Penn & Teller have spent their careers amusing, and amazing, audiences with their patented blend of magic and humor.
But Teller, the shorter, silent (at least onstage) member of the team, expresses genuine amazement at being chosen for the Nevada Entertainer/Artist Hall of Fame at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Penn & Teller will receive their honor, presented by UNLV's College of Fine Arts, at tonight's ninth annual gala, which begins at 6 p.m. in the UNLV Student Union Ballroom.
Other Hall of Fame inductees include the late Peter Foy, "the father of theatrical flight," who's being honored posthumously, and KGA Architecture founder George Garlock.
In Teller's view, "we're both East Coast guys, sort of theater guys," so receiving the UNLV honor ranks as a "huge surprise," he says.
Then again, as partner Penn Jillette pointed out to Teller, after a decade-long run as Rio headliners, they've now spent more than half of their collective career in Las Vegas.
When the duo first decided to relocate to Las Vegas following successful Broadway and international tours and TV appearances, New York-based friends asked them, " 'What kind of Philistines are you?' " Teller recalls.
"But even here in the middle of the desert, with the bright neon lights, we're doing real art -- and making real money," he observes. "So I think we have to accept the fact that we're Vegas guys."
And that makes them ideal candidates for the Entertainer/Artist Hall of Fame, explains Jeffrey Koep , dean of UNLV's College of Fine Arts.
In addition to honoring those who have made their mark as artists or entertainers, "we're looking for people who are here -- who have come to Nevada and made it their home," Koep says. "It's a combination of 'How have you been involved in the community?' and 'What is your stature as an entertainer or artist?' "
That combination has characterized such previous honorees as Wayne Newton, Phyllis McGuire, Siegfried & Roy, "CSI" creator Anthony Zuiker and the late Tony Curtis.
They've all received Sidney Awards, named after the Hall of Fame's first inductee, the late George Sidney, the director of such big-screen musical hits as "Annie Get Your Gun," "Kiss Me, Kate," "Bye Bye Birdie" and, of course, "Viva Las Vegas."
In addition to high-profile performers, the Sidney Awards also honor behind-the-scenes innovators.
Foy definitely belongs in that category; the Las Vegas-based Flying by Foy (now owned by Foy's widow, Barbara, who will accept tonight's award) revolutionized the art of stage flying -- in Broadway musicals, rock concerts, movies and TV shows -- from "Peter Pan" to "Spamalot."
Joining Garlock in tonight's awards spotlight: Edward D. Smith, who will receive the College of Fine Arts Dean's Medal; and David Howryla , president of Marnell Architecture, named the College of Fine Arts Alumnus of the Year.
Contact reporter Carol Cling at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0272.