Penn Jillette is a funny man: raw, no-nonsense, tell-it-like-it-is funny. That’s probably not news to those of you who are fans of his Las Vegas magic/comedy show Penn & Teller or his Emmy-nominated Showtime hit Penn and Tell: Bullshit!. But for those of us who are seeing those wide-rimmed glasses and curly long hair for the first time, the guy’s quite fascinating.
If you ask anybody else to lug around some cameras on a daily basis recording any random thoughts or rants that occur to him, as Sony Pictures Television (SPT) asked Penn to do for their series Penn Says, you might get a lot of, well, crap. Penn, though, manages to infuse each of his 1-3-minute clips with a compelling mix of humor and insight that you’ll want to keep watching. He’s not apologetic. He’s not exactly PC. But he’ll almost always have a point.
This is a show that requires a larger-than-life personality to stay alive. SPT and Crackle (the video-sharing site/network that features Penn Says, among several other shows by up-and-coming filmmakers) have found the right man.
Launched in January 2008 and produced by Pete Golden, Glenn Alai, Penn Jillette, and Emily Jillette, the show arms Penn with four Sony HD cameras – one in his car, one at home, one in his dressing room at the Rio in Vegas, and one that he keeps with him at all times – and lets him speak his mind on anything that strikes his interest.
###According to Jonathan Shambroom, general manager of Crackle, “The idea [for the series] was created in collaboration between Penn Jillette and SPT, as the format of ranting in regular video diaries is uniquely suited to Penn’s distinctive point of view and outspoken position on topics ranging from politics to current events to celebrities.”
Yes, left to his own devices, Penn is free to sound off on everything from predicting the next president of the United States based on a Hillary joke; to ranting about MySpace deleting an atheist group; to justifying the “good” that comes from Britney Spears losing her underwear. In an episode in which he talks about removing some facial lines by cosmetic surgery, he even muses about his before-and-after looks: “Penn Jillette. Brad Pitt. Penn Jillette. Brad Pitt.” Trust me, it’s funny when he does it.
The topics may vary, but you can bet they’ll all be delivered with uncensored candor. “Any topic that pops up, I’ll just say it off the top of my head. …This is just me. This is just Penn Says. And nobody else is around,” Penn explains in the introduction episode.
In addition to shooting all his own material, Penn also invites viewers to post video reactions or comments on Crackle, which he’ll occasionally answer on the show. Shambroom elaborates:
This series marks the first truly interactive experience Crackle is creating for its audience. Many of the episodes are shaped by viewers’ feedback. Penn will even post responses to the media and critics about his episodes. For instance, after a recent episode about Hillary Clinton, Maureen Dowd referred to the video in her column in the New York Times. Penn then posted a response to her article, noting how disappointed he was that her article suggested that his video may help get Clinton elected.
With Penn Says, you might not always agree, but you certainly won’t leave bored.