Penn Jillette: Daughter, Wife, Education, The Aristocrats

On March 5, 1955, Penn Fraser Jillette was born. He is not only an American magician and actor, but also a singer, inventor, television host, and author. He is best known for his work as half of the Penn & Teller combination with fellow magician Teller. Penn & Teller: Fool Us and Penn & Teller: Bullshit! are among the many stages and television performances in which the duo has appeared, and they are now headlining at The Rio in Las Vegas. Jillette is the orator and raconteur for the show.

Jillette is the author of eight books, including God, No Signs! You May Already Be an Atheist and Other Magical Tales, which was a New York Times Bestseller. He is also recognized for his support for atheism, scientific skepticism, and the First Amendment, as well as identifying as a Libertarian and supporting free-market capitalism in the past.

Daughter and Wife

Jillette and Emily Jillette have two children, Zolten and Moxie CrimeFighter. Jillette’s crimson fingernail on his left hand has sparked speculation. There are three popular answers from Penn & Teller’s official website’s FAQ: It indicates he once shot a man for interrogating him about his personal life. Jillette’s mother advised him to get a manicure when he first started performing since people would be gazing at his hands. As a joke, he got all of his nails painted red in response. In honor of his mother, he has one surviving red fingernail. The red fingernail is cool and gives excellent misdirection. 

Penn has claimed, in response to concerns about his red fingernail, “My fingernail has gotten a lot of attention. Wear my mother’s nail polish and my father’s ring. Just as a mark of respect and remembering.” Essie’s Jelly Apple Red (#054) is the exact color he uses. Jillette claimed on the Skepticality podcast in 2012 that he was thinking about changing the meaning of the red nail polish and telling his daughter it was for her. He told the story of his mother proposing he get a manicure for the reasons described above during his participation in Chopped Tournament of Stars (2014), and he said he kept it out of respect for her. 


During the years following their 1973 graduation, Jillette collaborated with high school classmate Michael Moschen on devising and performing a juggling performance. Jillette earned her bachelor’s degree from Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Clown College in 1973. Weir Chrisemer, a mutual friend, introduced him to Teller in 1974. The three then established the Asparagus Valley Cultural Society, a three-person show that performed in Amherst and San Francisco. He and Teller formed Penn & Teller in 1981 and went on to perform a successful Off Broadway and subsequently Broadway stage play called “Penn & Teller,” which toured the country. 

The Aristocrats

The Aristocrats is a 2005 documentary comedy film on the famous dirty joke of the same name. Penn Jillette, Paul Provenza, and Peter Adam Golden created and produced the film, which was edited by Emery Emery. “The Aristocrats” is a long-running transgressive joke among comedians, with virtually always the same setup and punchline (or similar). The middle of the joke – which may be as lengthy as the person telling it wants it to be and is frequently completely improvised – makes or breaks a specific rendition. A person pitches an act to a talent agent in the joke. “A man enters into a talent agent’s office,” is usually the first line. The man then proceeds to detail the act. The video itself is made up of candid conversations with a variety of comedians and performers. The interviewees give their own versions of the joke as well as reminisce about their own experiences with it, its place in comic history, and even analyse the reasoning behind its attraction. The Aristocrats joke was never told in front of an audience as part of the comedian’s stand-up routine. Instead, it was an internal joke among comedians, who used it as a means of competing to see who could tell the funniest and most outlandish version. 

Career Journey

Jillette was in the band Bongos, Bass, and Bob in 1988, during the run of the off-Broadway success. He played bass, with Dean J. Seal on bongos and Rob “Bob” Elk on guitar (Running Elk). After the band broke up owing to Jillette’s movie commitments, the latter two formed the a cappella comedic combo Mr. Elk and Mr. Seal. They recorded Never Mind the Sex Pistols, Here’s Bongos Bass, and Bob (What on Earth Were They Thinking?) with Kramer at Noise New York. It was released to little fanfare, save for a mention in Spin Magazine, but it was immortalized by a claymation video for the single “Oral Hygiene.” In 1983, Jillette was the host and presenter of avant-garde band the Residents’ first touring performance.

Jillette came out between songs to give long and purposefully meaningless anecdotes (the performance was titled The Mole Show and was based on their “Mole trilogy” of albums). The show was staged to appear to fall apart as it progressed; Jillette pretended to become increasingly enraged with the audience, while lighting effects and music became increasingly chaotic, all leading up to his being dragged off stage and returned, handcuffed to a wheelchair, to deliver his final monologue. An audience member assaulted Jillette while he was handcuffed to his wheelchair during one performance. Later in life, Jillette would appear in two documentaries on the Residents. Jillette’s book God, No! Signs You May Already Be An Atheist and Other Magical Tales was released on August 16, 2011, and quickly rose to the 14th position on the New York Times Best Sellers list the following week, in the week of August 28.

Jillette was a participant on Season 5 of The Celebrity Apprentice, which premiered on February 19, 2012. During the Week 11 episode, Donald Trump booted him off the show. He also began the podcast Penn’s Sunday School with Michael Goudeau on February 19, 2012. 

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