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#1
Old 07-03-2008, 01:35 PM
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Why does "Teller", in Penn & Teller, never speak?

Why does "Teller", in Penn & Teller, never speak?

Is it some kind of parody of a dominant/submissive relationship? Is it based on showmanship--because the old "hot blonde" assistants were to be sawed in half, never spoke? Is Penn making fun of that, or just imitating it because it works better on the stage?

I did hear Teller speak ONCE on their show, as part of a gag. I think it was one word.

Usually Teller is on the receiving end of some kind of physical torment or danger, making his silence even more unusual.

This issue of submissively silent partner thing is crying out for a women's studies major to unleash some feminist criticism.
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#2
Old 07-03-2008, 01:38 PM
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From the Penn & Teller FAQ:
When Teller first began performing at fraternity parties in his college days, he discovered that if he didn't speak, the frat boys would set down their cups of beer, remove their hands from their girlfriends' breasts, and pay attention to what he was doing.
#3
Old 07-03-2008, 01:42 PM
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From his Wikipedia page:
Quote:
Teller's trademark silence originated during his youth, when he earned a living performing magic at college fraternity parties. He found that if he maintained silence throughout his act, spectators refrained from throwing beer and heckling him and focused more on his performance.
The same page also has a list of his speaking bits, and also has a very interesting bit of trivia about him:
Quote:
He legally changed his name to "Teller" and possesses one of the few United States passports issued in a single name

Last edited by Hal Briston; 07-03-2008 at 01:43 PM. Reason: Damn you, pinkfreud!
#4
Old 07-03-2008, 01:42 PM
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Penn speaks enough for both of them.
#5
Old 07-03-2008, 01:49 PM
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Every now and then he does speak. Sometimes he'll sing, but from behind a curtain.

He's spoken to me. It was a very touching moment. He said "That'll be fifteen bucks."
#6
Old 07-03-2008, 01:55 PM
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Another thing you have to remember is that Teller is the magician, and Penn is the hot blonde assistant.
#7
Old 07-03-2008, 02:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alessan
Another thing you have to remember is that Teller is the magician, and Penn is the hot blonde assistant.
That concept makes my brain hurt.
#8
Old 07-03-2008, 02:11 PM
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When I saw their show years ago, Teller was the voice of Mofo, the talking gorilla, as well as the (singing) voice of the ghost of Harry Houdini. He also chatted with audience members in the lobby after the show. He just doesn't talk as Teller while performing on stage.
#9
Old 07-03-2008, 02:14 PM
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He does speak. After the show I saw (and from what I understand is every show), both Penn and Teller stay behind and greet the entire audience. When you meet him he doesn't pretend to not speak. He acts like a normal human. Well, a normal human wearing a toga and covered in stage blood (when I saw him anyway). And he taught Latin at my BIL's high school.
#10
Old 07-03-2008, 02:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alessan
Another thing you have to remember is that Teller is the magician, and Penn is the hot blonde assistant.
....My mind is totally blown. Dude. The universe makes so much more sense now.
#11
Old 07-03-2008, 02:22 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Terminus Est
Penn speaks enough for both of them.
... and I wish he'd stop.
#12
Old 07-03-2008, 02:37 PM
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He speaks quite a lot in his instructional magic videos which he makes without Penn.
#13
Old 07-03-2008, 02:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scrambledeggs
Is it some kind of parody of a dominant/submissive relationship?
By that logic, Harpo Marx pulled a train every night.
#14
Old 07-03-2008, 02:44 PM
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Teller wrote a book not too long ago and gave an interview on NPR about it (sorry, my Google-fu is failing and I can't find the title). Where Penn's voice is harsh and grating, Teller's is very pleasant: sonorous and sincere. It's ironic that the one with the nicer voice never talks on stage...

J.
#15
Old 07-03-2008, 02:47 PM
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I'm reminded of when P&T were on the old Daily Show with Craig Kilborn. As the final of the "Five Questions", Kilborn said, "This one's for Teller: Say something!"

Teller apparently said "Fuck!", but of course it was bleeped, so you still didn't hear him.
#16
Old 07-03-2008, 02:47 PM
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When they started out in their respective careers, both Penn and Teller had to find a way to deal with such difficulties as lack of attention or hecklers or noisy environments. Penn coped by being louder and more dominant than anyone else in the room. Teller didn't have this option and opted instead to go silent and to do dangerous stuff that got people watching. When they started working together, they decided to keep to these respective roles, and it has worked very well for them. Teller is delighted to have a fantastic front man for the act who does all the talking and the jokes, and who can handle anything thrown at him (sometimes literally); Penn is delighted to be working with a man regarded by most other magicians as one of the greatest magical thinkers and inventors there has been.

Off stage, Teller talks normally, just like anyone else.
#17
Old 07-03-2008, 02:49 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bryan Ekers
By that logic, Harpo Marx pulled a train every night.
Okay, now MY brain hurts. And my eyes are negotiating a strategic withdrawal.
#18
Old 07-03-2008, 02:59 PM
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He spoke on "The Simpsons."

Homer: Hey, I thought you never talked.
Teller: Uh, I didn't mean to. It just slipped out. Oh, God, now Penn's going to beat me.
Penn: Folks, it's all part of the act!
Teller: No it isn't! Don't leave me alone with him!
Penn: You've ruined the act! I'm going to kill you!
Teller: He'll do it! I'm not the first Teller.
#19
Old 07-03-2008, 03:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dropzone
He spoke on "The Simpsons."

Homer: Hey, I thought you never talked.
Teller: Uh, I didn't mean to. It just slipped out. Oh, God, now Penn's going to beat me.
Penn: Folks, it's all part of the act!
Teller: No it isn't! Don't leave me alone with him!
Penn: You've ruined the act! I'm going to kill you!
Teller: He'll do it! I'm not the first Teller.
Was that really him speaking, too? He has a nice voice.
#20
Old 07-03-2008, 03:09 PM
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Teller speaks.
#21
Old 07-03-2008, 03:30 PM
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Just rent Penn and Teller Get Killed

He talks for a few minutes at the end.
#22
Old 07-03-2008, 03:34 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pinkfreud
From the Penn & Teller FAQ:
When Teller first began performing at fraternity parties in his college days, he discovered that if he didn't speak, the frat boys would set down their cups of beer, remove their hands from their girlfriends' breasts, and pay attention to what he was doing.
Wow; that's a more impressive feat than the ones that are billed as part of the act....
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#23
Old 07-03-2008, 03:50 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scrambledeggs
This issue of submissively silent partner thing is crying out for a women's studies major to unleash some feminist criticism.
Except that the "submissively silent" partner (Teller) is a man, as is Penn. There are some partnerships and relationships that don't include any women. I believe male homosexual relationships are like that, for example.

NOTE: I am not implying that homosexuality--latent, blatant or otherwise--is present in Penn & Teller's relationship though it may be (and who cares if it is?)
#24
Old 07-03-2008, 04:23 PM
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Teller narrates how to fight off zombies
#25
Old 07-03-2008, 04:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by I Love Me, Vol. I
There are some partnerships and relationships that don't include any women.
That is true--I mentioned feminism because they have written about submissive portrayals at length, and it would still relate to an all male relationship, erotic or platonic.
#26
Old 07-03-2008, 04:47 PM
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Scrambledeggs, it's not about submission. Penn and Teller are basically actors. Charlie Chaplin pretended to be the Little Tramp, P&T pretend to do feats of magic. (And blood!) Having seen them outside their roles (in interviews and such) it's clear that they are NOT the people they seem to be while performing a magic act.

Also, wow that sounded snarky, and it's not. Honestly. I'm just in Starbucks withdrawal.

Last edited by freekalette; 07-03-2008 at 04:47 PM. Reason: kant spel
#27
Old 07-03-2008, 05:29 PM
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I disagree with the idea that Teller is the magician and Penn the assistant. Both are talented magicians and each could entertain and amaze you for hours alone - it's just that the combination of the two is better. And, as ianzin pointed out, Teller is considered one of the greatest magic inventors in years For instance, they do the "Cups and Balls" with clear cups "revealing" how it is done...but the thing is, it's NOT the way everyone else has done it for millennia. He invented a new way, showed that, and still fools you with clear cups! That's impressive.
#28
Old 07-03-2008, 05:33 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sqweels
I'm reminded of when P&T were on the old Daily Show with Craig Kilborn. As the final of the "Five Questions", Kilborn said, "This one's for Teller: Say something!"

Teller apparently said "Fuck!", but of course it was bleeped, so you still didn't hear him.

I saw that episode. I think he actually said 'Fuck you Craig' while covering his mouth. So you couldn't see him say anything, but you can hear 'BLEEP you, Craig'. Then the crowd goes wild.
#29
Old 07-03-2008, 05:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Freudian Slit
Was that really him speaking, too? He has a nice voice.
Yes and yes. He used to be an irregular commentator on All Things Considered and I was struck at how much more I'd rather listen to him than Penn. Or a lot of people. A very nice voice.
#30
Old 07-03-2008, 06:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by h.sapiens
When I saw their show years ago, Teller was the voice of Mofo, the talking gorilla. . .
That's Mofo the Psychic Gorilla. As a teen I actually got called up to take part in Mofo. I had seen the trick before and knew that Teller would be seated next to me doing Mofo's voice. I also knew that, ideally, I was supposed to notice this and accidentally walk over to Teller when "Mofo" summons me. For the sake of the routine, I obliged.
#31
Old 07-03-2008, 06:39 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bryan Ekers
By that logic, Harpo Marx pulled a train every night.

Wooooo......funniest thing ever read on the dope. Sheeeeit.
#32
Old 07-03-2008, 07:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by USCDiver
I saw that episode. I think he actually said 'Fuck you Craig' while covering his mouth. So you couldn't see him say anything, but you can hear 'BLEEP you, Craig'. Then the crowd goes wild.
That's exactly what happened. He took a drink from his mug and said "Fuck you, Craig" with the mug hiding his mouth.
#33
Old 07-03-2008, 07:29 PM
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Originally Posted by Barbarian
Damn you! He was one the the Myspace contest winners who had their short film placed on the Diary of the Dead DVD. I think it was the best one.
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#34
Old 07-03-2008, 07:35 PM
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In the business, it's just their gimmick. It's totally in the tradition of great comedy duos. I think you'd call it American Manzai.

But I'll bet Penn is into Shibari, that perv.
#35
Old 07-03-2008, 07:44 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gaffa
I disagree with the idea that Teller is the magician and Penn the assistant. Both are talented magicians and each could entertain and amaze you for hours alone - it's just that the combination of the two is better. And, as ianzin pointed out, Teller is considered one of the greatest magic inventors in years For instance, they do the "Cups and Balls" with clear cups "revealing" how it is done...but the thing is, it's NOT the way everyone else has done it for millennia. He invented a new way, showed that, and still fools you with clear cups! That's impressive.
Penn is certainly the assistant in that its often Penn's job to keep you distracted. Fortunately, he seldom chooses to do that via a short skirt and cleavage and prefers to do it through his patter.
#36
Old 07-03-2008, 08:05 PM
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I've been watching Penn's new video blog on Crackle.com, and occasionally listened to him when he was doing Pennradio.

I find him entertaining, but he still appears to be very bombastic in real life so I'm sure he'd be quite exhausting to be around after a while.

Teller, on the other hand, seems very sweet and pleasant.

But they both seem very smart and sharp.
#37
Old 07-03-2008, 09:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cluricaun
Wooooo......funniest thing ever read on the dope. Sheeeeit.
Thanks. Me 'n' Zeppo have the same birthday.



The funniest thing I ever read about on the Dope was a Pit OP back in 2001 or 2002 written by a guy who really didn't want a fridge with an ice-maker and was annoyed by pushy salespeople who couldn't take a hint. Everybody talks about that blimp thread, but for me, it's all in the ice.
#38
Old 07-03-2008, 09:56 PM
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Cite?
#39
Old 07-03-2008, 10:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Lemur866
Cite?
I've really tried to find it but there was some kind of glitch around that time and the board was down for a month or so with much content lost (or so I vaguely recall). If it's not lost forever, it's archived in some dusty SDMB vault, along with Walt Disney's frozen head.
#40
Old 07-03-2008, 10:31 PM
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I saw a documentary about some magician---Houdini or someone---and Teller did speak. But they backlit him, like you would someone informing on the mafia. I think it's just their act, makes them unusual.
#41
Old 07-03-2008, 10:36 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bryan Ekers
Thanks. Me 'n' Zeppo have the same birthday.
And that is supposed to be some astrological proof that you are funny? Zeppo? Almost as bad as Gummo.
Quote:
Everybody talks about that blimp thread, but for me, it's all in the ice.
Canadian.
#42
Old 07-04-2008, 02:51 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gaffa
I disagree with the idea that Teller is the magician and Penn the assistant. Both are talented magicians and each could entertain and amaze you for hours alone
In terms of background, training and experience, Penn is really a juggler, fire-eater and street performer, rather than a magician as such. It's certainly true that he could entertain you for hours as a solo artist (and he did entertain crowds on his own before P&T became a reality), but he would probably do it by juggling with broken bottles and fire-eating rather than performing magic tricks per se. Without any disrespect at all towards Penn, it's fair to say that Teller has the greater knowledge of magic as a performing art, and has more of the skills you'd expect a magician to have. He also enjoys a very strong reputation within the magic world for his inventiveness and creativity. Penn is a swift study, though, and quickly learns whatever magic he needs to know for each routine or 'bit' in the show.

I agree that to see the working relationship as 'magician and assistant' isn't quite right, and doesn't really fit. The way I see it, Teller is what his name suggests, a teller of stories. Penn is the barker, the pitch-man, the supreme front man for all conditions, who sells those stories and sells the act. He's loud with a fantastic and media-friendly presence with a perfect line in slick patter, so Teller doesn't need to be. And he's working with a guy who regularly dreams up incredible, amazing and impressive new routines, so he doesn't have to.

And finally, they're both musicians. Penn is a very capable jazz bass player who can sit in with any band and not embarass himself. Teller can play the piano to a capable standard, albeit he's very modest about it.
#43
Old 07-04-2008, 06:38 AM
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wow Teller really does have a nice speaking voice. And he moves his hands so beautifully in that youtube clip. I bet he would be fascinating to sit down to dinner and a chat with.
#44
Old 07-04-2008, 08:01 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mahaloth
Just rent Penn and Teller Get Killed

He talks for a few minutes at the end.
1. Rent it for cheap.
2. Do not buy this movie.
3. By all that you hold sacred, turn off the video player when Penn and Teller first get shot at. Up to that point it's a funny, enjoyable movie that is nothing at all like a bad sixties flick made by people too high to hold a camera.

You can hear Teller speak from the links upthread. Watching the rest of Penn and Teller Get Killed is NOT worth it.

It's a legitimate three item list, so I don't have to say "Hi, Opal!". Oh, I just did!
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