Penn & Teller
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Teller and Penn at the 1988 Emmy Awards.Penn & Teller (Penn Jillette and Teller) are Las Vegas headliners whose act is an amalgam of illusion and comedy. Penn Jillette is a raconteur; Teller generally uses mime while performing, although his voice can occasionally be heard throughout their performance. They specialize in gory tricks, exposing frauds, and performing clever pranks, and have become associated with Las Vegas, atheism, scientific skepticism, and libertarianism.
1.1 Off-stage relationship
3.1 Guest appearances
3.2 Music videos
5 Awards and recognitions
5.1 Penn & Teller: Bullshit!
6 Other media
6.2 Video games
8 External links
Penn and Teller were introduced to one another by Weir Chrisimer. From the late 1970s through 1981, the three made up an act called "Asparagus Valley Cultural Society" which played in San Francisco at the Phoenix Theater. This act was sillier and less "edgy" than today's Penn & Teller act. Chrisimer helped to develop some bits that continued on to be performed by Penn & Teller; most notably Teller's "Shadows" trick, which involves a single red rose.
By 1985, Penn & Teller were receiving rave reviews for their Off Broadway show and Emmy award-winning PBS special, Penn & Teller Go Public. In 1987, they began the first of two successful Broadway runs. Through the late 1980s and early 1990s, the duo made numerous television appearances on Late Night with David Letterman and Saturday Night Live, as well as The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, The Today Show, and many others.
Penn & Teller had national tours throughout the 1990s, gaining critical praise. They have also made television guest appearances on Babylon 5 (as the comedy team Rebo and Zooty), The Drew Carey Show, a few episodes of Hollywood Squares from 1998 until 2004, ABC's Muppets Tonight, FOX's The Bernie Mac Show, an episode of the game show Fear Factor on NBC, NBC's The West Wing, guest stars during an 2 part episode of the final season of ABC's Home Improvement in 1998, 4 episodes during season 1 of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch in 1996, NBC's Las Vegas, and FOX's The Simpsons episode Hello Gutter, Hello Fadder. They also appeared as Three-card Monte scam artists in the music video for "It's Tricky" by Run-DMC in 1987, and are thrown out of a Las Vegas hotel room in the music video for "Waking Up in Vegas" by Katy Perry in 2009.
Their Showtime Network television show Bullshit! takes a skeptical look at psychics, religion, the pseudoscientific, conspiracy theories, and the paranormal. It has also featured critical segments on gun control, astrology, Feng Shui, environmental issues, PETA, weight loss, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the war on drugs.
The duo describe their social and political views as libertarian.
They have also described themselves as teetotalers. Their book, Penn & Teller's How to Play in Traffic, explains that they avoid absolutely all alcohol and drugs, including caffeine, though they do appear to smoke cigarettes in some videos. Penn has said that he has never even tasted alcohol, and that his tolerance for certain drugs is so low that his doctor only had to administer a minute amount of anesthetic relative to what one would expect necessary for a man of his size to undergo surgery.
The pair have written several books about magic, including Penn & Teller's Cruel Tricks For Dear Friends, Penn & Teller's How to Play with Your Food, and Penn & Teller's How to Play in Traffic. Since 2001, Penn & Teller have performed six nights a week (or as Penn puts it on Bullshit!: "Every night of the week . . . except Fridays!") in Las Vegas at the Rio All Suite Hotel and Casino.
Penn Jillette hosted a weekday one-hour talk show on Infinity Broadcasting's Free FM radio network from January 3, 2006 to March 2, 2007 with cohost Michael Goudeau. He also hosted the game show Identity, which debuted on December 18, 2006 on NBC.
Penn & Teller have also shown support for the Brights movement and are now listed on the movement's homepage under the Enthusiastic Brights section. According to an article in Wired magazine, their license plates are customized so they read, "Atheist" and "Godless", and when Penn signs autographs, he often writes down, "there is no God" with his signature.
Penn Jillette has told interviewer Larry King that a big part of the duo's success and longevity is due to their never having been close friends. They enjoy working together immensely, but have little in common besides magic. As a result of their drastically different lifestyles and interests, they rarely socialize or interact when not working. Jillette believes that their partnership succeeds precisely because they give each other a great deal of space off-stage.
Their tricks include Teller hanging upside-down over a bed of spikes in a straitjacket, Teller drowning in a huge container of water, Teller being run over by an 18-wheel tractor-trailer, Teller swinging over bear-traps on a trapeze, and knives going through Penn's hands. Many of their effects rely heavily on shock appeal and violence, although presented in a humorous manner.
Sometimes, the pair will claim to reveal a secret of how a magic trick is done, but those tricks are usually invented by the duo for the sole purpose of exposing them, and therefore designed with more spectacular and weird methods than would have been necessary had it just been a "proper" magic trick. For example, in the "reveal" of one trick, while Teller waits for his cue, he reads magazines and eats a snack. Another example is their rendition of the cups and balls, using transparent cups.
Penn and Teller perform their own adaptation of the famous bullet catch illusion. Each simultaneously fires a gun at the other, through small panes of glass, and then "catches" the other's bullet in his mouth.
They also have an assortment of card tricks in their repertoire, virtually all of them involving the force of the Three of Clubs on an unsuspecting audience member as this card is easy for viewers to identify on television cameras.
The duo will sometimes perform tricks that discuss the intellectual underpinnings of magic. One of their acts, titled "Magician vs. Juggler", features Teller performing card tricks while Penn juggles and delivers a monologue on the difference between the two: jugglers start as socially aware children who go outside and learn juggling with other children; magicians are misfits who stay in the house and teach themselves magic tricks out of spite.
In one of their most politically charged tricks, they make a U.S. flag seem to disappear by wrapping it in a copy of the United States Bill of Rights, and apparently setting the flag on fire, so that "the flag is gone but the Bill of Rights remains." The act may also feature the "Chinese bill of rights", presented as a transparent piece of acetate. They normally end the routine by restoring the unscathed flag to its starting place on the flagpole; however, on a TV guest appearance on The West Wing this final part was omitted for drama.
One of their more recent tricks involves a powered Nail gun with a quantity of missing nails from the series of nails in its magazine. Penn begins by firing several nails (presumably real) into a board in front of him. He then proceeds to turn the nail gun on himself several times while suffering no injuries. His patter builds as he oscillates between firing blanks at himself and firing nails into the board. While performing he explains that the trick is merely memorization, but the lone fact that he does not flinch when he could fire a nail into his hand is the trick. He concludes the act by saying, "The greatest trick is this", while putting the nail gun up to his neck, and fires without blinking.
Penn & Teller Go Public for PBS (1985)
Don’t Try This at Home for NBC (1990)
Behind the Scenes for PBS (1992)
The Unpleasant World of Penn & Teller series for Channel 4 (1994)
Phobophilia for Channel 4 (1995)
Penn & Teller’s Home Invasion (1997)
Penn & Teller's Sin City Spectacular for FX (1998)
Magic and Mystery Tour (2003)
Penn & Teller: Bullshit! (2003 - )
Penn & Teller: Off the Deep End for NBC (2005)
Red Eye w/ Greg Gutfeld (Season 3, 2/11/2010) Penn Jillette talks about Obama's not-so-funny remarks disparaging Las Vegas.
Top Chef (Season 6, Episode 6) 9/23/09
Don't Forget The Lyrics 1/16/09
Miami Vice "Prodigal Son" (Season 2)- Penn only
Muppets Tonight "The Gary Cahuenga Episode" (Season 2, Episode 10 - 1997)
Saturday Night Live Episodes 1101, 1106, 1109, 1112, 1115, 1116, 1207 (1985–1986)
David Letterman (1989)
Lois & Clark Illusions of Grandeur 1/23/94 Penn only
Sabrina, the Teenage Witch Pilot, Terrible Things, Jenny's Non-Dream, First Kiss (1996–1997)
Dharma and Greg - Cats Out of the Bag (1998)
Babylon 5 – "Day of the Dead" (1998) as Rebo and Zooty
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas-Penn out front, Teller behind him (1998)
Hollywood Squares Dates: 10/1/99, 01/08/01, 10/06/03, 10/07/03, 10/08/03, 10/09/03, 10/10/03, 04/05/04
Fear Factor Episode 301 (2002)
Las Vegas Episode 108 "Luck Be a Lady" (11/17/2003)
The View Dates: 02/19/04, 10/31/05, 02/23/06, 10/31/2006, 6/24/2008
The Drew Carey Show
The Simpsons in Hello Gutter, Hello Fadder
Friends "The One With The Cuffs" -Penn only
Criss Angel Mindfreak
America's Got Talent (8/10/06 & 8/16/06)
Space Ghost Coast to Coast
The Colbert Report- Penn only
Celebrity Deathmatch in a fight against Siegfried and Roy
The Colbert Report to debate the origins of various magic tricks in relation to the recent democratic takeover of the senate-Penn only (2006)
The History Channel special "Nostradamus: 500 Years Later" (2006)
While You Were Out Episode aired on March 21, 2004: Penn redecorates the backstage greenroom with the help of the WYWO crew while Teller is away!
The West Wing #608 "In The Room" - Broadcast: December 8, 2004 - Presidential Daughter Zoey has a birthday party in the White House and Penn and Teller do magic tricks for her and the guests. And they do a trick that makes the guests think they have burnt an American flag inside the Bill of Rights (which was untouched). The press later hears about it and questions are raised about whether Bartlet was in the room when the trick was done.
Car 54, Where Are You? both Penn and Teller appear as gun dealers in a bar.
¡Mucha Lucha! as themselves and El Malèficos assistants.
Bill Nye the Science Guy
Home Improvement (TV Series)
Just For Laughs
V.I.P. Episode 122 "Val The Hard Way"
Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?
Numb3rs - Season 5 Ep6 "Magic Show" Only Penn appears
Time Warp - Season 2, "Las Vegas: Warped"
The L Word - Season 3, "Losing the Light" - Around fifteen minutes into the show, Shane is watching television, Penn & Teller: Bullshit! is on.
Katy Perry "Waking Up in Vegas" Music Video (2009)
Run DMC "It's Tricky" Music Video (1986)
Ramones "Something To Believe In" Music Video
Pizza Hut Commercial
Ford Motor Company Golf Commercials (2006)
Penn & Teller’s Invisible Thread for Showtime (1987)
Penn & Teller's Cruel Tricks for Dear Friends (1987)
Light Years (released in France as Gandahar) (1988)
Penn & Teller Get Killed (1989)
Fantasia 2000, introducing The Sorcerer's Apprentice sequence.
The Aristocrats (2005), a documentary film written and co-directed by Penn
Hackers (1995) - Penn only, as "Hal" working in the Gibson room
The Fantasticks (1995) - Teller only, as "Mortimer", who 'dies' for a living
Toy Story (1995) Buzz Lightyear's TV Commercial (V.O. by Penn Jillette only)
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Penn as a carnival worker, Teller behind him 
Michael Moore Hates America
Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder (V.O. by Penn Jillette only, Teller was featured, animated, and credited but obviously had no lines.)
Awards and recognitions
Visiting Scholars of MIT
Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award, 2001
Richard Dawkins Award, 2005 for promoting atheism
Penn & Teller: Bullshit!
Writers Guild of America: Comedy/Variety (Including Talk) - Series (2004)
Writers Guild of America: Comedy/Variety (Including Talk) - Series (2005, 2006)
Directors Guild of America: Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Reality Programs (2006)
Outstanding Picture Editing for Nonfiction Programming (Single-Camera) (2006)
Outstanding Reality Program (2004, 2005, 2006, 2007)
Outstanding Writing for Nonfiction Programming (2004, 2005, 2006, 2007)
Outstanding Main Title Design (2003)
Outstanding Main Title Theme Music (2003)
Penn & Teller's How to Play in Traffic (1997, ISBN 1-57297-293-9)
Penn & Teller's How to Play with Your Food (1992, ISBN 0-679-74311-1)
Penn & Teller's Cruel Tricks for Dear Friends (1989, ISBN 0-394-75351-8)
Sock 2004, ISBN 0-312-32805-2 (Penn Jillette sole author)
How to Cheat Your Friends at Poker: The Wisdom of Dickie Richard 2006, ISBN 0-312-34905-X (Penn Jillette and Mickey D. Lynn)
When I'm Dead All This Will Be Yours: Joe Teller -- A Portrait By His Kid 2000, ISBN 0-922-23322-5 (Teller sole author)
Penn & Teller's Smoke and Mirrors 1995 - Absolute Entertainment for Sega CD & 3DO, Unreleased.
^ Penn & Teller Bio
^ Booking Entertainment: Penn & Teller bio
^ Penn & Teller on Babylon 5
^ Infinity Broadcasting article on Penn
^ Penn & Teller website
^ The Brights' Net: Enthusiastic Brights
^ Gagnon, Geoffrey (November 2006). "The Illusionists". Faces of the New Atheism. Wired Magazine. http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/14.11/faces2.html. Retrieved 14 March 2010. "Never shy about their atheism (Penn's got the Nevada license plates ATHEIST and GODLESS), the two have been raising their voices – even the oft-silent Teller – to decry the muddying line between church and state... Sometimes they'll even sign autographs with "There is no God.""
^ Penn & Teller on force trick
^ Guide to West Wing on Penn & Teller
^ IMDB on My Chauffeur
^ IMDB on Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Penn & Teller
Penn & Teller's official website
Penn's "Hydro-therapeutic stimulator" (aka Jill-jet) patent
"Penn and Teller Explain Sleight of Hand". You Tube. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_qQX-jayixQ&NR=1. Retrieved 2007-12-29. One of many Penn & Teller videos accessible on the internet.
A man, a ball, a hoop, a bench (and an alleged thread)… TELLER!