A Word On Heroes – Penn and Teller

Somebody asked me today who my magic heroes are. It is a fairly common question, and while other names may come into the mix – Derren Brown, Paul Daniels and Houdini always loom large – the first two names to come out of my mouth are always the same – and by tradition they are always in the same order. Penn and Teller.

If, by some leap of imagination, you haven’t heard of Penn and Teller, I strongly suggest you head over to YouTube and fall down the rabbit hole of watching some of their tricks on there. One of my personal favourites, performed in this clip on the Tonight Show, involves a magic trick from a children’s magic set performed with incredible skill and personality.

I first saw this trick performed on the one occasion I have seen Penn and Teller live. This, for me, was the stand out moment of the show!

They say you should never meet your heroes – well I did a couple of years ago, only briefly, outside one of their shows in London. At the end of the show the two went and stood outside the theatre and greeted anyone who wanted to meet them. They talked, signed autographs, and were generally pleasant to hundreds if not thousands of people who queued up to meet them.

I have always been a firm believer in talking to an audience after a show. I’ve never been one for putting up barriers, and as most of you who have come to one of my evening shows know, as quick as I can I get down into the audience to speak to people as they leave. To do that on the scale that Penn and Teller did that night – and do every night – shows a level of love and respect for their fans which is truly heartwarming!

A slight size discrepancy between Penn and Greg!

The reason that this is fresh in my mind is that I have just started watching a series of videos made by Penn and Teller for ‘Masterclass’. These videos feature the pair talking about magic, teaching, and giving away some of their secrets.

For anyone who has only seen the pair performing, you will have seen a lot of Penn talking, but Teller, famously, performs silent. When Teller talks, however, it is because he has something to say. I have heard several interviews with him on podcasts, seen video of at least one lecture he gave, and now these lessons as well.

I feel I know more about Penn. For more than half a decade I have listened to his podcast, ‘Penn’s Sunday School’ every week. I remember listening to the first episode when it was released, and I think that it is fair to say that as well as being a hero in magic and juggling, Penn is probably the main reason I have the Tales From The Road and Condensed History Gems podcasts today – he was my stepping stone into the podcasting world.

Commercial Break!!

Just a quick commercial break to remind everyone reading this that Lady Felicity and I recently released our first travel documentary. We travelled from Mayan ruins to Magdalena Bay Whale Camp in Mexico in a month long adventure. If you enjoy my blog, or anything else I do, head over to YouTube and have a watch – and be sure to Subscribe, Comment and Like the video!

Back to Penn and Teller

While I feel I know Penn better….

I was going to move on and talk about Teller there, but I want to take a moment to address that point. Podcasting is a strange thing. For more than half a decade I have heard Penn sit and talk with various people for at least an hour and a half each week. He has talked about his past, but also honestly about problems he is facing today. He talks about his family, ambitions, and thoughts. He has put out episodes when he was dealing with the loss of some of his closest friends, and has been choked up on many occasions when recalling family members he has lost. It is a strangely modern relationship, only since the beginning of radio at the very earliest, that I can feel that I know somebody so well who is unlikely to ever know who I am.

I digress though! While I feel I know Penn better, and perhaps because of that, Teller holds an almost mythical place in my mind. I personally believe that since the passing of their friend and mentor Johnny Thompson, Teller is the greatest magical thinker alive today. I have never hear anyone speak as deeply about magic as he does.

I have a genuine love of magic – not a word I use sparingly. One part of it I really enjoy, beyond performing, of course, is thinking about magic, pondering the ideas behind it, the psychology that makes a simple ‘sleight of hand’ a genuine miracle.

What I am enjoying most about watching these videos is that even in the simplest of tricks that are discussed and taught, tricks or sleights which I already know well, with every other sentence Teller manages to send me down an avenue of thought I had never considered, in an art and profession I have been a member of for over a decade.

Whether it is Teller’s thoughts on magic, or seeing the pair perform their ‘Dracula’ routine on-stage for the first time, the true magic that grips me with Penn and Teller has nothing to do with sleight of hand, or the Three of Clubs, or invisible thread. The magic for me is the way that they can constantly make me look at magic as though I were discovering it fresh once again, and for that I will always be truly grateful to them both!

Final Word

Thank you for reading this slightly different style of blog – let me know if you enjoy it and I’ll bring up a few more of my performing heroes!

In the meantime, just to say that Lady Felicity and I are currently crowd-funding for our second travel adventure documentary – please have a look at the link below to find our more.

For now, thank you all for reading.

Goodbye… and take care!


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