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Penn Jillette is a cultural phenomenon as a solo personality and as half of the world-famous Emmy Award-winning magic duo Penn & Teller. In the mid-'80s, Penn & Teller went[…]

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

Question: How would you characterize your relationship with rnTeller?

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

I mean, Lennon and rnMcCartney had a love affair pretty clearly. Martin and Lewis had a love rnaffair, Jagger and Richards had a love affair. And when that goes south,rn when all of a sudden love fades away, it becomes a huge explosion. I rnmean, Lennon and McCartney hated each other. And with working with rnTeller there was no real attraction. We didn't want to spend all our rntime together. We spent all our time together but we weren't dying to dorn that. What we wanted to do was do a show together and we had much more rnrespect than affection.

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

So he's rnbecome my best friend but in a very circuitous route through respect andrn through work.

What do you and Tellerrn each contribute to the partnership?

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

rnBut those are really the responsibilities. If you wanted to break it rndown in really traditional terms I think you would see Teller is kind ofrn the director... kind of directs the show and I don't care very much rnabout staging, lights, how things look. In my mind I'm always doing a rnradio show.

Recorded on June 8, 2010
Interviewed by Paul Hoffman