Penn Jillette was well-known for his role in the TV show Penn and Teller. Little did we know, he was an all-around entertainer, writer, your good old jack of all trades.
Penn Jillette was a popular computer magazine columnist in the 1990s for pranking readers and mentioning Uma Thurman randomly. He also helped debunk a conspiracy theory claiming that Microsoft’s Wingdings font contains hidden messages.
Who is Penn Jillette?
Penn Fraser Jillette was born on March 5, 1955, in Greenfield, Massachusetts, to Samuel and Valda Jillette. Jillette was raised in a church-going family but became an atheist in his early years. He was disillusioned with the “anti-family” depictions in the Bible, like when Abraham was asked to kill his son and when Jesus asked his disciples to leave their families to follow him.
Jillette joined the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Clown College after he graduated from Greenfield High School when he was 18. He took up a one-year course in clown college and, upon graduation, started performing magic in the streets. He also washed dishes in restaurants to earn more income to support his street magic acts.
In 1974, Jillette formed the Asparagus Valley Cultural Society act and performed throughout the 70s, concentrating in San Francisco. In 1981, the show changed to Penn and Teller when Chriseme left the group. The duo’s success was clearly defined by the TV series Penn and Teller Bullshit, which aired from 2003 to 2010.
The duo continued with the act, doing tours that helped them gain a national audience. While on the Penn and Teller act, Jillette started appearing in various TV series and movies, Miami Vice in 1985 and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas in 1998, to name a few. Jillette also co-produced and co-directed the 2005 film The Aristocrats.
Jillette also published several books that he co-authored with Teller and wrote his first murder-mystery novel, Socks, in 2004. He has already published his eighth book, Presto!: How I Made Over 100 Pounds Disappear and Other Magical Tales, in 2016. Jillette has won thirteen Primetime Emmy Awards nominations and the Writers Guild of America awards for Best Comedy/Variety show. Jillette is still active in the entertainment industry. (Source: The Famous People)
Jillette As A Tech Columnist
Before computers were even mainstream, Jillette took a plum role on the back page of Ziff-Davis’ PC/Computing magazine. The magazine’s editor, Paul Somerson, assembled a strong lineup of tech writers at this period, including Jillette.
Jillette was already famous at this time and was already an established writer. The reason why Somerson included Jillette in the writers’ lineup was that Jillette stood out as an irreverent voice, thanks to the fact that he knew as much about pop culture as he did about technology, as well as his already-prevalent libertarian streak. Jillette was a back-page eccentric columnist who espoused a hippy mentality—not that he was a hippie, but his attitude stood out as one. And his point of view inevitably led him to write on topics that other columnists would not do so.
In its earlier stages, Jillette was an ardent supporter of the internet, particularly in its anything-goes nature, which he defended vigorously from a libertarian perspective. It was also noted that Jillette sometimes didn’t write about computers or technology entirely, giving problems to his bosses for the magazine. Sometimes he would even write about the actress Uma Thurman, who hadn’t done the Pulp Fiction movie yet. But the public enjoyed the goofball columns Jillette presented. (Source: Tedium)