Penn Jillette Biography

(American Magician, Author and One Half of the Magician Duo 'Penn & Teller')

Birthday: March 5, 1955 (Pisces)

Born In: Greenfield, Massachusetts, United States

Penn Jillette is a well-known American magician, actor, television presenter, and author. He became interested in magic early in his life and began his career as a street performer soon after graduating from Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Clown College. His career took a positive turn when at the age of nineteen he met Raymond Joseph Teller. Although they came from a different background, they soon formed a close bond and began holding shows initially with Weir Chriseme; and later without him.  Known simply as ‘Penn & Teller’, the duo has been featured in numerous stage and television shows, including Penn & Teller: Bullshit! and Penn & Teller: Fool Us. A firm believer in atheism, he became an atheist while in school and is currently known for his advocacy of atheism and scientific skeptism. Also an established author, his book, God, No!: Signs You May Already Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales, was a New York Times Best Seller.

Quick Facts

Also Known As: Penn Fraser Jillette

Age: 69 Years, 69 Year Old Males


Spouse/Ex-: Emily Zolten

father: Samuel H. Jillette

mother: Valda R. Jillette

siblings: Valda Jillette Stowe

children: Moxie CrimeFighter Jillette, Zolten Penn Jillette

Born Country: United States

Actors Writers

Height: 1.99 m

Notable Alumni: Ringling Bros. And Barnum & Bailey Clown College

U.S. State: Massachusetts

More Facts

education: Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College

Childhood & Early Life

Penn Fraser Jillette was born on March 5, 1955 in Greenfield, located in the US state of Massachusetts. His father, Samuel Herbert Jillette, was a guard at Greenfield's Franklin County Jail while his mother, Valda Rudolph Jillette (née Parks), was a secretary. He has an elder sister called Valda Jillette Stowe.

Raised in a church-going family, he attended the services regularly. Eventually, he became interested in religion and around the age of sixteen joined a youth group formed by his pastor.

He also read the Bible thoroughly and was shocked when he read that God told Abraham to kill his son. He was also appalled to find that Jesus told his followers to leave their family and follow Him. He found all these “anti-family” and became an atheist.

In spite of turning into an atheist, he was allowed to stay in the group. But after one year, the pastor had to ask him to leave because he found that children were becoming skeptic under Penn’s influence.

Penn also developed an interested in magic; but was disappointed by the fact that many traditional illusionists presented their acts as authentic magic. However, he was enlivened when at the age of eighteen he saw a show by illusionist James Randi, who openly acknowledged deception as entertainment.

In 1973, he graduated from Greenfield High School and joined ‘Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Clown College’ to do a one-year course. Concurrently, he also teamed up with his class friend, to develop and perform juggling acts.

In 1974, he graduated from ‘’Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Clown College. Thereafter, he began performing as a street magician, washing dishes at restaurants to supplement his income.

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In 1974, Penn Jillette’s career received the required boost when he met Raymond Joseph Teller through their mutual friend, Weir Chriseme. Very soon, they formed a three-person act called Asparagus Valley Cultural Society and held their first show at Minnesota Renaissance Festival on August 19, 1975.

All through 1970s, the trio continued to perform at different locations, eventually moving to San Francisco. Their stint at Phoenix Theater broke a house record, playing 965 performances over a period of three years.

Over the time, Chriseme began to feel uncomfortable with his partners’ more outrageous antics. Eventually in 1981, he left the group, leaving Penn Jillette and Raymond Teller to form a new partnership called ‘Penn & Teller’ and work on a new project called Mrs. Lonsberry`s Seance of Horror.

For two years, they survived on college bookings, clubs and festivals. Eventually in 1983, they started crafting their stage show and moved to Los Angeles by 1985. Here they made Penn & Teller Go Public, a half-hour special for PBS television.

Also, in 1985, Penn Jillette appeared in the television series, Miami Vice: The Prodigal Son’ and made his film debut with Savage Island. By June, they were back in New York City, appearing at off Broadway’s Westside Arts Theater with Penn & Teller Go Public, having a 22-month run, thereafter moving to Broadway theatres.

In 1988, while the show was successfully running at the Broadway, Penn joined the band, Bongos, Bass and Bob, playing the bass, recording a few albums, By then, he had also appeared in films like Off Beat (1986), My Chauffeur (1986), Tough Guys Don't Dance (1987), Invisible Thread (1987) and Gandahar (1988).

In 1989, Jillette and Teller starred in Penn & Teller Get Killed, a black comedy film directed by Arthur Penn. Also, in the same year, Jillette published his first book, Cruel Tricks for Dear Friends. It was based on a synonymous direct-to-video tape co-produced with Teller in 1987.

All through 1990s, they took up extensive national tours, in the process earning national acclaim. Concurrently, Jillette continued to appear in films and television shows, sometime by himself and sometimes with Teller. Starting in 1996, he had a recurring role on Sabrina the Teenage Witch.

Continuing to write, he also published Penn and Teller's How to Play with Your Food in 1992 and Penn and Teller's How to Play in Traffic in 1997. Both these books were co-authored with Teller. For a brief time in 1997, he also wrote bi-weekly dispatches for the search engine

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As the new millennium set in, Penn Jillette continued to write and work, hosting Penn & Teller Bullshit. Meanwhile in 2004, he published his first novel, a murder mystery called Socks.

In 2005 he co-produced and co-directed The Aristocrats, a documentary film, with Paul Provenza. Also, in the same year, he published his fifth book, How to cheat your friends at poker: the wisdom of Dickie Richard

From January 3, 2006, to March 2, 2007, he co-hosted a live, hour-long radio talk show called Penn Radio with Michael Goudeau. Also, in 2006-2007, he hosted a primetime game show called Identity on NBC.

Since 2011, Penn Jillette and Teller have been appearing in a magic competition, Penn & Teller: Fool Us’. In this program, magicians have to perform tricks in front of Penn and Teller and their job is to catch the trick. Concurrently he continued to appear in other film and television productions and publish books.

In 2011, he published his sixth book, a best seller entitled God, No!: Signs You May Already Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales. It was followed by Every Day is an Atheist Holiday!: More Magical Tales from the Author of God, No! in 2012.

In 2016, he published his eighth and latest book, Presto!: How I Made Over 100 Pounds Disappear and Other Magical Tales. In the same year, he appeared in his last film, The Grounds, while last television appearance is in Ridiculous (Episode 27, 2019).

Major Work

Pen Jillette is probably best known for co-hosting Penn & Teller Bullshit. It is a documentary television series that was aired from January 24, 2003 to August 12, 2010 on the premium cable channel Showtime and earned several nominations and awards.

Awards & Achievements

In 2004, Jillette co-won the Writers Guild of America Awards in the Best Comedy/Variety TV Series category for his work in Penn & Teller Bullshit. That apart, he also co-won thirteen Primetime Emmy Awards nomination for the same work.

Family & Personal Life

On November 23, 2004, Penn Jillette married television producer, Emily Zolten. The couple has two children, a daughter named Moxie CrimeFighter Jillette (born in 2005) and a son called Zolten Penn Jillette (born in 2006)

Penn Jillette Movies

1. Tim's Vermeer (2013)

  (History, Documentary)

2. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)

  (Drama, Adventure, Comedy)

3. The Aristocrats (2005)

  (Documentary, Comedy)

4. Hackers (1995)

  (Crime, Comedy, Drama, Thriller)

5. Penn & Teller Get Killed (1989)

  (Comedy, Adventure)

6. My Chauffeur (1986)


7. Sandy Wexler (2017)


8. Tough Guys Don't Dance (1987)

  (Thriller, Mystery, Crime, Comedy, Drama)

9. Car 54, Where Are You? (1994)


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