Las Vegas Sun

October 21, 2017

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What the magician Penn Jillette can’t travel without

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Francis George & Francis Baytan / via The New York Times

In an undated photo, items Penn Jillette likes to travel with, backstage at Penn & Teller Theater at Rio Las Vegas. Almonds, a computer bag, a Monkees hat, an iPad — and a deck of cards are just a few of the things that Jillette prefers to travel with.

The magician and author Penn Jillette performs live shows with his partner, Teller, in Las Vegas 46 weeks of the year. Their television show, “Penn & Teller: Fool Us!,” started its fourth season on July 13. “Presto!,” Jillette’s book about losing more than 100 pounds, was published last summer.

He lives in Las Vegas (“Las Vegas is like living on the moon; nothing green can live here. It’s desolate, a kind of beauty you can only appreciate when you get old”) but travels for work.

Exploring is not a priority, he said. “When I’m on the road, I’m very different from Teller and the rest of the crew because I don’t usually leave my room. The farthest I’ll go is to the nearest Starbucks where I’ll drink coffee and work on my computer.”

Still, he recently spent time in the Southern Hemisphere for a movie, and he was surprised at how much he liked it. “I loved Tasmania, that it looks like you’re on another planet ... the trees are upside-down. Some things just look totally different. In Australia, everything’s trying to kill you — spiders, snakes, octopuses! Everything down there is poisonous and venomous and hates you. I didn’t like that, but in New Zealand, nothing’s trying to kill you. In New Zealand, you can run naked through the woods and you’re OK. And I did. And I was.”

For travel, he uses a packing and storage service called DUFL. “Someone in my office clicks on the icon and two suitcases are packed up with my clean clothes, and when I get to the hotel they’re there in my room. Sometimes they put in a sweatshirt with a picture of Jack Kerouac’s typewriter on it, because I’m essentially a beatnik. A beatnik that stays at the Four Seasons and has someone else move his luggage around.”

Here is what he packs on every trip:

Deck of cards

“It’s a perfectly ordinary deck of cards. Honest! Honest! I like to practice. People usually think practicing with a deck of cards is a lot of finger-flicking, which I used to do, but people who are, like, 20 are so much better that it’s a little bit disheartening. I do a lot of mental and memorization stuff with cards, so I have them with me to play with. The problem is that some people know you from television as being a magician, and if you pull out a deck of cards you seem in some way impolite. It’s like being on an airplane with someone who pulls out a guitar; it’s kind of embarrassing, like they want you to ask them to do a song or something.”

Computer bag

“I carry probably more electronics than you’d think a human being would carry. I carry the biggest MacBook, fully loaded, with terabytes of space. Which is stupid because I use it essentially for word processing. I also have the iPad Pro. That’s what The New York Times looks best on. I don’t ever agree with The New York Times but I read it all the way through every day. My Bose wireless noise-canceling headphones that I use on airplanes. And money, so if someone steals the bag they won’t be disappointed that they’re just getting a computer that’s equipped to NSA standards. At least they’re getting something for their trouble.”

A Monkees hat

“Never mind the Beatles, I’m a Monkees fan and they are three-quarters American. So it’s a patriotic hat. I am proud to call Mike Nesmith a friend and I’ve met them all. When I have a show I don’t wear a hat because I want my hair to be perfect, but on travel days I’m wearing my Monkees hat all day long.”

Almonds

“They are always in my travel bag. I always feel like — even though I don’t eat anymore — I’m going to have this panic and want to eat something, so I have almonds with me that are never opened.”

Things to read

“I read on my iPad. I won’t touch paper, I hate it. People hated me before electronics because I’d buy a book and stick it in my back pocket, and as I’d finish reading chapters I’d rip them out so there was less to carry. My library is exclusively stuff that I believe less than 10 other people have copies of. Right now I’m on a [Yuval] Harari jag; I just read ‘Sapiens’ and ‘Homo Deus.’ I always have the Bible that I’m reading, because I’m an atheist. And I always have ‘Moby Dick’ because I’m an American.”