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As Teller recovers, it’s the Penn & Michael show at the Rio

Updated October 28, 2022 - 2:45 pm

Penn Jillette is about to perform without Teller. But he says it is too early to talk about performing without Teller.

“I don’t think there is a ‘without Teller’ for me,” Jillette says. “That’s way premature.”

But Jillette is living in the now and immediate future, as Teller continues recovering from open-heart surgery. The verbal partner in Penn & Teller is taking the stage alongside one of his favorite magicians, Michael Carbonaro, in November and December at Rio’s Penn & Teller Theater.

The Penn and Michael show (the title unofficial) runs Nov. 23-26 and again Dec. 23-30. Tickets are on sale now at ticketmaster.com.

The temporary production’s timeline indicates Teller would be back full-time in January, at the earliest. He underwent quadruple-bypass surgery on Sept. 29.

The 74-year-old legend has posted his rehabilitation updates on social media. Monday he wrote, “Looking forward to going home soon,” while reclining in a bed. Friday it was, “Progress. Everything is still strenuous, but day by day … ” the latest in a string of encouraging health messages.

But his return to full-time, Penn & Teller performances is not yet determined.

“Any predicting of that is always iffy. They said six to 10 weeks, and that seems about right,” the 67-year-old Jillette says. “So what we’re leaving open is Carbonaro and I do the show, and Teller can come out and do 10 minutes as a special guest. He said his biggest problem is going to be stamina. This will give him a chance to feel what it’s like.”

Carbonaro filled for Penn & Teller from May through July, when the duo toured Australia.

“We came back a little early and saw him and thought he had a wonderful stage presence,” Jillette says. “I had him on (the podcast) ‘Sunday School’ and I really like him, and I thought it would be fun to do some stuff together.”

Jillette has also performed in a “Penn & Friends” show at the Rio, with Piff The Magic Dragon, Mac King and Matt Donnelly appearing in rotation. Teller had been out of the show as he was recovering from a series of back surgeries.

“Penn & Friends” ran for three weeks ending Jan. 4, 2020. But don’t expect a return to that format.

“They want to do it, but I don’t want to cannibalize Mac and Piff’s show. If they did a show with me, they would both be competing against themselves,” Jillette says. “I don’t think that’s fair.”

Jillette has just returned from a national book tour, supporting his latest tome, “Random.” He’s hosting a reading at The Writer’s Block at 519 S. 6th Street at 7 p.m. Nov. 5 (go to thewritesrblock.org for tickets).

Jillette is confident Penn & Teller, whose image graces the Rio’s new building wrap, will return to its lofty standards next year. As we’ve noted, Teller is a tough, resilient entertainer who has performed in the act (often climbing in and out of contraptions) since 1975.

“A lot of people go through this surgery and come back,” Jillette says. “Every medical professional I’ve talked to has pulled me aside and said, ‘Wow, he’s doing really well.’ Teller’s in pretty good shape, we don’t have a background of drugs and cigarettes and stuff like that. What I’m doing now is, focusing a little more on this separate thing until he’s ready to come back.”

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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