Speaking with Penn Jillette 06.08.12
By MIRIAM DI NUNZIO firstname.lastname@example.org June 6, 2012 5:50PM
Famed Las Vegas magicians Penn & Teller were on the road during the summer of 2009 and brought their bag of tricks to Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, Ind. | AP File Photo~Charles Sykes
PENN & TELLER
♦ 7:30 p.m. June 8
♦ The Venue at Horseshoe Casino, 777 Casino, Hammond, Ind.
♦ Tickets, $30-$130.
♦ (800) 745-3000;
What happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay in Vegas, which is why the legendary magic duo Penn & Teller, headliners in their namesake theater inside the Rio Hotel & Resort, are on the road again with their trusty bag of tricks in tow. Fresh from his (losing) turn on “The Celebrity Apprentice,” Penn Jillette (the one who does ALL the talking) and the singularly named Teller headline The Venue on June 8.
Jillette recently talked to the Sun-Times about the Trumpster and who he’d trade places with for a day.
Question: What was your impression of Donald Trump in a television series setting?
Penn Jillette: We worked some of his casinos back when he owned casinos. But I talked to him afterwards at the [show’s] finale party. During the show you’re doing the show and you don’t really get to know him. The role we play out with Trump is so formal.
Q. How much of the “reality” on “The Celebrity Apprentice” is real?
PJ: It’s exactly how it’s pictured. It’s a pretend show about a pretend business where you get pretend fired. Whenever you’re pretending to so something, you have to exaggerate. You’re trying to stay on the show as long as you can for your charity — and your career — and your trying to win all these tasks that have no rules. [Laughing] I can tell you the rules of success; I can’t tell you the rules of “Celebrity Apprentice,” because basically there are none except that a producer comes in and tells you that you should call him “Mr. Trump.” ... I supposed you could say “Hey S--thead,” instead of “Hello Mr. Trump,” but you’d probably be fired. And you can’t put your hands on the table [in the boardroom] or you’ll leave a smudge mark and it will undo all the cheap lights. And this is where you must sit. It’s definitely not scripted, however.
Q. Were you surprised to be fired when you were?
PJ: I had a real motive to be done with the show and go back to Vegas. But I did give them my best.
Q. What was the biggest surprise of the show?
PJ: It’s essentially fair. ... [And] The tasks are really easy. You have to pretend they’re hard. You spend a lot of the time doing busy work, walking from one end of the room to the other. You’re given two, full, 16-hour days during which you have to shoot a 1-minute video of Lou Ferrigno with a mop. [Laughing] How long does that f-----g take? You see people starting out very genteel and very measured and then go full-on nutty by the end of the day. Not because the producers are withholding food; it’s simply the way it works. Of everyone on the show, I enjoyed it the most because I love doing tasks. Look at what Teller and I do. We do things we don’t know how to do. In our live show we do things that no one knows how to do or has done before. When I don’t know how to do something, my heart fills with joy. We work on many of our tricks for three or four years, running down blind alleys and failing until we get it right. The only secret of magic is that I’m willing to work harder on it than you think it’s worth.
Q. Which was more challenging, “Celebrity Apprentice” or “Dancing with the Stars,” which you exited rather early on?
PJ: Neither one of them was very hard. I failed quicker at dancing, but no one on the show danced with more joy than me. They cue you like crazy to constantly say “This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done.” It’s not hard. Me, I’m carny trash. I’ve driven 500 miles to do 20 shows the next day. I’ve been homeless. I’ve done wicked hard things. Show business is a little bit hard. If you’ve ever had a job outside of show business, whether you’ve washed dishes or waited on tables, what you’re doing today is harder than show business. There’s no job in show business that’s hader than any other job outside show business.
Q. Michelle Obama recently said if she could be someone other than first lady, she would love to be Beyonce. If you could be anyone else for a day, whom would it be?
PJ: [Laughing] Well ... after she said Beyonce, the bar is soooo low; let’s pick someone popular so we’ll be more popular. ... I’d like to find out what it’s like to be really good looking. So I’d like to be [George] Clooney at 26 or Brad Pitt at 23. I’d like to experience that. I’d like to know what it’s like to walk down the street as a piece of a--. If I looked like Daniel Craig you could not ask me to put on clothes ever again.