A Few Things You Didn’t Know about (Shaq vs) Penn & Teller

I was lucky enough to be present for the taping of the video below. Predictably, the ABC edit left out the best parts; but I’ll put the record straight (read on).

Penn & Teller did their usual amazing show, and this time they added a twist. Penn put us on notice: “At the end, Shaquille O’Neal is going to step out of the audience and challenge us to a magic contest. It will be recorded for of his show, ‘Shaq Vs,’ where he tries to beat professionals at their own game. You’re welcome to stay and watch.” And that’s just what happened.

It was worth seeing it just for the fact that Shaquille O’Neal is one of the few people on earth who can make Penn Jillette look short. But his talent for illusion left a little something to be desired.

 

Here’s what you don’t get from the edited video:

  • Shaq was really, really bad at magic. There were actually two failed attempts; they gave him a mulligan on the first failure, and the second attempt went even more badly than the first.
  • The trick they gave Shaq to perform with Teller is one that they normally use to make fun of traditional Vegas magic acts.
  • There’s a very cool Easter egg in the video for magic lovers: a shot of James Randi in the audience. If you haven’t seen the documentary about him, “An Honest Liar,” go look it up on Netflix. It’s great stuff.
  • They needed a young lifetime to set up each take. We were there very late.
  • Notice how they edited out the part where the sexy Vegas showgirls spread the cards around the floor? They did it with their bodies, writhing over the cards in memorably indecent ways. It was fantastic.
  • After his successful basketball trick, Penn delivered one of the funniest lines I ever saw. After he finished, he shot his basketball at the hoop and missed. Then he said, “Well Shaq, I tied you at free throws, and I beat you at magic.” Brilliant — and understandable that they left it out of the final edit.

Watching Penn & Teller on TV just isn’t the same. You have to go get the live experience. Believe me, it’s worth it.

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