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Penn Fraser Jillette (born March 5, 1955) is an Americanmarker magician, comedian, illusionist, juggler, musician and writer known for his work with fellow illusionist Teller in the team Penn & Teller, and advocacy of atheism, libertarian philosophy, free-market economics, and scientific skepticism.

Early life and career (1955–2003)

Jillette, the larger (6'6" [1.98 m] tall), talkative half of Penn & Teller, was born in Greenfield, Massachusettsmarker. He 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 high school classmate Michael Moschen in developing and performing a juggling act during the years immediately following their 1973 graduation. In 1974 Jillette graduated from Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Clown College. That same year, he was introduced to Teller by Weir Chrisimer, a mutual friend. The three then formed a three-person act called Asparagus Valley Cultural Society which played in Amherst, Massachusettsmarker and San Francisco, Californiamarker. In 1981, he and Teller teamed up as Penn & Teller, and went on to do a famous off-Broadway show.

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.

In 1994 Jillette purchased a home in Las Vegasmarker 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 there, and previously conducted 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 asserts that he is unsure if he was fired or if he actually quit.

Jillette was the primary voice announcer for the U.S. based cable network Comedy Central in the 1990s.

Starting in 1996, 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.

For a brief time in 1997, Jillette wrote bi-weekly dispatches for the search engine 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 site, but have been republished with permission at

Showtime (2003–present)

Starting in 2003, Jillette, along with his partner Teller, began producing and hosting the show, Penn & Teller: Bullshit!. In the show, the two analyze cultural phenomena, debunk myths, criticize people and aspects of society they deem "bullshit".

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 Vegasmarker wedding chapel on November 23, 2004. 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 Vegasmarker, but he does not gamble (though he did lend his name to a book on how to cheat at poker).

He claims never to have used recreational drugs or alcohol. He is, however, an advocate of the legalization of all drugs and discontinuing the War on Drugs.

Jillette is an outspoken atheist, libertarian (he has stated that he may consider himself to be an Anarcho-capitalist),and skeptic, as well as an adherent to Ayn Rand's Objectivist philosophy, as stated on his Penn Says podcast. 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.His cars' license plates read "atheist", "nogod", and "godless". "Strangely enough, they wouldn't give me 'Infidel,'" he says.

In 2005 he wrote and read an essay for National Public Radio claiming that he was "beyond atheism. Atheism is not believing in God....I believe there is no God." His atheism, he has explained, has informed every aspect of his life and thoughts, and as such is as crucial to him as theistic beliefs are to the devout. Jillette welcomes and even encourages open discussion, debate, and proselytizing on the issue of God's existence, believing that the issue is too important for opinions about it to remain private. Jillette does not, however, dismiss all who do believe in God: A 2008 edition of his Penn Says podcast expresses his appreciation for a fan who brought him the gift of a pocket Gideon Bible after a performance because he realized that this individual sincerely cared enough about him to try to help him.

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 his Vintage Nudes Studio in Jillette's Las Vegas home. 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.

During the 2006-07 television season, Jillette hosted the prime time game show "Identity" on NBC-TV. As of now, NBC states on its website that it plans for "Identity" to return to its prime time schedule soon, although a firm premiere date for the show's second season has not been announced.

Jillette was a contestant on the 2008 edition of Dancing with the Stars. He was the first male celebrity to be eliminated. A reference to his large feet as a sign of a large penis was bleeped in the West Coast airing.

Jillette believes that there is not enough information to make an informed decision on global warming, and that it is an emotion vs. logic issue.

In 2009, Jillette did spoken word guest vocals on the song "Spookshow" by Pakistani rapper Adil Omar.


In July 1999, Jillette was granted 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 shed additional light on the invention. Originally, it was to be called the "ClitJet", however he stated that "Jill-Jet" was more suitable because it included his name in the title.

On the Penn Radio show, telling the listeners about the photo shoot for the Playboy article, Jillette mentioned that he has a Jill-Jet installed in a tub at "The Slammer", and that several of his female friends and friends' spouses enjoy it a lot, but he is not aware of any other installations of a water jet in such a configuration anywhere else.

Red fingernail

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:

  1. It means he once shot a man for asking personal questions.
  2. When Jillette first began performing, his mother told him to get a manicure because people would be looking at his hands. In response to this, he had all of his nails painted red as a joke. The one remaining red fingernail is in honor of his mother.
  3. It's just cool and can also sometimes provide excellent misdirection.

On the episode of Penn Radio broadcast on November 29, 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.

He was once known to say that people pay so little attention to the important part of a trick that they "wouldn't even notice if you had painted your finger nail red", in reference to how people pay attention to the result of misdirection (as intended) instead of the cause.




Music Videos

Dancing with the Stars performances

Week # Dance/song Judges' score Result
Carrie Ann Inaba Len Goodman Bruno Tonioli
1 Cha-cha-cha/ "A Fool in Love" 5 6 5 N/A
2 Quickstep/ "Man with the Hex" 6 6 5 Eliminated

Books by Jillette


  1. This I Believe: There Is No God. November 21, 2005.

External links

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