Penn and Teller Are Not Lovers

Question: How would you characterize your relationship with \r\nTeller?

Penn Jillette:  Business partners, I mean, \r\nthe most important thing about our partnership is it's not based on \r\ncuddly love and affection. I mean, over 35 years, I mean, by many \r\ndefinitions he has to be my best friend. I mean, he's the person I talk \r\nto when my mom and dad died. He was there when my, you know, right after\r\n my children were born. He's all of those things but we're much more \r\nlike two guys who own a dry cleaning business, you know, many of your \r\nshow business partnerships start in love.

I mean, Lennon and \r\nMcCartney had a love affair pretty clearly. Martin and Lewis had a love \r\naffair, Jagger and Richards had a love affair. And when that goes south,\r\n when all of a sudden love fades away, it becomes a huge explosion. I \r\nmean, Lennon and McCartney hated each other. And with working with \r\nTeller there was no real attraction. We didn't want to spend all our \r\ntime together. We spent all our time together but we weren't dying to do\r\n that. What we wanted to do was do a show together and we had much more \r\nrespect than affection.

And I think there's a lot to be learned \r\nfrom how much stronger respect is than affection. For one, we understand\r\n respect and we don't understand affection. So it's a little easier to \r\nget your mind around and be able to manipulate. And so when Teller and I\r\n don't like each other, when we're not getting along, it doesn't change \r\nmuch of anything. You know, it's like when you work at the 7-11, you \r\ndon't quite get along with the guy who's cleaning the Slurpee machine \r\nthat day. You don't care that much, your life goes on.

So he's \r\nbecome my best friend but in a very circuitous route through respect and\r\n through work.

What do you and Teller\r\n each contribute to the partnership?

Penn Jillette:  I\r\n think if you were to picture what we do you'd probably be pretty right.\r\n I tend to have the responsibility for what I say. There are lines here \r\nand there that are Teller's—there are moments in the shape of the plot \r\nof things that are Teller's—but for the most part I'm in charge of what I\r\n say. And for the most part Teller is in charge of the magic. Now there \r\nare great lines in the show that came from Teller and there are slightly\r\n clever magic moments that come from me and we do work together on \r\nthings.

\r\nBut those are really the responsibilities. If you wanted to break it \r\ndown in really traditional terms I think you would see Teller is kind of\r\n the director... kind of directs the show and I don't care very much \r\nabout staging, lights, how things look. In my mind I'm always doing a \r\nradio show.

Recorded on June 8, 2010
Interviewed by Paul Hoffman

Penn and long-time partner Teller are best friends, but their relationship is based on respect rather than love.

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