Penn and Teller

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Penn and Teller are Penn Jillette and Raymond Teller; Las Vegas headliners whose act is an amalgam of illusion and comedy. They are hosts of the Showtime network television show Penn and Teller: Bullshit!.

Cato Institute

Penn and Teller are fellows at the Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank based in Washington DC. Penn Jillette is an H.L. Menkin Research Fellow and writes the "Final Word" column for Regulation Magazine. A profile of Penn on the Cato Institute's website describes it as a program that "looks to debunk junk science, scares and scams with reason and logic." [1] Cato has received financial support from the oil industry, tobacco industry, the pharmaceutical industry and Wal-Mart, as well as conservative foundations like the Koch Family Foundations and Scaife Foundations oil fortunes. See also Cato Institute.


Penn and Teller have have lampooned such subjects as global warming, environmentalism, recycling, smoking bans, alcohol bans, twelve step programs, gun control, alternative medicine, organic food, vegetarianism, animal rights, anti-hunting, anti-animal testing, religion and metaphysics, prostitution bans, drug bans (especially marijuana), the death penalty, restrictions on immigration, creationism and government surveillance of citizens. They've defended Wal-Mart, the flat tax, gay marriage, and pornography.[2]


Global warming & environmentalism

An April of 2003 "Environmental Hysteria" episode [3]attempted to "prove the global warming crisis, among other things, was created by the out of control imagination of hysterical hippies and environmentalists." A point-by-point rebuttal was done by Logical Science.[4]

When subsequently challenged at the James Randi Educational Foundation's The Amazing Meeting 6 [5] about their views on global warming, Penn Jillette published a piece in the Los Angeles Times saying "I don't know [6] about climate change" (after labeling it "bullshit").[7]

Animal testing/animal rights issues

An April of 2004 episode was heavily critical of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). According to the synopsis:

"PETA is against all forms of medical testing involving animals - regardless of the potential benefits to human beings... PETA supports banning the ownership of pets and advocates releasing them into the wild... It's enough to make a vegetarian eat meat!"[8]

PETA does not "ban the ownership of pets" or advocate "releasing them into the wild". PETA is actually very clear and concise about their views on vivisection as a danger to human health. Since they (like many animal advocates, health advocates and scientists), consider animal testing to be misleading and dangerous, it cannot have "potential benefits for human beings". They advocate extensively for companion animals as well. See also PETA and animal testing, section 6.

Two corporate front groups also appeared in the episode. The program featured the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise(CDFE)[citation needed] and David Martosko of the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) as a "consumer advocate". CCF and CDFE represent collectively, industries such as oil, tobacco, fast food, alcohol, pharmaceuticals, chemicals and vivisection, etc. Both CCF and Cato receive funding from Phillip Morris, which contracts animal testing to the notoriously abusive Covance Laboratories. Covance and other companies represented by CCF, have been subjects of PETA investigations. See also Richard Berman cares about animals: clients exposed.

Religion & spirituality

Much of their act revolves around its shock value. Episodes have included profanity laced parodies of religion and spirituality. Subjects of derision have included the Dalai Lama, Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa. In May of 2005, the program “Holier than thou”, portrayed Mother Theresa and her Sisters of Charity as “cruel, exploitative, self-serving nun(s) who ripped off the poor.” According to Bill Donohue:

"We are told that Mother Teresa intentionally let the poor suffer, providing neither beds nor bathroom facilities. ‘She had the f—king coin and pissed it away on nunneries,’ says Penn. As for the nuns who worked with Mother Teresa, they are referred to as ‘f—king c—ts." [9]

According to a synopsis of the show:

"Penn and Teller reveal that Mahatma Gandhi was a racist, Mother Teresa a religious zealot who was happy to see the poor suffer, and that the Dalai Lama is not as squeaky clean as he seems." [10]


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