Penn & Teller: Fool Us

My Experience

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in january of 2017...

...I got an email from the producers of the show inviting me to be on the show for the upcoming season (Season 4). It was an option the last season the show aired, but I decided against going on because I felt I wasn't ready for national TV yet. After some deliberation I decided that now was the time to do it. I had graduated high school early so I had the coming months to practice and get my act as polished as possible. The taping was in March, so I had 3 months to prepare. I decided to do a routine that I created a couple years back and spent the 3 months practicing as much as possible and getting feedback from as many people as I could get to sit down and watch the act. Magicians, friends, and family from around the country contributed to my act with ideas, feedback, and constructive criticism. Finally, March rolled around, I hopped on a plane, and flew to Las Vegas. 

In Las Vegas...

...throughout my 4 days in Vegas, I was scheduled for two rehearsals with the directors, producers, and lead creative time, one run through on the set, a shoot for the B-roll (the segment they show before the performance, talking about the performer), and of course- the of the show. In the rehearsals, I went into a conference room and ran through my act in front of a panel of a couple of magic legends, who I've idolized my entire life (Johnny Thompson & Michael Close- the lead magic consultants on the show) as well as about a dozen people ranging from directors to camera people, wardrobe people, and prop people. In these 30 minute sessions we talked about what would look good, what wouldn't look good, and what I needed to change. We implemented some changes which I was a little hesitant about, but new if they worked would mean a world of a difference, so in they went. Pretty much the rest of my time was spent in my hotel room practicing! The day before the shoot a film crew and I took a field trip to a local school that they had rented out (yes, the entire school!) to get some footage. We spent around 5 hours getting shots, interviews, and having an all around great time. It was a blast! The next day, the big moment came. 

At 8am...

... I arrived at  the Penn & Teller Theater- a theater in which I've seen the iconic duo perform many times throughout my life. Now, it was my turn to be on that stage. My taping was scheduled for 2PM, and there were 3 other magicians taping with me. They escorted us to a basement, where all the P&T props are stored,and  we were told to set up and get ready for a run through. After a lot of waiting, they called me up, I went up an elevator and stepped onto the stage. This was an absolutely surreal moment and one I will never forget. Seeing my name on the screen on this huge stage decked out with thousands of lights, cameras and people everywhere, all focused on me. Thinking about it right now gives me chills. I was doing a trick with Alyson Hannifin (the hostess), but for this run through I would use a stand in for Alyson. The run through went flawlessly, and they escorted me downstairs to the basement, below the stage, to wait.

At 1:30PM...

...the studio audience started filling in. From the basement, the other performers and I could hear them walking in and applauding as the directors were getting them warmed up. It was go time.

At 2PM...

... they started escorting us, one by one, upstairs to do our act for Penn & Teller, the 1200 person studio audience, and all the cameras. To say I was nervous is an understatement! I was the last one to go, and I was able to hear the applause from the acts before me, as well as being able to sort of make out what Penn & Teller were saying to the acts. Finally, it was my turn. They bring me upstairs and instruct me to wait in a room off of the stage. I enter the room, and I see Louie Anderson- the comedian. He was scheduled to be a part of someone else's act, but him being there (another hero of mine!) didn't help the nerves at all! After what seemed like a month of waiting in that room, I was rushed onto the stage. Penn & Teller leave the stage between each acts so they could get set up without the duo seeing. I set up my act, stood where I was told to, said hi to Alyson Hannigan, and finally Penn & Teller walk in and take their seats. There's about 5 minutes of time with me standing center stage, with 2400 eyes of the audience, plus Alyson's, plus Penn & Tellers on me. I tried hard not to make eye contact with P&T, but eventually smiled at them, they smiled back and Teller gave me a thumbs up. All of a sudden, Alyson introduced me, and I went into my act! I honestly don't remember the first part of my act. The trick I was doing involved making Alyson's phone vanish, and then reappear somewhere crazy. Anyways, part of the method to this trick involves me hiding her phone in a secret location, unbeknownst to the audience. However, as I'm doing that act that I've done hundreds, of times before, my world stops. All of a sudden I hear a thunk. The phone fell out of it's secret location and hit the floor. There's dead quiet in the room... you could hear a pin drop. Alyson looked at me so worried, not sure if this was part of the trick or a big mistake. I heard Teller gasp and in the heat of the moment, I looked at the camera closest to me, I said with a smile "let's try that again!", I picked up the phone, put it back in it's hiding place, and went on with the act as if nothing had happened. I don't remember the rest of the act, but I remember Alyson asking me about 5 minutes of questions while P&T "deliberate" (although they clearly didn't have much to talk about), then they said some stuff to me which I don't remember, but they were instructed to talk about the act as if the drop hadn't happened, I smiled, thanked everyone, and walked off the stage. All of a sudden I was being rushed to pack up my act as soon as possible, I was rushed to the doors, a souvenir t-shirt was flung into my arms, and I look up and there's Penn & Teller. They congratulate me on how I handled the situation and said they were proud of me. I thanked them profusely until I was rushed out of the theater and into the lobby. There I was, standing with my props and a T-shirt, wondering what the fuck just happened. While overcome with emotions for the rest of the day, nay- month, If there was one thing I knew for certain, is that this was the best experience of my life. 

In Conclusion

I found out a few months later that due to the mistake, my segment wouldn't air. And if I'm being 100% truthful, I was not at all disappointed. Not one bit. I learned a ton. I had an incredible experience. And without a doubt, what I gained from this experience more than compensated for the loss of  a potential 7 minutes on TV. And it prompted me to write the book AbracaDAMMIT! Disaster Stories & Life Lessons from the World's Top Magicians which has been a hit, selling to magicians from around the world! (www.AbracaDAMMITbook.com) Thank you to Penn & Teller for giving me this opportunity, and for everyone who helped me a long the way. I'm so grateful to have had this incredible experience, and I have no regrets about the whole ordeal. I took a risk, and what I gained was invaluable. 

This was, without a doubt, the best experience of my life.