Give the funny old man some pie
I just turned 55 years old. This year my age and the last two digits of my birth year are the same. That happens only once in a lifetime.
I turned 55 on stage in Jersey and more than 1,000 audience members sang “Happy Birthday.” I blew out some candles, cut a couple pieces of cake, and Teller and I pretended to eat the cake as we walked off stage. My wife and children called up to sing a smaller and more in-tune version of “Happy Birthday,” ending with “We love you, Daddy.” You can’t do better than that. Unless someone gives you pie.
I’m not bothered by the idea of getting old, or I guess you could say by having arrived at old. I was 10 when my mom turned 55. For 1955, she was a very old mom. I’m 55 and my daughter is 4 and my son is 3. My mom lived to be 90. I was alive for half her life. I need to live to be 100 years old for my daughter, Moxie, to have been alive half my life.
Some people retire at 55. It’s time to get an RV and go fishing. I’m doing 250 shows a year in Vegas and working on my cable show with Teller. I work all the time, but try telling that to AARP, which has been trying to sign me up for the last five years.
I was at the blood bank recently and they had a copy of AARP the Magazine with Bruce Springsteen on the cover. He’s way older than me. The Boss was rocking out on the cover of the old people’s magazine. Not long after that, I myself was featured in the magazine. Tramps like us, baby, we were born to look at ads for denture cream.
Bruce looked good at 60, but not as good as he looked at 30. That gives me an advantage over the Boss. I look about as bad at 55 as I did at 30. That’s the advantage of never having been a hunk. “Penn’s that big, loud guy with the stupid haircut” is a fine description of me now, and it was a fine description of me 25 years ago. Until a younger, bigger, louder guy with a stupider haircut comes along, I don’t have to become the “big, old, loud guy with the stupid haircut.”
I used to be young. I was the youngest in my class at Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Greatest Show on Earth Clown College. When Teller and I started working, I was too young to get into some of the clubs where we did shows.
I can’t really go for the youngest anything anymore -- the president of the United States is younger than I am! Now, I have to go for being the oldest at things, and I’m starting to do that. I had a really bad ear infection recently, and the doctor had to put in a tube so my ear could drain. When I went to the hospital for the procedure, the other patients were all under 4 years old. So, I was the oldest brave little fellow getting a tube in his ear that morning. The nurse offered us all lollipops afterward. I took a purple one. They didn’t have pie.
Johnny Carson left “The Tonight Show” because he wanted to retire at the top of his game. Some people think that Frank Sinatra should have retired a little earlier, when his voice was still the best that this world has ever heard. I saw Ol’ Fading Blue Eyes on his last tour, and I thought he was great. I was just glad to have had a chance to see him again.
Maybe you’re one of the people who thought Sinatra was embarrassing on his last tour, but I bet you didn’t have the guts to tell him to his face. Even on his deathbed he would have kicked your butt.
If I worried about embarrassing myself, I certainly wouldn’t have gone into showbiz. If I were trying to avoid embarrassment, I wouldn’t have stumbled my way through “Dancing with the Stars.” I intend to do the Penn & Teller show until they pry my cheesy magic wand from my cold dead fingers.
I’d still like some pie.
Penn Jillette is the louder, bigger half of the magic/comedy team of Penn & Teller.