Penn & Teller Aren't Affectionate, but They've Created a Partnership That Lasts


Nov. 16 2020, Updated 12:59 p.m. ET

penn and teller relationship
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There are few magicians in the world more iconic than Penn and Teller. The duo emerged in the mid-'80s as one of the most compelling and entertaining magic acts in the country, and they've remained dominant for decades since then. Penn and Teller have been partners for a long time, and one of the central elements of their on-stage personas is their interplay with one another, but is there anything behind their onstage dynamic?

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Are Penn and Teller in a relationship?

Although they've known each other for decades, Penn and Teller's relationship has always been strictly professional. Their act involves a lopsided dynamic. Penn Jillette does almost all of the talking during their shows, whereas Teller remains largely silent. Teller (whose legal name is just Teller) does communicate with Penn, but he does so largely through facial expressions and gestures.

penn and teller relationship
Source: Getty Images
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That onstage dynamic is a gimmick, and it's been enormously successful for them both over the course of their careers. Although they work well together onstage, it seems that the two are not close in their real lives. 

"Teller and I never got along," Penn said in an interview with CBS. "We never had a cuddly friendship. It was a very cold, calculated relationship where we thought we do better stuff together than we do separately. It turns out that respect lasts longer than affection."

Penn and Teller have a business partnership.

Although fans of the duo may be hoping that the relationship between Penn and Teller is profound, it seems the opposite is true. The two magicians realized early on in their careers that they were more likely to succeed together. They decided to become partners not because they had a lot of love for each other, but because they wanted to perform on bigger stages. 

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Whatever their personal relationship looks like, it's clearly worked well for their professional careers. As Penn's quote suggests, he seems to think that affection between them might have actually made the partnership less stable. Instead, they see one another as colleagues, and so they don't expect to be fulfilled by one another on any sort of emotional level. 

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Penn and Teller see magic as showmanship.

Although they are both incredibly competent magicians, Penn and Teller know that audiences really want to be entertained by magic. As a result, they often think about that aspect of their tricks before they worry about the magic element. 

“Other magicians are always looking for a trick, and then find a way to present it. We're looking for an idea and a presentation, and then find a good trick that goes with it," Penn explained in the interview with CBS. Clearly, their current arrangement is working out great for Penn and Teller. They've enjoyed several decades as some of the best-known magicians around. How's that for a trick?

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