Penn & Teller
At a Glance
What is it?
A master class in the art of illusion from the wacky professors known as Penn & Teller.
Where is it?
In a big showroom at Rio Las Vegas, just off The Strip.
Is it worth the cost?
Without a doubt.
Why should I see this show?
Because you’re tired of regular magic shows and needs some intellectual stimulation while you’re watching stuff disappear.
What else do I need to know?
The show can be a bit high-minded at times, which some people are turned off by.
What’s the bottom line?
A fantastic show that should not be missed.
I honestly don’t know what title to assign to Penn & Teller’s show at The Rio. I suppose yes, it’s a magic show but there’s no way you can just leave it at that. That doesn’t cover the comedy, the history, and most importantly the fascinating deconstruction and reconstruction of the genre that these two masters bring to the stage. They take a magic act, rip it apart, put it all back together again, and then still amaze you with stuff that can’t be possible even though they pretty much just showed you how they did it.
The magic of the illusion – the creation of what amounts to, essentially, a big con game – is what sets Penn & Teller apart from the rest of the crowd that used to be dominated by Siegfried and Roy and turns this show into a Vegas “must-see.”
You probably know Penn & Teller even if their names aren’t immediately recognizable. You’ve seen Penn (the “big guy”) and Teller (the “little guy”) on a bunch of commercials, game shows, reality competitions, and TV specials as well.
In case you’re not hip to their act, Penn is the voice of not only a billion commercials but their show as well – Teller doesn’t speak. But Penn has enough to say for the both of them as he takes the audience on a journey through the world of magic, cluing them into the fact that it’s all just a big sham. Of course we all know that the woman isn’t really getting sawed in half, so to speak, but part of the art of illusion has always been trying to create the feeling that it really is happening – that the woman really is somehow split into two pieces and then magically put back together again.
Of course with Penn & Teller they saw the woman in half, show you how the trick is done, and then take it to a completely different level that I won’t ruin by explaining here but just trust me when I say it’s shocking, funny, and more than a little gross.
This is a recurring theme with their act; exposing the mechanics of magic and then still astounding you with it. In some cases they’ll perform an illusion and then go back and do it again with all of the smoke and mirrors exposed.
But the amazing thing about these guys and their show is that even though you’ve just been let in on the con, you’re still suckered by it. Even on tricks they just gave a behind the scenes peek at, the audience still sits there in amazement as if none of that ever happened.
Their justifiably righteous indignation about the con artists of magic and the so-called mentalists (psychics, mediums, etc.) is at once refreshing and somehow risqué. They name names, call it a load of crap (although they use a different word), and then do the exact same type of “mind-reading” tricks that made others famous, causing more than a few dropped jaws even though they are flat out telling people that they are being scammed.
And then, just in case the audience is feeling too full of itself with their behind the curtain peek, Penn & Teller will perform an illusion without explaining how it’s done and the amazement level goes through the roof.
The brilliant aspect of their deconstruction of the magic act is that they are not asking you to be willing participants in the illusion, believing that there was no proverbial rabbit in the hat a moment ago. Instead they are daring you to try to figure out how they do it. Where are the wires? What’s the diversion that is keeping you from seeing me palm that card? You know it’s all a trick and yet look… he just caught a bullet in his teeth!
Penn & Teller’s show is bizarre, funny, fascinating, thrilling, challenging, frustrating, and one of the most entertaining experiences in Vegas. Go see it.