For someone who “hates magic” as much as Penn Jillette, he’s certainly made a hell of a career out of it. March 5, 2018 marks the 63rd birthday of the Penn half of the world-famous magic duo Penn & Teller, and to celebrate his body of work and the awareness and popularity he’s brought to the art of deception, we’ve compiled ten of our favorite videos starring the foul-mouthed illusionist.
Penn’s usually a pretty amiable guy in his performances and in interviews, but Director’s Cut turns him into a real evil so-and-so. The film is a strange meta-narrative about a weirdo who abducts the cast of a B-grade crime procedural and proceeds to splice in his own recorded footage to create his “director’s cut”. It’s as wildly bizarre as that description, and the trailer above, makes it sound. It’s made the film festival circuit over the last couple years, but it should finally see wider theatrical release sometime in 2018.
Learn about how Penn got his start in magic, what inspires him, and more in this fantastic biography of the iconic duo.
Penn’s a smart cookie, and he used his brain to win $50,000 for charity a few years back on Celebrity Jeopardy. Watch him almost pass out with exhaustion when he nearly phrases one of his responses incorrectly.
When he scrutinized David Garrard’s performance on Fool Us, he wasn’t expecting his own daughter, Moxie, to leap out of the box on stage.
Penn Jillette has a, uh, let’s say twisted sense of humor, and you can see it in full effect in this performance from Late Night with David Letterman. The crew wheels out a “dummy” of Teller, and Penn proceeds to cut his tongue off, then saw him in half. It’s hilariously demented, but let’s also say that it’s not for the faint of heart.
Another macabre bit from the duo. This time, Penn finds a chosen playing card. Well, he doesn’t find it; the live rats stuffed into a cage covering Teller’s head does.
This special has it all: audience participation, bear traps, sensual fire eating, live bees, and much, much more.
In addition to performing magic and winning on Jeopardy, Penn also plays a mean upright bass. Penn noodles away to some cool jazz while Teller performs some incredible sleight of hand with a cigarette.
In an Comic-Con 2010 panel with Penn & Teller, Penn talks about the inspiration behind Desert Bus, one of the most notoriously tedious video games ever made. Penn describes how it was created in response to Clinton administration’s fear that video games were too violent, so they helped design a game where players would drive from Tucson, AZ to Las Vegas in eight real-time hours, with a single point as their only reward. Desert Bus’ infamy lives on, thanks to a yearly charity drive called Desert Bus for Hope and a free modern adaptation built around virtual reality.
In our last pick, watch as Penn takes a nail gun, loads it up with a randomly-generated sequence of nails, and proceed to alternate trigger pulls between his hand and a block of wood. I mean, you know he’s going to be fine, but you can’t help but wonder what would happen if he messed up somewhere.