Mention celebrity magician Penn Jillette of Penn & Teller fame to anyone, and one of two thoughts will immediately pop into their head. Either 1) “Isn’t that the guy whose magic partner doesn’t speak?” or 2) “He sure does like to talk about religion and politics a lot.” Both thoughts are true, as Jillette has demonstrated time and time again his willingness to speak his mind on all kinds of subjects — be it President Donald Trump, his political affiliation with the Libertarian party, or his atheism.
Yet the outspoken half of the longest-running headlining act in Las Vegas isn’t necessarily driven by these well-known traits. While promoting the fourth season premiere of Penn & Teller: Fool Us he revealed that one of the primary driving forces behind Jillette’s late career isn’t success or argumentation, but his daughter. “Not every night, but maybe three nights a week, a young girl will come up to me after a show with a deck of cards in her hand,” he tells me. “Having daughter who is 12 years old, nothing could fill me with more joy than this.”
Hence why, as Jillette explains below, he and Teller have endeavored to increase the profile of female magicians and performers on this season of Fool Us. Considering who he met during his recent trip to Florida for the high IQ society Mensa’s annual meeting there, however, I couldn’t resist poking the bear at first.
How was your trip to Florida for the Mensa Annual Gathering?
It was good. I had a good time. I have a friend down there and we went fishing together. I posed with Roger Stone to start a fight. Every once in a while you want to get attacked on Twitter, so you stand next to somebody who isn’t too popular, take a picture with them, and all of a sudden everything they’ve done in their life is your fault.
All joking aside, was that your actual intent?
Not at all. It wasn’t done with any cynicism. I bumped into a guy that I don’t agree with on much of anything, and we chatted a little bit. It was very, very pleasant. He asked for a picture, and I wanted a picture, so we took the picture and I posted it if anybody online would be interested, and that was it. It’s very likely that a lot of the people I bump into and have pleasant conversations with wouldn’t agree with me on certain subjects. It’s possible my barista is a white supremacist. I don’t know.
Thanks to shows like Penn & Teller: Bullshit! and others, you’re opinions on politics, religion and other subjects are well known. I suspect, aside from magic, that people often ask you about these things.