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Arts & Entertainment

Sleight of Hand: The French Drop

Penn & Teller

Lesson time 15:58 min

Penn & Teller teach the French drop, one of the most fundamental sleight of hand methods. With students watching, they break down the steps of the trick and explain how it’s a building block for hundreds of other tricks.

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] - We're about to teach you the real backbone of magic, the most important move you could learn, the French Drop. We thought before we get some students together, we would show the way we use the French Drop and a few other moves. But mostly, this is all stuff we're going to be teaching. But this is our version of a trick that's known all over the world, perhaps the oldest trick in all of magic, the Cups and Balls. And we've seen this trick in India, Egypt, China. And they all have different props that they use. They use metal cups handed down generation to generation, hand-carved wooden cups, fancy little flocked balls. But we felt as we traveled around the world, we're representing the United States of America, so we used red plastic cups and aluminum foil balls. So this is the totally disposable Cups and Balls. And it goes like this, same way it does all around the world. Take the first ball, place it in our hand, vanish it, and it appears underneath the cup. All around the world to the second ball, put it in our hand, vanish it, and it appears underneath the cup. Take the third-- now here's a little variation that Teller came up with. He takes the ball, places it in his hand, then shows you underneath the cup, yet it still appears underneath the cup. Now we're all set for the next phase. We have three balls, three cups. Take the center ball. Place it under the cup. Take the two side balls. Put them away, but they rejoin in the center cup. I'm just going to take a moment and do a little bit of juggling for you. But then a giant ball is in the center cup, one more on either side, and of course for the finish, it's an American baseball because that's the American Cups and Balls. But after we'd done that for awhile, we thought we should do a more specific Penn and Teller version of the Cups and Balls. And we're known for breaking rules of magic so we thought we'd break a few rules of magic. Now the first rule of magic is you never do the same trick twice. So we're going to do the same trick twice. Second rule of magic is you never tell an audience how a trick is being done. So I'm going to tell you exactly how this trick is being done. The third rule of magic is you never let the audience see your secret preparation. They must not know what is hidden in which pocket. And the fourth rule of magic is unwritten but I believe any magician in the world would agree with us in a second-- that you never ever do the Cups and Balls with clear plastic cups. So here's the Penn and Teller version of the Cups and Balls. We take the first ball, pretend to place it in our hand, and I've already snuck it underneath the first cup. Then the second ball, simultaneously secrete it beneath the cup. Pretend to place it in our hand and show it. Take the third and final ball, pretend to place it in our hand, pretend to show you underneath the cup, but replace it in the cup, and then secretly secrete it and reveal it. Now...

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 love Penn and Teller, so watching them and learning from them was a treat .I'm also a writer and a lot of what they saw can be applied to storytelling and any art form.

The nuance of the craft and elegance of pace and structure in the videos was very enjoyable. Not why I signed up for Masterclass, but why I'll stay.

Hearing Mr. Teller speak was a particular delight. Thanks fellers!

I'll never look at magic tricks the same way ever again. Penn & Teller are gifted performers who show us how it is done.


A fellow student

Learning the French Drop was so much fun. I always knew they were spectacular magicians but they are excellent teachers, as well. What fun!

A fellow student

The "cup and balls" trick at the beginning is not the trick taught for anyone who thinks they are supposed to be following along with Penn's hyper-fast explanation. That is simply the trick they are teaching the components of. The trick itself is simple and explained in detail along in a class and individual explanation setting. Great class!

A fellow student

It went very fast and it was hard to follow what I was supposed to be doing.

Yael S.

Wow!!! Amazing! I just did a couple of tricks to my mother and she was super impressed!

Eli S.

I loved learning this and I'm practicing it throughout my day to get good at it. My only problem is what do i do with the ball in my right hand after i've shown that the ball has disappeared. It would only take a few guesses to realize the ball is in my hand. I tried the trick once and it worked. What i did was show that the ball was "in my pocket". do you guys have any ideas on how to get the ball out of your hand and keep the trick full of wonder?

Abbie F.

I love how understanding they are that these people are beginners. I've seen a few MasterClasses where instructors seem frustrated with their students.


I did a variation, using those tiny rubber animals, with detachable heads. I took a pig one, and said, to my younger brother, (7) "This is how bacon is made, then I did the french drop trick, but removed the head, and kept it in the left hand. The only problem, is that it ocaisionaly makes a sound.


Heres a variation, i did on the trick. I took one of those tiny rubber animas, thats made of rubber peices, and has a detachable head, and

Tiana R.

It's really useful to watch this in slow motion. If you didn't really get some of it, then slow motion helps, A LOT. Great tricks!


I keep thinking that all these lessons are really most important for the next generation. In another words clear plastic visuals. I got back to forcing and “feeling that.” So says the dead language dude. Always appreciate to your understanding for the next bunch of plastic cups and disappearing buildings. Thanks