Teller speaks! At length!
July 9, 2011 3:13 AM   Subscribe


 
Holy shit, he has a voice. I really am floored, 20 odd years seeing that guy mute.
posted by Meatbomb at 3:40 AM on July 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I could easily have watched him talking about magic for another half-hour.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 3:45 AM on July 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


My parents took me to see Penn + Teller at the National Theater in DC when I was around 9 or 10. I enjoyed it a lot, though there were apparently a lot of off-color and anti-biblical jokes that went over my head and upset my mother.

In any case, after the show, Penn + Teller themselves stood out front hawking merchandise. Teller was standing on a crate, and I walked up to him and asked him to sign my program. And he said something like "Hiya kid, here ya go!" and obliged me.

So, off-camera and offstage, I suppose he was never totally shy about talking.
posted by HeroZero at 3:51 AM on July 9, 2011


The Magician's Alliance is not going to look kindly on this.
posted by snwod at 4:26 AM on July 9, 2011 [14 favorites]


When I first encountered Penn and Teller, I was told by my friend who was showing me one of their videos that Teller was a deaf mute. I believed that for an embarrassingly long time. I still don't know if my friend was genuinely confused or if they were just tricking me (which I guess would be appropriate under the circumstances).
posted by maybeandroid at 4:33 AM on July 9, 2011


I enjoyed it a lot, though there were apparently a lot of off-color and anti-biblical jokes that went over my head and upset my mother.

Penn is the Richard Dawkins of magicians.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 4:56 AM on July 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Penn ruined his act. Not just the voice, the glimmering eyes of in-on.
I hope he recovers.
posted by Mblue at 5:00 AM on July 9, 2011


That transfer at 5:51 - I can watch it over and over, and I *still* get distracted and lose track of the ball. It's delightful.
posted by xiw at 5:22 AM on July 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


This is a double.
posted by oddman at 5:29 AM on July 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I met Penn and Teller when I was a kid at a Boscov's in Atlantic City. They were really nice to me and I remember being a little in awe that I knew what Teller sounded like now. It was like a little secret.
posted by inturnaround at 5:44 AM on July 9, 2011


My understanding is that Teller is pretty much the brains behind the duo, while Penn brings more of the showmanship. He certainly sounds pretty damn bright about his craft.
posted by Gilbert at 6:06 AM on July 9, 2011


Gilbert, you can sort of see whose ideas are behind various different bits they do. Penn is decidedly an accomplished magician, but he tends more toward more... visceral reactions. Teller is probably the more technically accomplished of the two, though, for my money.

Also: oh my god, Oddman is right. Sorry folks.
posted by DoctorFedora at 6:25 AM on July 9, 2011


God, he's so good that he kept fooling my eye while explaining how he was doing it. The guy is just unreal.

There's a reason Penn and Teller are famous, and I don't think it's Penn's bombasticism.
posted by Malor at 6:32 AM on July 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


I feel like the reason Penn does all the bloviating is because Teller's just really, really good at doing all the sleight of hand and mechanics of the tricks. ;)
posted by Eideteker at 6:41 AM on July 9, 2011


"You take for granted that a repetition is a real repetition"

Another magical part of this video (hooray for not-double-to-me doubles) involves time compression. Teller makes eight minutes pass as quickly as one minute. How does he do that?

I'm in agreement with a couple others above that Teller's skillful sleight-of-hand reengineers our perceptions of the trick. Teller reveals the method of his trick but says nothing about his technique, thus blowing the trick only for performers whose sleight-of-hand is not as good.

Such a gifted public speaker. Thanks for posting.
posted by mistersquid at 6:43 AM on July 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm sure I saw this years ago, linked from MeFi (not just from a comment, either), but the googles do nothing.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:52 AM on July 9, 2011


I'm really glad that it's these two guys in their positions right now as illusionists/magicians/prestidigitators. I'm really glad that they choose to sometimes share. I'm really glad these two guys are not corrupt politicians and are instead two really intelligent guys who generally have a sensible outlook on life.

Because sweet goddamn is Teller good at misdirection.
posted by kalessin at 6:56 AM on July 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't think it's a double if it's a comment.
posted by sweetkid at 6:58 AM on July 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


I think a that if a trick is likable it should not lose its appeal once the inner workings of it have been cleared up, that and trying to be a good sport if it's not so great. On the other hand if it's just plain awful it tends to go in a depreciation state.
posted by Meatafoecure at 7:48 AM on July 9, 2011


Interesting that this came up at a conference about consciousness. Daniel Dennett cites the exact same kind of magician's trickery to explain away 'the' hard problem of consciousness. (I briefly thought the bearded guy at the end of the table was Dennett, but it's not.)

This isn't a double, by the way. DU's previous link was in a comment. We've often had people link to something cool in a comment and had others exhort that person to turn that link into an FPP.
posted by painquale at 8:00 AM on July 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


If you are in NYC, you have to go see Play Dead before it closes in under 20 days. It's so good. Teller directed it and it's filled with the magic that's used to scare you. Really, really wonderful.
posted by Brainy at 8:15 AM on July 9, 2011


For the entire video, I expected that Teller speaking was going to turn out to be a trick. Like he'd finish up, and then the audio would start all over from the, "Is the mic on?" bit, and he'd feign surprise and struggle to continue pantomiming that he was actually speaking.

That didn't happen.
posted by thinman at 8:18 AM on July 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm sure that Teller understands perception on a deeper level than a lot of psychologists.
posted by rageagainsttherobots at 8:20 AM on July 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


I once shared a class in college with an aspiring professional magician, and we would often talk after class about the psychology of good magic as I used to dabble a bit. One of the things he stressed was of paramount importance was what Teller describes in this video as intention.

For example, one very common card trick is the double lift. But the real trick to the double-lift is how you pick up the cards. Because it turns out, there are a number of ways you can manipulate the cards to perform the lift—some much easier than others—but there's really only a couple of correct ways. And the reason they're "correct" is because you're pretending to pull the top card off a deck, and there are only a couple of natural ways for someone to do that. It turns out the easiest way to do the double lift is to slant the deck back an riffle two from the edge, but that winds up looking completely unnatural, because nobody does that when they pull the top card off a deck.

Much like how Teller picks up the red ball with his right hand and then "transfers" it to his left (and in the transfer lies the trick). Why not just pick it up with your left hand in the first place? Those are the kinds of questions that people subconsciously will ask themselves. "Oh, he picked it up with his right hand first because he's facing the audience and doesn't want to turn his back to the crowd." Of course, you're not really saying that out loud, it's just the conversation your brain is having with itself to explain what it perceives. If you don't have a good explanation for your movements, the trick will quickly fall apart.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:25 AM on July 9, 2011 [10 favorites]


I thought everybody had seen Teller's performance on the famous Miami Vice episode "Like a Hurricane" (you know, the Sheena Easton episode). I think when I caught the show in reruns a while back that was the first time I remember hearing Teller speak. Having said that I think I saw that episode when it originally aired, I just don't recall if I made the "oh, that's Teller" connection at the time.

Turning to IMDB (to get the name of the episode) I see that Teller has other acting (hence speaking) credits as well, including appearances on Sabrina the Teenage Witch (which I guess makes some sort of sense), Drew Carey, and Babylon Five, among others.
posted by sardonyx at 8:52 AM on July 9, 2011


This "Fool Penn and Teller" show that's been running around the internet seems to have temporarily reawakened our collective interest in magic, as this is the third or fourth place I've seen this video linked along with general net-wide magic discussions.
posted by Think_Long at 8:55 AM on July 9, 2011


I like magic best when it's explained in an intelligent way, like this. Watching a traditional magic show just drives me so crazy that my husband has forbidden me from doing it. I spent years as a child learning tricks, so I have just the base of knowledge to almost know how something is done without actually being able to figure it out and it DRIVES ME NUTS.

Of course I also don't want to watch the shows like those from a few years ago where someone shows you how it's all done, cause that's just ruining it. And this contradiction is why I CAN'T WATCH MAGIC.

But cool psychological stuff like this is awesome.
posted by threeturtles at 9:15 AM on July 9, 2011


Fascinating, Teller set himself quite a task of explaining briefly what was going on in his act, and it did so quite well. Indeed Pen bombasticism is just a part of the showmanship.
posted by elpapacito at 9:24 AM on July 9, 2011


This makes me incredibly happy.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:30 AM on July 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I love the way magic and illusion exploits our blind spots. It's very cool that when explained we get a peek about how our minds work. I always thought the silent/bombastic Penn and Teller contrast was used as misdirection: it's hard to avoid paying attention to a 6+ foot giant barking on stage.
posted by jade east at 9:35 AM on July 9, 2011


Turning to IMDB (to get the name of the episode) I see that Teller has other acting (hence speaking) credits as well

Acting != speaking. He was silent in Bab5, for example. Even though P&T weren't playing themselves they were still playing "themselves."
posted by m@f at 9:35 AM on July 9, 2011


I was working on a show maybe 5 years back where Penn and Teller appeared. I was working in Props, and they were doing a trick that required us to get some stuff for them. When I brought it out on set, Teller was there and started describing what they would be doing. I almost passed out....I'd been watching them for years and was amazed he wasn't a mute.

I tried not to be obvious about it, but he noticed and just smiled. He's really cool.
posted by nevercalm at 9:56 AM on July 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Of course Teller can talk! The long ago introduction of the pair was that Teller was a teacher, Penn his student. That was how they met, then worked out the act.
posted by Cranberry at 10:29 AM on July 9, 2011


Not just the voice, the glimmering eyes of in-on.

Come again?
posted by kenko at 10:54 AM on July 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


What most people don't realize is that Penn is really just a fantastically detailed puppet operated by Teller. Check it out - when they're together you never see Teller's left hand. It's one of the most amazing deceptions in the history of magic.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 10:54 AM on July 9, 2011 [11 favorites]


The silent Teller is the character, "Teller". He never talks while he's in character, which is most of the time he's on stage or screen (hence, most of the time people see him). Not unusual at all for him to talk when he's out of character. Like Harpo Marx.

The fact that so many believe the character to be identical with the person is another kind of magic, itself.
posted by penduluum at 11:39 AM on July 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


This video reminds me of one of my all-time favorite Metafilter comments.
posted by Flunkie at 12:32 PM on July 9, 2011


[folks, there's an open thread in MeTa talking about doubkle posts - metacommentary belongs there, thank you.]
posted by jessamyn at 12:32 PM on July 9, 2011


Acting != speaking. He was silent in Bab5, for example. Even though P&T weren't playing themselves they were still playing "themselves."
posted by m@f at 9:35 AM on July 9


Technically you're right, but when I see entries like: Gandahar Octum (voice: English version), Steven Spielberg's Director's Chair (Video Game) Sigmund Terrore, and Spanking Lessons (short) Narrator, I it's safe to presume that he at least mumbled a few words from a script.
posted by sardonyx at 3:02 PM on July 9, 2011


There are times when he accidentally talks when in character. Like this video where he exclaims "yes"
posted by greenhornet at 3:26 PM on July 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Loved his interview from the magical mystery tour.
posted by Lord_Pall at 5:17 PM on July 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Err.. Magic and Mystery tour.
posted by Lord_Pall at 5:18 PM on July 9, 2011


Everyone knows about & Teller and & Teller 2, right?

They showed these (with much fanfare) at the last Zompire (which is now, sadly, cancelled).
posted by narwhal bacon at 5:43 PM on July 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


"Oh, he picked it up with his right hand first because he's facing the audience and doesn't want to turn his back to the crowd."

I think that's only half of it. The other half is that the magician had to transfer the ball to his left hand because needed to pick up the wand with his right hand. I'm not sure "facing the audience" registers as intention -- but picking up the wand certainly does (and could almost be read as a metaphor for intention itself).
posted by treepour at 5:49 PM on July 9, 2011


If you don't have a good explanation for your movements, the trick will quickly fall apart.

There's another aspect here too. You don't want to make your explanation too *explainy*. Like, if you have something up your sleeve, don't say "there's nothing up my sleeve!" because that lets the audience know you are worried about what they think of your sleeves--a dead giveaway. If you want them to believe there is nothing up your sleeves, you have to answer the "it was up your sleeve!" objection without explicitly mentioning (by word or action) sleeves at all. Don't wear sleeves. Or tied them up somehow. Or "accidentally allow" people to see up them. Remove sleeves as an explanation without explaining that you are removing sleeves as an explanation.

You can't just fool people with a series of facts, because their logical minds (some of them, anyway) will be able to deduce the truth. You have to fool their *unconscious* minds, which will prevent actual facts from reaching the level of logical thought, making the trick literally inexplicable.

(This goes for more than just magic, btw. So tedious are the books or shows or movies that show up some Important Object [i.e. the gun in scene 2] and then "surprise" us later with bringing it back at a later point. You need to bring these things up *subconsciously*!)
posted by DU at 7:12 PM on July 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's another neat "Teller Speaks" clip where he discusses a fellow practitioner's ball and cup routine.

Unfortunately I followed that up with the atrocious BS episode on GMO crops, where Penn alternately lionizes Norman Borlaug, shills for agribusiness, and smears Greenpeace.
posted by unmake at 9:27 PM on July 9, 2011


Videos revealing his voice have been available on YouTube for a very long time.

Personally, I wish Teller had a podcast like Penn's. I really enjoy watching Penn Point (it's a video podcast). He's very opinionated and I don't always agree with him (though often I do), but I respect him because he always says what he thinks and sticks to his guns. (As a brief example, a father once asked Penn to congratulate his son on becoming a Boy Scout. The Boy Scouts do not allow gays or atheists into their group and so Penn refused.)

Eideteker: "I feel like the reason Penn does all the bloviating is because Teller's just really, really good at doing all the sleight of hand and mechanics of the tricks. ;)"

Teller has stated in interviews that the reason he doesn't talk is that, when he was first starting out in magic, he found that if he kept his mouth shut he "got beat up less often" because people were fascinated in the magic but not so much by what he was saying.
posted by IndigoRain at 11:41 PM on July 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Teller's voice sometimes appears in their stage show, but never at the same time you see his face. He did the voice for their "Mofo the psychic gorilla" bit and for the "Harry Houdini" number in more recent shows.

He also talks at the end of the film "Penn and Teller Get Killed."

And of course he's a very nice person who will talk to you after the show while signing autographs. They usually split into two lines and I go through Teller's line just because it still amuses me to hear him speak...
posted by mmoncur at 1:47 AM on July 10, 2011


are there links to the rest of this presentation--not just Teller's part?
posted by ottimo at 4:33 AM on July 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I really wanted to see the rest too. Especially Randi's.
posted by DU at 5:26 AM on July 10, 2011


Teller did a bit at IdeaFest in Louisville a few years back. He shows you a trick, "This trick is done with a piece of string" from their act, then tells you he's going to explain the trick, and in the end, ask if you liked it more or less after you knew how it was done. He was right, after you know how it was done, it's a completely different appreciation. He also give Penn all sorts of props for making the trick stronger. It was an hour talk, and one of the coolest things I've ever seen. (No disrespect to Jane McGonigal and Will Shortz, who also gave great talks at the thing, they just were no Teller)
posted by DigDoug at 9:29 AM on July 10, 2011


Links for more of the presentations, including Randi's, are on this page a bit more than half way down in the left column. Lots of other great material on magic and the brain here as well.
posted by calamari kid at 9:31 AM on July 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Back when Craig Kilborn did the Daily Show, he had Penn & Teller on one night, and of course Penn did all of the talking, with Teller sitting next him silently. At the end of each interview, Craig would ask his "5 Questions" and the last one this time was Craig shouting "Teller, why won't you just SAY SOMETHING?" and without missing a beat, Teller said "Fuck you, Craig."
posted by gwint at 8:49 PM on July 10, 2011 [9 favorites]


Teller said "Fuck you, Craig."

Teller speaks for all of us.
posted by Optamystic at 3:02 AM on July 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


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