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The art of magic is something that has enthralled most of us at one time or another. Watching illusionists perform their tricks on television is a favourite early memory of many of us. Almost everyone has wondered what it would be like to know how to perform such tricks. Now, thanks to Masterclass, you have the chance to gain some insight into the world of magic. The great double act Penn and Teller are now teaching a Masterclass course on the art of magic.
Here, we’ll tell you more about this intriguing duo and their work, and also give you the full rundown on the Masterclass course that they teach. Read onto find out more!
Who Are Penn and Teller?
Penn Jillette and his performance partner Teller have been a double act since the late 1970s. Known for their challenging and often quite unsettling approach to magic and illusion, it would be fair to describe their work as iconoclastic. Their public personas are carefully tailored, with Penn being a voluble and talkative performer, in contrast to Teller, who is often completely mute when on stage.
The duo performed their first show together in 1975, and over the next decade they would work with a colleague called Weir Chrisemer, as part of a trio known as The Asparagus Valley Cultural Society. They performed mainly in California. By 1985, though, they were very much a duo, and were attracting plenty of positive attention for their off-Broadway stage show and their PBS TV appearances. In 1987, they appeared in the music video for Run DMC’s hit ‘It’s Tricky’.
They would become fixtures on TV during the late 1980s and early 1990s, making frequent appearances on shows like Late Night with David Letterman and Saturday Night Live, as well as The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and Late Night with Conan O’Brien. Their American tours throughout the 1990s would bring them even more fame and critical praise.
From 2003 until 2010, the pair’s career took a new direction, as they worked on a TV show called ‘Bullshit!’. This took a critical look at concepts like conspiracy theories, pseudoscience, religion and the paranormal. In many ways, this rational and somewhat cynical approach continued in their British TV show ‘Fool Us’. The concept behind this was that Penn and Teller would watch a magician perform a trick and then work out how it was done.
Their work has often mixed elements of horror with magic, as well as clever pranks that are either satirical or help to expose some kind of fraudulent or dishonest behaviour. Sometimes, tricks are presented as though they have been botched, to add an element of danger to proceedings. Many tricks involve cartoon violence, with Teller having been run over by a truck and submerged in a tank of water, as examples.
So this duo is not your typical magic act. Their Masterclass is clearly going to be an interesting adventure into the world of illusion. Let’s see just what you’re in for when you sign up for the Penn and Teller Masterclass course on the art of magic.
How Long Is The Penn and Teller Masterclass Course?
The Penn and Teller Masterclass course on the art of magic consists of 17 lessons, each lasting around 12 minutes or so. That makes it about average for a Masterclass course. It is aimed at all ability levels, from novices to seasoned magicians, but some prior knowledge of illusionists and how they do their tricks is advised for you to get the most benefit from the course.
You will also need to expect to spend some time practicing the techniques and ideas that are contained in the course. This is true for time commitments for all Masterclass courses. Managing time is made significantly easier, though, by having all course materials accessible on mobile devices. This means that you can learn as and when you want to, and at your own pace.
Obviously, masters of their art like Penn and Teller did not become huge international stars simply by listening to other magicians deliver lectures. Practice and hard graft are a big part of mastering any skill, and you should expect to have to devote hours to the course material in your own time to benefit fully from it.
Penn and Teller Masterclass: Course Content
As is usual with Masterclass, the Penn and Teller course on the art of magic begins with the tutors introducing themselves and their careers. Things move on pretty rapidly after that. The next two lessons cover two classic magic tricks, in the form of the French Drop and Cups and Balls. These two tricks will help you to establish the fundamentals of performing illusions. These two tricks will put the fundamentals in place for you to perform hundreds of other tricks, so this is really useful stuff.
The next lesson, entitled ‘What is Magic?’, takes learners in a more philosophical and esoteric direction. This lesson covers the psychological aspects of performing magic, and how magicians influence the minds of their audiences and get them to suspend their disbelief. This is fascinating stuff, and lead nicely on to the next few lessons, where more practical applications of ideas are taught.
Coin magic, card magic and rope tricks are all covered in the remaining lessons, giving you a good grounding in the methodology of magic. But there are also further philosophical discussions too. These centre on topics such as whether magic is a form of lying or not, and the ethics and morality of mentalism, a sub-genre of magic that involves ‘mind reading’ tricks. Cause and effect are also covered, while the duo also discuss the joy of magic and the delight that well-performed tricks can create in audiences.
The Masterclass course from Penn and Teller on the art of magic concludes with some bonus material. There are two sessions of advanced student coaching, before the final lesson allows you to watch them perform their ‘cell fish’ trick that involves a disappearing mobile phone. This trick is their unique take on the old ‘card to impossible location’ trick, and is well worth watching. It typifies the innovative and iconoclastic approach that this dynamic duo take towards their art.
Summary & Conclusion
The Penn and Teller Masterclass course on the art of magic is another fine example of what this course provider does so well. Masterclass produce course materials of a very high quality, and this course is no different. The insights and information delivered by this dangerous due of magicians are well worth absorbing, whether or not you have any interest in becoming an illusionist yourself. Indeed, anyone who has ever been interested in how illusionists perform their tricks should make a point of signing up for this course.
You can access the course for a one-off payment of £85, or as part of the Masterclass subscription package. This costs £14.17 a month, and the investment is very worthwhile indeed. If you have ever wondered just what it takes to become a master of magic and illusion, we recommend that you sign up for the Penn and Teller Masterclass course on the art of magic.