Penn and Teller are getting old, quite the accomplishment given their hectic schedule. But at 63 and 70, respectively, the two respected magicians are starting to feel the effects of a lifetime of straight-jackets, trap doors, and dodgy tour bus seats. Wisely, the pair have chosen to take five weeks off for a quick health tune up. They’ll be “going dark,” from July 10th through to August 18th.
Yes, we will NOT being doing our show from July 10 – August 18th. Teller needs back surgery and I'll be doing a medically supervised water-only fast. We'll be back super-healthy! Sorry for changing anyone's plans.
— Penn Jillette (@pennjillette) June 21, 2018
During that time, Teller will be undergoing spinal fusion surgery to address chronic pain, while Penn will be committing to a medically supervised, water-only fast for the whole five weeks.
Oh, the time is for Teller to heal completely, I won't be on a water-only fast for the full 5 weeks, of course. Medically supervised and just long enough to give some help to my blood pressure. Not for weight.
— Penn Jillette (@pennjillette) June 21, 2018
Penn explained on Twitter that the fast is meant to help his presumably high blood pressure, and isn’t a weight loss program. Penn has seemingly developed somewhat of a taste for extreme diets. He famously lost over 100 lbs through a strict, vegetable-based diet that began with nothing but potatoes. While extreme diets that cause fast weight loss have a reputation for being unsuccessful in the long term, Penn has managed to beat the odds and maintain a healthy weight of 220 lbs for nearly three years now. He wrote about the experience in his book Presto!
Everyone here at GeniiOnline wishes the duo a fast recovery, and suggest other magicians follow their example. Self-care is an important factor in becoming an old magician rather than a retired magician. Or a dead magician. Take a holiday.
So the video above likely requires some explanation for those of you whose nerdery is limited solely to the magical arts. E3, or the Electronic Entertainment Expo, is a yearly videogame conference. The main attraction is essentially a series of giant stage presentations in which overworked game creators display legitimate marvels of technology that took hundreds of thousands of collective hours of painstaking work to make, in a foolhardy bid to please a swarm of miserable gremlins on Twitter who will pounce upon any perceived flaw in the presentation as evidence that the product is irredeemable trash garbage that must be hurled into the ocean. As both a Twitter and pedantry enthusiast, it’s my favorite event of the year. Naturally, I think all of this year’s games look terrible.
But there was an interesting presentation in which Penn Jillette joined Gearbox CEO, Randy Pitchford, (who for disclosure purposes I should mention is the owner of GeniiOnline) to perform a trick or two and talk about their upcoming collaborative project, Penn & Teller VR. While other developers might be trying to push the virtual reality medium forwards with immersive, narrative-driven experiences that speak to the audience on a personal level, Pitchford and Jillette are engaged in a far more noble pursuit: using the technology to scare the crap out of people. Indeed, it seems like Penn & Teller VR: Frankly Unfair, Unkind, Unnecessary & Underhanded, to use its full title, is basically a collection of mini-games designed to lull your victim into a false sense of security before you dump spiders on them or drop them off a (virtual) building.
This isn’t the first time Gearbox has collaborated with Penn & Teller on a VR project. Back in 2017, they released a virtual reality remake of Jillette’s magnum opus, Desert Bus.
Even if videogames aren’t your thing, the pair still have time to pontificate on the nature of magic and how to translate that into interactive entertainment, which is a genuinely interesting topic. Plus, watching Pitchford and Jillette bounce off each other is always fun.
— SiriusXM (@SIRIUSXM) May 6, 2018
This short clip from an interview with Penn Jillette is absolutely fascinating. It’s easy to feel alienated by the culture surrounding magic. It’s not that the magic community is unwelcoming, more that it’s insular by nature, and absolutely filled to the brim with people who were reading The Royal Road to Card Magic in the womb and have lived and breathed the art since their early childhood. It’s intimidating. So it’s kind of a relief to learn that Penn Jillette, one of the most respected men in the industry, also feels like somewhat of an outsider.
Talking on SiriusXM, Penn explained that he not only didn’t care for, but actually actively disliked, magic until he met Teller in the mid 70’s. Coming into magic in his early 20s, Penn doesn’t feel the same connection to the magic community that many of his peers do.
So you get into that, and many people fall in love with the culture of magic. I didn’t.
Instead, Penn sees magic as a way of questioning society’s grasp of reality. Though perhaps that’s why he’s so successful. In an email to his “bastard son” (it’s a long story), Teller once suggested that the reason he was so good at magic was because he was meant for something else:
I should be a film editor. I’m a magician. And if I’m good, it’s because I should be a film editor.
Regardless of what Penn and Teller were destined to do (and I’m aware they’d likely hate the use of that word), we can only be glad they somehow made their way into magic.
We talk to @pennjillette about being tall as shit, being handpicked by Trump for Celebrity Apprentice, what Trump is really like, crowdfunding his new movie "Director's Cut," and the secret life lesson in magic. pic.twitter.com/oBhCxEtowC
— DESUS & MERO (@desusandmero) April 27, 2018
Not one to mince words, Penn Jillette had a simple answer when asked for his opinion on Donald Trump in an interview with Vice’s Desus & Mero.
Penn met the gameshow-host-turned-leader-of-the-free-world during his time on The Celebrity Apprentice.
I was told… I guess there’s shame in this now, but I was told Donald Trump himself wanted me on. As the season went on, Donald Trump liked me less. I was asked if I would support him for president, and after I calmed down from laughing, I said, “absolutely not.”
When asked what the current President of the United States is like in person, Penn’s answer was characteristically blunt:
He’s an asshole. You have to remember if he weren’t president we’d be talking about how great he is. Because one thing, to be on television, especially on a reality show, you want to have almost no filter, you want to be capricious, you want to be unpredictable. Those are really good things, that’s what you want.
But those aren’t the qualities Penn wants in a leader.
The idea to have those same qualities going to a president is insane. You want someone who’s measured.
The short interview also covers Penn’s experience crowdfunding his new movie, Director’s Cut, and what it’s like being really tall. Spoiler: It’s great.
Penn Jillette recently confirmed via Twitter that Director’s Cut will be getting a physical Blu-Ray/DVD combo release in stores on May 29, the same day it’ll be hitting video-on-demand services.
— Penn Jillette (@pennjillette) April 17, 2018
We’ve covered Director’s Cut, the wild, fourth-wall-breaking meta-thriller written by and starring Penn Jillette before here at GeniiOnline, and ever since we found out about it we’ve been dying to know how it turned out. Looks like we won’t have to wait long, as Penn has announced via Twitter that the film will finally be released in theaters and video-on-demand services in May.
"This is it! Check out the new poster for my movie with @AdamRifkin DIRECTOR'S CUT! (Designed by @johnnyoliver81!) Coming to select theaters 5/10-5/11 and VOD on 5/29 from @DreadPresents!" pic.twitter.com/Q2NIhz2U2N
— Penn Jillette (@pennjillette) April 5, 2018
If this is your first time hearing about the film (or you’re need another explanation to try to wrap your head around it), Director’s Cut is a movie-in-a-movie, where amateur film maker (and 100% creep) Herbert Blount wants to make the definitive version of one of his favorite crime dramas. To do this, he kidnaps the lead actress and films all new scenes, which he then splices into the film. The film itself is the result of this bizarre collision of fiction and “reality”. If all this sounds too weird to believe, see it for yourself in the trailer below.
Director’s Cut was originally conceived by Penn as a challenge to himself, according to Entertainment Weekly, “to see if I could justify two plotlines, running simultaneously, and have it be believable.” After pitching the film unsuccessfully to Hollywood, he finally found director Adam Rifkin (Look), and the two successfully Kickstarted the film back in 2014. It appeared at film festivals like Slamdance back in 2016, but a wider release was uncertain until Epic Pictures’ horror label Dread Central picked it up back in 2017.
Now, the film will open in select theaters on May 10 and 11, and will also hit currently undisclosed VOD services on May 29. I for one can’t wait for Penn to find another way to turn my brain into liquid.
Johnny Thompson really does put the “great” in The Great Tomsoni. He’s performed under that moniker for many years, in addition to creating beloved magic tricks and acts, teaching magic, and mentoring some of the best in the business. Thompson took some time out of his current work, which includes producing Penn & Teller: Fool Us, to be the subject of a documentary called Gambler’s Ballad: The Legend of Johnny Thompson.
I made a movie about Johnny Thompson with @pennjillette.
Tuesday April 3 at 9:30AM, you can watch#GamblersBallad: The Legend of Johnny Thompson
on @showtime's #ShowtimeExtreme.
Tune in or set your DVR! pic.twitter.com/vrDe8Dt1Qm
— Emery Rinse Repeat (@emeryemeryii) April 2, 2018
The short documentary is airing this week on the Sho Extreme channel from Showtime. You might have caught it if you were up early on April 3, but there are additional dates for you to have a watch party:
April 4 at 6:30 am Eastern/Pacific
April 5 at 6:30 am Eastern/Pacific
April 10 at 10:30 am Eastern/Pacific
The film gets its title from one of Thompson’s signature pieces, and in the movie, he teaches Gambler’s Ballad to none other than Penn Jillette. Watch closely and you might learn more than just what makes The Great Tomsoni tick. Several other magicians, including James Randi and The Amazing Johnathan, also make guest appearances.
If this movie has got you amped to go even deeper into The Great Tomsoni’s repertoire, or if you just have good taste in magic, then check out this very special two-volume set called The Magic of Johnny Thompson that he co-wrote with Jamy Ian Swiss.
Disclaimer: One of the magicians appearing in Gambler’s Ballad is Randy Pitchford, owner of Pitchford Entertainment and GeniiOnline.
Penn & Teller: Fool Us has been a smash success for plenty reasons – unique angle, brilliant magicians, Alyson Hannigan’s charm. Another one of them is how clean the acts are. There are no camera tricks, no trap doors in the stage, nothing gimmicked in how the producers show magic to the audience in the theater or at home.
That all changes for one special night where everyone is a fool. Penn & Teller: April Fool Us Day will highlight some of the top performances from the first several seasons of the CW show. There will also be never-before seen tricks, behind-the-scenes footage, and special guests. Although it’s themed for the holiday on the first of the month, the current air date is April 2.
It’ll be nice to have a little Fool Us treat to tide fans over before the fifth season premieres. Penn Jillette has tweeted a few hints of what’s to come, including getting a cast of his head made and a surprise appearance from Marie Osmond. But the best endorsement of what’s ahead for the show is when he says: “Man, there are some good goddamn magicians in the world.” Is it summer yet?
We are recording "Penn & Teller: Fool Us" 2018 for this summer. I really like this show. So much pressure and panic and then joy either way. Man, there are some good goddamn magicians in the world.
— Penn Jillette (@pennjillette) March 8, 2018
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.
Penn Jillette is an opinionated fellow. He’s taken many strong stances on magic, from how performers present their work to how secretive the field can be. The Washington Post reached out to the legend to ask his opinion about Hollywood’s best portrayal of a magician. Given his distaste for those who tinker with claims of supernatural powers, it shouldn’t be a surprise that his choice isn’t Harry Potter or The Illusionist. But his pick does seem a little unconventional: The Dark Knight.
“The ultimate American magician is Batman,” Jillette told the Post, explaining his pick of Christopher Nolan’s 2008 take on the iconic comic book character. “When you talk about modern American magic, it’s not supernatural, it’s the playful study of epistemology. It’s how we attain information, and how we attain what is true.”
Sure, at first glance, that seems like a strange answer given that Batman has no superpower (other than vast amounts of money). But maybe that makes it all the more impressive when he, like a magician, is able to pull off a feat that seems like it should be impossible. He’s saving lives and stopping villains rather than picking cards, but the principles behind both acts are in fact pretty well aligned. Besides, even though Batman’s not making rabbits appear, magic and comic books do in fact have a long shared history. Bruce Wayne’s childhood friend Zatanna actually grows up to be both a stage magician and a Justice League member.
The newspaper actually conducted a series of bite-sized interviews with experts about what they consider the best depictions of their field. The whole list is a fun read with plenty of good fodder for your Netflix queue.
In what is either the worst decision ever – or the best – but Epic Pictures will be releasing Penn Jillette’s “Director’s Cut,” the movie about a crazed superfan who goes to extreme lengths to make his own movie, perhaps as early as spring 2018. If you’re not familiar with the film, here’s the extremely not safe for work trailer:
If you didn’t follow all that (and totally fair if you didn’t), here’s how director Adam Rifkin tried to sum up the film when he spoke with Entertainment Weekly:
Director’s Cut is a movie about a film-obsessed stalker, who is played by Penn Jillette and is fixated on his favorite actress, Missi Pyle. He gains access to the set of her current film by contributing to that movie’s crowdfunding campaign. Once on-set, he kidnaps her, steals all of the footage from the film, and, in his dungeon-movie studio, he films additional scenes of the movie, casting himself opposite his captive leading lady as the romantic hero. He takes footage from the real film, and footage from his amateur production, and cuts them all together into his version of a director’s cut.”
Penn says he wrote the movie as “an intellectual challenge, to see if I could justify two plotlines, running simultaneously, and have it be believable.” He pitched it to various studios, all of which turned him down. After connecting with Rifkin, Jillette turned to crowdfunding to finance the movie, and the campaign’s backers are the only audience he’s really concerned with. “If we can get money from 5,000 people, and please 5,000 people, we’ve done it perfectly,” he said.
Intellectual exercise or hot mess (or both), whatever – we’re 100% on board. It seems a virtual certainty that Director’s Cut is headed for the same kind of cult status as Tommy Wiseau’s The Room. Oh, hi, Mark.