Penn Jillette: Wikis


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Penn Jillette

Penn Jillette - after the Penn & Teller show at the Rio in Las Vegas, Nevada, May 23, 2007.
Born Penn Fraser Jillette
March 5, 1955 (1955-03-05) (age 54)
Greenfield, Massachusetts
Residence Las Vegas, Nevada
Nationality American
Occupation Magician, Illusionist, Writer, Actor, Inventor
Height 6' 6" (198 cm)
Known for Half of the comedy magic duo known as Penn & Teller
Political party Libertarian Party
Religious beliefs Atheist
Penn and

Penn Fraser Jillette (born March 5, 1955) is an American magician, comedian, illusionist, juggler, musician and writer known for his work with fellow illusionist Teller in the team Penn & Teller, and advocacy of atheism, Objectivist philosophy, free-market economics, and scientific skepticism.


Early life

Jillette, the larger (6'6" [1.98 m] tall), talkative half of Penn & Teller, was born in Greenfield, Massachusetts. He became disenchanted with traditional illusionist acts that presented the craft as authentic magic, such as The Amazing Kreskin on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. At age eighteen, he saw a show by illusionist James Randi, and became enamored of his approach to magic that openly acknowledged deception as entertainment rather than a mysterious supernatural power. Jillette regularly acknowledges Randi as the one person on the planet he loves the most besides members of his family.

Jillette worked with high school classmate Michael Moschen in developing and performing a juggling act during the years immediately following their 1973 graduation. In 1974 Jillette graduated from Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Clown College.[1] That same year, he was introduced to Teller by Weir Chrisimer, a mutual friend.[2] The three then formed a three-person act called Asparagus Valley Cultural Society which played in Amherst, Massachusetts and San Francisco, California. In 1981, he and Teller teamed up as Penn & Teller, and went on to do a famous off-Broadway show.

Career and showtime

In 1994[3] Jillette purchased a home in Las Vegas and dubbed it "The Slammer". It has been featured in dozens of television shows and articles and was designed by his friend Colin Summers. He currently records music there, and previously conducted his radio show at the studio inside "The Slammer".[4][5]

Jillette was also a regular contributor to the now-defunct PC/Computing magazine in the early 1990s, having a regular back section column between 1990 and 1994. True to form, the columns were often as much about Uma Thurman as actual PC computing issues. Jillette and PC Computing parted ways over a dispute with a new editor. Jillette felt the new editor was trying to tell him how to write his column and what topics he should be covering. Jillette asserts that he is unsure if he was fired or if he actually quit.

Jillette was the primary voice announcer for the U.S. based cable network Comedy Central in the 1990s.[6][7]

Starting in 1996, he had a recurring role on Sabrina, the Teenage Witch (TV series) as Drell, the head of the witches council. He and Teller both appeared in the pilot with Debbie Harry (all were the witches council). The show was created by Jillette's friend Nell Scovell.

For a brief time in 1997, Jillette wrote bi-weekly dispatches for the search engine Each column ended with a pithy comment identifying which of the Penn & Teller duo he was. (For example: "Penn Jillette is the half of Penn & Teller that's detained at airports.") Jillette made a habit of linking many words in his online column to wacky sites that generally had nothing to do with the actual words. The columns are no longer available on the current site, but have been republished with permission at[8]

Starting in 2003, Jillette, along with his partner Teller, began producing and hosting the show, Penn & Teller: Bullshit!. In the show, the two analyze cultural phenomena, debunk myths, criticize people and aspects of society they deem "bullshit".

In 2005 with actor Paul Provenza, Jillette co-produced and co-directed the The Aristocrats (2005), a documentary film tracing the life of a dirty joke known as "The Aristocrats".

He occasionally notes with irony that he lives and works in Las Vegas, but he does not gamble (though he did lend his name to a book on how to cheat at poker).

He claims never to have used recreational drugs or alcohol. He is, however, an advocate of the legalization of all drugs and discontinuing the War on Drugs.

Jillette is an outspoken atheist, libertarian (he has stated that he may consider himself to be an Anarcho-capitalist),[9] and skeptic, as well as an adherent to Ayn Rand's Objectivist philosophy, as stated on his Penn Says podcast. Jillette is a Fellow at the libertarian think tank, the Cato Institute. In January 2007, Jillette took the "Blasphemy Challenge" offered by the Rational Response Squad and publicly denied the existence of a holy spirit.[10] His cars' license plates read "atheist", "nogod", and "godless".[11] "Strangely enough, they wouldn't give me 'Infidel,'" he says.[11]

In 2005 he wrote and read an essay for National Public Radio claiming that he was "beyond atheism. Atheism is not believing in God....I believe there is no God."[12] His atheism, he has explained, has informed every aspect of his life and thoughts, and as such is as crucial to him as theistic beliefs are to the devout. Jillette welcomes and even encourages open discussion, debate, and proselytizing on the issue of God's existence, believing that the issue is too important for opinions about it to remain private. Jillette does not, however, dismiss all who do believe in God: A 2008 edition of his Penn Says podcast expresses his appreciation for a fan who brought him the gift of a pocket Gideon Bible after a performance because he realized that this individual sincerely cared enough about him to try to help him.[13]

From January 3, 2006 to March 2, 2007, Jillette hosted, along with fellow atheist, skeptic, and juggler Michael Goudeau, a live, hour-long radio talk show broadcast on the radio station brand known as Free FM. The show, Penn Radio, broadcast from his Vintage Nudes Studio in Jillette's Las Vegas home. The most notable recurring segment of the show was "Monkey Tuesday" and later "The Pull of the Weasel". On March 2, 2007, Jillette, on Free FM, announced that he would no longer be doing his radio show. He stated that he is a "show biz wimp" and decided to stop doing the show so he could spend more time with his kids Zolten and Moxie. He made very clear that he was not fired.

During the 2006-07 television season, Jillette hosted the prime time game show "Identity" on NBC-TV. As of now, NBC states on its website that it plans for "Identity" to return to its prime time schedule soon, although a firm premiere date for the show's second season has not been announced.

Jillette was a contestant on the 2008 edition of Dancing with the Stars. He was the first male celebrity to be eliminated. A reference to his large feet as a sign of a large penis was bleeped in the West Coast airing.

Jillette believes that there is not enough information to make an informed decision on global warming, and that it is an emotion vs. logic issue.[14]

In 2009, Jillette did spoken word guest vocals on the song "Spookshow" by Pakistani rapper Adil Omar.


In July 1999, Jillette was granted U.S. Patent 5,920,923 for the "Jill-Jet", a hot-tub jet specially angled for a woman's pleasure. He has credited Debbie Harry of Blondie for suggesting the idea, as the two of them were once in a hot-tub and Harry made a remark about changing the jets for a woman's pleasure. Jillette liked the idea enough to pursue patent application at the USPTO under the patent title "Hydro-therapeutic stimulator".[15] The abstract of the patent explains that a "discharge nozzle is located within the tub and connected to the outlet, mounted to the seat so that the discharged water from the circulation pump automatically aligns with and is directed to stimulation points (e.g., the clitoris) of the female user when the female user sits in the seat." An article in the June 2006 issue of Playboy shed additional light on the invention. Originally, it was to be called the "ClitJet", however he stated that "Jill-Jet" was more suitable because it included his name in the title.

On the Penn Radio show, telling the listeners about the photo shoot for the Playboy article, Jillette mentioned that he has a Jill-Jet installed in a tub at "The Slammer", and that several of his female friends and friends' spouses enjoy it a lot, but he is not aware of any other installations of a water jet in such a configuration anywhere else.

Red fingernail

Speculation arises from Jillette's red fingernail on his left hand. From a FAQ from Penn & Teller's official website, there are three common answers:

  1. It means he once shot a man for asking personal questions.
  2. When Jillette first began performing, his mother told him to get a manicure because people would be looking at his hands. In response to this, he had all of his nails painted red as a joke. The one remaining red fingernail is in honor of his mother.
  3. It's just cool and can also sometimes provide excellent misdirection.[2]

On the episode of Penn Radio broadcast on November 29, 2006, Jillette related the real story behind his red fingernail. It began as a joke with his mother. When he was 18 years old, his mother advised him to keep his hands looking nice, since he was then working as a magician and his audience would be looking at his hands. Jillette colored the single nail red and showed it to his mother. He has continued to paint that single nail to the present. The color he uses is Jelly Apple Red (#054) by Essie.

He was once known to say that people pay so little attention to the important part of a trick that they "wouldn't even notice if you had painted your finger nail red", in reference to how people pay attention to the result of misdirection (as intended) instead of the cause.




  • Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman
    • "Illusions of Grandeur" (1 episode, 1994) ... Romick
  • Friends
    • "The One With the Cuffs" (1 episode, 1997) ... Encyclopedia Salesman
  • The Drew Carey Show
    • "See Drew Run" (1997) TV episode ... Archibald Fenn
    • "Drew Meets Lawyers" (1995) TV episode ... Archibald Fenn
  • Sabrina The Teenage Witch
    • "First Kiss" (1997) TV episode .... Drell
    • "Jenny's Non-Dream" (1997) TV episode ... Drell
    • "Terrible Things" (1996) TV episode ... Drell
    • "Pilot" (1996) TV episode ... Drell
  • Babylon 5
  • Penn & Teller's Sin City Spectacular 1998-99
  • Dharma & Greg 2001
  • Miami Vice
    • "Prodigal Son" (1985) TV episode ... Jimmy Borges
  • The West Wing
  • Penn & Teller: Bullshit! (2003 - current)
  • The Moxy Show (original voice of Flea; later replaced by an unidentified actor in some episodes)
  • Identity (premiered in December 2006); returned on March 16, 2008 on NBC and will air for seven weeks every Friday at 8 p.m. ET.[9]
  • Real Time with Bill Maher (2006) TV episode ... himself
  • Dancing with the Stars (2008) ... himself[16]
  • Numb3rs
    • "Magic Show" (2008) TV episode ... himself
  • "Glenn Beck" (Fox News)
  • Handy Manny
    • "Halloween/Squeeze's Magic Show" (2008) TV episode ... Magic Marty
  • Penn & Teller Go Public (1985) TV program produced by Community Television of Southern California and aired on Public Television stations.

Music videos

Dancing with the Stars performances

Week # Dance/song Judges' score Result
Carrie Ann Inaba Len Goodman Bruno Tonioli
1 Cha-cha-cha/ "A Fool in Love" 5 6 5 N/A
2 Quickstep/ "Man with the Hex" 6 6 5 Eliminated

Books by Jillette

  • Jillette, Penn (2004). Sock. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin. ISBN 0312328052.  
  • Jillette, Penn (2005). How to Cheat Your Friends at Poker: The Wisdom of Dickie Richard. New York: St. Martin’s Press. ISBN 0312360681.  
  • Jillette, Penn (1989). Cruel Tricks for Dear Friends. New York: Villard. ISBN 0394753518.  
  • Jillette, Penn and Teller (1992). Penn and Teller's How to Play with Your Food. New York: Villard. ISBN 0679743111.  
  • Jillette, Penn and Teller (1997). Penn and Teller's How to Play In Traffic. Berkley Trade. ISBN 1572972939.  


  1. ^ Curtis, Bryan (February 4, 2006). "Penn Jillette: The magician-comedian-writer's secrets revealed!". Slate. Retrieved 2007-06-29.  
  2. ^ a b Ferrel, Anne "Nita" (March 27, 2003). ""Frequently Asked Questions About the Bad Boys of Magic..."". Retrieved 2007-10-12.  
  3. ^ Tschorn, Adam (April 22, 2004). ["" "Welcome to the Slammer"]. Los Angeles Times. "". Retrieved 2009-06-29.  
  4. ^ ""The Slammer"". Outside The Lines Studio. Retrieved 2007-10-12.  
  5. ^ della Cava, Marco R. (October 29, 2004). "This is the manic magic house that Penn built". USA Today. Retrieved 2008-04-16.  
  6. ^ ""Identity: Penn Jillette"". NBC. Retrieved 2008-06-25.  
  7. ^ ""Penn Jillette: Full Biography"". Retrieved 2008-06-25.  
  8. ^ ""Penn's Columns" (index)". Retrieved 2007-10-12.  
  9. ^ a b Steigerwald, Bill (2003-05-24). "Dear graduates: Work for freedom". Pittsburgh Tribune Review. Retrieved 2007-03-27.  
  10. ^ "Penn's Blasphemy". Retrieved 2008-07-15.  
  11. ^ a b Wang, K.S. (2009-06-01). "Celebrity Drive: Penn Jillette, Magician, Comedian, Host, Author". Motor Trend. Retrieved 2009-07-01.  
  12. ^ This I Believe: There Is No God. November 21, 2005.
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ Jillette, Penn (July 13, 1999). ""Hydro-therapeutic stimulator" (U.S. Patent 5,920,923)". USPTO Patent Full Text and Image Database. United States Patent and Trademark Office. Retrieved 2007-10-12.  
  16. ^ Bruno, Mike (February 19, 2008). "'Dancing With the Stars' Announces Lineup". Entertainment Weekly.,,20178686,00.html. Retrieved 2008-02-19.  

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

I've always wanted to make the world a more rational place. I'm still working on it.

Penn Jillette (born 5 March 1955) is an American illusionist, juggler and comedian known for his work with fellow illusionist Teller in the team known as Penn & Teller, with whom he hosts the television show Penn & Teller: Bullshit! airing on the Showtime network. He also hosted Penn Radio with juggler Michael Goudeau.



Two thousand years ago, I could tell you a story, and at any point during the story I could stop, and ask, Now do you want the hero to be kidnapped, or not? But that would, of course, have ruined the story. Part of the experience of being entertained is sitting back and plugging into someone else's vision.
God works in mysterious, inefficient, and breathtakingly cruel ways.
  • Technology adds nothing to art. Two thousand years ago, I could tell you a story, and at any point during the story I could stop, and ask, Now do you want the hero to be kidnapped, or not? But that would, of course, have ruined the story. Part of the experience of being entertained is sitting back and plugging into someone else's vision.
  • It's fair to say that the Bible contains equal amounts of fact, history, and pizza.
    • "The Bible: Fact or Fiction?" on Bullshit Season 2, episode 6 (6 May 2004)
  • God works in mysterious, inefficient, and breathtakingly cruel ways.
    • "The Bible: Fact or Fiction?" on Bullshit Season 2, episode 6 (6 May 2004); this statement is a rebuke to the famous assertion by William Cowper: "God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform He plants his footsteps in the sea, And rides upon the storm."
  • Freedom means the right to be stupid.
    • Free FM Radio Show (15 September 2006)
  • Every nut who kills people has a Bible lying around. If you're looking for violent rape imagery, the Bible's right there in your hotel room. If you just want to look up ways to screw people up, there it is, and you're justified because God told you to.

There Is No God (2005)

"There Is No God" (text and audio) on This I Believe NPR (21 November 2005)
  • I believe that there is no God. I'm beyond atheism. Atheism is not believing in God. Not believing in God is easy — you can't prove a negative, so there's no work to do.
  • I'm saying, "This I believe: I believe there is no God."
    Having taken that step, it informs every moment of my life. I'm not greedy. I have love, blue skies, rainbows and Hallmark cards, and that has to be enough. It has to be enough, but it's everything in the world and everything in the world is plenty for me. It seems just rude to beg the invisible for more. Just the love of my family that raised me and the family I'm raising now is enough that I don't need heaven. I won the huge genetic lottery and I get joy every day.
  • Believing there's no God means I can't really be forgiven except by kindness and faulty memories. That's good; it makes me want to be more thoughtful. I have to try to treat people right the first time around.
  • I can read ideas from all different people from all different cultures. Without God, we can agree on reality, and I can keep learning where I'm wrong. We can all keep adjusting, so we can really communicate. I don't travel in circles where people say, "I have faith, I believe this in my heart and nothing you can say or do can shake my faith." That's just a long-winded religious way to say, "shut up," or another two words that the FCC likes less.


  • Channeling is just bad ventriloquism. You use another voice, but people can see your lips moving.

External links

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