Sep 24, 2013

Eating Fire - Don't Do This

Penn Jillette Reveals the Secrets of Fire-Eating

The more talkative half of the famed magic duo says that even for professionals, this magic act is a tough act to swallow  

  • By Penn Jillette
  • Smithsonian magazine, December 2012, Subscribe
Penn Jillette
Penn Jillette demonstrates the art of fire breathing. (Jared McMillen) 
I didn’t learn fire-eating to conquer my fears. I learned fire-eating because I desperately wanted to be in show business. You don’t want to learn fire-eating from a book, but that’s how I started. I read Step Right Up! by Dan Mannix—the 1950 memoir of a real-life carny—and I wanted to be “with it.” Dan didn’t explain how to eat fire, but I felt I could read between the lines and figure it out. I was 19 years old, and like many men that age, I felt invincible. I wasn’t, and you aren’t. Remember that. Do not eat fire!
I practiced all afternoon and burned the snot out of my mouth and lips. My mouth looked like wall-to-wall herpes sores, with cartoonish, giant teeth glued to my lips. There were so many blisters I couldn’t press my lips together. I sure couldn’t have whistled. I thought I had to ignore the pain and I did. I’ve always been good at focus. My girlfriend arrived home and screamed in horror (19-year-old men often make 19-year-old women do that). We didn’t kiss for a week . . . and we were 19.
Don’t learn fire-eating from a magazine, but here’s how it works. Just, don’t do it!
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