Las Vegas – the city of casino entertainment and of the millions of lights that bring the Nevada Desert to life. Good music and cheerfulness, clubs, temptations at every corner, luxury hotels, gambling and the adrenaline, they all go to show why the fabulous Las Vegas is nicknamed “the world capital of entertainment”. And the adage “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” contributes, and amplifies, the charm, but also the mystery surrounding the “City of Sin”.
Not just the tourists, the rich or the betting addicts are going to Las Vegas. Here, Lady Luck may smile even upon those from the impossible to ignore entertainment business. Dancers, singers, even magicians, early in their career are confidently heading to this Mecca of entertainment. And from a mere performance to their own show, for some, it was just one step. Two such magicians who are enjoying outstanding success even after four decades of activity are the legendary Penn and Teller.
A duo that used to be a trio
The American duo first started as a trio in 1975, with Weir Chrisemer, a friend of theirs. He is the one who introduced them to each other. Chrisemer left the showbiz six years later, leaving the two to fend for themselves. What some believed would be the end, shortly became a popular act to the American public and turned into one of the most well-regarded magical duos in history.
A (much too) talkative giant and a silent dwarf
What distinguishes Penn and Teller is not just their magic tricks. After all, every magician may learn a few tricks; but, with them, it is all about how funny they are together. Penn is the talkative one, a 2-meter tall friendly giant. He is the one who tells stories and entices the audience with words chosen carefully, he is distracting the audience to such extend that the end of the trick may come out in a sudden awe that would stop the brain from processing how that was even possible. Ultimately, this is the secret wish of every magician: to create the “wow effect”. Teller, on the other hand, is the exact opposite of Penn in every respect. This may be the reason why the two are considered such an exceptional couple. Teller stands out for remaining “mute” throughout his 40 years of magic. He does not have a speech impairment; this is just the style he adopted to be different. He must think that Penn is talking for the both of them. Teller should never be underestimated. The chemistry between them is unparalleled and his ability to remain quiet shows how committed he is to his persona, for our own entertainment. Teller is, therefore, the enigma in this duo. He is able to convey emotions by non-verbal communication, his facial expressions as comical as Penn’s jokes. If further proof were necessary that “opposites attract”, then Penn and Teller are the living image of it.
Their fame reached its peak. Also due to their magic tricks that kept their fans stuck to their TV sets in an attempt to uncover the mystery behind them. Famous acts such as cutting a man in two or not breathing under water for minutes on end are but a few moments that brought the two a well-deserved spot on Broadway and, later on, their own show residency in Vegas. However, it is Teller who sacrifices himself most often, while Penn is revealing what his good friend will go through. It is a well-known fact that Penn tends to share more than he should during an act, which has attracted a lot of criticism from their fellow magicians, concerned about their trade secrets being exposed.
They toured a lot in the 90’s , appeared in many TV shows such as The Simpsons, The Drew Carey Show, Hollywood Squares, Muppets Tonight and even in Katy Perry’s song, “Waking Up in Vegas”. But nowhere do they feel more at home than in their own “Sin City” residency show which shares their name, hosted by the famous Rio All-Suite Las Vegas Hotel & Casino.
Theirs is one of the most enduring acts of Las Vegas, regarded by many critics as one of the main attractions of the City. In 2013, their genius gained another recognition, only this time it was there for everyone to admire. The two got their own star on the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Only the best may fool us
There was one thing Penn and Teller had not done. After amazing everybody with their stage persona, it was their turn to be … fooled. This is how the “Fool Us” show emerged. The rules are simple. A number of magicians are competing in spectacular acts of grand illusion to impress Penn and Teller. Their attempts are mostly unsuccessful because the veterans are able to figure out the tricks even before they are performed. So it would take a spectacular trick, a trick that not even the world’s most famous magicians have never seen and which could let them speechless …., especially Penn. The winner of this contest is rewarded with a chance to show his magic act in one of Penn and Teller shows in Las Vegas. This journey has a unique charm – it is one in which the magician is treated like royalty as soon as they depart from London, the location of the show, to Las Vegas and back. This show is really successful and rounds up tens of magicians, year after year, since 2011, to present their tricks in front of the masters, but only some of them are lucky enough. In fact, during the first season of this show, no one was able to impress the jury. At the end of each episode, Penn and Teller are getting on stage for a magic act in front of the audience in the auditorium and the millions of TV viewers at home. This is how they show the people at home, who never had the chance to see their shows, why they are the Kings of Magic in Las Vegas.
Penn and Teller excelled at everything they have done. Their shows, which delighted the audience 40 years ago, are still sold out. They are famous all around the world and became role models for young magicians who would like to have a taste of their glory someday. They stayed the same and their audience was never bored. Because of them, the magicians now have the courage to turn their childhood passion into a job. Talent shows all over the world are being won by illusionists. More and more auditoriums in Las Vegas are packed with people paying to see magic acts.
Penn and Teller will go down in history as masters of entertainment and magic and their names will be forever intertwined with the fabulous Las Vegas.
By Paul Dan