Bubba the Dipshit Dog (23 Jan 2000)

or, Penn and Teller Showed Me This From the Future

I recently had the opportunity to receive certain knowledge from the future and I felt it necessary to share the fruits of my good fortune with those of you who might appreciate. This particular bit of foreknowledge was courtesy of Penn and Teller, the stage magicians, and it concerned a trick they performed in one of their tours-- a tour that has not yet happened, obviously

I believe the boys first saw this trick as it was performed by a guy named Missouri Dick, who was actually a Texan of some sort. Dick called it "Bubba the Dipshit Dog", and as he did it, it went something like this:

Missouri Dick would perform all sorts of tricks which involved doing stuff around his dog, a bassett hound named Bubba. Throughout the performance, Dick demonstrated how unaware and, more importantly, unintelligent Bubba was. The dog was a lump, unmoving, seemingly unseeing. Missouri Dick went on at some length about the centuries of magical tradition involved in the hypnosis of animals for the purposes of stage magic; he did this historical exposition specifically because he wanted it to be absolutely clear that Bubba was too damn dumb to hypnotize. Levitated, surrounded by fire, turned invisible, sawed into four pieces, Bubba did not move a single muscle once during the entire performance, except for his sad sad eyes which flicked back and forth occasionally.

By the end of the performance, which generally started inside a barn and eventually worked its way outside, it had also been demonstrated repeatedly that Dick's "farmhand" assistants were none too bright themselves-- they tended to misplace props, blow timing, or otherwise screw up the extremely intricate performance, producing on-stage mistakes in which the primary trick was blown... and then saved by some totally different magical marvel which Dick would effect. For the final piece, these hicks would drag out an Asplundh wood-chipper... as well as three identical wicker baskets.

While one set of farmhands would gas up the Asplundh and get it in gear, the three wicker baskets would be filled. Into basket one would go a hundred pounds of confetti. Into basket two would go Missouri Dick, who was a little wiry guy of about a hundred pounds. And, of course, into basket three would go Bubba the Dipshit Dog. Though nowhere near a hundred pounds in weight, Bubba was pretty damn big and heavy.

Then a marvelous game of three-card monty would begin, in which the idiot assistants would begin to shuffle the baskets around clumsily while a couple of other farmhands started tossing blocks of cedar into the Asplundh with a fairly regular rhythm. The pile of sprayed woodchips began to form on the other side... and, of course, it begins to become apparent to the audience that the farmhands aren't doing the basket shuffle quite right. Each time the baskets stop, the assistants would all jump to the side and make ta-da gestures at one of the baskets, as if waiting for Dick to pop out... and sure enough, he would pop out of a basket. But about a third of the time, the assistants were gesturing at the wrong basket. It would instead turn out to be the basket containing Bubba the Dipshit Dog that they around. Oops! Each time they fucked up "showing the ball", Dick would become more visibly agitated, until finally he cuts the intricate dance short and tells them to just get on with the damn trick. They do one last very obvious shuffle; the audience can clearly figure out which basket is Dick, which is the confetti, and which is Bubba.

The other assistants have been throwing wood in this whole time, creating a huge spray of shredded bark, while occasionally making FARGO references. Then, there's a quick one-two-three, and one of the baskets is hefted up-- the audience is positive that it's the one containing Missouri Dick-- into the shredder it goes! FWOOSH! A hundred pounds of confetti flies out the far side in an enormous cloud instead!

Dick peeks out of his basket for a moment, re-establishing his location. The assistants come back over, there is more shuffle of the two baskets, more wood into the chipper, the assistants heft the basket that everyone is certain contains NOT Missouri Dick but rather Bubba (which thus must mean that Missouri Dick *is* in the basket going into the chipper, right?)... and just as they count one-two- suddenly Dick pops out of the basket on the *ground* and shrieks "DON'T THROW HIM! YOU HAVE BUBBA!" just as the basket leaves their hands and flies into the woodchipper.

There is a shrieking grind and gore sprays out the far side, soaking the pile of wood chips. The audience is horrified... but not as horrified as Dick, who slams off the woodchipper engine, howling. The farmhands fucked up SO bad-- Bubba doesn't know how to escape the baskets! They have to throw HIS basket in so he can slip away and get Bubba out of the last basket! Fuck! They killed his dog! THEY KILLED HIS DOG! He is inconsolable with rage and grief...

...until he hears a bark. Once, twice, three times. WOOF! He looks up in disbelieving hope. "Bubba...?" he asks, tentatively. He starts looking around for Bubba in vain, desperately... and then the big dumb bassett hound pokes his head out of the same basket that Dick himself had been in, the one still on the ground! It's the first motion the dog has demonstrated this entire time. "You DID figure out how to get out of the basket!" Dick shouts. "Guess you ain't so dumb after all, you damn dog!"

When Penn & Teller performed Bubba the Dipshit Dog in the fall of 2004, it was the first piece of the second act, after the intermission.

The first act ended with tragedy, when their Magic Bullet trick went really awry-- Penn caught his .357 in his teeth but somehow, Teller screwed up and the back of his head exploded all over stage left. He collapsed in a flopping heap, the house lights were brought up in a hurry, and a medical team scrambled onto the stage. All through the intermission, Teller lay on stage surrounded by paramedics and trauma surgeons working on him non-stop (it's worth pointing out that he was also seen out in the lobby talking to audience members and having a cranberry juice poured for him at the bar at the same time, though he claimed to be a British police detective named Harris the entire time). Finally, after about thirty minutes of emergency surgical work, the medics fall back and there's Teller, sitting up on the stage, head slowly nodding back and forth aimlessly. Penn confers with the doctors; he comes to some sort of decision that clearly horrifies the medicos. The audience returns to their seats as the lights go back down.

While Teller sits mostly unmoving, glassy eyed, head bobbing, Penn explains that despite what appears to be long-term loss of higher brain functions and memory, Teller is going to damn well finish tonight's show-- the last Penn & Teller show ever, it would seem-- with him.

They roll out the wood chipper and three baskets-- small, medium, and large. As this is done, Penn tells a little bit about Missouri Dick and Bubba the Dipshit Dog. He then explains that Teller normally has the complex "escape the basket" part of this next trick while Penn plays the part of Bubba by being completely bound, gagged, and blindfolded. But Teller's probably not going to be able to get out of the Depends he'll be wearing for the rest of his life without help so it's up to Penn to do the tricky stuff while Teller plays the part of idiot animal... despite Penn's lack of actual experience with the "complex" part of the trick, and the fact that they've never practiced it this way before.

The stagehands sort of nod, like, yeah, okay, trust us we know how it's going to have to work. Penn reviews how the trick will occur: This is a woodchipper. (Throw wood into chipper, SHRED) Normally, Penn goes into the big basket while Teller goes into the little basket; Penn slips through the fake bottom of his big basket and moves under the stage to where the growing pile of wood chips will eventually be. They send through the confetti basket to celebrate a little. Then Teller, seconds after his presence in the small basket is established, gets lifted and thrown into the woodchipper... a harmless spray of wicker occurs... and Penn-- miraculously free of his bindings-- erupts through the woodchip pile-- with Teller in his arms!

That's normally.

Tonight, they're going to have to throw Penn through the delicate timing action; Teller is just going to sit harmlessly in his basket. Not as elegant as normal, but whatever. Penn can only fit into the usual large basket, however, so they reverse the initial placement of the large and small baskets.

Of course, the stagehands fuck up. They've got the whole shuffle routine down pat, but they've drilled on the routine by basket size and right on cue they grab the usual basket... the SMALL one... and heft it to the mouth of the chipper as Penn erupts from the large basket and shouts "NO! JESUS NO!"

THUMK, spray of gore! Penn leaps from the big basket, slams off the machine, bemoans his hubris for trying to improvise this trick, jesus, they practiced it so much, of course they end up with the small basket, fuck. Eventually he calms down as he realizes that, well, Teller wasn't going to be much of a magician anymore, anyway...

Wait, maybe this is all just the fake gore they built into the trick! Maybe this isn't actually Teller-- he might have instinctively slipped out of his basket and into the space under the stage, under the woodchips. They kick aside the bloody woodchips and open the trap door... but he's not under there. He really went into the machine. Dear God.

No longer rational, Penn tears open the side of the machine, exposing its blood-soaked guts. He pulls the spring arms and blades aside one at a time, wailing and gnashing his teeth... until suddenly, shocking, we see an arm! Oh god... Teller's arm. Oh gross! But then... it moves! It flexes! Penn pulls aside more machine guts... and there's Teller, covered in gore, curled into a fetal ball inside the heart of the Asplundh gnashing engine, barely able to squeeze around its blades... and he's not only alive, he seems to have had his mental faculties completely restored by his near-brush with death!

They are able to proceed with the rest of the show-- ending with the eventually-to-be-famous "message sent back in time" trick (which is how I was made privy to this knowledge in the first place)-- and all is well.

I was made privy to certain other elements of their activities around that same time, but it has been deemed imprudent to disclose that information just yet. All will be revealed in the fullness of time, I'm sure.