Penn and Teller have been performing their blend of magic and comedy for over 40 years, many of those years in Vegas.
This duo slays (or vanishes) every Sacred Cow of magic craft
The success of a joke depends on the comedian. It’s why you don’t get the same uproarious laugh that a stand-up comedian gets when you recite the same joke word-for-word to your colleagues at the water cooler.
Timing and inflection can be learned, and top comedians and other performers slave under hot lights perfecting this craft. The difference between laughter and crickets, however, can come down to a question as simple as this – do I like the person making the joke?
Penn and Teller have been performing their blend of magic and comedy for over 40 years, many of those years in Vegas. They have this schtick down. Their reputation as staples of Sin City is in no danger. Better yet, YouTube and basic cable are littered with their output. So do your homework. Watch up, and decide if you like these guys before spending $65 or more to spend an evening with Penn and Teller at the Rio Suites Hotel.
No magic show is quite like it. Don’t come expecting fireworks, flashbangs, or tigers. Good thing, too, because Penn Jillette is big, loud, and doesn’t look very fast. A tiger would make a quick and ample supper out of him. The Penn and Teller approach is one of deconstruction, like a chef taking apart a classic dish so that all the ingredients are laid bare in their purest form. Ambling through basic card tricks and vanishes, sleight of hand and crowd participation, these guys make no pretentions to sorcery. In fact, their vibe seems to poke fun at those who would believe their tricks were anything other than brilliantly-executed swindles. Sometimes they flat-out tell you how the trick works – but they are so darn good at these tricks that the prestige still baffles, even when you know it’s coming.
Penn bloviates like your chatty uncle after a few cocktails. He’s everyone’s buddy, he loves to show off, and he has the confidence that you will be eating out of his hand in no time. Famously libertarian, atheist, and skeptical of authority, Penn is too seasoned to care if he offends anyone. Don’t be surprised to hear a rant about the fascism of TSA searches or some other hot-button issue.
His mononymous, silent counterpart brings to the table complete enigma as a foil to Penn’s open book. Teller never speaks. Impish and diminutive as his partner is large and physical, he looks by turns drunk, amused, over it, and secretive. With Penn spilling all the beans, Teller practically *is* the magic trick.
The show changes every night. You might see Teller escape from a garbage bag full of helium; see Penn seem to smash an audience member’s cell phone, only for it to turn up unbroken in a plastic baggie in the belly of a gutted fish-market tilapia. The “elephant” they intend to vanish is actually a statue of a cow with a vacuum hose taped to its snout. Penn and Teller have not always been family-friendly, but I would cautiously say that this show is fine for the kids … at least, the one I saw was.
The Rio Suites Hotel and Casino is a ways off the strip, but your ticket includes free shuttle service. The chintzy vibe might strike you as charming, or maybe just tacky. The theater is comfy with great sight-lines, but the air conditioning is aggressive. Bring a sweater if you are cold-blooded. Don’t rush to the shuttle after the curtain falls, either. Amiable and generous, Penn and Teller always hang out in the lobby and pose for photos with fans. There’s just no mystique that these guys don’t enjoy poking holes in – not even their own celebrity.
Verdict: Do these tricks sound weird? Do you like your magic shows with smoke, synthesizers, and mystery? If so, this might not be the show for you. If you like Penn and Teller, however, buckle up at the Rio Suite Hotel and Casino – they tell you exactly how they intend to fool you, and leave you laughing when they pull it off.