& Fortune: Magician Penn Jillette
Business keeps changing, and that's
a good thing
Every year, Penn Jillette -- the talkative half of
Penn & Teller -- takes more and more surprising career turns.
He and his partner of 30 years, Teller, currently have a long-running
Vegas stage show, and an Emmy-nominated program on Showtime that
debunks many long-held myths.
But on his own, Jillette has branched into some interesting
areas. In the past few years he has written several books, including
one that advises readers how to cheat their friends at poker, and
he recently took on a disc jockey role, on a one-hour radio show,
for CBS Radio's FREE FM.
But his highest-profile project has been his collaboration
with comedian Paul Provenza on a film called "The Aristocrats,"
in which more than 100 of the country's top comedians tell their
version of one of the world's filthiest jokes. The film is a hysterical,
critically lauded success, even creating a minor controversy for
comments comedian Sarah Silverman made regarding old time TV talk
show host Joe Franklin. But as with all of film's content, if you're
taking it seriously enough to allow it to offend you, you're missing
Bankrate spoke to Jillette about the new DVD of "The
Aristocrats," which hits stores today, and how the entertainment
business is changing for the better.
Bankrate: What special
features can we expect on "The Aristocrats" DVD?
Penn Jillette: "The
Aristocrats" is insane, because the movie itself was an hour
and a half, and the extra features are two hours. So there is more
on the DVD extras than there was on the original. We could have
easily filled a two-DVD set, but the marketing people didn't think
that was wise.
Bankrate: What's on
Penn Jillette: If you
see the movie, "The Aristocrats," as a novel, the DVD
is a short story about each of the characters. If you were at a
cocktail party and you moved from person to person to hear a joke
or two, and then the next day you had lunch with these people, that's
what the DVD is. Instead of just seeing a glimpse of the comic,
you get to really spend some time with them. If you had to judge
"The Aristocrats" in history, you'd want to judge the
Bankrate: Did you finance
the film yourself?
Penn Jillette: Yes.
You can talk about "The Aristocrats" in terms of comedy,
show business, content, but I believe the biggest breakthrough of
"The Aristocrats" is technological. This is the second
best movie of the year on The New York Times list, and it was done
without any studio involvement whatsoever, zero. It was not rated
by the MPAA. I'm not saying every person in the country can come
up with enough money to buy two midrange DV cameras, a Macintosh
and a Final Cut Pro -- I don't want to be the way Hollywood is and
act like, "Why doesn't everybody have a chauffeur?" But
at the same, when your budget can be $50,000 instead of $5 million,
you made a big change in what that art form is. The fact that "The
Aristocrats" was done as cheaply as it was is a huge breakthrough