Friday, 27 November 2015

New York City Part 4: Penn and Teller

Penn and Teller; Magic act or public service humanitarians?

I initially started this blog stating that the sole purpose of visiting New York was for a magic act.  This naturally should lead you to believe i'm kind of a geeky dork to get so excited about glorified quarters behind the ear tricks.

While the dork part is absolutely true, I am, nonetheless, doing myself a disservice by mischaracterizing my actual draw to the Penn and Teller act.

While their act is definately the accumulation of years of experience, and a thoroughly enjoyable experience. It is actually Penn who I am in love with despite the fact, by Penn's own admission, that Teller is the brains behind the group.

I fell in love with his articulate, passionate and reason based views on all forms of social issues and most importantly his insistence on preaching love.

Hes an ardent atheist who reads the bible every day and has nothing but love, respect and admiration for Christians and followers of other faiths.  He has absolutely no issue in calling out what he believes to be bullshit but still respecting the people who hold these views.

More so than that.  Because of his time on The Apprentice, as well as Trumps current popularity in the republican polls, he has been asked by many news sites his views on Donald Trump.

On one such news show Penn offered numerous compliments of Donald Trump and said that America just wanted somebody who would speak their mind openly and honestly.  While also stating it just so happens that Trump is wrong on everything since Penn is a pretty extreme Libertarian.

What ensued as a result of this is typical The Donald:

Penn isn't just taking the high ground.  He both lives and believes what he preaches.  On his podcast (where I further got to know Penn) Donalds trump reaction only made him love him more because he exalts honesty above all else.  Now he disputes the validity of Trumps statement as he was a large success (admitably made larger by NBC's exposure) but truly loves a person who can give their honest opinion.

More so he claims that Trump not only likes Penn but is actually a good person.

I have to call bullshit on that but this does demonstrate just one of many characteristics of Penn that I've fallen in love with.

All this and I haven't even mentioned anything of the actual show yet.  This is because i'm trying to setup a little bit of who Penn is.  This is important as Penn (along with Teller who shares very similar views) impart their beliefs on the audience through their magic act.

Thereby transforming a simple illusion show (nothing wrong with that, saw Copperfield and he was great) into a multi layered introspective experience.

So now i'll get into the show so that I can further explain what I mean.

Love, honesty and freedom are probably the three simple concepts that ties together Penn's entire worldview.

I've already explained how Penn can very easily continue to love those who take to personal attacks on his very livelihood.

But I do believe Penn would be quite hard pressed to find love for those who were intentionally dishonest by attempting to deceive others.

As such I do not believe it to be mere happenstance that his set design includes the means by which some of the more common, but simple, tracks are actually achieved.

The purpose of this is for the audience to know immediately that this is a show.  There is no magic, only illusion and tricks.  And that Penn has no interest in attempting to get the audience to believe in some sort of metaphysical power.

This may seem obvious to some, but in reality there are many swindlers and deceivers out there who have entire careers devoted to tricking others.  Those deceived come from all walks of life both well educated and otherwise.

In fact the person who was seminal in honing Penns passion in magic was a never young Amazing Randi.  A man who has taught Penn that honesty be taught above all else and Randi has spent the latter portion of his life debunking swindlers such as Uri Geller.

I actually intend on writing a blog about some of the things that Randi has down that are truly amazing and just how dangerous some of these swindlers are but that will be for a different time.  This is just to show how much honesty matters to Penn and that this theme will be sprinkled throughout the show.

Speaking of which.  We got some great seats.  We were on the 2nd floor balcony that overhangs the audience on the main floor.  We had the front seats so we were not only close to the stage but had absolutely nobody in front of us to block our view.

While waiting for the show to begin the audience is asked to come up on stage to inspect some of the props.  Each of them will make an appearance at various stages of the show.  Just in case anybody plans on seeing their act I wont spoil anything.

This is not only to get the audience to feel more connected to the show but to allow Penn to get more connected with his audience.  Because unbeknownst to the regular audience members who arn't Penn obsessed like myself, Penn is actually playing base to the side of the stage.

However when I say Penn is trying to get more connected to his audience I actually mean it in the most basic of ways.  As admitted by Penn he is really using this opportunity to be silent, for once, as well as to just check out all the attractive woman who are going up and down the stairs directly adjacent from where he is playing in the shadows.  Creepy?  Sure.  Doesn't mean every other guy wouldn't also jump on the opportunity if given the chance.

Unfortunately once the show starts there are no more pictures so from this point, till the end of the show, you are going to be submitted to my poetic waxing, pontificating and general musings where i'm continuously going off topic....oh wait i've already been doing nauseam....alright time to tighten up this blog some.

They anticipated that this is likely to be their last time performing on broadway.  Penn and Teller are in their early and late 60's and, as Penn has mentioned, isn't getting any younger.  Therefore this stint on broadway is a showcase of their decades long career.

They deliver bits as far back as when Penn first met Teller as a fan in a crowd watching him perform, as well as some of their newest material.

Rather then actually summarize their acts it is actually best if someone not familiar with their work went to their show cold.  That is not having watched countless videos of them online like yours truly.

But just as a tease:
They will bring the basic sawing a woman in half trick to a whole new level.
Teller will eat an ungodly amount of needles.
Penn will eat an ungodly amount of fire.
You will be lectured on surrendering your rights in the name of security.
                    Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety,                       deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.
And most importantly you will be educated against trusting those who treat these tricks as a supernatural power or ability. (Penn still gets people after his show believing him to be psychic only to have to re explain these are all just tricks).

After every show Penn and Teller will meet and pose with everyone who wishes to.  Just because they are so anti establishment they don't believe in forming lines and instead masses will sort of huddle around them and they will slowly get to everyone.

You'd think that would be chaotic but it actually does work quite well.  No pushing in front of anyone and everyone is quite polite and friendly.  While I don't believe to always apply but there is some merit to Penns views that left to their own devices people are generally good and well behaved.

In any event people would take turns holding fellow strangers cameras to take pictures.  However once Amy volunteered to take pictures the crowd quickly realized that she was a natural and everyone enlisted her help.  Unfortunately the same was not true of who we selected as we ended up with this fuzzy photo.

It was actually quite the contrast of seeing Penn on stage who is quite the loud presence to seeing him subdued after the show as if he had given his all and was spent.

Overall was a great experience but our trip was not over yet.

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