Penn & Teller
|Penn & Teller
Penn & 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 quacks and frauds, performing clever pranks, and have become associated with Las Vegas, atheism, scientific skepticism, and libertarianism.
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 "Shadow-Flower" trick.
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, Hollywood Squares, Muppets Tonight, The Bernie Mac Show, Fear Factor, The West Wing, Home Improvement, Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, and The Simpsons. They also appeared as Three-card Monte scam artists in the music video for "It's Tricky" by Run-DMC in 1987.
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.
While their social and political views are libertarian, the pair also describe themselves as teetotalers. Their book, Penn & Teller's How to Play in Traffic, explains that they eschew 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 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 Penn & Teller: 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 hosts 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.
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