Picks and Pans Review: Penn & Teller's Cruel Tricks for Dear Friends
Penn Jillette and his partner, Teller, have only one thing in common with Abbott and Costello: They too have created well-defined comic personalities. Penn is a condescending wise guy who makes jokes, and Teller is a condescending wise guy who never says anything. This ingenious 59-minute tape features a series of scams supposedly designed to dupe a friend—variously described as "Old Mr. Cranial Density," "Micro-Brain," "The Vegetable That Walks Like a Man" and "Barely a Primate"—or to win bets from him. (Although the betting is part of the shtik, the tape is prefaced with a disclaimer pointing out that gambling is generally illegal, which is exactly the sort of boneheaded literal-mindedness P&T are so fond of skewering.) In one typical segment, Penn and Teller show how to set up a card trick in which the dupe picks from a deck and always is maneuvered into pulling out the three of clubs. The trickster then turns on a VCR tape that includes a news broadcast that is interrupted by the "newscaster" suddenly holding up the three and saying, "Is this your card?" The other gimmicks are just as preposterous, and they're full of amusing digressions. As he's demonstrating the card trick, Teller marks a card with an "X" to make the lesson easier to follow; then Penn glares at the viewer and says, "If you even considered marking your three of clubs, someone should be using this trick on you." (Lorimar, $20)
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