The pinstriped business suits have gone from hipster-ironic to age-appropriate. But Penn & Teller still wear them well, as the onetime upstarts of magic become its gatekeepers.
The rebels who pumped fresh (stage) blood into a tired form in the ’80s are now a more direct version of magic’s quality police, playing the mentors on two current TV shows.
“Penn & Teller: Fool Us” is a British import now airing on The CW, in which less-famous magicians try to pull off a trick the duo can’t figure out. And this week, Syfy began airing “Wizard Wars,” in which the two judge magic’s version of a cooking contest, with young magicians developing new tricks from a list of common ingredients.
Both shows are among the ever-flowing books, movies, TV guest shots and punditry (for Penn Jillette) that made the duo’s Rio show more popular than ever. (Along with the new TV shows, Showtime still reruns their “Bullsh*t” every Thursday, and Jillette hosts “Camp Stew” on the Sportsman Channel.)
If everything about their career has been slightly out of kilter, there’s a cool irony to them doing peak business after 20 years in town.