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Arts & Entertainment

Principles of Performing

Penn & Teller

Lesson time 8:45 min

Authenticity, practice, and research are key strategies for perfecting a performance. As veterans of the stage, Penn & Teller draw from their years of experience to share wisdom and advice for aspiring performers of all disciplines.

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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[MUSIC PLAYING] - In magic, it is more interactive than most other forms. Very hard to do magic for yourself. Very hard to do that. And so you need feedback, and the one thing you learn in magic, although the props change and although the methods change you start to develop an intuition for what the audience will be thinking, what they'll be paying attention to. But no matter how good your intuition gets, having other people give you feedback on that is really good. And it's also really fun to get together, brainstorm with them, and try to put it together into something a little better. [MUSIC PLAYING] We will start with an idea for a trick, how we want the whole thing to go, without knowing how we're going to do it. That's, you know, that's jumping out of the airplane with someone else handing you a parachute. You know what I mean? It really is the hardest way to do magic and also the best way. Some of our best tricks have come from that. But I always want to-- and not like Teller doesn't either-- we always want to do the trick as though we didn't have to do any trickery, just walk through it. Just go out there like the trick is going to work. You know, we want to do this, this, and this and this. We want to go out, have a card selected, know what the card is, put it down there, have a knife, go through Penn's hand. There's the card. Blood's coming down. Let's just do that, like theater. Let's just go through and act it. And then there's stuff you find out during that that's absolutely mind-blowing. Like, you find out that you put your hand in your pocket right when you needed to steal something. You just dash them into your pocket. You know, a lot of times I find when I'm talking about stuff, there are places in the monologue, in the patter, that I want to put my hand in my pocket. Well, thank you, God. That means if I have to steal something, that hand's going to be in the pocket comfortably. There's the one thing of do everything naturally, but you may be able to start doing naturally before you do the trick. I mean, I can even conceive of a card trick that you want to do that don't know how you're going to do it and just acting like the trick's going to work. See if it's comfortable to have them shuffle the cards, because it might not be natural to have them shuffle the cards. If it doesn't feel natural to have them shuffle the cards, you don't have to worry about letting them shuffle the cards, you know. If it feels natural that you would look through the faces then, well, you know that too. [MUSIC PLAYING] All you're going to be doing over and over again is finding what you can get away with. And we have set up something that's phenomenal in that-- we never say this, and it's not really true and stuff contradicts it-- but everybody feels, everybody feels that Teller does all the magic in the show, and I do all the talking. And I don't do anything, and I can't do anything. Teller has all the skills. I have al...

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.

I was able to impress my family with this easy to follow class and had a fun time doing it. I can't wait for more!

These two are truly entertainers and brilliant in their originality!

Penn and Teller has given me good inspiration about story telling and how we perceive our world. And they certainly also have raised my appetite on the field of magic, illusion and sleight of hand.

I always loved Penn & Teller, but to get this personal with them through these videos makes me appreciate them sooooo much more, not to mention the increase of love and appreciation for magic. Thank you!!


James B.

So there were five books featured, but Teller only named three of them. What were the other two?

A fellow student

The places where you are not Van Gogh, that's your style. So happy I caught Penn using that sentence. The story : A student learned to paint. And she copied Van Gogh very precisely. Exactly. When she asked her teacher, how do I develop my own style? The teacher answered : you have painted that Van Gogh. You did it almost perfectly. Notice the places where your version is not the same as the Van Gogh? That's your style.

Arthur M.

So far, this is the best lesson in the course. Excellent and wise advise. Love Teller's advise about magic books, all of which I have and have learned from.

Margaret M.

Teller talks about magic books here. There's a thing in the documentary "Our Magic" that I really love, when Mahdi Gilbert says, "There's a great quote in Tarbell. It goes, 'What magic requires of you, it gives you.' So it's not a question of believing in yourself or having faith in yourself. If you take a course of actions, and you do it, it will happen." (& then he expands)


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