April 3, 2024

Getting On Penn & Teller Fool Us Part 1

by Jason Alan


      As I write this, I’m sitting on Holland America’s ship The Oosterdam anxiously waiting for Friday to arrive.  It seems like time is moving in slow motion as I count down the minutes to the airing of our second appearance on Penn & Teller Fool Us on the CW Network! As I re-read that sentence it’s still crazy to me that we were given the opportunity to be on the show twice!!! I mean these guys are my idols!

      Some of you might not know who Penn & Teller are and why I look up to them so much so let’s start there.   If I asked you to name a famous magician more than likely you would say someone named David.  But I would immediately say Penn & Teller.  P & T were introduced to me when I was very young.  I was given their book, Penn and Teller’s How to Play with Your Food.

Penn & Teller How To Play With your Food Book

      That’s what draws me to them, they’re the Bob Dylans of magic.  P & T do what they want, say what they feel and stay true to themselves.  This is how I’ve always tried to present myself.  If you have an opinion, even though it might be wrong, stay true to it until you learn better.  Someone once told me that Stacy and I, being a couple in magic, had to do illusions to be relevant or work on big stages.  Immediately I thought …that’s bullshit.  I try to emulate and keep us close to our heroes, so I’ve always known in my heart that the key to our success lies in being ourselves on stage and only presenting things we believe in! 

      Fast forward to the spring of 2024.  Auditions for the 10th season of Fool Us had been open for months.  Stacy and I still hadn’t come up with an idea that we would really want to pitch for the show, so we decided not to audition.  That’s when I bought us a bottle of wine, a new game and decided to suck up. 

      You see Penn had come out with a new party game called, You Lying Sack.  We absolutely love playing party games, but nobody wants to play games with us…I don’t know why 🙂  

Penn Jillette You Lying Sack

      Anyway…that evening while Stacy and I were playing and getting inebriated she said to me, “We should do something with Penn’s game on Fool Us”.  Since I have no restraint, I immediately emailed the producers of the show and asked if anyone had pitched a trick with Penn’s game.  To our surprise they responded within minutes and said no they haven’t, but they loved the idea and wanted to hear more.  

      Straightaway we started playing with ideas…what are we going to do with this game to make it into a trick? Should we play a round with Penn and beat him every time?  Should we use the game pieces and do a classic magic trick with them.  That’s when we decided to go in a completely different direction.  What if we sold out, sucked up and begged for a trophy? I sent another email to the producers, and they were really intrigued.  They then asked to see the trick.  

      Problem being, we didn’t have one. What could we do to show our desperation for a trophy?  What could we do to fool Penn & Teller? What if we did 2 tricks at once?  I tried to fool Teller while Stacy tried to Fool Penn?  

      We messaged the producers with our idea, and again they wanted to hear more.  Now, they wanted to see the trick in action.  So exciting….but we hadn’t come up with a way to do it yet.  Here we were with an almost definite YES, an idea for a routine and no working trick.  That’s when things got real.  

      Magic is a lot like music in the sense that most of the songs you know, and love were created through collaboration, a team of writers and musicians. There are a few artists that work in complete solidarity but most of the greatest hits took more than one mind to be created.  Magic is the same way.  Here we were, with this idea for a trick and nowhere to go.  That’s when we picked up the Bat-Phone and dialed Brent Braun.  

Brent Braun J & B Magic Shop

      To stick with our music analogy, imagine you have this wonderful idea for a song but are feeling a bit stuck on what direction to go but luckily you have a direct line to Taylor Swift.  You can call her, tell her what you have in mind, and she will guide you to something better than you ever imagined.  That’s Brent Braun. 

      He listened to what we had in mind and brainstormed with us until we solved our problem of not having a working trick.  It was simple, brilliant while at the same time deviously deceptive.  We finally had a working trick on our hands.  

      We emailed the producers one last time, laying out what we had in mind and started playing the waiting game.  A few days later, we got the answer we were waiting for…..YES...they wanted to see this on their show.  

      Now the real work began.  Creating, learning, and perfecting a new trick is a process that can take years to accomplish.  Just for some perspective, I recently put a new trick into our cruise act that has taken me 4 years to tweak to the point where I felt it was stage worthy. But….for Fool Us we had just a little over 4 weeks to figure everything out and make it look polished and professional for T.V.   

      Immediately we went into hyper magic mode.  We decided not to take any gigs, not see friends or family, and solely focus on this project.  We wanted to present something on T.V. that would really show our true colors and we had 4 weeks to do so.  Every day from 5am to midnight we would work on this trick, designing props, working on the method and writing scripts.  We would come up with a new joke, send it to the producers for approval and wait for feedback.  All I can say about this is…I’m sorry Criss Angel…Stacy came up with that line. 

      Halfway through this process is when things went wrong.  For those of you that don’t know I went through a health scare a few years ago that’s still affecting me to this day. Around day 12 into these 15-hour workdays things went really really wrong.  We made a trip down to Brent’s J & B Magic Shop in hopes of getting some in person help.  After working on the trick for a few hours we took a lunch break and that’s when my body decided to shut down.  I remember sitting at lunch, eating tacos and all of a sudden…I didn’t know where I was.  I could see the food in front of me, I could hear Stacy talking, but nothing else was working. I needed a break, and I needed it now. That’s when I decided to take a few days off and relax. 

     After a few days of rest, we went back to work.  Each day we would film the trick, Stacy would work on a props, and we would send it to the production team.  They would tell us what they liked, what they didn’t like and what we needed to change.  This happened over and over again until we finally reached the week before filming. 

      As I mentioned earlier, we aren’t ones to throw a trick up on stage without rehearsing it.  Here we were, getting ready to go on national television and perform something we’ve never done in front of a live audience, and we need run time. Let me tell you more about that tomorrow. 

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