Penn Jillette on ‘The Celebrity Apprentice’

The vocal half of Penn and Teller tells us about the new season of NBC's returning reality show and other BS...

Fred Topelby Fred Topel

NBC announced the new cast for The Celebrity Apprentice with four of them in a conference call with the media. When I buzzed in to ask Penn Jillette some questions, of course he took all the articulate time he could answering them. Even though "Penn and Teller’s Bullsh*t" is gone, Jillette exposed the bullsh*t of reality TV and Donald Trump himself.


Crave Online: You’re a very politically outspoken person. What was it like working with Mr. Trump?

Penn Jillette: We don’t really work with Mr. Trump. Trump just kind of sits and pontificates and you listen to him. There wasn’t really any political discussion with Trump, although I don’t think even outside of the game there’s any real political discussion with Trump. It didn’t really come up because it’s a very odd artificial situation. There really isn’t any conversation that takes place. Although I think that Donald Trump and I disagree a lot on politics, it really wasn’t the forum for that to come up.

Crave Online: We’re disappointed that 'Bullsh*t' is not coming back. What are you going to do about all the other bullsh*t in the world?

Penn Jillette: Well, that was the thing. We stopped it because we got rid of all the bullsh*t in the world. Are you saying that people are still lying somewhere? Because we may need to start it up again.

Crave Online: Is reality TV a topic you would have liked to cover on Bullh*t?

Penn Jillette: Reality TV was a topic that I brought up every year of the eight years to do. The problem is that everybody’s signing these heavy nondisclosure agreements and everybody is copywriting all the material and the contracts are so sophisticated that you have to pretty much go back to the Loud family on PBS in 1971 to get any footage that’s available.

So we couldn’t do a show because we were locked out of information. It would have been simply a talking head show with obscenity and naked people and no video that had anything to do with the show. I certainly wanted very much to talk about how the word reality has been distorted and what you’re seeing on shows like Celebrity Apprentice is not any sort of documentary but rather you’re seeing an improvised soap opera.

Crave Online: Are the celebrity contestants really good at the jobs though?

Penn Jillette: It’s very, very complicated because when you talk about being driven and being ambitious and all of that, at the same time there’s also incredible incompetence. It’s a really weird combination of people who have drive but lack skills and I think that’s perhaps where the entertainment comes from. Although I’m impressed by how focused people in show business can be, I’m also always amazed that we can’t really do anything. I can’t do anything but I work hard at it.

Crave Online: I can’t help myself, what did you think of the Iowa Caucus?

Penn Jillette: [Laughs] Well, you know, I believe that for all the nonsense on Celebrity Apprentice, for all the insanity and the desperation with absolutely nothing but ego under it, I don’t think we can touch the Iowa Caucus.

Although I was appalled, APPALLED, at the idea that Donald Trump might have anything to do with our political system, having watched it it now seems like he probably was the perfect person and maybe that’s a reason to put a bullet in our heads.