My short bio:

I’ve been performing magic for 30 years, including the World Famous Hollywood Magic Castle and President Obama’s most recent inaugural ball.

I view magic as a way of exploring the uncertainties of life, using illusions as metaphors to inspire others to overcome the seemingly impossible.

Last night, I was featured on the CW show, Penn and Teller: Fool Us, where magicians from around the world try to perform a trick that magic/comedy legends Penn & Teller can’t figure out.

My trick fooled them.

Ask me anything!

EDIT: You can watch the episode here:

My Proof:

Comments: 1262 • Responses: 37  • Date: 

BrundageMagic1062 karma

Hey Francis,

Fellow Fooler Steven Here. Awesome meeting you in Vegas. The trick you performed was amazing and by far my favorite performance of the night! Congrats on Fooling Penn & Teller and I hope see you again soon! Here are two questions?

  • What is the proudest moment of your magic career?
  • What's your best advice for an aspiring magician?

FrancisJMenotti670 karma

Steven! Thanks for showing up here. Obviously loved your piece on PTFU, too. (And it was nice to meet you in Vegas.)

-Proudest moment: I'm not much one for "pride," but the most touching was this. I was working the Salute to Heroes Ball for President Obama's first inauguration. During it, I had a wonderful interaction performing for a completely blind veteran (don't recall which branch) and recipient of the Medal of Honor. I wrote a little narrative of it here and will repost it to my blog on my website soon.

-Best advice: don't listen to naysayers; do follow your passion. (And, a piece of advice Teller once gave me: Take every gig when you're first starting out!)

lskalt76 karma

What tricks would you perform for a blind person?

FrancisJMenotti100 karma

I did a mostly classic version of coins-across.

rottinguy855 karma

Anything huh?

Okay fine, How did you do it?

Edit: Oh like the rest of you don't want to know too.

FrancisJMenotti1105 karma

Oh, ok... I had this idea years ago as a spinoff to my aforementioned Shuffled Words trick. One day, I sat down with my dear friend and Neighbor, Mat (who happens to be a Latin Teacher). Over breakfast, I discussed the wording that I wanted to use and enlisted his help in making it cohesive and linguistically correct such that the audience could follow it despite its rapid-fire barrage of absurdly complex language. Once we wrote it out together, I spent a few weeks (months?) memorizing and rehearsing it. The result? Well, you've seen it.

Oh... did you mean how'd I do the trick?

YoshyRyuDCC232 karma

What's one of your most enjoyable trick to perform to others (regardless of difficulty)?

FrancisJMenotti604 karma

A piece I wrote back in college involves me shuffling a deck of cards and my words getting mixed up at the same time. It's fun and more importantly is my way of saying "what you're about to see is different than what you're expecting." If you're interested, here's a clip of it from a few years ago.

scooter098190 karma

What kind of rapport do magicians have with each other? Do you share secrets?

FrancisJMenotti316 karma

By and large, the magic community is small. Most of us are friends with one another drawn together by our passion for the art of theatrical deception. We do share secrets, when appropriate. But the secret is only one (though important) element of the larger equation that makes up a good piece of magic.

coldize149 karma

Are you friends with Neil Patrick Harris?

FrancisJMenotti314 karma

Not friends, but we've met when he was the president of the Academy of Magical Arts (of the Hollywood Magic Castle). He's a truly delightful gentleman and was a fantastic, hard working president for the club.

3urritos148 karma

What all do you get for winning?

err...fooling them?

FrancisJMenotti303 karma

The true prize is having the opportunity to share the screen and stage with tremendous magical talent of such a wide variety. Fooling Penn and Teller is nice, and certainly a part of what drives everyone on the show, but really it's a wonderful opportunity to show the world (hopefully) good magic.

Foolers have an opportunity to then perform in Vegas as a part of Penn and Teller's wonderful show at the Rio. Also pretty cool.

BrundageMagic79 karma

Have you picked your Fool Us opening Date yet?

FrancisJMenotti197 karma

I will be performing at the Penn and Teller Theatre at the Rio in Vegas on November 16, 2015.

trippplesweet129 karma

Hi Francis, thanks for doing this AMA! I have a few questions for you:

1) What is your advice for someone looking to get into magic? What are some things you wish someone would have told you?

2) Did you have an opportunity to chat with Penn & (I guess not) Teller at all? If so, what were they like?

3) Are there any magic tricks that you've seen that you cannot figure out?

Thanks again!

FrancisJMenotti193 karma

1) I just answered this a little in another response, but: don't worry about what "naysayers" think- chase what you most believe in.

2) I've been privileged to know Teller somewhat well for the past 15 years. The magic community is small to begin with, but Teller has always been supportive and giving to many up-and-comers of magic. He's also been a big influence on me and my thinking of magic throughout my career thus far. Penn: I've had a few interactions with, though not as many, and they've always been enjoyable.

3) Absolutely! And I LOVE it when I experience something that I am left with no idea of its workings. It's usually by one of my closest and cleverest magician friends. When I'm fooled badly, I'll of course automatically be thinking of how it might be done, but NEVER really want to know fully. It's a wonderful feeling to be reminded that we simply don't know everything.

bstampl1115 karma

What card am I thinking of ?

FrancisJMenotti480 karma

The five of spades. (At least... now you are.)

skrimshandz84 karma

Can you do a magic trick with nothing more than, say, the comments of some internet chatboard?

FrancisJMenotti127 karma

I do tend to think words are magical. ;-)

xavierash83 karma

Always love Fool us, and look forward to seeing your act.

How do P&T actually know when someone has fooled them? While i'd love to think no-one would lie to them, I'd imagine the show has some sort of way of knowing? Do you need to explain the trick to a employee beforehand (Who would obviously be sworn to secrecy) or something similar?

Basically, what's stopping P&T from correctly guessing, but the performer saying "Nope, that's not how I did it"?

FrancisJMenotti160 karma

There are two marvelous consultants "backstage"- Johnny Thompson and Michael Close. When we first arrived for rehearsal, we explain all of the trick and their nuances (in the unlikely event that they can't deduce what they are). This becomes the control aspect of the experiment, as during the show, P&T will make their guesses. If the performer makes a questionable challenge, Johnny will make the referee call. It all works very honestly and well.

Charmadillo82 karma

Hi Francis! Loved your trick last night. I'm glad you fooled Penn and Teller, but at the same time, I really wanted that note card they pulled out to read "lobster." That would have blown everyone's minds (if you could work something like that into the trick, it'd be even more amazing than it already is.)

How hard was it to memorize your speech for that trick? Seems like you had a great time writing it!

FrancisJMenotti56 karma

Thank you! Yes, I think it might have blown my mind, too, if the card read "lobster."

Memorizing this script was a little challenging, but the trick is to really treat it like any other script. Took a couple of months to really nail it well. But once its there, its stuck there.

sleepygomonkey34 karma

Hi Francis. Congrats! that's an impressive accomplishment. after 30 years of magic, are you able to suspend your disbelief and enjoy magic shows of others or do you find yourself unraveling their tricks and unable to detach from it as a professional?

FrancisJMenotti66 karma

Suspension of disbelief is such an interesting turn of phrase. To my mind, a good magician does not need the audience to willingly suspend disbelief, but rather creates that feeling organically for the audience the way a good film distracts one from the fact that the actions and scenery on screen are "fake."

That said, I'll offer two metaphors. Magic can be a good hamburger. To have a hamburger, one must have a patty of beef, preferably good quality and cooked just right. But that's not what makes it GOOD, any more than the necessary secret to a trick makes it good magic. You need the dressing: the lettuce, tomato, sauces (the performance and presentation) to make a truly delicious eat. (Dang it. Now I'm hungry.)

Second analogy: magic is a language. The more of a language one knows, the easier it is for one to pick up new words just by context. The more "tricks" one knows, the easier it is to learn (and appreciate!) new bits of subtle deception that help make good magic work.

yeahidontknow1326 karma

What was your inspiration to get into magic? How old were you when you first started magic?

FrancisJMenotti38 karma

My parents bought me a magic set when I was five. At first, as with most magicians, I enjoyed the attention. As I grew as a student of magic I began to love the fact that we can use our brains and imagination to create beautiful illusions of the impossible. Now my goal is to challenge peoples' assumptions of everyday life, albeit with illusion, in the hopes of inspiring people to overcome the impossible.

2x2hands-of-blue18 karma

Who are some of your favourite magicians? Past/current performers, etc.

FrancisJMenotti33 karma

Without the slightest intention of cheesiness or irony, Teller is my favorite living performer of magic. Others include names that non-magicians might not recognize, but would truly enjoy seeking out: Gaetan Bloom from France, Rob Zabrecky from LA are two that come to mind.

Of the past, I wish I could have seen Karl Germain. Wish I could have spent more time seeing Tommy Wonder, as well.

Gohagan12 karma

You think they were really stumped or playing up the show.? I've seen them pretend to be baffled on tricks that I wasn't impressed by.

FrancisJMenotti32 karma

Penn and Teller are both very smart and very experienced magicians who have been surrounded by great magic for a long time. I've watched the most brilliant thinkers of magic get "cut" by the Occam's Razor-est of methods, because of good presentation or simply over-analysis. Also keep in mind that watching something through this digital box is a lot different from experiencing magic live, and only a few feet away. So while it is definitively impossible to prove a negative, I'd say it's more likely than not that most often when they say they're fooled, they are.

dameetch11 karma

Hey Francis, What does Teller's voice sound like?

FrancisJMenotti23 karma

It's a little quiet.

JSwedykMagic9 karma

Hey Francis!

First off congrats on last night! I've seen your one man show and it's definitely something that a younger crowd (less than say 12 years) would more than likely not follow or completely enjoy. Was your show always like that and if so did you run into problems starting your career with a show like that?

Also, do you have any advice for someone who has a more adult oriented show and is trying to do magic as a career?

FrancisJMenotti35 karma

When I first started performing full time (in 2000) I did a TON of kids' shows. They taught me a tremendous amount about audiences, communication, effect, and presentation. I also grew rather unfond of them. Mostly because I couldn't express the ideas that I thought were interesting and that I thought needed expressing to adults. I talk a little about my reasons for why I think magic is better for adults than it is for kids in a TEDx talk I gave for UPenn earlier this year. (Here's the link, if you like: )

However, you are correct in the realization that doing "heady" stuff is a tough sell. So I have different material for different audiences. Another mentor of mine (Rick Maue, a mentalist out of Pittsburgh) got me thinking hard about having different shows depending on what was "needed." I perform vastly different material and styles for a corporate conference than I would for a wedding reception or for a theatre show. They're all ME. But they're all the right me for the right crowd.

Startled_Goldfish6 karma

Favourite trick performed by another magician?

FrancisJMenotti13 karma

Again, at the risk of sounding like I'm pandering to the show or P&T fans, my truly favorite piece of live magic is Teller's "Shadows," performed on a recent episode of PTFU. Without exaggeration, it brings a tear to my eye every time I see it.

00Seben5 karma

Hey Francis, I find it hard to motivate myself to keep practising magic. How did you keep yourself motivated to keep trying when you fail again and again?

FrancisJMenotti11 karma

I think it's a personal drive that each person needs to find in him or herself. For me, I often glibly say: If I've achieved my goals, I didn't set them high enough. i.e. what keeps me going is the perpetual hope and intention of improving whatever it is I'm working on. As soon as it's "good enough" by my standards, it's not worth doing anymore.

HalConundrum5 karma

Can you juggle?

FrancisJMenotti7 karma

Not well.

joannagoodwin4 karma

What was the first trick you learnt? And why?

FrancisJMenotti7 karma

Started with a Fisher Price magic set. Still have it in my office. :-) First trick was probably the "jumping rubber band."

imthatguy254 karma

What do you think is your most dangerous trick?

FrancisJMenotti6 karma

I'm not a big fan of actual danger, either by me or other performers. I prefer to create the occasional illusion of danger, if appropriate.

Dr_Guude4 karma

What simple magic trick do you love to share with kids?

FrancisJMenotti14 karma

If you mean one to perform for kids, a simple coin vanish and reappearance is one of my favorite things to do (followed by the coin through shirt trick in the bio/intro to my segment).

As for "teaching," I've always loved the "jumping rubber band" trick, where it hops from fingers to fingers of your hand. It's easy enough for them to learn, and good enough to get them hooked.

IJustWantComment3 karma

Is there someone you look up to?

FrancisJMenotti8 karma

Penn, but that's predominantly because I'm only 5'9".

Truly there are many I look up to, but I do try to have a healthy respect for everyone working towards the same goals as I: that is to produce and perform good magic.