Fine Tuning Fool Us

You’ve probably watched an episode or two of Penn & Teller: Fool Us, which airs in the United States on the CW network. As you sit in your living room enjoying the performances of the magicians and the back-and-forth banter with Penn, you probably aren’t thinking about all the behind-the-scenes work that took place before the every episode was taped.

As one of the two Fool Us magic consultants, my job is to make sure that every performer shines. I smooth out rough edges, exploring alternative methods, making sure there is a strong dramatic arc, adjusting choreography to meet the demands of the camera, and basically working as hard as I can to produce seamless moments of astonishment.

Much of this work happens months before we all assemble in Vegas as I work with the performers via phone, email, and Skype. But there is still tweaking done in the rehearsal room in the Rio Hotel in the days just before we tape. For me, it is a period of intense problem-solving, creativity, and providing moral support.

Below are videos of a few of the Fool Us performers and some comments from them about the experience.

The Foolers Testify!

Mahdi Gilbert

Michael Close made my national television debut on Penn & Teller: Fool Us a huge success! When I landed in Vegas, Michael brought me to his room and we worked out how I would perform a piece of close-up magic from my working repertoire into the best eight minutes of the series. Teller said of my performance, “Of course, the coolest guy this year was Mahdi Gilbert. That’s the guy who doesn’t have hands, but who does amazing card tricks. He’s working on doing the Cups and Balls without hands.”

Truthfully, I must attribute a lot of my success on the program to Michael Close. His intuitive understanding of how to adapt magic for television audiences is a huge asset for anyone aiming to perform on television. The lines we created together are so good they have effectively replaced my old script for the piece. Lastly, the most profound element of the effect, having a spectator interlace her fingers for the Oil & Water routine, was Michael’s suggestion. I cannot recommend Michael Close highly enough and would be lucky to collaborate with him again.

Paul Gertner

What a pleasure and an honor to have the opportunity to work with Michael Close as a magic consultant on season three of Penn & Teller: Fool Us. Michael worked with me on Unshuffled, a routine I have been doing for over forty years. His input played a major role in helping me add a new five-second kicker ending, creating a new moment of magic that actually fooled Penn & Teller – with a trick they already knew the secret to.

While Michael Close has extensive knowledge of magic methods and routines (he is one of the most respected magicians in our field), what impressed me most was his exceptional ideas on scripting and timing that ensured my new piece of magic had the most impact possible. His advice and input about my presentation was critical; he added the right beats to the routine, which was something I could not have worked out on my own.

If you are looking for a way to take either a single magic routine or your entire show to the next level, hiring a magical consultant/director of Michael’s caliber is rare opportunity that does not often present itself. From innovative methods, to scripting, to presentation and timing, Michael Close will help you make your next performance more memorable, meaningful, and magical.

Chef Anton – Two-Time United States Trick Shot Champion of Pool

I have been performing magic and pool ball wizardry for over forty years. Just when I thought my act could not get any more polished, along came Michael Close. Last year, I performed on Penn and Teller: Fool Us; I had the pleasure of consulting with Michael prior to my appearance. In less than thirty minutes, he improved my act and gave me easy-to-implement recommendations that are now a permanent part of my performances. His knowledge of the art form is unparalleled. He looks at an act from a different viewpoint than the rest of us; he sees things we do not see and probably never would.

Whether you are a serious amateur or a seasoned professional, Michael can help your act. He will give you insights that will vastly improve your performances. I have been performing for forty years; Michael improved my act in thirty minutes. Imagine what he can do for you.

Matt Disero - Comedy Magician

For any magicians thinking about attending this: I performed on Fool Us last year. Michael gave me two bits of business for the piece I did on the show. I use those two bits at every show now. He ramped up my piece big time. Luckily I got that advice for free because of the TV show, but I’ll tell you, I would have paid a thousand bucks just for those two things.

By the way, he hammered out those bits for me inside of an hour. Imagine what he can do for you. Seriously, this is a no-brainer.


Mathew Holtzclaw

When I was asked to be on Penn & Teller: Fool Us I was incredibly nervous. Penn & Teller are heroes of mine, and have been since I was eight years old. To be on national TV with two of the best magicians alive and to perform in front of them was an exciting but terrifying opportunity.

I prepared as best I could here in New York City before shakily flying out to Las Vegas for the taping. Michael Close is one of the two magic consultants for Fool Us. On my first day there, I rehearsed with him and immediately I knew I was in good hands.

I had been a fan of Michael’s for years. His work and writing have been hugely influential to me first as an amateur and later as professional magician. Michael knows how to take a magic trick and shape it into a miracle. He was kind, funny, and warm under incredibly stressful circumstances; I could not have done the show without him. Michael knows more about magic and its applications than almost anyone I have ever met. His knowledge, along with his engaging and welcoming personality, make him one of the best magicians, teachers, and consultants I’ve ever had the pleasure to know.

Ben Young

I worked with Michael to prepare for my appearance on Penn and Teller: Fool Us. Words cannot adequately explain how valuable his help and insights were. He helped me take a decent, interesting magic trick and transform it into a unique showpiece that became not only TV-ready, but a signature piece and one of the most talked about moments in my live show.

His communication during the process was frequent and clear – not just suggesting ideas, but sending specific links to examples, suggesting step-by-step choreography, and providing feedback to my video performances. Michael has an eye for good magic, and I so appreciate his helping me trim the fat, simplifying, and pumping up the magic!