Penn & Teller don’t need much introduction, as they are among the most famous and longest-running magicians in American history. They have been going strong for over 40 years, filled with all sorts of magic tricks and TV shows which ride the line between magic and comedy.
Their names are Penn Jillette and Raymond Teller, but they go by their last names on the stage. They have a fascinating dynamic where Penn serves as sort of the point of communication with the audience as he does all the talking on stage.
At the same time, Teller remains silent, expressing himself through mime and general body language. Below, we’ll go into some detail about their lives as performers, some of the most amazing tricks they pulled, as well as their numerous TV appearances.
The Beginning of a Decades-Long Cooperation
Penn & Teller surprisingly didn’t start out under that name or even as a duo. They were actually introduced back in 1975 by a third magician – Weir Chrisemer. However, since their first show they performed that year at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, they have been performing together, which is going on well over four decades these days.
In the beginning, though, they performed under the name “The Asparagus Valley Cultural Society” all the way to 1981, which is when the gentleman who introduced them, Weir Chrisemer, left show business in general. By doing that, he probably unknowingly made the most iconic duo in the history of American magicians possible.
Most Notable Tricks
In their early career, they heavily depended on their tricks having shock value, usually in the form of fantasy violence, backed by their amazing charisma, which made the acts still comical. Some of the most notable ones from this era would be putting Teller in “dangerous situations”.
He hung over a bed of spikes in a straitjacket, got run over by an 18-wheeler tractor-trailer, and was submerged in a tank of water he had to get out of.
These are all feats to accomplish, but it isn’t the tricks themselves that shocked audiences from all over the world – it was their “botched trick” routine. They would often act as something has gone terribly wrong, only to pull a twist and reveal to the audience that Teller is just fine.
They also have a variety of card tricks they often perform and some other aces up their sleeves, like the famous nail gun trick. Later in their careers, the tricks turned less dangerous and more pointed at satire and a humorous side, which is understandable, given that both of them are well over 60 years old.
Appearances on TV
Penn & Teller have been such a massive part of pop culture, and they have appeared on a bunch of television shows, movies, and even music videos. To start it off, we’ll list some of the TV shows in which they star:
- Penn & Teller Go Public
- Penn & Teller’s Sin City Spectacular
- Penn & Teller’s Magic and Mystery Tour
- Penn & Teller: Bullshit!
- Penn & Teller: Tell a Lie
- Penn & Teller: Fool Us
Outside of that, they have appeared on numerous other TV shows as guest characters, some of which include The Simpsons, Friends, Muppets, and Dharma & Greg. This doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface of their presence, but it’s a good example of how huge in the business they are.
Some other notable appearances in media must be the time Katy Perry threw them out of her room as a part of the music video for her hit song Waking Up in Vegas. They’ve also published a couple of books on magic. So really, any direction you go in the entertainment business, you’re likely to run into something these two have touched or inspired in some way.
Life Outside of the Magic Show
According to interviews and bits and pieces you can pick up from them, it seems that Penn & Teller base their relationship outside of the stage firstly as a business partnership and a friendship later.
They say this is the case because their whole deal is based on mutual respect, and even if they don’t appear in public often due to the very different lifestyles they lead, they still consider each other to be the best of friends.
The pair is still actively performing today, and we hope that we’ll get to see some more stellar performances in the future. Aside from showing up in various TV shows, movies, video games, and every other form of media out there, they also did live shows, usually in Las Vegas, which will hopefully be resumed soon.
But all in all, that was the overview of the artistic and performing lives of America’s most famous magician duo, from modest beginnings to pop culture icons they are today, ladies and gentlemen – Penn & Teller.