Penn and Teller

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Penn (left) & Teller

Penn and Teller are a two-man magic and comedy team, specializing in gory tricks (in which the mechanisms of the illusions are fully revealed) and clever pranks, who have become associated with Las Vegas and skepticism. They call themselves “a couple of eccentric guys who have learned how to do a few cool things.” [1] (



Penn Fraser Jillette, the talking magician, is the larger of the two (6'6"/1.98 m to Teller's 5'9"/1.75 m), and was born March 5, 1955 in Greenfield, Massachusetts. He attended Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Greatest Show on Earth Clown College - but he's apologized for this. He became disillusioned with the type of magic acts that present magic as "real" by watching The Amazing Kreskin on the Johnny Carson show. He attended a performance by The Amazing Randi with Teller at the age of eighteen which suggested the idea of presenting magic as an openly acknowledged trick rather than as a mysterious power.

Penn appeared as "Drell" on the TV series Sabrina the Teenage Witch and was a voice announcer for the U.S. based cable network Comedy Central in the early 1990s. One of his earliest guest roles was on Miami Vice.

Penn has collaborated with avant-garde musicians, The Residents. Penn's own band is called The Captain Howdy.

Penn married television producer Emily Zolten during an impromptu ceremony at a Las Vegas wedding chapel on November 23, 2004. Their first child, Moxie CrimeFighter Jillette, was born on June 3, 2005.


Teller was born Raymond Joseph Teller on February 14, 1948 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, but has since had his name legally changed to Teller. He attended Amherst College and taught Latin at Lawrence High School in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. Teller does not speak while performing although there are occasional exceptions, mostly when the audience is not aware that his voice is being heard. His trademark of not speaking began as a way of dealing with audience hecklers.

Teller began performing with a friend, Weir Chirsamer, as the Ottmar Scheckt Society for the Preservation of Weird and Disgusting Music: they joined up with Penn Jillette and renamed themselves the Asparagus Valley Cultural Society.

Teller is an accomplished sleight of hand artist and is considered an expert on the history of magic. He is also a talented painter.

Despite his trademark of never speaking, Teller has spoken in a number of films and television shows. Teller played an anthropomorphic cat, Mr. Boots, on an episode of Dharma & Greg. [2] ( He also played the character of Mortimer in the 2000 film adaptation of the musical The Fantasticks.

The duo

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 pair 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 and Teller had national tours throughout the 1990s, gaining critical praise.

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. Often, the pair will reveal a secret of how a magic trick is done and then use that very effect to fool the audience. Penn and Teller perform their own adaptation of the famous bullet catch illusion. Both simultaneously fire a gun at the other and then catch the respective bullets in their mouths.

In one of their more thoughtful and 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." 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 dramatic reasons.

They have also made television guest appearances as a comedy team on Babylon 5 [3] (, The Drew Carey Show, Hollywood Squares, and The Simpsons. They also appeared as scam artists in the music video for "It's Tricky" by Run-DMC in 1987.

Their cable television show Bullshit! takes a skeptical look at psychics, religion, and pseudoscientific and paranormal frauds, and has featured segments on astrology, Feng Shui, environmental issues, weight loss and the war on drugs. Some have praised the show for being from a libertarian atheist perspective. Others have criticized it for the same reason, and for sometimes employing the same brand of fallacious reasoning which the show ostensibly opposes.

Penn & Teller are now appearing nightly in Las Vegas at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino.


  • "Is this your card?"
  • "Doing stuff like Van Praagh and Kreskin is like taking a shotgun and going into a mall, and discharging it in people's faces and stealing twenty bucks from each one of them." - Penn
  • "When (Norman Borlaug) won the Nobel Prize in 1970, they said he had saved a billion people. That's BILLION. 'BUH!' That's Carl Sagan's billion with a 'B'. And most of them were of different race from him. Norman is the greatest human being. And you've probably never heard of him." --from Bullshit! #1-11 "Eat This!"
  • "Naked people are their own reward." --from Bullshit! #1-6 "Sex, Sex, Sex"
  • "It's fair to say that the Bible contains equal parts of fact, history, and pizza." --from Bullshit! #2-6 "The Bible: Fact or Fiction?"
  • "This is drugs....and these are your civil liberties--AND THIS IS THE GOVERNMENT." (Penn in a steam roller crushes the pan representing drugs and all the eggs with civil liberties written on them) Penn: "Any questions?" --from Bullshit! #2-4 "War on Drugs"
  • "You don't heal a broken heart by pretending it's not broken." --from Bullshit! #1-1 "Talking to the Dead"

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