Penn & Teller at Comic Con

Penn and Teller are magicians…excuse me, illusionists whose comedic act has entertained joyful audiences for over 35 years. Penn Gillette and Teller met when Penn was in high school and Teller was a teacher at a different school. A few years later they met again in New York City and started meeting routinely for dinner. This worked perfect for the starving juggler Penn.

We did get to hear Teller talk. Though soft spoken when compared to Penn’s rants, Teller can be quite chatty. When asked what led to Teller not talking during their shows, Teller told a story about performing at frat parties in College. He said he couldn’t yell over the crowd or make them quiet down. So he just shut up, put the lights on himself and started performing the magic tricks. Soon the crowd would quiet down and watch the show. So several years later when he and Penn were doing a trick with a water tank and one talked and one didn’t, the choice was obvious.

They discussed how they choose subject matter for their hit Showtime show, “Bullshit.” In most cases they don’t say whether a subject matter is right or wrong. They attack the legality of the subject. Teller added, “When in doubt, we come down on the side of liberty. It’s a position that is unsalable.” When asked if there is a ‘Great White Whale,’ a subject they want to do, but haven’t been able to, Penn mentioned Group Pride and TSA. They feel if you choose to belong to a group, that’s fine. They have a problem when people are born into a group (i.e. tribalism, any hyphenated American). That is anti-American in their view, but that is a very sensitive subject for most people.

TSA, of course, has legal implications because they can’t shoot video behind the scenes. They don’t even want to touch whether it works or not. The show would be that it is morally wrong. Again, another example of how Penn and Teller try to stay with a subject matter’s legal issues. “We chose liberty over safety. That is the idea of this country,” stated Penn. Some may feel that their views are way to the left, but by focusing on the moral, legal issues is why Bullshit works. By the way, it is the longest running Showtime series.

They told many other anecdotal stories during the hour plus panel. (My video is not great, so I will try to fix it and post if able.) My favorite stories were Desert Bus, and when Lou Reed was in their audience, unannounced to them. Penn shared that when they walked out on stage Teller saw Lou Reed in the audience and said “Oh Jesus Christ.” That was the opening of that show.

Desert Bus is a reality video a friend of theirs made up after Janet Reno said we needed less violence and more reality in TV and games. The object is driving a bus at 50 mph from Phoenix to Las Vegas. After each 8hr shift you get one point. You also can't get off the bus (someone please make an android app for Desert Bus). Then they proceeded to sing the ‘Asparagus song’ and tell the ‘Bee story.’ There was only one magic trick they performed, but I loved that it was more talk.

Penn and Teller are so passionate about what they do and share with audiences. It’s easy to see why they have many loyal fans, a hit Showtime series, and a long running Las Vegas show where they are fortunate to have the artistic freedom to do anything they want (in their show). That type of freedom is what America was built on. And that’s no Bullshit!


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