penn and Teller are at odds on what the trick the magician used actually is. As the pair has only one genuine guess on the trick and Penn is the one speaking, he declares he gets to decide which idea they are going to go with. He chooses Teller's because if they are wrong, Penn can hold onto the idea that this guy might have fooled Teller, but Penn's guess might have been right.
  • Masked Luchador: The stage persona of The Shocker (a magician who also does a less rowdy kind of act using his own face and name).
  • Men Are the Expendable Gender: Whenever there's a woman magician on, Penn will usually bring up that people ask him if his son Zoltan is into magic. His response is that Zoltan is not (he prefers sports), but his daughter Moxie is learning magic (both from Penn and "Uncle Teller"), and that in the opinion of both he and Teller, the next really big crossover star of magic has a good chance of being a woman.
  • Monkeys on a Typewriter: The premise of Sean-Paul & Juliane's act, which features a trained monkey named Frankie, is that if it's possible for a monkey at a typewriter to randomly type out a bit of Shakespeare, it's just as possible for the monkey to type out a number randomly chosen by the audience.
  • Monochrome Past: The intro video for the duo Morgan & West, whose gimmick is that they're time-displaced Victorian gentlemen, includes sections in the style of a scratchy old silent movie.
  • Multilayer Façade: At the beginning of his act, The Shocker removes his luchador mask to reveal... another mask.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: At least as far as a magic act can be said to be "mundane". Michael Vincent was on twice doing card tricks, and Penn and Teller were able to figure out how he did them both times, and the techniques he used are pretty well-known among magicians. However, they were so in awe of the incredible skill with which he executed these techniques that Penn spent several minutes discussing it with him, to help make the audience aware of just how amazingly talented he was and how impressed they were.
  • Must Make Amends: Penn and Teller will admit they have made mistakes in judging some people at times. During an April Fool's special, they reshow the performance of Simon Coronel in which they were not fooled, and they then bring the magician back to the stage. They then reveal that their guess that night was actually incorrect, that the technique the magician used had been something else and chastised the magician for his humbleness which led to him accepting a defeat. So, the duo make up for it by giving the magician a trophy for fooling them.
  • My Card:
    • Graham Jolley begins his Pick a Card routine by offering Penn his business card.
    • Used by Etienne Pradier as part of his Pick a Card routine; when he produces his card out of his wallet, it's the same card Teller selected and signed earlier.
  • Naked People Are Funny: Vinny Grasso takes the "nothing up my sleeve" bit to its logical conclusion, and performs his trick in the nude (with a screen covering his sensitive bits). Many jokes are made of this, both by Vinny and by Alyson. Penn & Teller thought that he was using the nudity as an excuse to have the screen, which hid the method he used to perform the trick, though this turned out not to be the case.
  • Never Heard That One Before: Magicians who call Teller up as an audience volunteer are often unable to resist making a joke like "Pick a card, but don't say what it is yet", which always gets an exaggeratedly weary facial expression from Teller. One magician asked Teller from across the stage to yell out a number to choose, and Teller responded with his middle finger. In later seasons, guests got more creative, with one magician introducing a list of the words most used while Penn & Teller judged a contestant by noting that there was a blank spot in quotations representing Teller's most used word.
  • Never My Fault: Piff the Magic Dragon has an audience member pick a card, then sign it. Piff then says he made a prediction before the show about what card the audience member would pick. He has them reveal the card he picked... and it is a different card.
    "So basically, she picked wrong."
  • Obligatory Joke: When a female danger act Misty Lee has Louie Anderson on stage to help her with her fake knife routine, she is down to her final two, one real and one fake. She places one blade against hs chest and one over the wooden board she is dropping the blades onto. She comments if Louie picked the wrong blade, there would be no more "Life with Louie" and he adds they would need to take him out in "Baskets".
  • Oh, Crap!: On occasion Penn and Teller can get quite priceless facial expressions at being fooled.
    • When Shawn Farquhar reveals his second trick has nothing to do with memory like Penn thought, his eyes get wide as saucers.
    • Teller watches in horrified disbelief as Richard Turner deals from under the top card one-handed, and even tries to bring the trophy down right there as there's clearly no way they'll catch his actual trick.
    • Jandro has them freely pick a card that will match one he brought from Spain inside a locked wooden box, packed inside clay, inside another box made of Legos. Penn is stunned when he's allowed to peel off the clay himself, and actually declares there's no way it can be the right card. Which of course it is, resulting in Jandro getting the trophy after only a couple seconds of discussion.
  • Once for Yes, Twice for No: During Dyno Staats's act, he gets around Teller's voicelessness by giving him a horn and this instruction.
  • On Three: During Jon Allen's act, when he needs to catch the audience volunteer by surprise, he implies he's going to make his next move on a count of three, but actually moves on "one".
  • Open Sesame: In his intro video, David Regal makes a door open by saying "Open Sesame".
  • Our Lawyers Advised This Trope:
    • Jon Allen precedes his act, which involves the possibility of impaling his hand on a metal spike, with an announcement that for legal reasons he's required to state that should anything go wrong and injury result the fault lies solely and entirely with the audience volunteer.
    • When Brian Brushwood had a volunteer choosing a dolar bill, he gave the rest of the money stack to Penn, mentioning his lawyer told him that does not constitute a bribe.
  • Pick a Card:
    • Lampshaded by card manipulator Michael Vincent on his second appearance, saying his trick "begins the same way as every card trick: pick a card".
    • Jonathan Burns' act, which involves card tricks reimagined to use individually-wrapped cheese slices, begins with a spoof version of this trick; at the end, when he pulls one cheese slice out of the stack of identical cheese slices, he doesn't even bother to ask whether it's the same one the audience volunteer chose earlier, and pretends surprise when the volunteer dutifully asserts that it is.
    • Penn and Teller revive one of their old acts, The World's Most Extravagant Card Trick, for the end of one episode (with a few updates: for instance, when they first did it they made a big deal about it requiring a room full of computing power, but this time Penn notes that the room full of computers is just to be extravagant and really Teller could do his bit with an iPhone app).
  • Play-Along Prisoner: Mike Bliss does an act where he's tied up in preparation to make a dramatic escape, but while he's explaining how the dramatic escape is going to work he keeps casually slipping one hand or the other out of the ropes so he can make an illustrative gesture. By the time he actually does the escape, it's obvious he could have been free any time.
  • Precision F-Strike: After Jason Suran's routine, which involved a prediction based around the contents of a swear jar and copious (albeit bleeped) swearing from both him and Penn, Alyson Hannigan of all people introduced the commercial break by saying "Don't fucking go anywhere," which was met with laughter from Penn & Teller.
  • Reformed Criminal: Magician Aiden Sinclair is an admitted former criminal and conman. However, years ago a chance encounter with Penn himself on the streets of Vegas when Aiden used a fake accent and backstory, and Penn was nothing but kind to him and never suspected the man before him was a conman. This rocked Aiden to his core, and soon after he turned himself in. He served five years in prison and came out as a magician and works with at-risk children to help steer them away from the path he chose.
  • Saw a Woman in Half:
    • The first episode filmed of the series closes with Penn and Teller doing their famous variation of the trick, with the giant power saw and the safety features that Teller absent-mindedly disables just as Penn is about to demonstrate that the woman in the box is in no real danger.
    • The first episode also features one of the contestants, James More, doing an inversion of the trick, based on the same principles but instead of the person in the box being separated into two halves they're compressed into an impossibly short space.
    • In the opening monologue of one episode, Jonathan remarks that the tension backstage is so thick you could cut it with a knife, or perhaps saw it in half and then stick it back together.
    • In season 4, David Caserta performs a version with two notable variations from the standard. One is that he cuts himself in half. The other is that instead of a wooden box, the trick is performed while he stands in an open-sided metal scaffold. It's still a safe bet that his detached lower half is a dummy, but it's a lot harder to figure out where his real lower half has gone.
  • Scary Flashlight Face: Jokingly used by Jonathan while introducing Peter Boie's spiritualism-inspired act.
  • Self-Deprecation:
    • In one of his opening monologues, Jonathan refers to Penn and Teller as "Grumpy and Bashful" — and himself as "Dopey".
    • More than once, Penn has called himself the big stupid one and this trick might have actually fooled him. This is usually as a preface for noting Teller's greater expertise in this area of magic and telling the magician Teller wasn't fooled.
  • Separated by a Common Language: After the show's move to the US, one of Jonathan's opening monologues is about having been asked to adjust his language for the new audience.
  • Shaped Like Itself: In one of Alyson's episode openings, she introduces "the Penn and Teller of magic: Penn and Teller".
  • Shock and Awe: One of Penn and Teller's end of show tricks included a guest appearence by Moxie Jillette, who helped the pair demonstrate several physics based illusions involving electricity.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Alyson Hannigan's first episode as host includes references to her roles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and American Pie.
    • The intro video for Dyno Staats, Steampunk Science Magician, shows him getting out of a DeLorean, and during his act he refers to "kyber and dilithium energies".
    • The intro video for Aiden Sinclair, who was a conman and did time before deciding to straighten up and use his deceptive powers for good, has a shot of him re-enacting the Brig Ball Bouncing scene from The Great Escape.
    • Glenn Morphew's act is a new version of a classic teleporting-object trick with patter claiming that it's all done with quantum physics and wormholes and such. At the beginning of the act, he claims he developed it after reading the work of the noted physicist Dr. Sheldon Cooper.
    • At the end of one episode, Penn and Teller perform an act based around the theme of password security. When they call up the audience volunteer, Penn announces that they're not going to ask her for any personal information like her name, in case that gives someone an opening to hack into one of her accounts, so instead for the rest of the act he addresses her as "Edward Snowden".
    • During the same act, Penn mentions the meme of creating your porn star name by putting together your first pet and the street you lived on as a childnote  and claims that when he was a child he had a kitten named Ron and lived on Jeremy Street.
  • Sore Loser:
    • On one episode Penn was seething when Kostya Kimlat performed a card trick so well it managed to fool him and Teller as well. He wouldn't have been so mad... had the duo not performed the same trick on the Today show two months before.
    • Again with Shawn Farquhar in season 3. Like above, Penn wouldn't have been so mad... had Farquhar not already fooled them a few years ago in season 1 (UK).
      Penn: You. Rat. Bastard.
  • Spoon Bending: Norman Ng's act involves bending a fork in the traditional manner — while simultaneously causing a drawing of a fork to transform into a drawing of a bent fork.
  • Spy Speak:
    • Penn will pepper his analysis and critique of the magician's performance with words referring to a subtle particular of the trick, or the name of a magician who is famous for this particular trick and whose methods are similar to the one being shown to them. This allows them to tell the magician they know or have a rough idea of how things went down, but limit what the average audience member will take from it. Sometimes, if the Spy Speak doesn't work (or if the duo's guess can't be said in any way without spoiling it), Teller will usually venture on stage and whisper in the performer's ear or show them his handwritten notes.
    • This is subverted with Tom Stone's quantum performance where he somehow swaps things around in three boxes despite not handling two of them and they are in the hands of Allison and a random audience member. Penn notes that the trick is so complex, so beautifully done, he cannot think up any euphemisms or hidden terms to say. Anything he says could risk revealing things he wouldn't want to the audience to know. So, he lays it on the hands of the hidden judges who hear Penn and Teller's hard-term conversation to judge if Penn and Teller figured it out.
  • Squee: Teller gets so excited over Kostya Kimlat’s progressive disproving that he’s using any of the typical ways to do his card trick that he actually comes close to breaking his silent routine, and audibly giggles.
  • Steampunk: Dyno Staats's stage persona is a steampunk scientist who achieves magical effects with SCIENCE!
  • Stock Money Bag: Stuart MacDonald's mirror trick act involves him using a mirror to multiple his cash. After several multiplications, his pile of cash becomes a bag with a dollar sign on it, which he proceeds to duplicate further with his magic mirror.
  • Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion: In one introductory bit, Jonathan tells the audience they will see performers "illuminate, cogitate, levitate, and master... the art of illusion".
  • Suddenly Shouting: Teller ends up screaming while an audience member injects a fluid into a watermelon to grow her ring inside it because her ring was dissolved in acid.
  • Suddenly Speaking: A few times, Teller will actually speak without any warning. Most fittingly, he does this on the "Teller Speaks" episode. With a megaphone.
  • Take a Third Option: Kostya Kimlat uses a well-known trick that Penn and Teller had actually themselves performed on the Today Show. There are a number of ways of doing the trick, and Kostya knew that Penn and Teller knew all the ways of doing the trick. As such, he then proceeded to do the trick using yet another different method that he himself had recently perfected that Penn and Teller hadn't seen before. To the audience, it was a normal card trick, but to Penn and Teller, every stage of the trick was deliberately done in such a way as to disprove that the trick was done using every other method of doing the trick.
  • Take That!: During Andi Gladwin's act, which is performed from inside an enormous balloon, he notes, "I'm strangely orange, my hair's a mess, and I'm full of hot air", and then claims to be doing an impression of Donald Trump.
  • The Tape Knew You Would Say That:
    • Yan Markson does a comedy magic routine in which he is supposedly doing his trick for the first time, following pre-recorded instructions. At the point where the trick starts to go wrong, he asks the recording to confirm the instruction it just gave him, and it does. A few seconds later, it also helpfully points out that he's doing it wrong.
    • When Matieu Bich fooled Penn and Teller with his trick "Spreadwave" he brought the cards in a little box. Penn immediately commented that there had to be something more than a single deck of cards in the box... whereupon Bich opened the box and showed him a completely empty box with the word "NO" painted inside.
    • Adrián Carratalá does a ring flight routine where the ring ends up on a loop of his already-tied shoelaces. Penn and Teller guess he was using trick clothing, to which he reveals it's actually tear-away clothes that he rips off. Even better, it says on the back of his undershirt that would have been too easy.
    • Invoked and played with by Boris Wild's performance. He notes that working to perfect his trick so much he actually started imagining what Penn and Teller's critiques and observations will be. So, using voice cloning technology, he creates a tape to play at specific parts of his routine of Penn's "thoughts" or Penn interpreting Teller's "thoughts," and do some part of the trick in response to those "thoughts." Penn later notes the assumed thoughts were pretty on the mark.
  • Tastes Like Chicken: Mac King's act involves a guinea pig named Colonel Sanders. Near the end of the act, he poses the question on behalf of the audience: Why "Colonel Sanders"? He then pretends to swallow the guinea pig whole, and remarks that it tastes like chicken.
  • Technicolor Science: In Kayla Drescher's intro video, when she's talking about her day job as an environmental scientist, this is represented visually by her messing around with lab flasks full of colorful liquids.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: The duo Young & Strange, whose stage persona is that they aren't very good and don't like each other much.
  • That Came Out Wrong:
    • Discussing Mike Bliss's escapology routines, Penn mentions that he knows a lot about tying people up, then hastily and emphatically clarifies that he means in the context of learning to spot gimmicks and frauds.
    • During a performance with Penn and Allison as the participants helping the magician, the magician asks for Penn to pick a cup filled with packets of tea. Then the magician has Penn offer that selected cup to Allison so she may choose one of those random bags. Penn looks at her and asks, "Want my teabag?"
  • The Unreveal:
    • In one episode, Jonathan Ross asked the duo if they were nervous about the other magicians, and Teller responded with "Fuck no!" Which of course was bleeped, so the TV audience couldn't hear it.
    • At the end of one episode, Penn and Teller perform their "Teller's Salute to Recycling" routine, in which Teller, usually The Voiceless, does all the talking — but the extremely noisy wood chipper featured in the routine drowns out everything he has to say.
    • Undone in Season 7's "Teller Talks!", where the joke of Penn & Teller's episode-ending trick is Teller becoming so annoyed by Penn mispronouncing the French words in his slight-of-hand tutorial for the audience, that he produces a megaphone from nowhere and corrects Penn in his own voice.
  • The Voiceless:
    • Teller.
    • Shin Lim, who was a classically trained pianist before becoming a magician, choreographs his routines to orchestral music instead of talking. His silence gets a proud thumbs-up from Teller.
  • Trap Door: Averted. Penn has explictly said after some tricks that their stage does not have any trap doors or hidden elevators in it, meaning all illusions seen on the show are performed on solid ground.
  • White Flag: On their second appearance, Young & Strange do a version of the trick where the assistant gets into a box that has swords thrust through it by the magician. At one point, to emphasize that Young hasn't merely slipped out of the box somehow, his hand emerges from the top waving a white flag. After Penn & Teller offer their thoughts about how the trick was done, Strange silently admits defeat by producing the white flag and waving it.
  • Wingding Eyes: At the end of one episode, Penn and Teller perform a version of their classic routine where Penn attempts to Pick a Card, only for the volunteer's card to disappear completely, and then Teller is revealed to be wearing custom contact lenses that turn one of his pupils into the card's suit and the other into the card's number.
  • Worthy Opponent:
    • The magicians who are able to fool the master duo are congratulated for this feat, even if Penn ends up cursing them for it.
    • By the same token, there are performers who do not fool the pair but do such a high class act, it is impressive on another level. Simon Coronel, for instance, does a variation of Three fly, the "teleportation" trick of an item in one hand to another. He ups the challenge by using distinctly colored poker chips, inhibiting him from the common version where the same-colored coins allow for obfuscation on which hand has how many and palming one to hide it. The distinct colors of the chips and the way it was done results in Penn and Teller calling it the best version of this trick they ever saw. It doesn't fool them, but they greatly respect the work done.
    • The Evasons' mentalist act of Mrs. Evason being able to name seemingly any object given to her husband is declared by Penn to be the rare trick that's actually a lot more impressive if you know how it's done, with him and Teller having taken four years to perfect a much simpler version using just a deck of cards.note 
  • Your Mime Makes It Real: Penn and Teller's magic act with Billy the Mime ends with Billy accidentally stabbing himself in the heart with a mimed knife and dying on stage, complete with 'real' blood.
  • Your Mom: During his act, The Shocker instructs an audience volunteer to think of a woman who's important in his life, "but not your mom or your sister, it should be somebody I don't know".


Video Example(s):


Latex Perfection on "Penn and Teller's Fool Us"

You can even change race using a rubber mask and gloves...

How well does it match the trope?

5 (8 votes)

Example of:

Main / LatexPerfection

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