01 March 2009

Inside the mind of a magician

A very cool profile of Teller, of Penn & Teller.

It is impossible that this story be about anything other than a 3 ½-minute trick in the Penn & Teller show. It is a very beautiful trick that can’t be fully conveyed with words because it looks so simple: Teller makes a ball come to life. It isn’t a very exciting trick in that no knives, fire or risk are involved. A lot of their tricks have those.

And, to make matters worse, the trick I have the (partial) lowdown on, Penn doesn’t particularly like, or at least not until after he tells the audience how it is done—with a thread—before he walks off stage. And, therefore, yes, that’s right: This is going to be a story about a ball and a string—and Teller.

After Penn walks offstage, Teller, hoop in hand, slowly coaxes the ball to life and makes it do his bidding. Over the course of the trick the ball goes from indifferent to awakening to willing playmate. Though the narrative has Teller getting the ball to jump through his hoop, the ball’s most singularly beautiful moment is when it attains a perfect balance on the edge of the hoop.


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