Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Penn & Teller With A Bullet

I've been a fan of Penn & Teller since I saw them deconstruct a magic trick involving a semi running over a man on television years ago. If you haven't seen their show Bullshit you're doing yourself a disservice. Tonight we went to see them perform live at the Rio where we just happened to be staying. It was quite a show, and I managed to get myself up on stage for the finale.

It was a trick I've seen them perform on television before: the magic bullet trick. They were looking for volunteers who had experience with firearms, and when they mentioned military experience, I raised my hand. Penn Jillette focused on me like a laser and asked me about my qualifications. When I told him I was trained on firearms in the Air Force, I was in.

The trick was set up this way: Penn showed me a cloth bag with several bullets slotted inside like a bandolier. I was asked to select one and make sure it was real. Sure enough, it was a copper-jacketed .357 round. I had seen them before; my father owns a .357 magnum.

Next I was asked to mark the bullet (the actual projectile) with my initials. I was given a choice of three markers to use, each a different color. I chose blue. Next I chose a purple marker and drew a really crapy representation of a poker chip on the casing. Another volunteer was performing the same actions with Teller on the other side of a yellow stripe laid on the floor. No one on the stage was to cross the boundary, to ensure that the bullets could not be traded from one magician to another.

Then I was handed a .357 short barrel. I rolled the cylinder, checked the barrel, cocked it experimentally. Sure seemed like a functional handgun to me.

Next I was presented with a piece of glass affixed to a pedestal. I knocked on it with the microphone I was using. Yep. It's glass.

I loaded the slug into the gun and gave it to Penn. I was ushered to the first row for the rest of the trick. Penn and Teller donned bulletproof vests, and, with the glass-on-a-pedestal contraption between them, fired at each other from about 30 feet apart. Afterward, I was called back on stage. The glass had a bullet hole in the lower right quadrant. When I reached my hand across the barrier, Teller spit a .357 bullet into my palm. It had scoring on it to that indicate it had travelled through the barrel of a gun. More importantly, it had my initials on it. Penn then opened his gun and had me remove the shell casing. I smelled it; gunpowder. On its side was the same crappy drawing I had made minutes before.

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