Skip to content
Who's in the Video
Penn Jillette is a cultural phenomenon as a solo personality and as half of the world-famous Emmy Award-winning magic duo Penn & Teller. In the mid-'80s, Penn & Teller went[…]

Penn Jillette says that despite Donald Trump’s apparent craziness, the real estate mogul’s move into entertainment is a good role for him in our culture.

Donald Trump is not batshit crazy. Donald Trump also does not wear a toupee. I have been this close to Donald Trump’s head, and that is real hair growing out of his head.

I actually – I enjoy Donald Trump’s company. And I actually think it’s kind of good that Donald Trump exists. You know, he kind of plays this Scrooge McDuck role in our society that’s kind of fun. I think that having a wealthy person who’s fun and in public is kind of a good role to have in our culture. We have Bill Gates, you know, who is off curing malaria, you know. Bill Gates has never been flamboyant, he’s never – doesn’t really talk about his wealth very much. Malcolm Forbes, of course, does. But having a guy that’s flamboyant and really, really rich, I think, is a nice thing for us to all ruminate on. I think he’s playing kind of a good role. I mean, you have someone playing the jester role and the fool role and someone playing the – all these characters that swirl around us in the arts. And Donald Trump has moved himself into the arts. He’s obviously real estate, he’s obviously business. But he’s moved himself into the arts. He’s become a performer. By definition, he’s a TV star. I think it’s a good role.  

Now I disagree with Donald’s politics, very, very much, although I agree with some of them. I think he got – he was wrong on the birther stuff, although that’s an okay question to ask. When that question is answered he probably should have dropped it. You know, asked and answered, we’re done.

I’m certainly respectful of his opinions on politics, but I don’t think he should have shown disrespect to the way our election works. I mean I think that one of the wonderful things about a bloodless coup is the fact that we accept that voting works.  And there was no evidence of cheating on the part of Obama. My guy lost by a lot.  You know, my guy was Gary Johnson. My guy lost by a lot. And I would have loved Gary Johnson to win. I would have loved to see what it was like to not be killing so many people overseas and have more freedom here in this country. I would love to see that. But Obama won. He just, he just did. 

I think one of the things about Donald Trump that’s interesting is he lives in a rarefied atmosphere where it’s possible that he doesn’t get enough feedback, enough people rolling their eyes at him. It’s a danger more in show business than it is with wealth.

He has wonderful children. His daughter and his sons that I know, you know, Eric, Don and Ivanka do seem to respect him and love him and also speak to him honestly. And a job that our children have is to keep us honest; they do a pretty good job. 

I wish I’d got to spend more time with Donald Trump speaking freely. He – I said whatever popped in my head in the Board Room and in meeting with Donald. I tried to play the game properly, but I also tried to, you know, I remember that during the press conference for the all-star season of Celebrity Apprentice, Donald was down in front of us speaking with all of us behind him. And he said, “These are all the all-stars. They’ve all supported me in what I’ve said publicly.”  And I said, “I haven’t.” And he said, “No, no, Penn hasn’t. That’s correct.” And it was a moment I was really proud of and also a moment where he really shined, I thought.

I thought that – he has said in the Board Room several times, “Penn disagrees with me. Penn said this. Penn said that.” And that is one of the joys of my life. One of the joys of my life is getting along with people I shouldn’t get along with.  One of the joys in my life is the rage people feel at me because I call Glenn Beck a friend. I also love the rage they feel because I call Lawrence O’Donnell, Jr. a friend. I love that Lawrence O’Donnell, Jr. and Glenn Beck don’t like each other, but they both like me. I love that. I mean, I think that having strong opinions is part of the joy of being alive, and loving people in spite of those strong opinions is one of the other joys of being alive. I put Donald Trump in that category. I disagree with him on a lot, but I… I like him. 

I kind of want to see what it’s like for someone to live like Scrooge McDuck.  There’s a lot to learn from that.

Directed / Produced by Jonathan Fowler & Elizabeth Rodd