Penn and Teller stopped by The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon Tuesday to put a fresh spin on the oldest trick in the book: Pulling a rabbit out of a hat. While the duo’s six-week Broadway show features a stunt where they make an elephant disappear onstage, Penn and Teller instead performed the most clichéd of magic tricks, albeit with the same flair and wonder that have made the pair a Las Vegas mainstay for the past 15 years.
Before pulling the rabbit out of a hat, Penn Jillette explains the long history of the trick, which originated in France in the 19th century. However, despite “pulling a rabbit out of a hat” being a catchall phrase in magic, Jillette notes that few people have actually seen the trick be done in person. “It’s really hard magic. It’s wicked hard,” Jillette says, adding that the anachronistic nature of top hats have aided in the disappearance of the magic trick.
Penn and Teller then show how the trick has evolved: Instead of a hat, the rabbit appears behind a large handkerchief, and instead of a real rabbit, magicians use a “kicker,” a spring with fur on it, which is both humane and capable of fooling audience members. Penn and Teller then wrap up their Tonight Show visit by making the almost impossible occur: Pulling a real rabbit out of a real top hat. “I just want to make this clear: You were treated with compassion, dignity and respect,” Jillette tells “Hockey Puck” the rabbit.
Penn and Teller on Broadway concludes its Great White Way run on August 16th.