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Arts & Entertainment


Penn & Teller

Lesson time 5:07 min

Penn & Teller are masters of misdirection. Learn how to use misdirection to persuade the audience to hear the story they want to believe.

Penn & Teller
Teach the Art of Magic
In their first-ever MasterClass, Teller breaks his silence as he and Penn teach their approach to creating moments of wonder and astonishment.
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- Yeah, we do a whole bit about misdirection in the show. And we say it has to do with accounting for attention. But it's much more complicated than that. Teller's fond of saying that the strongest lie is a lie the audience tells itself. And I don't know if this is the best example of this, but it is a place we're showing off. Now, when I say, give the audience a story, I don't mean some jive-ass story. Like, this is Captain Clunky McCluckFace, and she's the first chicken on Mars, and this is the rocket ship chicken coop. No, no, I mean a real story that you really believe and understand and tell yourself. So as soon as I cover this up, you know it's the vanishing chicken, right? You know we're Penn & Teller. You know we're doing magic. So the story you tell yourself includes a promise to yourself that at no time will you allow your-- [CYMBALS BANGING] Misdirection. I want to see how we did. Burt, can you let the house lights up so I can see the folks? How many people saw the gorilla with the cymbals? Should be all of you, it's a goddamn gorilla with cymbals. Now, subset of that, how many of you saw Teller walk out, cop the chicken, and split? OK, that's pretty much everybody, too. Now-- no, no. But now, with the misdirection, during all of that, how many of you saw I sneaked the gorilla into the chicken coop? Because that's misdirection right there. - Misdirection is the story you get the audience to tell itself-- which is fine, because that's what they came there for. They came there for the delight of being deceived, and for the delight of then digesting how they want to experience that. And there are some people who hate magic, and I don't blame them. It's a very uncomfortable form. It needles you. It's not that pleasant. Whereas other people, I think, just sort of love to go away and have a question to talk with their friends about in the car on the way home. How the hell did they do that? Maybe-- could they have done this? I don't know-- how do I remember-- so there's this kind of after-effect of magic that's wonderful, where people get to discuss what really happened. - You can't confuse misdirection with distraction, because if I know I've been distracted, there is no magic trick. If you've got a deck of cards and I've just shuffled it, and I put it in front of you, and then a car crashes through the place behind me and I turn around and I deal with this, and call the paramedics, and go to 911, and go through all that, and make sure the ambulance is taken care of, and talk about who's insurance, and fill out the witness forms, then come back to that deck of cards, well, you can't say that was good misdirection. Because I know I was somewhere else. You know? The idea is that every bit of my attention during a magic show should be exactly where I want it to be. - I think misdirection is a vague enough term that I'm almost ready to settle back and say, misdirection is whatever it is that make...

Open your mind with magic

With more than 40 years performing together, Penn & Teller have sold out shows around the world, earned a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame, and created the longest-running headline act in Las Vegas. Now the legendary magicians are taking you behind the curtain. Learn fundamental magic tricks and the psychological tools that create amazement, at home or on stage. Expand your perception of the possible.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

It is extremely well done, teaches great morals that can be used in life AND magic, and is fun all round.

This class is much different from what I originally thought. It focuses mainly on the reasons as to why magic is such a wonderful art form.

Great insight on many aspects of magic, deception and creativity! Enjoyed every second.

Great class. I watched it in one sitting. Penn and Teller's whole philosophy of magic is so enlightened. It was more interesting to hear about the ethics and morals they employ in their shows than the actual tricks they showed. Well worth the watch.


A fellow student

I am enjoying this and I did not think I would. The tricks are quite interesting because this is new to me. Most enjoyable is the discussion and observations. Pleasantly enjoyable.

Brett G.

So far all this series has done is to make me regret the $100 I spent on it. All they provide are stories, commentary, simple tricks any 10-year old kid already knows about, and a lot of their personal experiences. The series was introduced as their "family jewels", but all I got was the stinky underwear that hold them.

A fellow student

I loved this class because this helped me to understand what misdirection a lot better. -Martin 9


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