Magic and Malevolence

As far as we know, David Blaine has never made headlines by denouncing God, and David Copperfield has never bruited objectivist philosophy. But unlike most celebrity magicians, Penn & Teller are not content performing tricks, taking bows, and going quietly into the night. Rather, they have successfully cultivated their image as basic-cable provocateurs — taking such contrarian approaches as mocking world peace and defending sweatshop labor in their Showtime series Bullshit! Their onstage illusions are almost an afterthought. Even the most celebrated aspect of the duo’s 35-year career was born out of skepticism: Penn said he began performing magic because he hated the magic that was out there at the time. So he and his diminutive, silent companion reinvented, and continue to reinvent, the formalism of magic-trick structure, surprising even skeptical audiences. And what if you don’t like magicians that stray from their chosen field to wax poetic about libertarian ideals? To borrow Penn Jillette’s parlance, they don’t give a fuck.
Fri., Feb. 4, 8 p.m., 2011
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John Thomason

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