Penn Fraser Jillette (born 5 March 1955) is an American magician, scientific skeptic, actor, musician, inventor, television presenter, and author, best known for his work with fellow magician Teller as half of the team Penn & Teller. The duo has been featured in numerous stage and television shows, such as Penn & Teller: Fool Us and Penn & Teller: Bullshit!, and is currently headlining in Las Vegas at The Rio. Jillette serves as the act's orator and raconteur. He also hosted Penn Radio with juggler Michael Goudeau.
- Technology adds nothing to art. Two thousand years ago, I could tell you a story, and at any point during the story I could stop, and ask, Now do you want the hero to be kidnapped, or not? But that would, of course, have ruined the story. Part of the experience of being entertained is sitting back and plugging into someone else's vision.
- That's the beauty of the Web: You can roll around in a stranger's obsession without having to smell his or her house. You can amscray whenever you want without being rude. The site gets its "hit" and you know more about our species' diversity.
- Every time something really bad happens, people cry out for safety, and the government answers by taking rights away from good people.
- Penn and Teller's How to Play in Traffic (1997), p. 35
- Penn turned to me […] "Do I have to call him [Prince Charles] 'Your Majesty' or any of that shit? […] And what about bowing? I have to bow? We don't bow in America. […] I won't get put in the Tower of London or anything?" […] I reassured him on these points. No Highnessing, no kowtowing. At last the Prince reaches Penn, who immediately falls almost prostrate to the floor. "Your Majesty Highness, Your Royal Sir…" and so on and so forth, babbling like a gibbon on speed. The Prince passes on to me and whoever was the other side of me without turning a hair. Seen it all before. After he had gone, I watched Penn, an enormous man, crouching on the floor, rolling about, beating the planks of the stage, sobbing, stuffing his fist in his mouth and moaning up to the fly-tower: "Why did I do that? What came over me? What power do they have? I betrayed my country!"
- We can't start getting picky because we've got enough food; that's just self-centered and racist. Unless you and yours are starving, you need to shut the fuck up!
- I've always wanted to make the world a more rational place. I'm still working on it.
- "10 Questions: Penn Jillette", IGN (18 June 2003)
- A guy called up, and in his lead, he said, "We've talked before. I used to be with US but now I'm for SELF." And I was like, "I guess we know everything now, don't we?" … I kind of laughed and I went, "I guess a lot of people are like that." And he paused and went, "Uhhh… what?" And I said, "Oh, nothing."
- It's fair to say that the Bible contains equal amounts of fact, history, and pizza. … God works in mysterious, inefficient, and breathtakingly cruel ways.
- This statement is a rebuke to the famous assertion by William Cowper: "God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform He plants his footsteps in the sea, And rides upon the storm."
- Take some time and put the Bible on your summer reading list. Try and stick with it cover to cover. Not because it teaches history; we've shown you it doesn't. Read it because you'll see for yourself what the Bible is all about. It sure isn't great literature. If it were published as fiction, no reviewer would give it a passing grade. There are some vivid scenes and some quotable phrases, but there's no plot, no structure, there's a tremendous amount of filler, and the characters are painfully one-dimensional. Whatever you do, don't read the Bible for a moral code: it advocates prejudice, cruelty, superstition, and murder. Read it because: we need more atheists — and nothin' will get you there faster than readin' the damn Bible.
- "The Bible: Fact or Fiction?" Penn & Teller: Bullshit!, season 2 episode 6 (6 May 2004)
- If you can just convince the dope people that the gun people are right and the gun people that the dope people are right, we could actually live in a lot more freedom.
- Two things have always been true about human beings. One, the world is always getting better. Two, the people living at that time think it`s getting worse.
It's because you get older, your responsibilities are different. Now I'm taking care of children instead of being a child. It makes the world look scarier. That happens to everyone.
- "Honest Questions with Penn Jillette" (2 November 2007), CNN
- My favorite thing about the Internet is that you get to go into the private world of real creeps without having to smell them.
- Every nut who kills people has a Bible lying around. If you're looking for violent rape imagery, the Bible's right there in your hotel room. If you just want to look up ways to screw people up, there it is, and you're justified because God told you to.
- "Bull Sessions with Penn Jillette" Reason (15 January 2008)
- And I've always said, you know, that I don't respect people that don't proselytize. I don't respect that at all. If you believe that there's a heaven and hell, and people could be going to hell — or not getting eternal life, or whatever — and you think that, "Well, it's not really worth tellin' 'em this, because it would make it socially awkward", and atheists who think that people shouldn't proselytize, "Just leave me alone. Keep your religion to yourself"... How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize? How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that? I mean, if I believe, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that a truck was coming at you and you didn't believe it —that truck was bearing down on you — there's a certain point where I tackle you, and this is more important than that.
- "A Gift of a Bible", Penn Says episode 192 (2008-12-09), Crackle, 2:59
There Is No God (2005)
- I believe that there is no God. I'm beyond atheism. Atheism is not believing in God. Not believing in God is easy — you can't prove a negative, so there's no work to do
- I'm saying, "This I believe: I believe there is no God."
Having taken that step, it informs every moment of my life. I'm not greedy. I have love, blue skies, rainbows and Hallmark cards, and that has to be enough. It has to be enough, but it's everything in the world and everything in the world is plenty for me. It seems just rude to beg the invisible for more. Just the love of my family that raised me and the family I'm raising now is enough that I don't need heaven. I won the huge genetic lottery and I get joy every day.
- Believing there's no God means I can't really be forgiven except by kindness and faulty memories. That's good; it makes me want to be more thoughtful. I have to try to treat people right the first time around.
- I can read ideas from all different people from all different cultures. Without God, we can agree on reality, and I can keep learning where I'm wrong. We can all keep adjusting, so we can really communicate. I don't travel in circles where people say, "I have faith, I believe this in my heart and nothing you can say or do can shake my faith." That's just a long-winded religious way to say, "shut up," or another two words that the FCC likes less.
- Interviewer: Are there any groups you won’t go after?
Penn: We haven’t tackled Scientology [in Penn & Teller: Bullshit!] because Showtime doesn’t want us to. Maybe they have deals with individual Scientologists—I’m not sure. And we haven’t tackled Islam because we have families.
Interviewer: Meaning, you won’t attack Islam because you’re afraid it’ll attack back …
Penn: Right, and I think the worst thing you can say about a group in a free society is that you’re afraid to talk about it—I can’t think of anything more horrific.
- Las Vegas Weekly Staff, "A uniquely Weekly ranking of the personalities who define Las Vegas", Las Vegas Weekly (24 June 2010) (brief interview). Accessed 19 April 2019.
- Atheism is the only real hope against terrorism.
- Rabbi Daniel Lapin: Here's a really blunt question: would the world be a better or a worse place if a billion Muslims became evangelical Christians tomorrow?
Penn: [long pause] Everything else being equal, I think "yes".
Rabbi Daniel Lapin: Then we agree.
Penn: The argument is made by me that the celebration of faith, the glorification of faith, and faith being defined as The Bible kind of does as belief without proof, is not something that I feel is good to celebrate. To answer the question about evil, I always find that evil takes responsibility away. I want to have—whether it’s me or whether it's a criminal—I want to have full responsibility of my mistakes. And I think when you have this image, whether it's the Disney image of devil Pluto and angel Pluto on your shoulders, pulling you one direction or another, I think that idea of evil is an idea that is anti-responsibility.
- The Glenn Beck Program, April 12, 2013. Edited, including omission of some non-germane remarks. YouTube
I don't know, so I'm an atheist libertarian (2011)
- My friend Richard Feynman said, "I don't know." I heard him say it several times. He said it just like Harold, the mentally handicapped dishwasher I worked with when I was a young man making minimum wage at Famous Bill's Restaurant in Greenfield, Massachusetts.
"I don't know" is not an apology. There's no shame. It's a simple statement of fact. When Richard Feynman didn't know, he often worked harder than anyone else to find out, but while he didn't know, he said, "I don't know."
I like to think I fit in somewhere between my friends Harold and Richard. I don't know. I try to remember to say "I don't know" just the way they both did, as a simple statement of fact. It doesn't always work, but I try.
- What makes me libertarian is what makes me an atheist — I don't know. If I don't know, I don't believe. I don't know exactly how we got here, and I don't think anyone else does, either. We have some of the pieces of the puzzle and we'll get more, but I'm not going to use faith to fill in the gaps. I'm not going to believe things that TV hosts state without proof. I'll wait for real evidence and then I'll believe.
And I don't think anyone really knows how to help everyone. I don't even know what's best for me.
- It's amazing to me how many people think that voting to have the government give poor people money is compassion. Helping poor and suffering people is compassion. Voting for our government to use guns to give money to help poor and suffering people is immoral self-righteous bullying laziness.
People need to be fed, medicated, educated, clothed, and sheltered, and if we're compassionate we'll help them, but you get no moral credit for forcing other people to do what you think is right. There is great joy in helping people, but no joy in doing it at gunpoint.
- Government is force — literally, not figuratively.
I don't believe the majority always knows what's best for everyone. The fact that the majority thinks they have a way to get something good does not give them the right to use force on the minority that don't want to pay for it. If you have to use a gun, I don't believe you really know jack. Democracy without respect for individual rights sucks. It's just ganging up against the weird kid, and I'm always the weird kid.
God, No!: Signs You May Already Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales (2011)
- You don't have to be brave or a saint, a martyr, or even very smart to be an atheist. All you have to be able to say is "I don't know."
- Reading the Bible is the fast track to atheism. Reading the Bible means starting at "In the beginning..." and throwing it down with disgust at "...the grace of the lord Jesus be with all. Amen." I'm sure there are lots of religious people who've read the Bible from start to finish and kept their faith, but in my self-selected sample, all the people I know who have done that are atheists.
- Atheists are also morally obligated to tell the truth as we see it. We should preach and proselytize too. We need to help believers. Someone who believes in god is wasting big parts of his or her life, holding back science and love, and giving "moral" support to dangerous extremists. If you believe something, you must share it; it's one of the ways we all learn about truth.
- If every trace of any single religion were wiped out and nothing were passed on, it would never be created exactly that way again. There might be some other nonsense in its place, but not that exact nonsense. If all of science were wiped out, it would still be true and someone would find a way to figure it all out again.
Penn Jillette Rapes All the Women He Wants To (2012)
- The question I get asked by religious people all the time is, without God, what’s to stop me from raping all I want? And my answer is: I do rape all I want. And the amount I want is zero. And I do murder all I want, and the amount I want is zero. The fact that these people think that if they didn’t have this person watching over them that they would go on killing, raping rampages is the most self-damning thing I can imagine. I don't want to do that. Right now, without any god, I don't want to jump across this table and strangle you. I have no desire to strangle you. I have no desire to flip you over and rape you.
- I love people. And I think if you take the 7 billion people on the planet and you round it off, about 7 billion of them are good. To find bad people is really difficult. Not people doing bad things, but really bad people who get up in the morning and say, How can I fuck people up? That’s a really rare thing. Misguided, you know, mistaken, but I just can’t understand how this view of humanity that all we want to do is horrible things to each other and it’s just this belief in something else that stops us. And that that is what you see over and over again through the Bible. There’s reward and punishment but there’s no – I mean, nothing feels better than helping someone out. I mean, there’s nothing better, nothing better in the world than someone whose life was fucked up and you do a little something and now their life isn’t. I mean, you can talk about the joy of sex, hedonistic joys of food, and you can talk about the joy with your children, but man, someone is going through a hard time and you help them out, man you feel good for months.
- There are really good sociobiological reasons for why we evolved to cooperate. It really is good for all of us. You can be a hard ass and just run common sense, you know, what is the most effective way for people to interact and you do better if you treat people well, you just do. And on top of that the whole world does better if you treat people well. It works out on any level.
- If you just want to help people out you end up being a good person. I mean there’s every single kind of horrible self-help book will tell you if you’re feeling down and you’re feeling depressed just go help someone out and it’s a cliché, you wouldn’t even say it it’s so embarrassing, except it happens to be true.
Why Penn Jillette is Terrified of a President Trump (2016)
- Quotes of Jillette from "Why Penn Jillette is Terrified of a President Trump" by Grant Burningham, in Newsweek (1 March 2016)
- The problem is, I know Trump, so my optimism has been squashed like a baby bird … Everything bad I had to say about him, I said to his face. … I think he’s very good, very compelling on that show [Celebrity Apprentice] … I really like him because of his absence of filters. I really like the glimpse we get into the human heart we get when someone loses their filters … If he weren’t running for president, you’d be seeing essays from me about how much I learned from Donald Trump and how much I loved being on the show … I’m feeling so, so, so guilty, because I feel like, along with millions of other people, I played right into this. The cynicism of the Clintons, the careful, tightrope walk of all politicians, forced me, as an atheist, to get down on my knees and pray that someone would come along with some kind of authenticity … Well, someone called my bluff, goddamn it. … I’m a pure and utter peacenik. I want a president who sings the praises of people, sings the praises of peace and sings the praises of working together for a great country … Abraham Lincoln wouldn’t have laughed about waterboarding … If you told me right now I could have another eight years of Obama, I would not hesitate to grab at it. … He is unquestionably good and unquestionably smarter than I am, which is putting the bar pretty low. I want a president that is kinder, smarter and more measured than me.
- I have written and spoken and joked with friends the meanest, cruelest, most hateful things that could ever been said by me, have been said about the Clintons. I loathe them. I disagree with Hillary Clinton on just about everything there is to disagree with a person about. If it comes down to Trump and Hillary, I will put a Hillary Clinton sticker on my fucking car.
- Someone who is paying attention can do the same thing that Trump is doing with hate, and do it with love, and become president … That’s kind of beautiful. There’s nothing more optimistic than that. … Donald Trump does, when it comes right down to it, fuck up everything … He fucks up his casinos. He fucks up his buildings.... Maybe he’ll fuck up his campaign before he fucks up the country.
Interview with David Marchese (2018)
- "In Conversation: Penn Jillette Talking magic, truth, and Trump’s alleged Apprentice Tapes." (14 August 2018), by David Marchese, Vulture
- For 50 million years our biggest problems were too few calories, too little information. For about 50 years our biggest problem has been too many calories, too much information. We have to adjust, and I believe we will really fast. I also believe it will be wicked ugly while we’re adjusting.
- I have nothing good to say about Donald Trump as president.
- Trump, who never showed the slightest glimpse of humility.
- Profile at NNDB
- Penn & Teller's official website
- The Penn Jillette Show official website
- Penn Jillette on IMDb
- Penn Jillette's bio at cbsradio.com
- Penn Jillette columns
- "Voodoo and Violence" interview in Reason magazine April 1994)
- "Love and Memory and Humanity" Reason magazine (December 2004)
- "There Is No God" on This I Believe (21 November 2005)
- "Penn Jillette : The magician-comedian-writer's secrets revealed!" - Slate (4 February 2006)
- "Penn Jillette : Telling It Like It Is, With Teller" interview at AskMen.com
- Penn's home "The Slammer"