I’m spending this week in Las Vegas — I’ll get to exactly why I chose to visit Las Vegas later on, but this is my first trip of any kind in over two years. (Yes, I know there’s still a pandemic going on but I’m vaccinated and Las Vegas has a perfectly reasonable mask requirement that I’m happy to follow.)
The last time I was in Vegas I got to see The Blue Man Group, which was a bucket list show for me. This time I wanted to cross another show off the bucket list: Penn & Teller.
I probably don’t need to introduce Penn & Teller as they’re arguably the most famous comedy magic duo of our time. Penn Jillette is the tall loud guy who’s the carnival barker of the two, and Raymond Teller is the smaller guy who does like 90% of the actual magic tricks. The pair have performed together since the mid 1970’s and there’s a good chance you’ve seen them on TV, either on a talk show or on their long running Fool Us show.
Oh and if you’ve somehow never seen their spin on the old cups and balls trick, go watch it now!
Though Penn & Teller have mixed up their Vegas act over the years, they had the entire pandemic to come up with new material, which Penn claims is a huge relief because they were out of tricks to perform on Fool Us.
While everyone found their way to their seats in the Rio’s theater, the show’s pianist was joined by Penn on an upright bass. They went through some classic jazz tunes before Penn had to leave and prepare for the opening act.
And that was the first joke: the opening act involved Penn playing the same upright bass as the pianist played on a different piano, while Teller struggled to play a prop saxophone that seemingly only existed to “charm” a piece of tissue paper as it floated around the stage, fell on the floor, came back up, and even landed on Teller’s head after he fashioned it into a hat.
That’s just a small taste of what the new version of their show had to offer. There was only one trick in the entire set that I’ve seen them do before (a double misdirection involving a gorilla costume) though a more hardcore Penn & Teller fan than I might have seen versions of some other tricks before.
There was a trick that involved “gambling” with the entire audience participating where somehow I was one of the last five or so people standing until the final round. When Penn pointed out the prize was going to be extremely cumbersome to take home I honestly felt a sense of relief at not being the winner.
For those who remember seeing Penn & Teller decades ago I should point out that their act isn’t as physically demanding as it once was. This can’t be a big surprise considering their ages, particularly Teller who had his 70th birthday a couple years ago.
My recommendation: If you like Penn & Teller’s style of comedy magic this is a solid ~90 minute live show with plenty of new tricks. I had a great time, but if I had one gripe it’s that advance tickets are sold through Ticketmaster and as such come with Ticketmaster’s exorbitant fees.