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.
Penn & Teller are continuing their quest for complete magical dominance on television with an appearance tonight on the recently relaunched Showtime at the Apollo.
— Showtime at the Apollo FOX (@ShowtimeApollo) May 10, 2018
No telling quite what they have up their sleeves for this evening’s performance, but knowing their reputation, it’ll be something that’ll confound even the most skeptical member of the notoriously fickle audience.
Showtime at the Apollo has already seen its fair share of magicians, including appearances by Jay Mattioli and Spidey. The show airs Thursdays at 9pm/8pm Central on Fox in the United States. As soon as a video of the performance is available online, we’ll be sure to share it with you all.
— 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.
The holiday stars have aligned and today is both Easter Sunday and April Fool’s Day. So it seems all too fitting that we enjoy being fooled (or at least charmed) by three Easter-ish acts.
First off, check out Penn and Teller visiting The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon back in 2015 dusting off that old chestnut: pulling a rabbit out of a hat.
Next, João Miranda offers a fun meta performance of the silk to egg routine.
And finally, it’s not Easter without Peeps.
Back in the primordial era of the mid 90’s, a young, creatively frustrated Brian Brushwood sent an email to one of his childhood heroes, Raymond Joseph Teller, asking the usual questions that young, creatively frustrated people ask: Where do you get your ideas? How did you find your style? How can I find mine?
Teller responded with a lengthy, passionate email addressed to his “bastard son” (I don’t want to give that in-joke away, read the article). Brushwood credits the email with changing the course of his life. Using its advice, he worked his way up from a struggling young performer to an award-winning stage magician, TV host, a successful comedian and a YouTube creator with nearly two million subscribers.
The email is brutal, raw and excruciatingly honest. You should definitely give it a read, especially given that Teller’s sage advise goes for any creative medium, not just magic. Here’s one excerpt that rings particularly true:
Love something besides magic, in the arts. Get inspired by a particular poet, film-maker, sculptor, composer. You will never be the first Brian Allen Brushwood of magic if you want to be Penn & Teller. But if you want to be, say, the Salvador Dali of magic, we’ll THERE’S an opening.I should be a film editor. I’m a magician. And if I’m good, it’s because I should be a film editor. Bach should have written opera or plays. But instead, he worked in eighteenth-century counterpoint. That’s why his counterpoints have so much more point than other contrapuntalists. They have passion and plot. Shakespeare, on the other hand, should have been a musician, writing counterpoint. That’s why his plays stand out from the others through their plot and music.
You can read the rest of Teller’s email, Brushwood’s original email that prompted it, and learn the secret behind their hush-hush father son relationship here.
For 16 years, lucky people who arrive early for Penn & Teller’s Las Vegas show have been treated to The Show Before the Show: a jazz performance with Penn Jillette on upright bass and Mike Jones on piano. Now, you can experience that show in the comfort of your own home on March 16, as the Mike Jones Duo releases an album named after their nightly performance.
My new cd with @pennjillette on bass and liner notes by @MrTeller is now a very limited edition, numbered, red vinyl Lp! There are only 200! Available exclusively at the Penn&Teller theater, signed by me, @pennjillette and @MrTeller! pic.twitter.com/59uca1PnVK
— Mike Jones (@Jonesjazz) March 4, 2018
The album will be available on CD, as well as digitally through iTunes and Amazon, but there will also be a limited pressing of 200 red vinyl LPs, each one individually signed by Penn, Teller, and Mike Jones and numbered for authenticity. Due to their extremely limited quantities, these special LPs will only be available for purchase at Penn & Teller’s live show in Vegas. Whichever version end up with, each album will also include liner notes written by Teller.
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.
Every magician worth their loaded dice knows how important it is to set the scene for your act. Some performers do it with their wardrobe or with elaborately painted sets. Some do it with music. In the case of the renowned Penn and Teller, that music is all the work of Mike Jones. He first teamed up with the magic world’s top duo act when Penn Jillette was struck by Jones’ piano playing in a bar. He’s been with them for about 16 years.
Jones joined the Rick Keene Music Scene podcast for a lengthy conversation about his music and magic. The second of the three-part chat was recently published, and he’s got lots to say about the state of the music industry in particular. Jones shares his insights about the uphill battle to continue landing gigs, stability, and the future of jazz. It’s not easy to make it in any performance field, whether your passion is jazz piano or card magic. This interview is a reminder of both the challenges any full-time performer faces and the tenacity it takes to make it.
Listen to both posted parts here.
By 1990, Penn & Teller had already cemented their status as the “Bad Boys of Magic” as they deconstructed tricks and performed with a darkly comic twist. Their special Don’t Try This At Home was featured on public access TV channels across the country, and compiled quite a few of their routines, along with a few new ones (like the video debut of their Invisible Box Trick). Spend your Lazy Sunday watching Penn & Teller, eat fire, teach a room full of people how to make a hankie disappear, watch the world’s most violent marshmallow act, and more.