Penn Jillette has shown his talent to a devoted audience for over 40 years. He has performed anywhere from stages all over the country to the big screen. Jillette is an American of many talents: magician, comedian, musician, actor, filmmaker and best-selling author to mention a few. He started his career as one part of a three-man act with Teller and one other friend. He is also one-half of the popular magic show duo Penn & Teller.
Some of their popular shows in the 80s and 90s included Penn & Teller: Fool Us, and Penn & Teller: Bullshit. Penn Jillette shows his showmanship in his capacity as the orator and raconteur of the group. He has also published numerous books such as God No!: Signs You May Already Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales. He was also in the popular television series, Sabrina the Teenage Witch in the late 90s.
Early Days and Career
The popular magician was born as Penn Fraser Jillette in Greenfield Massachusetts, on March 5, 1955. For someone who has made a significant portion of his living from magic, it is surprising to note that Penn does not like magic acts such as The Amazing Kreskin. His problem with Kreskin is that he presents his performances as authentic magic. Jillette is more in tune with the idea that magic is simply well-crafted deception for the sole purpose of entertainment and not some supernatural force. This is why he credits the illusionist James Randi who follows the same line of thought as his favorite person on the planet besides his family.
Following his graduation from high school in 1973, Jillette worked with his buddy from high school Michael Moschen to develop and perform a juggling act. The following year, after he graduated from Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College, he met Raymond Joseph Teller through a mutual friend, Weir Chrisemer. One thing led to another and a three-person group was formed. Performing in places like San Francisco and Amherst in Hampshire County, they called themselves the Asparagus Valley Cultural Society.
Seven years later, in 1981, Jillette and Raymond Teller formed the popular Penn & Teller group. They successfully took their act around the country in successful Off-Broadway and Broadway theatre shows. The show continued to be successful, carrying on into the late 80s. The success of the show prevented Penn from continuing with the mariachi band he had joined where he played the bass guitar. But this wasn’t before they had released an album with popular musician and composer, Mark Kramer.
As a writer/columnist, Jillette was a contributor to a magazine focused on PC and computing. He was a regular from 1990 to 1994. In September 2014, he left the magazine because he felt the new editor was trying to control his creative flow. Around the same time he served as a regular columnist, he was also the main voice announcer for Comedy Central.
In 1994, the magician bought a home in the Las Vegas Valley. The house which came complete with a studio caught the attention of various publications and television shows. In the bid to give his family more privacy, he sold the house in 2016 and he and his family moved to a more private location.
Jillette had appeared on various television shows before this time. In 1996, he portrayed the character Drell, the head of the Council of Witches in the television series Sabrina the Teenage Witch. His partner, Raymond Teller also appeared in the movie as a member of the Witches’ Council.
In 2003, Showmax began to produce and host a show for Penn and Teller titled Penn & Teller: Bullshit. Two years later, Penn Jillette co-produced a documentary film with actor Paul Provenza titled The Aristocrats. From early 2006 to early 2007, he hosted an hour-long radio talk show with Micheal Goudeau. He hosted the show from his Vintage Nudes Studio in his Las Vegas home until he called it quits in March 2007. Penn did this to be able to spend more time with his family.
In 2008, he was a contestant on Dancing with the Stars, where his dance partner was professional dancer Kym Johnson. He and his partner were the first to be eliminated. In 2012, he enrolled as one of the contestants on the fifth season of Donald Trump‘s The Celebrity Apprentice. He was fired by Trump in the 11th week. However, he would return for the All-Star Celebrity Apprentice the following year and make it all the way to the finale, raising over $663,000 for the charity Opportunity Village.
In the same year, Penn & Teller received their greatest honor yet – a star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame in recognition of their live performance efforts. The star was tactfully placed near the star awarded to the infamous magician, Harry Houdini.
He released an album on March 16, 2018, with jazz pianist and friend Mike Jones. The ten-track album was titled The Show Before the Show.
Jet’s business ventures include the launching of a private recording studio in his Las Vegas home called Vintage Nudes Studio. He also invented the Jill-Jet in 1999, a hot tube jet specially designed for giving women ultimate sexual pleasure. He originally wanted to name it the “Clit-Jet” but went for the former because it incorporated his name.
Jillette’s Family: Parents, Wife, and Daughter
The famous magician and all-around entertainer was born to Samuel Herbert Jillette and Valda Rudolph Jillette. His mother was a secretary while his father was employed at the Greenfield’s Franklin County Jail. They died within a year of each other in 1999 and 2000 respectively. Penn permanently wears his father’s ring and red nail polish on one of his fingers in honor of his parents.
He is married to Emily Zolten Jillette. Information about their date of marriage is not known. The couple has two children. The first, Moxie CrimeFighter was born in 2005 and the second, Zolten Penn was born the following year.
Penn Jillette’s Religion
Jillette did not start out as an atheist: he grew up as a Christian. However, sometime in his early teens, he began to ask some difficult questions about the faith that in his youth group, he was asked to leave the church because his questions threatened to turn some of his peers into skeptics.
In August 2011, Jillette released his book God No! Signs You May Already Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales. The book became a New York Times Best Seller just twelve days after its release.
His license plates for his cars read: “atheist”, “nogod”, and “godless”. Jillette does, however, appreciate his theist fans, and has said so publicly, citing an example of a fan that had gotten him a Bible after one of his performances in 2008. Penn says he realizes the fan was only trying to help. He frequently advocates for open discussions and debates concerning the issue of God’s existence. Penn believes it is an issue too important for people to keep their opinions about it private.
His Height and Incredible Weight Loss
In another life, Penn may have had a successful career as a basketball player. The magician stands at a height of 6 feet 5 inches (1.99 m), which is staggering even for an athlete.
Penn Jillette weighed considerably more before his blood pressure spiked and landed him in the hospital in December of 2014. Between that time and his birthday on March 5, 2015, he had lost 48 kg (105 lbs) of his weight. To be able to sustain the weight loss, Penn Jillette is living on Dr. Fuhrman’s Nutritarian diet. This diet plan eliminates taking meat, dairy products, added sugar or salt, processed grains, etc.