Music & Entertainment

The Joy of Magic

Penn & Teller

Lesson time 8:29 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.

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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- 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...

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.

Enjoyed this course. Have been big fans of Penn & Teller ever since their first show on Broadway. This course had a nice balance of teaching magic moves as well as performance tips and discussions on magic theory, examples of coaching, etc. Would be interested in seeing more magic tutorials in the future from other professional magicians.

I liked the basics, but would love an advanced class!

Phenomenal foundation to build from. The instructions on morality were particularly appreciated.

Loved this class. Never would have thought to take a magic class but I watched the preview of it and couldn't resist. I loved not only learning the magic tricks but also Penn and Teller's discussions of magic, particularly on the ethics of magic. Wonderful.


Kevin W.

You can hear Teller talk more (this guy never shuts up) about his Howdy Doody Magic Trick over at The Moth (+pictures):

Steve H.

Thank you for the dignity you bring to people and for sharing your lives with us!

Rodrigo R.

Thanks for sharing the insights, and mainly, thanks for opening your heart like that. Amazing !!!!!

Arthur M.

Hearing Teller talk about Howdy Doody and Clarabelle was absolutely priceless. I too had one of those magic sets and was an avid follower of Howdy Doody. The caomaprison with Clarabelle who never spoke (until the very last episode "Goodbye kids" put a whole new take on Teller's character. After 10 episodes I was asked to evaluate this course and to be honest, I did not give it a very flattering review. The episodes from that point on have been absolutely great and worth listening to over and over. This one particularly is highly instructive and has made the price of this course much more valuable. This is what every magician shoud know and pay attention to.

A fellow student

It's amazing how they jump from teaching the most basics of tricks to talking about the most complex of ideas. I love how they try and instill good morals and values into new magicians.

Steve H.

Well, there's only one thing left to do. Tomorrow I'm going to start this Masterclass all over again but this time with an aluminum ball, cards, a couple coins and some rope.

Margaret M.

What was your first trick? Mine was a finger guillotine. I think I was ... 6 or 7.

A fellow student

So sorry to hear of the loss of a truly great magical talent and advisor, or more importantly, friend of P&T. It's nice to see Teller with his first trick. Unfortunately, I don't think that a #19 rubber band will have the same impact when I'm 71.

Paul P.

I teared up listening to Teller talk about his Howdy Doody Magic Kit, and when I was 13 or so they brought me on stage, I'm now 35 and my son is 1....they just need to keep going for a few more years :)

Widgett W.

Teller sharing his Howdy Doody Magic Kit is probably one of the most moving, brilliant things I have ever seen. Thank you for that.