Arts & Entertainment, Home & Lifestyle

The Joy of Magic

Penn & Teller

Lesson time 08:38 min

Empathy, wonder, joy: these emotions are all part of the shared experience of a magic performance. Teller shares a rare emotional account of a childhood memory that sent him on a lifelong path of bringing joy to others through magic.

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Topics include: The Joy of Magic


- There's an attitude in magic that is condescending. There's an attitude in magic that does insult the audience. I hate that. The universe that we're dealing with are physics, time, retention of basic identity. You're dealing with all of those things that everybody shares. Although you're dealing with lying, you're dealing with something that's absolutely universal. When something is there, and it is no longer there, that's the exact same experience for an eight-year-old, as it is for someone who is 100 years old. That's the same experience. That is something that breaks what we believe is our shared reality. I would always hate, hate, hate it when a magician brought a woman up on stage and flirted with her. You know, it turned my stomach. It seemed so disrespectful to her. It seemed so creepy. It seemed so unpleasant. One of the problems is magic is controlled, like superheroes were. Magic is controlled by adolescent boys. I do not like people brought onstage and shtick done with them. Oh, no, no, in the event, if someone screws up something, or there's an event that happens that I own, that belongs to me, that I was there for, I will comment on that. I wasn't there when they got dressed, you know? I wasn't there when they decided how they were going to carry themselves and how they're going to walk. If I'm there, if I say do this, and they don't do, that's my right. But I can't comment on the fact that they have a blue mohawk. I can't comment on the shape of their body or how attractive they are. And for a big part of that, every magic act we saw was bringing someone up on stage and calling them honey and dear and sweetheart. Teller and I-- and I don't mean we fell into this. I mean, this is as close to a mission statement as we had was not to insult the audience. And that was said in a simple declarative sentence. We assume everyone in the audience is at least as smart as we are. - I would also add this dimension to it. From the beginning, our whole aesthetic has been, what would I like to see on stage if I were sitting in the audience. And one of the things I would not like to see is some smug bastard lording it over me, because he can palm a coin. - I love more than anything to be at a show where I don't understand stuff. I want always to be shooting over my head. I always want to feel a little bit left out. I require that of a show. And I want to feel like there's stuff that if I saw the show again, I would get. I like to feel that there's stuff that if I learned a little bit more, I would get more out of it. - There are many things about art that are very important. But to me, one of the most essential ones is that you are struck with the sense of a miracle. And I find that to be true whether I'm listening to Bach being played on a harpsichord or whether I'm looking at a Rembrandt painting. I look at that, and I'm mystified. I'm fascinated. I see what seems to be impossible and yet, some human being has...

About the Instructor

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.

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Penn & Teller

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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