Penn & Teller

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The one who speaks is the one holding the microphone.
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Penn Jillette (born 1955) and Teller (born Raymond Joseph Teller in 1948) are a pair of professional magicians. For the uninitiated, Penn is "the big one with the long hair who talks" (though since 2020 he's cut his hair short) and Teller is "the short one who doesn't talk". As a general rule, Teller only speaks when he's not in character or when he can't be seen talking (e.g. outside the camera or when behind a puppet).

Outside of their longtime Las Vegas stage show, they are best known for their Showtime series Penn & Teller: Bullshit! in which they investigate and debunk topics of interest. Well, kind of… Penn & Teller are more than happy to take on New Age trinkets, Feng Shui, and so on, but a number of episodes are "bullshit" themselves, especially those relating to politics, economics, and environmentalism. This has made them controversial figures in the skeptic community.

Their newer shows, Penn & Teller Tell a Lie (2011) and Penn & Teller: Fool Us (2011-present) are not based on scepticism.

Penn & Teller: Bullshit![edit]

See the main article on this topic: Penn & Teller: Bullshit!

Penn & Teller: Bullshit! was a TV infotainment show in which a wide range of topics were investigated and debunked.

Covered topics of interest to sceptics and rationalists included religions, cults, New Age, alternative medicine, conspiracy theories, the anti-vaccination movement, and so on.

Unfortunately, a number of episodes are bullshit themselves and veer off into pseudoscepticism and denialism. Generally speaking, the show's coverage of woo and general crankery is pretty good, while episodes that deal with social trends, politics, environmentalism, and economics vary in quality—in no small part due to the then libertarian beliefs of Penn & Teller. They usually acknowledge their own bias, and planned to end the show with a Bullshit episode on their own bullshit, but it never materialized.

On libertarianism[edit]

Penn identified as libertarian, specifically anarcho-capitalist since at least 2003.[1] In 2008, Penn and Teller even became research fellows at the Cato Institute.[2][3] Unusually, Penn disavowed libertarianism and endorsed Joe Biden for president in 2020.[4] Oddly, Cato has not gotten the message after 4 years.[5]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. Dear graduates: Work for freedom by Bill Steigerwald (Saturday, May 24, 2003) Pittsburgh Tribune (archived from March 14, 2016).
  2. Penn Jillette Cato Institute (archived from May 13, 2008).
  3. Teller Cato Institute (archived from May 12, 2008).
  4. ‘You have one job, Joe’ by Penn Jillette (November 12, 2020) CNN.
  5. Penn Jillette Cato Institute (archived from January 19, 2024).