Penn Jillette Talks Magic, God, and Government
Penn and Teller are not like other famous duos, says Penn Jillette
, the larger and more talkative of the two magicians. Lennon and McCartney, Martin and Lewis, Jagger and Richards—these relationships were rooted in love and affection, and "when all of a sudden love fades away it becomes a huge explosion." Penn says his relationship with Teller is "much more like two guys who own a dry cleaning business." After 35 years of performing magic together (and, Penn claims, more hours on stage together than "anyone alive"), they have grown to be best friends, "but in a very circuitous route through respect and through work."
In his recent Big Think interview
, Jillette revealed much about his long partnership with Teller and about how he first became interested in magic
. As a young man, Jillette was "not very concerned with fooling people." Instead he was drawn to juggling, which dealt with flourishes and techniques: "You are manipulating objects, not people, and that's always appealed to me," he told us. For the same reason, Jillette is not that interested in televised magic.
"Whenever I'm watching TV I have a very real sense that I'm watching different tries of the same thing stuck together," he said. Watching live performances, whether theater or magic, is an "entirely different thing."
Jillette also spoke about how he became an atheist at a young age, despite his Christian upbringing
. The Bible, he says, is what convinced him that there was no God: "If you read the Bible or the Koran or the Torah cover-to-cover, I believe you will emerge from that as an atheist." When people excerpt passages from scripture, they skip over things like the "hostility towards homosexuals, towards women, the celebration of slavery." Ultimately, Jillette says he sees "no sense of shared humanity" in the Bible.