Penn Jillette Branches Out, Close to Roots

Aristocratic Friend

Penn Jillette’s Advice: Make Sure Your Manager is Filthy Rich

Disclosure: We think Penn Jillette is funny, smart, and entertaining. If you
don’t think the same way, that’s alright. That’s America. If you do, that’s okay
too that means we’ll soon have a better America where everyone thinks like
us.

BankRate .Com interviews Penn Jillette in their latest on-line edition. He
talks about his love of Magic, performing, creating, entertaining, and poker. He
does not profess or exhibit a love of money in his interview and thereby remains
true to the magician we love (along with Teller).

Most recently, he has released a wonderful book titled “How to Cheat Your
Friends at Poker.” You can read our review later on Quinlan’s Inside Magic. He
also embarked on an additional career as radio broadcaster for CBS.

We gave a glowing (and flowing) review of his outstanding film The
Aristocrats
where top comedians gave their rendition of a bawdy, rude joke.
BankRate .Com notes comedian Sarah Silverman caused a stir over her iteration in
which she claims Joe Franklin acted in an improper but funny manner with (or
near) her.

If you didn’t have a chance to see The Aristocrats at the theaters – or you
didn’t want to be seen walking into the theater to view an NC-17 rated film –
you’ll have a chance to watch in the comfort and privacy of your own multi-media
room soon. The DVD version is due out soon.

Those who saw the theater version, recall the invitation to submit their own
twist on the twisted joke.

The response was apparently overwhelming and Mr.
Jillette says the new release could have overwhelmed purchasers. “The
Aristocrats” is insane, because the movie itself was an hour and a half, and the
extra features are two hours.”

Mr. Jillette is right to be excited by the response to his movie.

“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 in film.”

Bankrate: Was $50,000 what it was done for?

Penn Jillette: Really hard to say. No one knows. It was my
money, and I wasn’t paying attention. – advertisement –

Bankrate: But it was in that ballpark?

Penn Jillette: Yeah. And, huge amounts of money were spent
to clean up the sound and the video and make it so it could be released without
embarrassment. But I’m not counting that. I’m just saying, what it took to sell
it to Sundance was five digits. And it doesn’t matter whether it was $90,000 or
$20,000, five digits is the important number there….

Aristocratic Friend

Penn Jillette’s Advice: Make Sure Your Manager is Filthy Rich

Disclosure: We think Penn Jillette is funny, smart, and entertaining. If you
don’t think the same way, that’s alright. That’s America. If you do, that’s okay
too that means we’ll soon have a better America where everyone thinks like
us.

BankRate .Com interviews Penn Jillette in their latest on-line edition. He
talks about his love of Magic, performing, creating, entertaining, and poker. He
does not profess or exhibit a love of money in his interview and thereby remains
true to the magician we love (along with Teller).

Most recently, he has released a wonderful book titled “How to Cheat Your
Friends at Poker.” You can read our review later on Quinlan’s Inside Magic. He
also embarked on an additional career as radio broadcaster for CBS.

We gave a glowing (and flowing) review of his outstanding film The
Aristocrats
where top comedians gave their rendition of a bawdy, rude joke.
BankRate .Com notes comedian Sarah Silverman caused a stir over her iteration in
which she claims Joe Franklin acted in an improper but funny manner with (or
near) her.

If you didn’t have a chance to see The Aristocrats at the theaters – or you
didn’t want to be seen walking into the theater to view an NC-17 rated film –
you’ll have a chance to watch in the comfort and privacy of your own multi-media
room soon. The DVD version is due out soon.

Those who saw the theater version, recall the invitation to submit their own
twist on the twisted joke.

The response was apparently overwhelming and Mr.
Jillette says the new release could have overwhelmed purchasers. “The
Aristocrats” is insane, because the movie itself was an hour and a half, and the
extra features are two hours.”

Mr. Jillette is right to be excited by the response to his movie.

“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 in film.”

Bankrate: Was $50,000 what it was done for?

Penn Jillette: Really hard to say. No one knows. It was my
money, and I wasn’t paying attention. – advertisement –

Bankrate: But it was in that ballpark?

Penn Jillette: Yeah. And, huge amounts of money were spent
to clean up the sound and the video and make it so it could be released without
embarrassment. But I’m not counting that. I’m just saying, what it took to sell
it to Sundance was five digits. And it doesn’t matter whether it was $90,000 or
$20,000, five digits is the important number there. For a Nobel Prize, you only
need the right number of zeros.

Bankrate: You have so much going on: books, a TV show, DVDs,
a radio show, CDs. Is thinking up new avenues of business half the fun for
you?

Penn Jillette: You know, I never think in terms of venue.
We’ve played Broadway twice, and people would say, “Is playing Broadway some
sort of dream come true?” I would always say that I don’t understand the
question. How can you have a goal be a venue?

When someone says to me, “When I
was a kid, I always wanted to be in movies,” I just go, “You didn’t care what
movie it was? Would you be proud of being in ‘King Kong’? Or would you wanna be
in ‘Being John Malkovich’?” I loved our show, “The Penn and Teller Show,” and I
was thrilled to go to Broadway, but if you would have said to me, “Penn, you can
make the same amount of money, be the same level of star and get the same
critical acclaim, and we’re gonna even the playing field every way we possibly
can, but it’s not this show,” I would have no interest at all. I had no desire
whatsoever to make a movie.

We got the idea for “The Aristocrats,” and it was a
beautiful idea, so we did it. I get an idea for what I want to do, then try to
find the venue that it fits into best, and sometimes I have to push and shove.

I
guess you can say that on “The Aristocrats,” I was pretty aware that the right
venue was the DVD, but I understood that in the business plan, putting out a
movie theatrically has now become the advertising for the DVD.

Bankrate: It’s amazing how the business has changed that
way.

Penn Jillette: Yeah, it’s beautiful. It’s great. And it’s
amazing how the business will keep changing, that’s what’s so good.

Bankrate: Considering all you do, is any one thing your main
thing?

Penn Jillette: I’d say “The Penn & Teller Show.” That’s
what I do.

Bankrate: So even with everything else, that’s still the
bread and butter?

Penn Jillette: In terms of money, I don’t know. But in terms
of my life, yeah. “Bread and butter” has a mercantile feel to it, that’s where
you really make your money, but my life is “The Penn & Teller Show.”

It’s
stronger than bread and butter. In other words, if “The Penn & Teller Show”
starting making me a quarter of what it does now, and the radio show started
making 10 times what it does now, I don’t think I would stop the live show
because there’s more money to be made in radio.

It’s what I’ve been doing since
I was juggling in talent shows when I was 15. It’s what I do. I’m a talker and
I’m a juggler.

Bankrate: So out of all the areas of business you have, is
any one your “bread and butter?”

Penn Jillette: If you’re talking about where you make your
money, I’ll ask you a question about where you make money. What is the Rolling
Stones’ job? What do they do for a living?

Bankrate: At this point? Tour?

Penn Jillette: No, what do they do for a living — where’s
the money comes from? They make no money touring.

Bankrate: Music publishing?

Penn Jillette: No. There’s very little money in
publishing.

Bankrate: Then you’ve got me. I’m stumped.

Penn Jillette: T-shirt sales. What the Rolling Stones do for
a living is T-shirt sales. It’s very important in any business negotiation to
know what business you’re really in. If you look at my money and break it all
down, take [our show on Showtime] and the radio show and the books and “The
Aristocrats,” and you look over the past five years, what I do for a living is,
I am a Las Vegas entertainer. And I’m real proud of that. There are very few
people in show business who can say what they do for a living is actually do
shows. One of the things happening with the recording industry is that live
performance is a more and more viable way to make a living. If you have a show
that people can only see live, if you can’t see “Penn & Teller”
electronically, then you’re really safe, because the distribution of live shows
hasn’t really changed too much in a thousand years, whereas the distribution of
music over the past 100 years undergoes a pretty big change periodically —
lately a huge revolution every five years.

Bankrate: When people talk about technology, it’s often said
that you can never really substitute for the human experience, that visceral
experience.

Penn Jillette: Because no one’s trying to. That’s the funny
thing — it’s a straw-man argument. People who are doing fabulous technology are
not saying, what we have to do is get rid of that pesky live stuff. Old
technology never really goes away, and that’s why technology is 100 percent
good. There are still people riding horses. We didn’t lose any of the good of
horse and buggy. We kept all of that. I am someone who believes the bigger the
population, and the more technology, the better we do. The 300 millionth human
being will be in the U.S. soon, and that is nothing but good, because back when
the population was in the single-digit millions, if you wanted to have a life in
show business you had to please 1 percent of the population, maybe even a little
higher. Now, you can please two-tenths of 1 percent of the population and have
an incredibly successful career in show biz. In fact, you can please 0.001
percent of the population, and have a very successful, upper-middle-class
life.

Bankrate: How do you prefer to invest — real estate,
stocks, something else?

Penn Jillette: With my business manager, I am the one who
spends the least money. I don’t play the stock market at all, I am as
conservative as you can possibly be. I will only invest in myself. My business
manager has been told, “Imagine I’m a Midwest school marm. Make everything as
safe as possible.” I don’t want my daughter to lack for anything because I was
trying to make money off Microsoft. I’m a libertarian, which means as far right
as you can go on money, and as far left as you can go on sex.

Bankrate: So are you in money markets or …

Penn Jillette: I don’t even know. I have a business manager
who’s very rich and who has clients who are richer than me, which is the most
important thing you can do. Make sure your business manager is filthy rich,
because then he won’t steal from you. And, make sure he has clients richer than
you so he has another choice.

Check out the full
interview here
.

     

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