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Penn & Teller return for first time in 20 years


Oct. 06, 2019

Magic duo have long-running show in Las Vegas.
Penn Jillette, who finished seventh on “Celebrity Apprentice” seven years ago, had a front-row view of Donald Trump in his element.
And he liked him as an entertainer.
“If Trump had stayed in entertainment instead of politics, I’d love him. I find people with no filter fascinating,” said Jillette in a recent interview to promote his first Penn & Teller magic show in Atlanta in 20 years at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre Thursday.
But Jillette, who is openly not a fan of the current administration, was appalled that Trump decided to run for office.
“I thought I was being hyperbolic when I said he was a venal, empty, shameless fool,” Jillette said. “Now that he’s president, he is even worse than I thought. That seems almost supernatural to me.”
Jillette said Trump is truly in a league of his own when it comes to lack of empathy and pure self-centeredness.
“I lived on the streets of America for two years homeless,” Jillette said. “I spent a lot of time in biker clubhouses and with criminals. There are things with Trump I’ve never encountered before: his total lack of shame. No guilt whatsoever. He can lie and not be embarrassed by anything. I’ve never met anyone like that.”
And as an entertainer, he says he finds it strange that Trump is incapable of making a traditional joke. Sure, he can be funny, he said. But it’s more from a perspective of being a bully, by being sarcastic, Jillette said.
“I’ve never seen him laugh in kindness,” he said.
Penn and Teller’s shows do not bring up Trump or politics but are more about their Libertarian-leaning ideas and concepts. Jillette is well-read. Over 45 minutes, he cited the problem-solving axiom “ Occam’s Razor ” (giving preference to the simpler of two competing theories), quoted jazz artist Thelonious Monk ( “A genius is most like himself” ) and raved about Bob Dylan, his favorite, most inspiring musician.
And he and his colleague Teller have made a career out of being magicians who aren’t like other magicians.
Their act eschews pretty girl props, ridiculous outfits and grandiose music. Often, they mock those strictures. They are also direct with the audience that they are doing mind and visual tricks, that it’s not some supernatural “magic.”
“I believe the nobility of magic lies in the honesty,” Jillette said. “There are others who take a different point of view. He’s a friend of mine, but I disagree strongly with David Blaine. He thinks the purpose of magic is for people to leave believing things you know aren’t true. I find that appalling.”
They enjoy having a home for their antics at the Rio Hotel and Casino since 2001, the longest-running show in Las Vegas. They only hit the road a few times a year since they do 250 shows a year in Vegas. That’s why they haven’t been to Atlanta for so long.
At age 64, five years since he began a strict vegan diet, Jillette has lost and kept off 110 pounds. He said he feels more creative and healthy than ever.
“We are writing more and faster and more aggressively and crazier than we have our whole lives,” Jillette said. “I’ve always been perplexed by those who get into show business to get out of it. They are happy with a certain amount of success and play golf. All I ever want to do is come up with ideas and put them on stage.”
He said he used to not believe the brain and body were one, especially when he was overweight and ate a standard burger/pizza/hot dog diet. Once he lost the weight on the new diet, he realized that he was happier, and his mind was clearer.
“Changing your physical self,” he said, “will change your mental self.”
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Penn & Teller
8 p.m. Thursday
Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, 2800 Cobb Galleria Parkway, Atlanta
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