Marked for his stark contrast to his partner, Teller, Penn Jillette’s towering appearance and personality gets him noticed and heard. Many also know him as a famous comedian and magician who bellows skepticism through his deep raspy voice. Jillette is definitely known as not one to be bottled up or to bottle up, but there are other facets of his life that some may not know about.
Penn Jillette was born in Greenfield Massachusetts on March 5, 1955 to middle aged parents Valda and Samuel Jillette. Fast forward to the transformative age of 16, Jillette’s curiosity about the Bible led him to read it thoroughly from cover to cover, however after reading it his revelations perturbed his spirit. Jillette’s desire to fully comprehend the messages from the Bible, and quell the contradictions jarring his mind caused him to question the seeming contradictions of the Bible. The outcome as he relayed to his pastor was that he would lay down the schisms of religion and become an atheist. Although Jillette continued to go to church after his pronouncement, his bravado to want to know why things happened the way they did swayed other teenagers within his youth group. As a result, his pastor confronted his parents and excommunicated him. Jillette felt no shame and used that moment in time to give him the courage to openly proclaim himself as an atheist.
He became further disillusioned by traditional illusionists who sold magic as deceptively real, and two years later after witnessing a performance by James Randi, Jillette was mesmerized. His interest was ignited by Randi’s openness in revealing the pretense of magic through his act. Jillette began honing his skills as a magician with his classmate, Michael Moschen and performed as a juggler after graduating high school. Later in 1974, he graduated from the Ringly Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Clown College. Shortly after, he was introduced to Teller, and in 1981 the two of them became partners and formed the Penn and Teller Show which was featured on Broadway, and they also toured nationwide.
In 1988, Jillette played the bongos in a short lived group called Bongos, Bass, and Bob with Dean J. Seal and Rob “Bob” Elk. During 1990-1994, he became a contributor to PC/Computing magazine. Since then, he has appeared in appeared in a number of shows like "Sabrina the Teenage Witch". In 2003, Jillette also produced and hosted a show on Showtime called the “Penn and Teller: Bullshit!”. Jillette later co-produced "The Aristocrat" in 2005.
In 2012, he appeared as a contestant on the first season of "The Celebrity Apprentice" and then later participated in an all-star edition of the show the following year. During both seasons, Jillette had raised over $700,000 for the Las Vegas based charity, Opportunity Village. Despite his impressive resume, his biggest achievement to date is revealed through his book, "Presto" where he candidly weighs in on how he lost over 100 pounds just before his sixtieth birthday. This life changing decision happened after his 2014 scare of high blood pressure which confined him to a hospital room.
His Political Views
Given Penn Jillette's free spirited nature, it should come as no surprise that he is libertarian. Libertarians advocate peace, free will, individualism and oppressive rule of government. That is to say, as long as individuals are not exerting force on others they should be free to do as they please. Libertarians believe in limited government since governments by their nature can become corrupt.
Discussing his political views during an interview with the Libertarianism.org, Jillette says, "I often say that I'm probably leaning closer to anarcho-capitalist. In every problem you come up with, I would like to have one of the first questions to be, 'Is it possible that we can solve this with more freedom instead of less? Is that possible?'"
Jillette, in recent times, has been extremely vocal about his support for Gary Johnson, the 2016 Libertarian Party nominee for President of the United States. In his view, the other prominent party nominees, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, are both unworthy to serve in the highest office in the country.
He believes that Johnson’s mantra is not to instill fear in the masses. According to Jillette, despite Trump’s openness, Trump does not have a deep conviction of right or wrong. In describing Clinton, Jillette believes she’s even more dangerous than Trump. Jillette wants a candidate who epitomizes how he has strived to live his life, one of authenticity and says that we should be working together in harmony for the greater good of mankind.
The Bottom Line
Penn Jillette considers himself to be a regular American citizen who believes that other law abiding citizens should be given as much freedom as possible to live the lives that they would like to live. He has had a successful career as an entertainer and is a strong advocate for the Libertarian Party and libertarian issues.