He has sold out shows in Las Vegas for 20 years, but Penn Jillette's ticket to immortality could be a small, rust-colored spider native to Nevada's nuclear proving ground.
The new species of trapdoor spider recently was named for him by Jason Bond, an arachnologist and professor at Auburn University in Alabama.
The Aptostichus pennjillettei, or Atomic Penn Jillette spider, hides in a burrow and spins webs across the entrance to catch prey and keep out predators. It grows to roughly the size of a quarter and makes its home near the test site outpost of Mercury, lurking in a swath of desert bathed repeatedly by the light of nuclear blasts.
"It's got everything going for it," Jillette said of his namesake critter. "I'm very, very excited about this."
Bond has made a name for himself by naming new species after famous people.
There is a Barack Obama spider and a Neil Young spider. There is a Bono spider, which lives - where else? - at Joshua Tree National Park.
"That was a pretty obvious one," Bond said.
His decision to name a spider after Stephen Colbert landed him an appearance on Colbert's show on Comedy Central.
"I thought it was a high point for biodiversity," Bond said.
In fact, that's the whole point. By drawing attention to himself, he hopes to shine a spotlight on the important business of cataloging the natural world.
"We've only managed to describe maybe 2 million of the 15-30 million species that are out there, and it's taken us 250 years to do that," Bond said.
Meanwhile, species are disappearing at a rate that rivals some of the largest mass extinctions on record, and humans may be largely to blame.
"We're losing our diversity at an alarming rate," Bond said. "We're losing it faster than we can describe it actually."
He has never been to the Nevada desert to collect an Atomic Penn Jillette spider in person. He "discovered" the new species while sifting through samples from the American Museum of Natural History. The specimen against which all other Penn Jillette spiders will forever be measured was collected from the Nevada Test Site in 1962, six years before Bond was born.
The researcher has now named close to 50 new species, but he hasn't - and won't - name one for himself. That sort of thing is frowned upon in his field, he said.
Bond insists he only chooses celebrities he respects for reasons beyond their fame. In Jillette's case, he said he appreciates the magician's "views on science and reason."
He swears this is not just some complicated scheme to rub elbows with stars. Except maybe in the case of Aptostichus angelinajoliea, also known as the Angelina Jolie spider.
"I have to admit that my motivations in that one were not as honorable as they usually are," Bond said with a laugh.
At least he had the good sense to name a spider for his own wife, Kristen, before he named one for Brad Pitt's wife.
"While I've had a bit of fun with it, it's not something I take lightly," Bond said.
After all, scientific names are permanent, so presumably the spiders he names will continue to be identified that way for as long as there are humans around who care about such things. "I suppose it's the closest thing you can come to true immortality," he said.
Jillette isn't too interested in that. He thinks such notions of legacy and eternal life distract people from the lives they should be living now.
But he is thrilled to have his name associated, perhaps for centuries to come, with the pursuit of scientific knowledge. He said his series on Showtime, "Penn & Teller: Bullshit!" was basically a science show, albeit one "with naked people and a lot of obscenity."
Jillette plans to hang a picture of the spider in his home. He said he would even consider keeping one in a terrarium if he thought it would survive.
Just don't ask him to hold one.
Jillette said there is a rule at his house when a spider shows up and needs to be taken care of: "Anybody but me."
"I would love to be all Morticia Addams on your ass," he said. "But I'm more likely to scream like a little girl."
Contact reporter Henry Brean at email@example.com or 702-383-0350.