John Archer and his SEX envelope
I saw UK comedy magician John Archer at the magic convention Magic in the Rockies. Instead of telling you how great he is, watch his trick on the UK TV show Penn and Teller: Fool Us.
After you watch him, I'll tell you how he does it.
John Archer Fools Penn and Teller
So how did he do it?
At the magic convention, Mr. Archer performed his trick, and then he explained to a group of magicians exactly how he did it. That's what happens at magic conventions. Magicians from all over the world show up to perform and teach. They sell books and DVDs to each other that explain how they do their magic, and sometimes they sell the special apparatus or secret gimmicks needed to make the magic work. In the lectures they give, magicians will perform a trick, and then explain the devious methods they used. Many times, the magicians who perform are so good, they fool an entire room filled with other magicians.
If you watched the video, you know that Penn said he thought he knew how Mr. Archer did his money trick. He believed there was another envelope, and somehow he slid the winning money inside. Mr. Archer says that isn't what he did - and he wasn't lying.
(If you didn't watch the video, the trick is that Mr. Archer lets audience members try to choose an envelope containing money, but they always lose.)
The secret of the trick is that Mr. Archer can manipulate the envelopes he's holding to make money come out of any envelope that's picked.
And the audience has a completely free choice of envelopes.
What happens is that Mr. Archer subtly changes what he does depending on which envelope an audience member picks, and when during the routine it's picked.
The trick has a basic script which is set, but there are variations within the script. If an audience member zigs, then Mr. Archer zags to meet him. And all of these zigs and zags - every possible possibility - are worked out beforehand.
The other method used is the same one used by Penn and Teller.
Mr. Archer is so funny and entertaining, you don't care how he does the magic, so his magic is not the only part of his performance.
Penn and Teller use their sense of humor and outrageousness to entertain. Mr Archer does the same. That's why an audience of magicians who already know the secret can be entertained when watching a good magician perform - because a good magician is entertaining whether you know the secret or not.
And when you think about it, these two deceptive principles - make the audience not care only about the secret, and have different scripts to cover any possibility - are used by more than just magicians.