Cell Fish

If anyone wonders what that fishy smell is, it just might be my cell phone.

I realize this may take some explaining…

Last night I had the unique opportunity to become a participant in Penn & Teller’s Show at the Rio Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. The duo started the show off by asking everyone to pull out their cell phones and hold them in the air. I thought this was going to be the typical “Please silence your cell phones” plea, until they explained that this would be a unique opportunity for someone to come on stage, be part of a trick, and have the opportunity to video tape it up close and learn the secret. Oooh, ooh, pick me!!

And pick me they did. I was brought up to the stage and asked by Penn if I had a friend in the audience who could call me. My friend and co-worker Matt G. volunteered, so they had him call me. After identifying that it was indeed my ringtone and phone, they started to video from the stage. After introducing themselves and me, they then proceeded to introduce me to Criss Angel! Well, not really Criss Angel but a life-size cutout of him. After getting a nice video Criss and I, they then had me watch as Penn dropped my phone into an empty paper cup, place it on the floor, and then stomp it to smithereens. Well, if you read my last blog post, you would know I have a pretty tough iPhone, but this time – it was gone.

Penn then had Matt G. call my phone again. Suddenly, there was a faint ringing in the back of the theater. The spotlight searched out a gentleman near the back of the theater who they asked to reach under his seat and pull out what he found there. He discovered a very large Styrofoam box. As they passed it up to the stage and I collected it, Penn asked Matt to call the phone again. Sure enough, the ringing was coming from inside the sealed, taped box. We opened it up and what was inside? A fish. A Tilapia, to be exact.

After having Matt call one more time, I was amazed (and slightly horrified) that the fish was indeed emitting my ringtone. They sliced the head off and there inside, in a plastic bag, was my cell phone!! It was handed back to me with just the one request that I not watch the video of how it was done until after the show.

Now that I know the secrets of the Universe (or at least just this trick), I debated whether or not to share the video and explanation. But then I had a thought: P&T’s entire show is about debunking magic myths and getting the audience involved in how it is done. They flat out showed us in a wonderful monologue and mime routine where they illustrated the seven fundamentals to slight of hand:

Palm
Ditch
Steal
Load
Simulation
Misdirection
Switch

Not always in this order, of course

(Also, I realized that in revealing the step by step of how the trick is done wouldn’t lessen any the enjoyment of one watching, because the pure artistry in the way these two perform is amazing. Magic, if you will.)

So here it is – the secret of the iPhone in the Fish, or, “Cell Fish.”

While looking for a volunteer, they seemed to specifically look for someone with an iPhone. After I was selected, I was asked to remove the case. Then as their banter started and the video began, so did the trick.

First up, the Steal. Not so much a steal as a gift, since I willingly handed off my phone to Penn. Then, Criss Angel. As they brought out the cut out, Penn notices he isn’t wearing his customary 20 lb cross and proceeds to put it around his neck. In doing so, he Ditches the phone into a pouch on the back of the cut out while Loading an identical phone he had Palmed from his sleeve and then proceeding to continue as if it is my phone. The cut out is moved off stage where a stagehand places my phone into a plastic bag and then into a fish with a slit cut into one side. The fish phone is flipped, hiding the slit, packed in ice and sealed in a Styrofoam box then run to the back of the theater I assume though a tunnel / trap door under the guest’s seat.

While all this backstage activity is going on, I am being Misdirected onstage. As Penn is placing the Switched phone into the cup, he drops the lid on the ground. As I bend over to pick it up, he throws the imposter phone over his shoulder to the audience’s enjoyment where it is caught by Teller, and while I am not in on the joke that the audience is with the Duo, I don’t notice because Penn is just so funny and charismatic and I’m enjoying being on stage.

Now for the Simulation. I am guessing that it would be hard to hear the ringing of a phone, inside a bag, inside a fish, packed in ice, sealed in a Styrofoam box under the seat of a 380 lb man. So, I’m thinking the tech crew had recorded the initial ringing of my phone and then looped it back through a speaker under the seat.

The rest of the trick is pure showmanship as the box is dramatically passed forward, through the shock of opening the box and finding a raw fish. The horror upon hearing the ringing coming from inside said stinky, raw fish and ending with our amazement of how a phone got inside a whole fish.

Penn and Teller have long been one of my favorite acts. Their straightforward approach to classic tricks, and then the breaking down of those tricks is always entertaining yet I still often scratch my head and say, “But really, how did they do that?!” It is pure artistry. I am thrilled to have been a part of it, even if for only a few minutes.

Video: Cell Fish (The video ends after the fish is presented backstage, but before it goes in the fish, I presume because they didn’t think I’d want 2-3 minutes of the inside of a raw fish. For that I am thankful).

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4 thoughts on “Cell Fish

  1. tracy says:

    Very cool! Thanks for posting.

  2. asbiediaries says:

    Your so lucky to have been on stage with Penn and Teller! They’re so awesome!

  3. […] forward 20 years, and with the 259 map and navigator apps available on my iPhone, not too many chances to get lost any […]

  4. Dan Tran says:

    I wonder why he bothers to swap phones if the imposter phone is ditched anyway.

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