They defy labels, and at times, good taste. They’ve performed together for 30 years; skewering the genre of magic, their sold-out audiences, and themselves -- very often all at the same time, within one mind-boggling evening.
And along the way, Penn & Teller have made the hardest trick of all – a remarkable career that ranges from stage to television to three best-selling books – look easy. And they’ve done it all on their own, distinctively offbeat terms.
Since first teaming up in 1975, when they combined Teller’s silent, occasionally creepy, magic with Penn’s clown college education and juggling expertise, the two have created an entertainment success story that went from the streets to small clubs to national theater tours, and now to a current, multi-year engagement at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.
By 1985, Penn & Teller were receiving rave reviews for their Off Broadway show and Emmy award-winning PBS special, “Penn & Teller Go Public.” In 1987, they began the first of two successful Broadway runs. Penn & Teller had national tours throughout the 1990s, gaining critical praise from New York to Los Angeles for bringing a fresh slant to an often-tired show business realm.
The first of more than 20 appearances on “Late Night with David Letterman” soon followed, along with appearances on a wide range of television: “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” “Miami Vice,” “Late Night with Conan O’Brien,” “Hollywood Squares,” “The Today Show,” “Saturday Night Live,” “The Drew Carey Show,” “Friends,” “Dharma & Greg,” “Home Improvement,” and one of television’s most honored rolls: animated guests on “The Simpsons.”
They also created their own television projects, including “Penn & Teller’s Sin City Spectacular,” “Penn & Teller’s Home Invasion,” the Showtime movie “Penn & Teller’s Invisible Thread,” and the NBC specials “Don’t Try This at Home” and “Penn & Teller: Off The Deep End.” Penn & Teller made their big screen debut in Penn & Teller Get Killed and were featured in Walt Disney’s Fantasia 2000.
Penn & Teller’s understanding of magic and their ability to relate to audiences has also garnered serious academic attention. They serve as Visiting Scholars at MIT, that school’s highest honor, and have lectured at Oxford University and the Smithsonian Institution. In 2001, they received the Hugh M. Hefner First Amendment Award.
Penn & Teller have written three best-selling books, Cruel Tricks for Dear Friends, How to Play with Your Food, and How to Play in Traffic; and penned pieces in outlets ranging from The New York Times to Playboy.
In 2001, the pair returned to Broadway as guest narrators in the stage adaptation of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
And after three decades together, there are no signs of slowing down. Their latest project, “Penn & Teller: Bullshit!” for the Showtime network, is in its fourth season. The controversial show, which has received 9 Emmy nominations, including three in 2006, and the 2004 WGA award for Outstanding Comedy/Variety Series, tackles the frauds and fakes behind such topics as talking to the dead, alien abductions and feng shui.
Penn & Teller also lend their version of the world’s dirtiest joke to the critically acclaimed documentary, The Aristocrats. The film, produced and co-created by Penn, was released on DVD January 24.
Having conquered every other area of show business, Penn has taken to the airwaves. The Penn Jillette Show debuted in early 2006, airing every afternoon on CBS-owned radio stations across the country.
Penn & Teller appear nightly (except Tuesdays) in Las Vegas at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino.