Magic Smackdown!: When 'Amazing' Randi Humiliated Uri Geller

By | July 11, 2019

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Left: James 'The Amazing' Randi in a promotional photo from a recent PBS documentary, "An Honest Liar." Right: Uri Geller failing to do his magic tricks on 'The Tonight Show' as Johnny Carson looks on. Sources: PBS; YouTube

In 1973, spoon-bending "psychic" Uri Geller appeared on The Tonight Show -- and walked into a trap set by host Johnny Carson and the magician/skeptic James "The Amazing" Randi. It was one of the great "gotcha" moments in TV history, and a highlight of a feud between Randi and Geller over the nature of magic. Is a magician a skilled deceiver, a performer who makes you disbelieve your own eyes -- or does a magician have superhuman abilities?

Geller said he could bend spoons and house keys because of his "psychic" powers. Randi said, more or less, that Geller was full of s**t, and sabotaged Geller's performance on national TV.

In This Corner: James 'The Amazing' Randi

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Houdini and a young Amazing Randi. Source:

James "The Amazing" Randi was a successful magician in the 1950s and '60s, often performing tricks in the style of his idol, Harry Houdini. But Randi took a principled stand even in his early days -- that his tricks and illusions were just that, tricks and illusions. Once, when accused of having supernatural powers, Randi shot back, "I'm a trickster, I'm a cheat, I'm a charlatan, that's what I do for a living. Everything I've done here was by trickery."

Due to his frankness about the nature of stage magic Randi evolved from magician to celebrity skeptic. He is the co-founder of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) and devoted much of his later life to debunking paranormal activity or what he calls "Woo-woo." Faith healers, mediums and psychics have all felt the sting of Randi's public criticism, and Randi’s most infamous run-in involved a spoon-bending performer named Uri.