Penn Jillette

Active - 1986 - 2021  |   Born - Mar 5, 1955 in Greenfield, Massachusetts, United States  |   Genres - Comedy, Drama, Science & Technology [nf]

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Biography by AllMovie

Best known as one-half of the magic act "Penn & Teller," Penn Jillette rose to fame in the mid-'80s opposite touring partner Teller (born Raymond Joseph Teller), and graduated in a very short time from performing tricks in small-time dives to co-emceeing one of the most popular nightclub acts in the United States. Time and again, the men's schtick emphasized the hilariously macabre: tricks that involved juggling knives, swallowing massive embroidery needles, eating fire, and all manner of other deadly mayhem. The tall and imposing Penn typically trademarked himself with a vociferous, aggressive, and outsized persona, while the diminutive Teller remained quiet and laconic during performances.

Fittingly, the men made many of their earliest on-camera appearances on Saturday Night Live between 1985 and 1986, but within a few years branched out into concert films and movie roles (My Chauffeur, Tough Guys Don't Dance), including their own eponymous vehicle, Penn & Teller Get Killed (1989), directed by Arthur Penn; the picture unequivocally bombed at the box office (and in fact barely got released) but did net a small and loyal cult following. The duo also headlined its own Showtime network series, Penn & Teller: Bullshit!, in which they attempted to debunk what they perceived as cultural myths, from evangelical creationism to UFOs and penis enlargement pills.

Jillette subsequently achieved fame in his own right (independently of his performing partner) by executive producing and directing photography for the standup comedy tribute film The Aristocrats (2005), a raunchy, all-star series of variations on a single monologue that featured such luminaries as Phyllis Diller and Bob Saget in its cast. He also participated in season six of the competitive reality series Dancing with the Stars (2008), opposite Kym Johnson. Over the coming years, Jillette would find ongoing success in the media, teaming up with Teller again for the 2011 series Penn & Teller: Fool Us and Penn & Teller: Tell Us a Lie, and acting as a contestant on the 2012 season of The Apprentice. Jillette would also find a large audience with his successful podcast hosted by Ace Broadcasting, Penn's Sunday School.

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  • Was a juggler on the New Jersey boardwalk before teaming with Teller in 1981. 
  • Is a former columnist for PC/Computing magazine.
  • Has served as the announcer for Comedy Central, host for the TV game show Identity and host of a national radio program. 
  • Plays the upright bass.
  • One of the fingernails on his left hand is always painted red.
  • Unlike other traditional magic acts, Penn explains how the tricks are done afterward, as he feels it's more honest.
  • His unconventional Las Vegas home is called "The Slammer."
  • Along with Teller, Penn is a visiting scholar at MIT and received the Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award in 2001.
  • Competed in Season 6 of ABC's Dancing With the Stars, with partner Kym Johnson.
  • In 2009, he did a spoken-word appearance on "Spookshow," a song by Pakistani rapper Adil Omar that condemned religious extremism.
  • His ice-cream creation, Vanilla and Chocolate Magic Swirtle, went on sale in 2013.