Fooled by a phone charger…10 Behind the scenes facts about Penn & Teller: Fool Us!
This video will always represent one of the greatest moments of my career. I could’ve never predicted what the outcome will be, not just in fooling Penn & Teller, but in how the Fool Us team made everything look. Ever since the episode aired, I’ve had a flood of questions from curious fans and friends. As it turns out, many of the questions are the same. So here we go…10 behind the scenes facts about Penn & Teller: Fool Us!
1. I do not have the trophy!
Yet! I’m starting with this because the questions I get asked the most are, “Where do you display your trophy?”, “Do you show your trophy to everyone?”, “Do you sleep with your trophy under your pillow?’, etc.
When you fool Penn & Teller, that beautiful trophy drops out of the sky for the performer to hold while shaking the hands of the legendary duo and then walk offstage doing the parade wave. As soon as the performer gets offstage, they’re instructed to hand the trophy over to a couple of prop guys who put the trophy back on its perch. Once you fly back to Vegas to close Penn & Teller’s show, you are given an identical trophy, except with your name engraved on the front. That one goes home with you!
2. I didn’t talk to Penn and Teller
People often ask, “What are Penn & Teller like?” I can absolutely say they’re as nice as you could possibly imagine. However, I can say that from seeing their live Vegas show a few times. They’re the rare exception and will actually hang out in the lobby after, taking pictures, signing autographs and talking to fans.
3. The original routine did not have a voice over.
My original submission for the show was most of the same effects, but with no voice over. It wasn’t even an infomercial. It was actually a routine about magician life hacks and would’ve had Alyson sitting next to me at a table onstage. Also, the part that fooled Penn & Teller (charging the phone) was not in the original routine! It was added less than a month before taping.
4. My 35 second conversation with Alyson was not 35 seconds.
Alyson and I talked about all kinds of stuff after I performed the trick, while Penn & Teller were busy deliberating. Throughout the conversation, Alyson said on a few occasions that “They’re still talking!” I was convinced she was saying it because it would look good on TV. I was just so focused on trying to not look stupid that I had no concept of time. My friend informed me later that, when all was said and done, my conversation with Alyson went almost 10 minutes!
5. You can see me laugh during the routine.
Having never in my life plugged a cable into a USB port successfully on the first try, I decided I was going to make it happen on national TV. I wish I could provide witnesses that saw me practice plugging the USB end of the cable into the power adapter. I literally practiced for WEEKS, going as far as to put small markings on the plug and the adapter. And what did I do? Plugged the stupid thing the wrong way on national TV. I couldn’t help but laugh. Many people have said that it was a very funny, subtle joke that you have to look to find. I’m actually ok with that!
6. Take 2?
Believe it or not, in one part of the routine, you’re seeing a second take. When I walk to Penn & Teller to charge the phone, literally as I was coming down to touch the charger to Teller’s hand, I heard on the loud speaker, “Hold please.” As it turns out, they wanted Penn to hold his hand in a different location so you can see the phone. If you watch, you can see him purposely hold his phone so the camera behind them could see. I will pause here to say, the producers did every conceivable thing they could to make each shot a money shot. And they didn’t disappoint!
7. Friends stick close together.
Many of you probably saw one of my best friends, “John Michael Hinton” earlier in the season do his Rubik’s cube routine. If you haven’t, open a new tab right now, go to YouTube and watch it! Hands down, my favorite cube routine in the world. Well, John and I are not only very good friends, but we live 5 minutes away from each other, he officiated my wedding, we consulted for each other’s routines for Fool Us, and even though our episodes aired months apart, we only taped 2 days apart and we got to spend a few days in Vegas together. Could not have made the experience any better!
8. Why is Alyson always wearing the same dress the whole season?
If I had a nickel for every time I heard this question, I would be able to buy Alyson some new clothes. It’s very simple, though. There’s no way to predict exactly what’s going to happen with each performer. Only after all the performers are taped do the producers decide which episodes they should appear. I was the third to last taping, but I was aired on the season finale. Never knew that going in and didn’t find out until late July, 4 months after my taping.
9. Alyson and I do our make up together.
Ok, not exactly, but while getting my make up on, Alyson walked in to get hers done. She introduced herself and was as sweet as she could possibly be.
10. What’s that song called?
The song that you hear on the tape recorded was written and performed by me. The song that I typically use was cleared for TV but couldn’t be cleared for online use. So I thought, “Maybe I could just write a 10 second song.” I’m thrilled to pieces I did! FYI… the song is called A Fool On Hold.
I definitely believe in giving credit where credit is due. I had some incredible people working on the routine you saw for TV. This list is as complete as I can make it. You will notice that I don’t go into detail on what every person provided, simply because it would elude to certain methods.
First and foremost, I want to thank the entire Penn & Teller: Fool Us team! I’ve never seen a group work so hard to give every convenience they possibly could. They made me feel like a star and no matter how many TV appearances I may have, they’re going to be a tough act to follow!
Scott Robinson and Sleight Club: Many members of this Tuesday night magic club took a look at this routine from it’s birth and provided some great feedback throughout!
Joe Daniels: Sometimes it takes someone who knows and really understands staging to find a solution. Joe found a simple solution that cut 5 very awkward seconds from the routine, which to me was critical.
Max Nelson: Max provided a suggestion that led to what possibly was a key element to fooling Penn & Teller.
Bob Taylor: Besides all around suggestions, Bob gave a great suggestion that specifically dealt with an important moment when I was standing in front of Penn & Teller.
John Michael Hinton: Gave great tweaks to the script and also made the suggestion of charging the phone twice instead of once…which seriously looked so much better!
Kelvin Chow: Also appearing on this season of Fool Us, Kelvin provided some critical assistance in helping me obtain permission to create a key moment in the routine.
Ben Small: Easily one of the most creative people I know, Ben watched my rope routine 5 years ago and said, “I love it! I just hate that it’s rope. Could you maybe use a phone charger?” When Penn says, “Doing rope tricks with a charging cable is a great, great idea”, he’s complimenting Ben. End of story.
Garrett Thomas: I don’t know where to begin. Garrett was the one who recommended that this be an informercial, without even knowing I did voice overs. Once he learned that, so many incredible ideas followed. Garrett not only came up with the idea of using a giant spool of cable, but also made the suggestion of charging the phone at the end. Cannot thank him enough for his consulting in this routine.
Brent Braun: I made this one last because it just needed to be. Brent was invaluable throughout the whole process. He not only worked with me on scripting, structuring and staging of the routine, he also worked with me regarding my whole appearance on Fool Us. That includes the intro package that shows at the beginning, which I would’ve NEVER put that much thought into, had it not been for him. He has helped get more magicians on that show than anyone I know. If any magician reading this has any desire to be on next season of Penn & Teller: Fool Us, you are hurting yourself by not contacting Brent Braun. I can tell you that dozens of magicians have already contacted him for next year. Do not wait to get in touch with him. Go to The Magic Firm website now!