An Awesome Night

Last night, when I should have been at the Blue Man Group show, I was passed out sick in bed at the Bellagio. My boss went to the show without me (can’t say that I can blame him).

What’s interesting though, is what I missed out on last night. Before the Blue Men come on stage, they “warm up” the audience by introducing visiting celebrities, dignitaries, etc., on an LED scroller-board, ask them to stand up, tell the crowd what they’re famous for, ask the audience to applaud for them, or scream their name, or whatever. And then at the end the “last” person is just a nobody. The board says something like “SOANDSO IS JUST A NORMAL PERSON. EVERYONE SAY ‘WE LOVE YOU SOANDSO'”.

Last night, while I was not in the theatre, I was the “normal person”…. they rattled off my name, asked me to stand up (I never asked my boss if he stood up in my place), etc., etc….

My boss showed me pictures he took, and I was sad. I had missed something that would have been really funny-cool.

Tonight though…. I got something far….. FAR cooler.

I got to be on-stage with Penn and Teller. More importantly, I got to participate in a trick I have always wanted to participate in – The Magic Bullet trick.

The principle of the magic bullet trick: There is a yellow line down the center of the stage which NONE SHALL PASS. On one side of the stage is Penn, with a .357 Magnum revolver with a laser sight. On the other side is Teller, with an identical weapon. Two audience members are called up, on either side of the stage. They specifically ask for people “who know guns”. Each volunteer selects a bullet at random from a bullet purse. You then sign the head of the bullet with distinctive markings. The volunteers also draw a distinctive picture on the shell casing (both in your choice of Sharpie colors). The volunteer then is invited to inspect the weapon, and verify that it is what it appears in all respects to be… a badass Colt Python with a laser scope. The volunteer then, seeing his autographed shell-casing go into the cylinder, pushes the bullet into the cylinder, and observes the closing of the cylinder. Penn (and Teller) both at this point are holding the weapon away from their bodies and in plain sight the entire time. Two pieces of plate glass are also inspected by the volunteers to ensure that there are no pyro devices attached, and that it is real glass.

The guns are placed in holders on stage (again, in full view) while they go suit up into body-armor. The volunteers are shuffled offstage while this happens. They then proceed to come out, aim the weapons at each other through the glass, and fire the weapons at each other. They then turn to the audience to show, in their teeth, bullets they have “caught”. The volunteers are called up on stage to take the bullet out of the opposite side’s mouth, and confirm that it has their initials on it. They then return to “their” magician, and remove the shell-casing from “their” magician’s sidearm, and confirm that the shell-casing is the one they signed. The bullet is inspected for striations from the barrel. Both the bullet and the casing are inspected for evidence of having been fired. The volunteer also inspects the glass to confirm that the hole goes all the way through the glass (which does not shatter but just has a big-ass hole in it)

I’ve seen this trick done by Penn and Teller a dozen times in various forums (live, TV, etc.). I’ve watched it on television and from the third row. And every time I’ve come away with the same feeling – it HAS to be a pair of plants. The only way I could see that it works would be to have the volunteers be in on the gag, signing the other’s initials on the bullet, or something like that.

But now I know… it can’t be dependent on a plant, because yours truly now has in his possession, one used bullet and shell-casing, plucked from Teller’s teeth (well, technically spit into my open hand, but the principle is the same).

My latest theory would be that there is some sort of MASSIVE misdirection that enables each of them to:
(more after the break, in case you’re squeamish about magic-trick reveals)

  • Remove the bullet
  • Bring it offstage with them when they go for their protective gear
  • Have each one fired by an off-stage handgun in a soundproof container so the audience doesn’t hear it
  • “Run” the bullet to the other side of the stage behind the curtains
  • Somehow trigger the glass to break (that’s actually somewhat easy to do)

UPDATE: can’t be that…. there’s Youtube footage of the trick being done without them going offstage at all, so much for that theory…..

Now, at some point (and I forget when this is now), they raise all the curtains entirely, ostensibly to prevent my above solution from working. If this is before they go offstage for their body-armor then it certainly is harder to do the swap.
I did notice some things which corroborate this theory though…

  • The laser sight does not go through the glass. From where I sat, if the laser sight were hitting the glass (going through it) some reflection/dispersal from the glass should be visible
  • My bullet shows no sign of “wear” on the front. Even something like glass should have left some sort of mark on the bullet. I would think, anyway. I need to find someone with a 357 and try that.
  • They put up big padded sheets behind each of them, ostensibly as protection in case something goes wrong. But those could just as easily to catch whatever projectile is fired from off-stage to break the glass simultaneous to the guns firing.

At the end of the day, though, this is a trick that I have so desperately wanted to be the audience-participant in, mostly because I wanted to prove to myself it wasn’t the “cheap way out”, that being a plant. Now this opportunity has given me cause to be truly mystified by the trick again…..