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Penn Jillette

Penn JilletteAKA Penn Fraser Jillette

Born: 5-Mar-1955
Birthplace: Greenfield, MA

Gender: Male
Religion: Atheist
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Magician

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Talking half of the Penn and Teller duo

Penn Jillette is the large, ponytailed spokesman for the comedy/illusionist act Penn & Teller. His parents were both Canadians, and his father, Sam Jillette, was a coin dealer whose business card read, "Why don't Jillette me sell you some coins?" His only sibling is a sister old enough to be his mother. As a teen, he worked at a local movie theater, and he performed illusions and juggled with young Michael Moschen, who went on to become a world-renowned juggler.

Inspired by no-bull magician James Randi, Jillette was already an accomplished illusionist and juggler when he met Teller in the mid-1970s. Teller and his friend Wier Chrisemer were performing a musical magic show, and when Jillette joined the group it was called the Asparagus Valley Cultural Society. Chrisemer, though, was a sincere Christian, and left the group as he grew uncomfortable with Jillette and Teller's ideas for more outrageous antics.

Penn & Teller first came to low-level national fame when their off-Broadway show Penn and Teller Go Public was broadcast on PBS in 1985. After several TV specials and appearances on late night talk shows, they starred in the feature film Penn and Teller Get Killed, which was barely released to theaters but remains very worth viewing on video. They played sleazy lawyers on The Drew Carey Show, narrated The Rocky Horror Show on Broadway, and have written three books together, Cruel Tricks for Dear Friends, How to Play with Your Food, and How to Play in Traffic. On Showtime's Bullshit, Penn & Teller provide blunt debunking information on taboo topics and controversial questions -- psychics, intelligent design, ouija boards, the animal rights movement, Alcoholics Anonymous, the war on drugs, abstinence-only sex education, gun control, ghost hunters, Mother Teresa, etc.

Jillette made his film debut when he was still an unknown sidewalk circus performer, throwing a knife for the opening credits of Walter Hill's 1979 gang drama The Warriors (but instead of showing Jillette, the camera pulled back to show a much more handsome actor, as if he had thrown the knife). He was an announcer at Comedy Central in the 1990s, played an encyclopedia salesman on Friends, and he was shot in the head by Linda Blair in the almost unwatchably awful Savage Island. He had a recurring role as Drell, the head of the witches’ council, on TV's Sabrina, the Teenaged Witch, and voiced Pluto Devil for Disney's Mickey Mouse Works and House of Mouse. He holds a 1999 patent for his invention of a spa seat with a nozzle designed to sexually stimulate women's genitals. He produced the delightfully vulgar documentary The Aristocrats, plays upright bass, and hosts the prime time TV game show Identity.

His first novel, Sock, is disguised as an ordinary murder mystery, but it is narrated by a sock puppet and has an author's message under the enjoyable serial killings. He has suggested, perhaps seriously, that if he was not a successful performer he would probably be in prison. He says he finished high school on a plea bargain, and describes 9/11 as a faith-based initiative. Artistically and politically he likes freedom, so Jillette is a Libertarian, and a big believer in the Bill of Rights. He has spoken loudly against censorship from Janet Reno's calls for less violence on television to the FCC's fines for profanity. He has never had a drink of alcohol or used illegal drugs, but of course he supports ending the legal prohibition of marijuana, heroin, and cocaine. His vanity plates read ATHEIST.

After 9/11, the extended security hassles at airports made touring more difficult and less enjoyable, so Penn & Teller stopped taking their show on the road. They have settled into a lucrative, long-term engagement in Las Vegas, where they perform six nights weekly.

Father: Sam Jillette (antique coin dealer, d. 1999)
Mother: Valda Jillette (b. circa 1909, d. 2000)
Sister: Valda Jillette Stowe (b. circa 1932)
Girlfriend: Julie Brown (comedian/actress, b. 1954, dated late 1980s)
Girlfriend: Carol Perkins (former model, dated and cohabited early 1990s)
Girlfriend: Debbie Harry (rock'n'roller, Blondie, dated 1995-96)
Wife: Emily Zolten (TV Producer, b. 28-Feb-1966, m. 23-Nov-2004, one son, one daughter)
Daughter: Moxie CrimeFighter Jillette (b. 3-Jun-2005)
Son: Zolten Penn Jillette (b. 22-May-2006)

    High School: Greenfield High School, Greenfield, MA (1973)
    Conservatory: Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Clown College (1974)

    Boy Scouts of America (expelled)
    Church of the SubGenius
    Canadian Ancestry
    French Ancestry

    Dancing with the Stars Contestant (2008)
    Penn & Teller: Bullshit! Host (2003-)
    Sabrina, the Teenage Witch
    Celebrity Poker Showdown Contestant

    Sandy Wexler (14-Apr-2017)
    Sharknado 3: Oh Hell No! (22-Jul-2015)
    Tim's Vermeer (5-Sep-2013) · Himself
    The Unbelievers (29-Apr-2013) · Himself
    Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder (23-Feb-2009) · Himself [VOICE]
    Flow: For Love of Water (20-Jan-2008) · Himself
    Mr. Warmth: The Don Rickles Project (13-Oct-2007) · Himself
    The Aristocrats (Jan-2005) · Himself
    Michael Moore Hates America (12-Sep-2004) · Himself
    Fantasia 2000 (17-Dec-1999) · Himself
    Hayley Wagner, Star (1999)
    Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (22-May-1998) · Carnie Talker
    Toy Story (22-Nov-1995) [VOICE]
    Hackers (15-Sep-1995) · Hal
    Car 54, Where Are You? (28-Jan-1994)
    Penn & Teller Get Killed (14-Sep-1989)
    Tough Guys Don't Dance (12-Sep-1987)
    Off Beat (7-Apr-1986)
    My Chauffeur (24-Jan-1986) · Bone

Official Website:

Author of books:
Penn & Teller's Cruel Tricks for Dear Friends (1989, magic, with Teller)
Penn & Teller's How to Play with Your Food (1992, magic, with Teller)
Penn & Teller's How to Play in Traffic (1997, magic, with Teller)
Sock (2004, novel)
How to Cheat Your Friends at Poker: The Wisdom of Dickie Richard (2005, magic, with Mickey D. Lynn)
God, No!: Signs You May Already Be an Atheist and other Magical Tales (2011, non-fiction)

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