"Looks Simple"—But It Isn't

Magician and Entertainer

Penn Jillette is a cultural phenomenon as a solo personality and as half of the world-famous Emmy Award­-winning magic duo Penn & Teller. His solo exposure is enormous: from Howard Stern to Glenn Beck to the Op-Ed pages of The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the Los Angeles Times. He has appeared on Dancing with the Stars, MTV Cribs, and Chelsea Lately and hosted the NBC game show Identity. As part of Penn & Teller, he has appeared more than twenty times on David Letterman, as well as on several other TV shows, from The Simpsons and Friends to Top Chef and The View. He co-hosts the controversial series Penn & Teller: Bullshit!, which has been nominated for sixteen Emmy Awards. He is currently co host of the Discovery Channel's Penn & Teller Tell a Lie and the author of God, No! and Presto!

  • Transcript


Question: What was the inspiration behind your “Looks Simple” trick? 

Penn Jillette:  Teller and I were fascinated by how stupid magic is, that magic is going through all these elaborate machinations to make something look one way that's really another. And it struck us as really funny to do a magic trick that accomplished reality.

And we went through many, many things. We were going to originally do it with cooking or something like that but after weeks of trying to write this bit we came up with the idea of how about taking out a cigarette, lighting it, putting a cigarette out, and then pulling out another cigarette and lighting it. How about if we did that trick exactly like that with all accomplished by trickery. Stuff you could do simply. And that seemed to have such a purely existential feel to us. Going through incredibly complicated machinations to get to a very simple end.

Recorded on June 8, 2010
Interviewed by Paul Hoffman