Penn Fraser Jillette (born March 5, 1955 in Greenfield, Massachusetts) is an American illusionist, juggler and comedian known for his work with fellow illusionist Teller in the team known as Penn & Teller.
Penn Jillette, the larger, more talkative half of Penn & Teller, became disenchanted with traditional illusionist acts that presented the craft as authentic magic, such as The Amazing Kreskin on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. At age eighteen, he saw a show by illusionist James Randi, and became enamored of his approach to magic that openly acknowledged deception as entertainment rather than a mysterious supernatural power. Jillette regularly acknowledges Randi as the one person on the planet he loves the most besides members of his family.
Jillette worked with Greenfield, Massachusetts high school classmate Michael Moschen in developing and performing a juggling act during the years immediately following their 1973 graduation. He met Teller in 1975, where they formed part of a three-person act called Asparagus Valley Cultural Society which played in San Francisco. In 1981, he and Teller teamed up as Penn & Teller, and went on to do a famous off-Broadway show.
In 1974 Jillette graduated from Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Clown College.
Jillette has been in several high profile relationships including dating Robin Quivers from The Howard Stern Show, as well as Blondie lead singer Debbie Harry.
Starting in 1980 Jillette purchased a home in Las Vegas and dubbed it "The Slammer." It has been featured in dozens of television shows and articles and was designed by his friend Colin Summers. He currently records music and conducts his radio show at the studio inside "The Slammer."
Jillette was also a regular contributor to the now-defunct PC/Computing magazine in the early 1990s, having a regular back section column between 1990 and 1994. True to form, the columns were often as much about Uma Thurman as actual PC computing issues. Jillette and PC Computing parted ways over a dispute with a new editor. Jillette felt the new editor was trying to tell him how to write his column and what topics he should be covering. Jillette is unsure if he was fired or if he actually quit.
Was the primary voice announcer for the U.S. based cable network Comedy Central in the 1990s. This was mentioned on an episode of The Colbert Report airing November 1st, 2006, on which he was interviewed.
For a brief time in 1997, Jillette wrote bi-weekly dispatches for the now defunct search engine Excite.com. Each column ended with a pithy comment identifying which of the Penn & Teller duo he was. (For example: "Penn Jillette is the half of Penn & Teller that's detained at airports.") Jillette made a habit of linking many words in his online column to wacky sites that generally had nothing to do with the actual words. The columns are no longer available on the current Excite.com site. However, one can view the columns at his personal website.
Starting in 1999, he had a recurring role on Sabrina: The Teenage Witch as Drell, the head of the witches council. He and Teller both appeared in the pilot with Debbie Harry (all were the witches council). The show was created by Jillette's friend Nell Scovell.
Starting in 2003 Jillette, along with his partner Teller, produces and hosts Penn & Teller: Bullshit!, which is currently in production for its fifth season. In the show, the two analyze cultural phenomena, debunk myths, criticize people and aspects of society they deem "Bullshit," and generally have fun—with a bit of magic and topless women thrown in.
In 2005 with actor Paul Provenza, Jillette co-produced and co-directed the The Aristocrats (2005), a documentary film tracing the life of a dirty joke known as "The Aristocrats".
Jillette married television producer Emily Zolten during an impromptu ceremony at a Las Vegas wedding chapel on November 23, 2004. He has alluded to living a polyamorous lifestyle while on the Adam Carolla radio show. Their first child, daughter Moxie CrimeFighter Jillette, was born on June 3, 2005 and their son, Zolten Penn Jillette, on May 22, 2006. On a January 2006 episode of the radio show Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me!, Jillette explained that his wife suggested they use "CrimeFighter" because she herself does not have a middle name, people do not generally know other people's middle names, and they might as well "have some fun with it".
He occasionally notes with irony that he lives and works in Las Vegas, but he does not gamble (though he did lend his name to a book on how to cheat at poker) and has never used alcohol or recreational drugs. He is, however, an advocate of the legalization of all drugs and discontinuing the War on Drugs.
Jillette can play the Bass, and has performed on stage in his Vegas act.
Jillette is an outspoken atheist, libertarian (he has recently stated that he may consider himself to be a full blown Anarcho-capitalist), and skeptic. Jillette is a Fellow at the libertarian think tank, the Cato Institute. In January 2007, Jillette took the "Blasphemy Challenge" offered by the Rational Response Squad and publicly denied the existence of a holy spirit. One of his car license plates reads "DOG ON" ("NO GOD" backwards).
From January 3, 2006, to March 2, 2007 Jillette hosted (along with fellow atheist, skeptic and juggler, Michael Goudeau) a live, hour-long radio talk show broadcast on the radio station brand known as Free FM. The show, Penn Radio, broadcast from Jillette's Vegas area home, The Slammer, from his Vintage Nudes Studio. The most notable recurring segment of the show was "Monkey Tuesday" and later "The Pull of The Weasel." On March 2, 2007 Jillette, on Free FM, announced that he would no longer be doing his radio show. He stated that he is a "show biz wimp" and decided to stop doing the show so he could spend more time with his kids Zolten and Moxie. He made very clear that he was not fired.
William A. Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, has accused Jillette of engaging in anti-Catholic bigotry after remarks Jillette made on his radio show after rumors began to spread that Paris Hilton was asked to star in a biopic about Mother Teresa's life. Jillette remarked on the April 5, 2006 episode of his show that Hilton shouldn't "lower herself�? to play the nun, whom he believed had a "sexual kink" involving watching people suffer and die. He also said that Hilton should continue to make "good, wholesome, porno films", a reference to 1 Night in Paris.
After his remarks -- which echoed beliefs expressed in the "Holier Than Thou" episode of Bullshit! -- John London, another FreeFM host whose show followed Jillette's in many markets, offered listeners US$5,000 to "the person that kills Jillette", later upping it to 7,000 if he "suffers". Because of this threat, London, his co-host Chris Townsend, and his producer Dennis Cruz were fired from FreeFM. Jillette, however, retained his job despite protests from the Catholic League.
In July of 1999, Jillette was granted U.S. Patent 5,920,923 for the "Jill-Jet", a hot-tub jet specially angled for a woman's pleasure. He has credited Debbie Harry of Blondie for suggesting the idea, as the two of them were once in a hot-tub and Harry made a remark about changing the jets for a woman's pleasure. Jillette liked the idea enough to pursue patent application at the USPTO under the Patent Title "Hydro-therapeutic stimulator". The abstract of the patent explains that a "discharge nozzle is located within the tub and connected to the outlet, mounted to the seat so that the discharged water from the circulation pump automatically aligns with and is directed to stimulation points (e.g., the clitoris) of the female user when the female user sits in the seat."
An article in the June 2006 issue of Playboy Magazine shed light on Jillette's patent for a hot tub with water jets strategically positioned to stimulate a woman's clitoris. Originally, it was to be called the "ClitJet", however he stated that the "JillJet" was more suitable because it included his name in the title.
Speculation arises from Jillette's red fingernail on his left hand. From a FAQ from Penn & Teller's official website, there are three common answers:
On the episode of Penn Radio which aired 29 November 2006, Jillette related the real story behind his red fingernail. It began as a joke with his mother. When he was 18 years old, his mother advised him to keep his hands looking nice, since he was then working as a magician and his audience would be looking at his hands. Jillette colored the single nail red and showed it to his mother. He has continued to paint that single nail to the present. The color he uses is Jelly Apple Red (#054) by Essie.
Jillette has also collaborated with Martin Atkins and his industrial band, Pigface. During one of the early episodes of Penn & Teller: Bullshit!, he can be seen wearing a Pigface tuque.
Jillette has collaborated with avant-garde musicians The Residents and appeared on a double album on their label titled Ralph Records 10th Anniversary Radio Special, as well as played the part of the narrator for the band's Mole Show tour and penned the liner notes for Eyesore: A Stab at The Residents, a tribute CD issued by Vaccination Records. He was apparently locked in a motel room for one week with nothing but Residents records, some food, and a microphone (recordings from the latter were used to create the 10th Anniversary Radio Special). Jillette's own band is called The Captain Howdy. He was also a member of Bongos, Bass, and Bob, in which he played bass guitar. Jillette is also the owner of the entire catalog of the band Half Japanese, headed by Jad Fair. He is featured in the Half Japanese documentary The Band that Would be King. Jillette and fellow Clown College alumnus Steven Banks collaborated in writing Love Tapes – a romantic comedy stage show which premiered February 2005 at Sacred Fools Theater in Hollywood. As part of the preshow entertainment for his current Las Vegas show, Jillette plays the double bass with pianist Mike Jones.