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The magic-comedy team of Penn & Teller has performed a stunt parodying the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, offending some attendees of a major magicians’ convention, reports columnist Norm Clarke of the Las Vegas Review.
The skit, performed last week in Las Vegas, included Teller, dressed as Christ on a full-size cross, entering the room on a cart. According to the column, a midget dressed as an angel “performed a simulated sex act on the near-naked Teller.” Penn, in a Roman gladiator costume, unveiled the scene by pulling away a “Shroud of Turin” that covered the cross.
A group of people attending the event, billed as a roast of magician Amazing Johnathan, walked out in protest, says Clarke.
According to Rick Neiswonger, a longtime magician and marketing executive, said “the majority” of the 400 who attended the roast were offended.
“They (organizers) warned everybody that something offensive was going to happen, but my God, where do you draw the line? … This was beyond bad taste,” Neiswonger told the Review.
One magician, Lance Burton, defended the stunt in an address at the finale luncheon of the conference.
“I told them, ‘You were warned ahead of time.’ It was a roast; it was held late at night (midnight),” he said, according to the Review column. “Penn & Teller are my dear friends and I would take a bullet for them, and you can write that.”
Amazing Johnathan told the Review he was aware that a number of what he called “gospel magicians” walked out of the performance.
“This was performance art,” said Johnathan. “I know that Penn is a practicing atheist, and I agree with him that Christianity can be dangerous. Look at the Trade Center. That was done in the name of religion.”
Clarke said in his column that Penn & Teller declined comment.