I heard Penn and Teller were coming to San
Francisco. I've been a fan for years, but have never seen them in person. (That's
not exactly true. I saw Penn at the Crimewave show put on by Survival Research Labs performance in 1995. He was
standing alone watching the mayhem. I didn't bother to say hi. It didn't seem to
be the right forum. Besides, most of us were wearing ear plugs and pistol range
In any event, it seemed strange to me and those who know me that I had never seen them in person. I was able to get very good tickets, almost front row center. All week I had been talking to people about the bullet trick, and the things I would do if by some miracle I was chosen to come up on stage.
Penn asked for volunteers. In particular he asked for people who were in the military, current or former cops, gun club members, etc. Basically he wanted someone who would be able to verify that the bullet and gun were not props.
People around my side of the stage did not seem all that interested in raising their hands. And here I was with my shooting club membership in my jacket pocket. I got Penn's attention. He asked me my qualifications, and I just said I belong to a shooting club. Without any real competition Penn called me up on stage. Since this was really a "double bullet trick" he also got another guy who was in the Marines to come up and verify Teller's bullets and gun.
He called me up on stage and gave me a wireless microphone. He then asked me to select a bullet from a pouch containing around a dozen rounds. The bullets were .357 magnum.
He then asked me to verify that the bullet was real, which it seemed to be. He then gave me a selection of 3 Sharpie markers: purple, blue, and green. I chose purple. He asked me to write my initials on the bullet slug. I did that, at which point he asked me to make some other marks around the other side of the bullet to make sure each "quadrant" of the slug was somehow unique to me.
When that was done he asked me to choose a color again, and asked me to write on the casing. He asked what I wanted to write, and I told him a zero. I was a bit nervous and my zero looks much more like a heart.
(On stage it's impossible to see anything. I couldn't see the first row. I think that made it a little easier somehow.)
Then Penn asked me to inspect the weapon. With the laser mounted on the barrel, it was a pretty slick Penn asked me if it was a real gun. All I could say was "Sweet!", which it was. That got a really big laugh. (But it was a sweet weapon...) Penn made some reference to having a Marine and a gun nut on stage. Hmmm....
Penn explained that the insurance company required that everyone (other than P&T) had to be off stage. So the marine and I went back down the stairs and I watched the trick from there. They aimed the guns at each other (after the laser dot moved up their legs, pausing on delicate areas) and fired.
Without touching their mouths, they revealed the bullet slugs. Teller now had my bullet. I walked over to him, and he spat it into my hand. It was indeed my bullet.
Here is the slug and the casing:
Note that I wrote all over the slug. The letters are upside down, but they are B, L, O (note that I wrote the O with too much overlap, and with a dot), and X.
I also inspected the glass. It didn't shatter completely, though I expected it to. The hole was ragged and caused stress fractures. I poked the casing at the hole and dislodged a little bit glass. It really was glass. It really looked to me like the bullet passed through the glass.The stand was on a little tripod. There was no place for any mechanical or pyrotechnic devices to hide.
This trick rocks.
I've seen other web pages which purport to describe the techniques Penn and Teller use. I'm certain now that these sites are wrong.
Here is a link to another page with similar information.
Here is some more information about the bullet trick in general.
Outside I got Penn and Teller to sign my copy of Would Could Should. This little booklet was included in their 1988 book "Penn and Teller's Cruel Tricks for Dear Friends". Penn's spasms are in the upper left, and Teller's signature is on the lower right.
Penn was visibly shocked when I showed him my copy to sign. Teller told me "I should have guessed you'd have been a fan since the Would Could Should days". I don't know why he should have guessed that. I doubt I ever will.
Copyright © 1998-2010 Bob Lord.