Thursday, March 22, 2012

Penn Jillette

Penn Fraser Jillette (born March 5, 1955) is an American magician, comedian, illusionist, juggler, bassist and a best-selling author 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.

In 1994 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 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 as the third member of the 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 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, but have been republished with permission at PennAndTeller.com

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 Aristocrats (2005), a documentary film tracing the life of a dirty joke known as "The Aristocrats".

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 Penn Jillette and Moxie CrimeFighter Jillette.

During the 2006–07 television season, Jillette hosted the prime time game show "Identity" on NBC-TV.

In 2008, Jillette was a contestant on Dancing with the Stars. He was the first celebrity to be eliminated. A reference to his large feet as a sign of another large body part was bleeped in the West Coast airing.

In 2009, Jillette did a spoken guest appearance on a song by Pakistani rapper Adil Omar. The song was titled "Spookshow" and produced by DJ Solo of Soul Assassins. The lyrics condemn religious extremism and encourage skepticism. It is set to be featured on a compilation album by Thick Syrup Records alongside artists like Matt Cameron of Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Half Japanese and more.

On May 24, 2010, Jillette began a bi-weekly show on Revision3 called Penn Point. It is currently on hiatus. The last update was posted on 26 October 2011.

On August 16, 2011 Jillette's book God, No! Signs You May Already Be An Atheist and Other Magical Tales was released and made the New York Times Best Sellers in its first week of publication.

An avid upright bassist, Penn frequently accompanies jazz pianist Mike Jones, who opens for the magician's Las Vegas show.

Jillette is one of the contestants on The Celebrity Apprentice season 5, beginning on February 19, 2012. Along with Michael Goudeau, he also started the podcast Penn's Sunday School on the same day.

In July 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 (i.e., 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.

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 then was 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.

No comments: