performer wrote:Fooling other magicians to me is not a proper criteria that the fooler is a good magician. Faulty premise and in most cases I find that people who are good at fooling magicians are usually awful performers.
I agree. And I believe Richard was making a similar/related point in another thread focusing on the stars themselves.
But I also believe that the notion of "fooling a magician makes you a good magician" is a derivative one that has been propagated by extension from the premise of the show. The show is called "Fool Us." Simply put, Penn and Teller are challenging any and all comers to do something in front of them and the whole world that employs a method which they are unable to figure out. That's all. Nothing else.
While Penn (and silently, Teller) often give performers major compliments on their premise, presentation, sleight-of-hand skills, character, etc., the show purely boils down to one thing: you win if P&T cannot figure out the method you used to achieve your main effect; if they do figure it out, you lose. (I've always loved that the trophy, intentionally or unintentionally - although my suspicions lean heavily toward the former - allows P&T to tell you what they really think of you for fooling them by prominently featuring the show's initials.)
The show does not deny the skills necessary to be a good magician, but by choice has elected to focus on the one aspect of magic that always plays well to a lay audience: how did the magician (or to remain more precise: person performing the effect) do it? Put another way, no one would have tuned in to expressly to watch the Masked Magician's choreography or learn why he made particular choices for his musical accompaniment - they wanted to know how he did it. With Fool Us, P&T have taken the audience to the edge of exposure (yes, sometimes crossing it) but in general making the method confirmation banter between the contestant and themselves as mystifying yet as entertaining as possible to the audience. The audience feels it was "in on something" but still more often than not doesn't know exactly what (and Jonathan Ross adds to that feeling as the wonderful host he is as well.)
In the past I've been a participant, an organizer, and a judge/contest problem creator for the ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest - a competition that pits teams of the best computer programmers currently attending college against each other in an effort to solve the greatest number of incredibly challenging programming problems as quickly as possible in a time period of just a few hours with very limited resources. No one would ever argue that the code that these programmers produced under these conditions was (typically) the best possible program that solved any of these problems. And they were certainly not the best examples of fully-finished, well-polished and well-optimized programs that did it either (criteria that would certainly come into play if you were doing the same task for a major technology employer, government agency, etc.) But the contest hits on the one key aspect that makes every programmer incredibly excited: seeing a program actually work, especially for the first time. Everything else can be cleaned up, but if the program doesn't work there's no amount of polish that can help it. The contest was often criticized for encouraging "quick and dirty" programming (obfuscated code, little and usually no documentation, etc.), but it leverages the one part of programming that is the most fun for the programmers - and then challenges them to do that live and under test conditions better than their peers.
Fool Us is doing a kindred thing with magic effects. No one is going to come to the theatre or tune in to watch highly-polished, beautifully choreographed performances of "magic" whose methods are blatantly clear to everyone who keeps one eye open for ten percent of the time. And again I agree that fooling P&T does not automatically make you a good magician. Lucky for us, most of the people who do have an honest shot at fooling P&T are reasonably well-known and polished in the art already (like David Roth), or are up-and-comers who are getting there or making their initial splash on the magic scene. And it's great for the art for the public to get acquainted with these performers and a lot "what's new" in magic to help ensure that there will be interested audiences for all of our futures.