Joshua Jay Fools Penn & Teller & Us

Inside Magic Image of Penn & Teller's Fool UsWe readily admit we are the lowest of the low.  We are a hypocrite of the first order.  That’s generally true but most painfully evident in our behavior last week.

It started out innocently.  We were catching up on our TiVo of ’s Fool Us.  We enjoy that show and are happy to hear they have been signed for a second season with the CW here in the US.  The show makes us smile and as our little reward back to the producers, writers, directors and stars of the show, we do not fast forward through the advertisements.  We are gracious in that way.

Like most viewers of the show, we take delight not only in seeing great magic but the interesting way Penn attempts to describe what he and Teller believe was the secret at work.  They use vague code words and make reference to great magicians from history to convey the message that they know the know-how.  There is no exposure but for those of us in on the craft, we know whether a magician has been foiled in his or her attempt to fool Penn & Teller.

is a great magician.  We feel like we have watched him grow over the years; likely because we have.  He began performing in utero and has ascended the lofty limbs of the magic forest with aplomb.  (Sorry for the last sentence.  We farm out parts of our articles to off-shore content creator mills and they a great at maximizing word count – that’s how they’re paid – but struggle with metaphors in our language).

Mr. Jay performed an effect that blew us – and Penn & Teller – away.  We could describe the effect in great detail but won’t because that is evidence of our hypocrisy.  Our father always said, “there’s no sin in beating yourself up, but always know your safe word.”  We’re not sure he intended that sage advice for revealing one’s foibles on the internet but it fits and thus we happily appropriate it for our writing herein.  (Another off-shore sentence beginning at the word “that”).

You can check out a YouTube clip of his performance here.

Penn & Teller were fooled by the trick.  After all, how could anyone have a spectator think of a card and then produce the card as the only printed one in an otherwise blank deck.  Penn & Teller offered their solution but Mr. Jay denied what we assumed had to be the secret.  Granted, we did not see him perform the sleight but figured there could be no other explanation.  We, and Penn & Teller, took him at his word.  If he said he did not use the sleight, he did not.

That left us to engage in behavior that we find contemptible and boorish.

We replayed the video of his routine more than two or three times.

We live alone here in West Hollywood while we await our family’s move to California.  We have fully paid-up subscriptions to the prominent magic magazines, surf the web for news and tricks, sometimes go for walks along Santa Monica Boulevard and visit The Magic Castle.  Those activities can be accomplished in a few hours each and so that leaves us with roughly 14 hours times 7 days a week times 30 or 31 days each month to sit, stand or lie down while eating or sleeping.

We watched the video incessantly for a solid 24 hour period.  We used the slow motion button to analyze every move, every nuance of Mr. Jay’s performance.  We were frustrated by some of the camera angles and cuts but those were not Mr. Jay’s doing.

The proof of a bad motive is often the corrupt results, said the inventor of the modern day Capri Pants.  Once again, lessons from the world of fashion instructs the world of professional magic.  (Other examples include the cape, pockets and the classic pop-up tie).

Precisely one day after beginning our analysis of the Jay Tape, we came to the conclusion that Mr. Jay did not perform the accused sleight.  We also concluded he must have accomplished the miracle by some other method.  We have no idea how he performed the effect.  We love that feeling.

Yes, we are embarrassed to say we used our access to modern technology to discern the secret but we failed.  It was a wonderful lesson learned.  The feeling of being truly amazed was the reason we got into magic.  The attempt to figure out the trick only diminished that sense of wonder.  Congratulations to Mr. Jay for fooling Penn & Teller and us so completely.  It was fantastic.

2 comments to Joshua Jay Fools Penn & Teller & Us

  • John Granrose

    Josh explains this trick on his UNREAL DVD set. It is called “Blind Man’s Bluff.”

  • Jim

    Like yourself, Connie and I are enthusiastic fans of Penn and Teller. It is truly a great show.
    Your efforts to solve the few magicians who manage to fool them is time well spent. If you manage to solve same let me know. Oh, I see you did. I didn’t notice the reply from John Granrose.
    Just shows you how easy I am to trick.