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Episode 130: Nerdist Podcast
Penn & Teller
Nerdist PodcastNerdist Podcast

Nerdist Podcast #130: PENN & TELLER

Okay! It’s really a solo Penn Jillette show. But I knew Teller wouldn’t talk anyway so I just listed it as “Penn & Teller”. Thought that would be clever and amusing. As I’m typing it, I can see now that I was wrong. Too lazy to delete it all and start over though, despite the fact that it would actually take me less time to do that than to explain and disclaim it. I’m weird! I’m a crazypants! Cock-a-doodle-SQUEEEEEE!!!

All squeeing aside, Penn was a truly wonderful guest. We talked about the space program, song poems, bowling, his new show on Discovery “Penn & Teller Tell A Lie“, PLUS we got the full little person/chimp story that I referenced to Adam Savage on Nerdist Podcast #10. This episode is like a suitcase full of steak! PACKED and MEATY. Also delicious. #goodtimes


  • Chris,

    Hey love the podcast; i just wanted to say that the Fat Elvis from Bally’s (It’s now called Bill’s) has lost like 500 lbs. he still preforms there, but now he wears some extra fluff under his Elvis suit. I know this because my father in law is an employee of Bally’s (a long time employee) and knows fat Elvis very well…


  • Just finished listening and I had enjoyed the conversation about today’s sadistic, realistic culture. Frank discussions such as those are why I keep listening.

    Being a member of the current generation/problem, I have noticed when studying every piece of news and person, I pay more attention to the negative aspects of life. And I do find that regardless if its positive or otherwise, people hear what they want to hear. I shun positve things because I think it’s bullshit. But I’m disciplining myself to say that there is a yang for every ying (So to speak).

    In my opinion, our culture of irony & deprivation is caused by our mediums. Im not saying TV or the internet is bad for you. Im saying that we have the ability to create content by ourselves. With no restraints, we can say just how we feel about life and not have it watered down by Federal Communications. The messages spread throughout the world are messages of haste, angst and intolerance. Because when you think about it, and you have time and time again, the people on the internet have almost nothing to live for except shitting on people even the slightest bit more prosperous than they are.

    The youths like me are another thing. I don’t know what much to expect out of life outside of all the comedy I’ve seen. Especially marraige. Think about that now. We’ve laughed at aids, rape and pedophilia for merley a few years now, but we’ve been hysterical about marriage since the earliest of playwrights. The Honeymooners was the very first glimpse as to how our mediums connect with the audience. It was a show about a loser. People ate that up, even today. Now with internet, nobody says “To the moon!” any more. It’s a slightly more subtle “Bitch, STFU and get my fried chicken!”

    When it comes down to it, we need to open the door and look at life. It’s what we make of it. TV, films and internet are good if you want to get something off your chest. The media is therapy; not a guide to life.

    (Sorry for the super long quement)

  • author

    J-Rod: I know! It’s baffling. We didn’t talk about anything negative or controversial. It was a very sweet, pleasant convo that ironically touched lightly on how needlessly negative people can be. A lot of people didn’t even listen before they judged it. They are poor examples of human beings. Yay, Internet!!!

  • Phenomenal podcast. I love Penn’s positivity and enthusiasm. Also I hereby nominate “Blue Atoms” to open the next Fallout game.

  • Loved this podcast. Amazing how you constantly get my favorite people to appear on the show.

    The only thing that would have made this podcast better would have been if you actually did have Teller there. I’ve actually heard him speak (via live streaming video of a James Randi Skeptics Convention panel) and after getting over the initial shock of him talking, found him to be a wonderfully intelligent, soft-spoken, individual.

  • I’m really not trying to be negative, and I’m a big fan of you guys, so I’m not just an asshole who wants to be nasty. But this podcast was the first time I’ve been offended by anything you guys have posted.

    I was actually enjoying it and thinking that he was pretty cool..until the monkey story. He’d rather risk having to stab an animal to death for simply following its instrinsic instincts, rather than uninviting a guest from his party? That’s pretty fucking disgusting behaviour. And God forbid he should smoke or drink himself but he thinks it’s hilarious to make the monkey do so?

    Animal abuse isn’t entertaining in the least to me, and I’m kind of disappointed that you guys felt it was such an awesome story that it should be highlighted on the podcast. There are lots of people who would probably tell me I’m taking it too seriously, but the fact is that the monkey has been trained to accept behaviours which are damaging to its health, and it has no power to question them. That’s abuse. And the bottom line is that he was willing to kill it for simply being a monkey instead of saying “maybe we should just uninvite Arturo this one time”.

    But that being said I’m still a fan of you guys, will continue to listen to the podcasts and still wish you ridiculous amounts of success. I definitely won’t be supporting anything Penn does.

  • Made me laugh, made me think, didn’t make me roll my eyes. Relax, the chimp didn’t get stabbed. Great episode people. Taking over the internet one giant atheist at a time.

  • I’m surprised, given Matt’s NASA adventure this summer, that you didn’t talk about the chapter in “Penn & Teller’s How to Play in Traffic” about NASA’s comic timing.

    It’s a great description of how Penn got to see a shuttle launch and how amazing it all was, and then the sound hits you. It’s an experience so profound that it brought tears to everyone’s eyes.

    I’ve seen 20+ launches from on and near the space center grounds but I finally got to see Atlantis launch from the VIP area in January 98 . It was a calm, windless night launch (read the book for a great description of what that’s like) & it was so loud the sound waves made breezy ripples in the jacket & shirt I was wearing. The head of the Russian astronaut training program was pointed out to me & he had wet eyes too.

    NASA – the best concert experience around.

    BTW Matt – the steam you see rising in the first seconds of the launch is for sound suppression, not for fire or temperature. If the energy of the sound wasn’t absorbed by the conversion of the water into steam, the launch pad would be -shaken apart- by the sound.

  • @Chris Hardwick

    SLOW DOWN!!! (Ha ha) You’re putting out so many podcasts so fast, that I can’t keep up. I’m still working on listening to some of the older ones too. I’m starting to think you’re a lesser paid Ryan Seacrest. #FirstWorldProblems

  • Great podcast. I would have loved to hear Penn talk about The Captain Howdy (his band with Kramer, ex-Bongwater), but just hearing the Arturo vs. the monkey story was priceless.

  • Penn has to be one of the greatest humans to ever live. Seriously.

    The episode has got to be one of the best, as well. Hell, even the one or two bad comments I read were just so perfectly fucktarded, that it improved the overall impact of this episode.

    Thank you for so much free entertainment (more specifically, free entertainment with such amazing quality), I really hope you can get him on again, maybe with Teller this time as well.

  • The Penn & Teller (haha) episode is by a wide margin my favorite Nerdist episode. Because I’m aware of his political positions and generally used that as a basis for disliking the man personally. He single handedly turned me around with his warmth, his obvious love of life and of his friends and his openness to new experiences. Long Live Penn (unless he leaves his car on again) , and Long Live the Nerdist podcast.

    Keep bringing it like you have been and you have a subscribed for the life of the Podcast sirs, wonderful job all around!


  • Not to sure about this podcast, Tellar has always freaked me out since i was a kid (30+ years ago!), I’m betting he’s not so great on radio, or a podcast. Penn is entertaining enough though, so I’ll give it a go.


  • Best Nerdist Podcast ever – and there’ve been some greats along the way. I have to thank you guys for keeping me sane. I have a hideous work commute and you guys keep me from driving my car off the road just to liven things up a bit. This podcast is often funny, informative, entertaining, heartwarming, optimistic and unpredictable. Even when I have no idea who the guest is, by the end of the episode I am usually a huge fan of their work.

    On a side note, I drive a convertible and often have to turn off the podcast at stop lights – the language is definitely not appropriate for all audiences. I’ve gotten some funny looks from pedestrians!

  • It’s 3am and I just finished this episode and had to come here and say that this was an example of when a conversation can turn into something magical. The Michael Moschen story gave me goosebumps. I was as enthralled in this discussion as I am listening to Neal Gaiman read. So glad it was captured and shared.

  • I had a real problem with the general principal of Penn’s statement on Cynicism being intrinsically bad. Although I’d agree with the idea that blind cynicism isn’t the best life philosophy I think the opposite of blind optimism is as if not more harmful. The world is a place that invites cynicism. This idea of cynicism and also intelligence being bad is pervasive in our culture and is part of the anti intellectualism which is kind of the opposite of what The Nerdist seemed like it was about. Also Discounting Irony as a valid form of expression is insane, just because something is sincere doesn’t make good. I’m a huge fan of the podcast but I was troubled by this one.

  • Love how he threw in his little anti-Jimmy Carter comments. Yeah Penn, GOP 4-eva! Next year we get our country back (for the big banks). I know, I know, he’s “independent.” I’d put money him voting more for Republicans than Democrats though. He’s been a libertarian/independent for a long time now, but why is it that more and more Republicans are calling themselves independents these days? Ashamed? If I had a nickel for every time a habitual GOP voter said “no, I’m an independent” I’d… well, I’d be so rich I’d probably vote Republican.

  • In the same podcast, he also talks about he finds it astounding that someone could “love” Richard Nixon….

    People are nuanced. Just because he made a crack at Jimmy Carter doesn’t mean he’s a secret Republican. Further, from what I could gather, he never said he disliked Carter. He was essentially commenting on how the majority of America thought of Carter, which is of a kind of useless president. He never even claimed he agreed with that sentiment. You’re reading a lot into a few little comments.

  • Like I said, he’s been a libertarian for a long time. I actually give him credit for being an actual libertarian and wouldn’t include him in the group I was describing in the second half of my post.

    The problem is these days that label (libertarian) has been hijacked by people who support the Tea Party, or politicians who seek support or votes from the Tea Party. Libertarian is often used to mean either just an extreme Republican, or someone laser focused on economic freedom but couldn’t give a damn about actual liberty for people when it comes to social issues. Independent is a label often self-applied by Republicans who are intelligent enough to see people’s perception of the GOP and don’t want to be associated with rich white guys or rednecks.

  • Like I said, he’s been a libertarian for a long time. I actually give him credit for being an actual libertarian and wouldn’t include him in the group I was describing in the second half of my post.

    The problem is these days that label (libertarian) has been hijacked by people who support the Tea Party, or politicians who seek support or votes from the Tea Party. Libertarian is often used to mean either just an extreme Republican, or someone laser focused on economic freedom but couldn’t give a damn about actual liberty for people when it comes to social issues. Independent is a label often self-applied by Republicans who see people’s perception of the GOP and don’t want to be associated with rich white guys or rednecks.

  • I remember the first time I saw Penn & Teller on SNL back in high school – they did the old cut-and-restored rope trick, but with a live snake – and they left out the restoring part, and just cut to commercial with the bleeding loops of cut up snake in their hands. So awesome. Animal rights people completely lost it of course. (OBVIOUSLY IT WAS A TRICK). I was an instant fan, and finally had the chance to see them live in Vegas a couple years ago, and it was one of the best shows I’ve seen. It was funny in parts, mind-boggling in others, but what struck me was a couple illusions they did that were just beautiful – artistic, poetic, with layers of meaning… they change their show often, so I have no idea what it’s like now, but it was amazing. And, they both came out afterward, signed books, took pictures, chatted with fans, and were super nice and engaging.

    Anyway, all that to say, I’m a big fan – I don’t agree with everything Penn says, but he’s smart, thoughtful, talented, and not afraid to state his opinion, which I respect – and this was an AMAZING episode. I grinned for an hour an 20 minutes. I hope you can have him back on, I’d love to hear about his early days in the Renaissance Festival. And Zombies! Don’t you know what his fav movie is? How did this not come up?!

  • Lovely podcast, but as always not recommended for listening to on public transport – subway passengers REALLY hate unbridled laughter during their morning commutes for some reason :/

    Anyway, any chance the fine folks at Nerdist Industries could convince Teller to break character long enough to actually do a podcast? I know he used to talk to fans during the intermission when Penn & Teller were touring, and Teller was very knowledgeable and engaging when it came to discussing comic books and the creators on those books. That sort of enthusiasm for things geek doesn’t often exist in isolation.

    Thanks, guys.

  • Penn is now my hero for hipping people to Song-Poem.Being a S-P fanatic/collector who feels everyone NEEDS to experience the Real People joy of S-P even though it means I’ll probably have a harder time winning S-P records on E-BAY!……KALIBAHLU