Penn Jillette, most known for being part of the Penn & Teller act, is going to be penning one of the episodes for the fourth season of the smash hit anthology series ‘Black Mirror‘. The episode in question will be based on a short story which Penn wrong decades ago and has remained unpublished to this day.
He broke the news on his Penn’s Sunday School Podcast and gave listeners a taste of how his lunch went with series creator Charlie Brooker where they were discussing ideas. The inspiration for his story came when he was sick in a Spanish hospital in 1981. Due to the language barrier, he wasn’t able to get diagnosed, and no one knew where he was. In what could have been a life and death situation thankfully didn’t end up that way but seeds of a story began to grow in his mind after this took root.
“During that time, I got this idea for this short story called “the Pain Addict.” I was postulating a future where you could put a gizmo on your head and feel someone else’s pain. So there would be doctors whose whole job it was to feel pain and say “His left arm is broken. That’s not actually appendicitis, that’s a cancer thing.” They felt every pain. Like prizefighters and childbirth and child cancer. And this guy gets addicted to it and starts beating people to feel their pain. He also goes through S&M and all he wants to do is jack into Jesus on the cross. He wants to feel that pain. I wrote this story. It was the first story I wrote when I got a computer. When we did Penn and Teller’s first book, we had short stories in it. I submitted this and the editor said: “That’s too dark.” I’ve been trying to find a place for this story, which I thought was really good. I tried to write a comic book and they said no. I pitched it as a movie and they said no. So I told Charlie Brooker all of this and he said “Oh, pain addict. That’s good.””
While it was written 36 years ago, it sounds like something that would be quite mainstream in today’s world, and it is no wonder that Brooker felt it would be a perfect fit. Advanced technology, the social issue of addiction, it really couldn’t have found a better home.
However, it won’t be your standard stand alone episode but alike “White Chrismas” this will be three episodes tied together and titled “Black Museum.”
“And then two years later, [Brooker] started calling me up a lot and for the [finale] of the next Black Mirror, they’re doing a thing called “Black Museum,” which is three stories tied together as one, like they did with “White Christmas.” We went back and forth. Charlie Brooker writes everything. There wasn’t a chance of me actually typing. I sent him my short story. We brainstormed for a few hours. It ended up being that the whole story was framed by a carnie in Vegas who has a museum that includes the helmet that was worn by the original pain addict. He’s telling the story to a young woman who was at the museum. He’s this washed-up carnie guy, 20 miles outside of Vegas, running his little museum there.”
The fourth season of ‘Black Mirror’ is set to land in 2018 and if it is anything like the third, we’re going to be in for a real treat when it is released. Personally, I can’t wait to see what they put together.
What are your thoughts on Penn Jillette’s contribution to ‘Black Mirror’? Do you feel that “The Pain Addict” is a perfect fit for the series? Share your thoughts below!
Stuart Conover is an author, blogger, and all around geek. When not busy being a father and husband he tries to spend as much time as possible immersed in comic books, science fiction, and horror! Would you like to know more? Follow him on Twitter!