Magic Goal Setting, Mystery School and Fool Us

I was scared out of my mind! What if I screwed up? What if I died on tv? Being on national television was a pretty big deal for a 15 year-old kid from upstate New York, and this was my big chance. What’s My Line? was a famous TV game show in the 1970s. I auditioned for a talent scout, passed the audition, and now I had to deliver the goods in front of millions. The good news is that I actually pulled it off. I levitated Broadway star Anita Gillette on the show, and that was my first of hundreds of television performances. During the 80s and 90s I was in a different country almost every week performing on TV variety shows.

Floating on air. Fifteen year-old Jeff McBride’s levitation act on What’s My Line?

Helping Dreams Come True
After over fifty years of performing magic, I’ve gathered a lot of experience, and now I enjoy helping my friends and students realize their dreams. Many of our students at The Magic & Mystery School have gone on to America’s Got Talent – like Mat Franco, who was the first magician to ever win 1st place. Some of you know that Mat started studying here at our school when he was 12 years-old.

AGT 1st place champion Mat Franco with Jeff at Mystery School. 

Other students I’ve coached have gone on to television shows like AGT, Masters of Illusion, and most recently, Penn & Teller: Fool Us. Currently auditions are taking place for Fool Us, and if you are interested in submitting, I have posted the rules on my personal Facebook page. If you need some help with your show or figuring out what to submit, you can always email me at

Jeff fools Penn & Teller with his famous “Rainmaker” performance.

Here Come the Judge!

Congratulations to Judge Gary Brown for his upcoming appearance on Fool Us. Gary is one of my favorite storytellers, and here is his inspiring story – enjoy!

Mystery School 
During a session at the Mystery School’s “Weekend of Wisdom” in 2021, Jeff McBride challenged each participant to set a magic goal to accomplish during the following year. The goal was to be written, and then read to the group. I immediately knew my goal: I wanted to appear on Penn & Teller: Fool Us. But, I lacked the resolve to write it down or say it aloud. Somehow, it felt too big, too audacious, so I substituted “performing at the Magic Castle” instead. Yet, in my heart, Fool Us remained my true objective.
If you want to improve as a performer, goal setting is crucial. Over the past decade, I’ve set and met several magic goals: developing a standup act, inventing about a dozen original effects, studying and lecturing at Mystery School, and writing more about performance magic. Each goal, unimaginable just a few years earlier, required sustained effort and perseverance. Most also required guidance and feedback from mentors and friends, that helped turn fantasy into reality.
Attaining those goals resulted in amazing (and sometimes unexpected) opportunities: performing at new venues, writing Wandcraft, serving as the Distinguished Lecturer for an international convention, and receiving awards from the I.B.M. and the S.A.M. More rewarding, though, were the relationships that followed: deepening involvement in the art resulted in bonds with remarkably talented and interesting people.
Magic Goal Setting
A few months after the “Weekend of Wisdom,” Fool Us was seeking performers for Season 9. It was time. I decided to develop a new set using one of my inventions, the Viking “Spirit Trumpet,” for an audition video. Transforming that stage piece into an act appropriate for Fool Us proved daunting, and I needed help. Much of that support came from the Mystery School community: drawing on their deep experience and knowledge. Jeff and Mystery School Dean Larry Hass provided invaluable advice, reassurance, and support.  
I submitted the video, presuming I would never hear back, yet within twenty-four hours, found myself on the phone with the show’s producers and magic consultant Michael Close. The ensuing months involved revising, rescripting and reshooting the routine, hundreds of rehearsals, and attending to countless details. Through it all, my mentors and magic colleagues helped me with editing, scripting, blocking, and stagecraft. Then, it was off to see the wizards!  

Fool Us is unlike ordinary reality shows that gleefully wallow in a contestant’s failure. Everyone associated with the production loves magic, and strives to ensure that your magic looks beautiful. In a whirlwind, I encountered the Fool Us team: writers, directors, magic consultants, travel specialists, and fashion advisors who would handle everything related to my trip and appearance.  
Fool Us
Shooting began inside Penn & Teller’s secret storeroom, a gigantic space stacked floor to ceiling with boxes marked with familiar illusion names like ‘Shadows’ and ‘Needles.’ “Pretty cool in here, don’t you think?” asked our escort. “Well, don’t touch anything!” The storeroom also housed Penn & Teller’s props department, a group of craftspeople who could fabricate, fix, or jerry-rig anything that a magician might need. Contestants were shown to an impromptu seating area, where we made nervous chit chat while waiting to be called.
A short elevator ride from the secret storeroom deposits one onto the main stage. The backstage area is reminiscent of the interior of a submarine – dark, cavernous, but tightly packed with experts urgently working over glowing displays and readouts. I was fitted with a microphone, and consulted briefly with the stage manager, audio engineer, and, frankly, more supportive crew members than I can recall. And, in what seemed the blink of an eye, I found myself on the main stage. The contrast between the dark, crowded wings and the brilliantly lit stage of the mammoth Penn & Teller Theater is jarring, if not overwhelming.

What happened next? Well, I’m not allowed to say. But you can see the results on March 31, when my segment is scheduled to air. I’ll be seeing it for the first time, as well. After the filming, though, I knew just what to do. Just as Superbowl athletes famously proclaim “I’m going to Disneyland” after a big win, following the most amazing achievement of my magic career, I headed straight to Mystery School. There, I reconstructed the performance for Jeff, and described its reception by Penn & Teller. Jeff shared more important tips and encouragement.
The lesson? Set goals for yourself and your magic. Find mentors and a supportive community. Put in the work. And don’t be afraid to aim high. You never know what might happen. And, incidentally, the producers at Fool Us are looking for auditions for Season 10….

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