Best known as one-half of the magic act "Penn & Teller," Penn Jillette rose to fame in the mid-'80s opposite touring partner Teller (born Raymond Joseph Teller), and graduated in a very short time from performing tricks in small-time dives to co-emceeing one of the most popular nightclub acts in the United States. Time and again, the men's schtick emphasized the hilariously macabre: tricks that involved juggling knives, swallowing massive embroidery needles, eating fire, and all manner of other deadly mayhem. The tall and imposing Penn typically trademarked himself with a vociferous, aggressive, and outsized persona, while the diminutive Teller remained quiet and laconic during performances.
Fittingly, the men made many of their earliest on-camera appearances on Saturday Night Live between 1985 and 1986, but within a few years branched out into concert films and movie roles (My Chauffeur, Tough Guys Don't Dance), including their own eponymous vehicle, Penn & Teller Get Killed (1989), directed by Arthur Penn; the picture unequivocally bombed at the box office (and in fact barely got released) but did net a small and loyal cult following. The duo also headlined its own Showtime network series, Penn & Teller: Bullshit!, in which they attempted to debunk what they perceived as cultural myths, from evangelical creationism to UFOs and penis enlargement pills.