Matt Johnson’s first crack at TV glory ended before it began when the tank he was trying to escape split open and spilled 260 gallons of water onto the Britain’s Got Talent stage during a rehearsal, along with his dreams.
The UK-born magician came back home to Abbotsford without having had the chance to perform his great escape in front of the celebrity judges – an opportunity he spent years working towards.
But just over a month later, in mid-March, he had another chance to perform the daring escape in front of bright lights, TV cameras and two judges nearly every magician on earth looks up to. He had a slot on Penn & Teller: Fool Us.
Johnson hastily ordered a new tank – this time reinforced with metal corners – custom built in Calgary and waited for it to arrive at his Chilliwack studio. It arrived at 10 p.m. the night before he was to fly to Las Vegas for his chance to impress magic legends Penn Jillette and Teller on their popular series where illusionists from around the world try to perform a trick that even they can’t decipher.
Johnson’s new tank was three inches tighter on all sides.
“It was really, really not good because when I started getting in it, I couldn’t hold my breath because my lungs and everything were squished up from having to crouch in it more, which meant I couldn’t hold my breath as long,” he said.
The new tank allowed him only 30 seconds of breath-holding, rather than the more than two minutes he needed to pick the handcuffs off his wrists and find the one key among 31 in the tank that would release him.
Johnson shipped the tank to Vegas, followed by plane and on March 16 performed on the Fool Us stage.
He can’t say exactly how it went but said “it was kind of interesting, what happened.”
You can catch Johnson, who now lives in Chilliwack, on Penn & Teller: Fool Us at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 3 on the CW Network.