Entertainment

Penn Jillette is a ‘nutty f@#ing peacenik’ who wants the government off your back

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Jamie Weinstein
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      Jamie Weinstein

      Jamie Weinstein is Senior Editor of The Daily Caller. His work has appeared in The Weekly Standard, the New York Daily News and The Washington Examiner, among many other publications. He also worked as the Collegiate Network Journalism Fellow at Roll Call Newspaper and is the winner of the 2011 "Funniest Celebrity in Washington" contest. A regular on Fox News and other cable news outlets, Weinstein received a master’s degree in the history of international relations from the London School of Economics in 2009 and a bachelor's degree in history and government from Cornell University in 2006. He is the author of the political satire, "The Lizard King: The Shocking Inside Account of Obama's True Intergalactic Ambitions by an Anonymous White House Staffer."

LAS VEGAS  — “My whole libertarian approach comes out of being just a nutty fucking peacenik,” magician Penn Jillette confides backstage at his show, a few hours before he is set to perform.

“A lot of people make this argument that the free market will do everything right,” he explains.

“I have no evidence for that. I don’t believe that. I have no evidence that libertarianism leads to a better life. I just think it is morally right. My position is I can’t find a way that anything should be done by force that I wouldn’t do by force myself.”

The six-foot-six Jillette is the vocal and imposing half of the illusionist act Penn & Teller. When The Daily Caller met up with him last week in the “monkey room” behind the scenes of his Las Vegas show at the Rio Hotel & Casino, which Penn & Teller have called home for over a decade, he had just had his eyes dilated so he couldn’t exactly see who he was talking to.

But it is Jillette’s voice that creates waves, not his sight. Jillette has become one of the most outspoken libertarians in the country, appearing often on Glenn Beck’s Internet show, Fox News and other media networks to espouse his credo. His libertarian YouTube rants often go viral.

For those unfamiliar with magic and uninterested in libertarian politics, Jillette might be familiar for his role on NBC’s “Celebrity Apprentice.” On Sunday, it was revealed that Jillette reached the final four of this season’s All-Star edition, along with country singer Trace Adkins, rapper Lil John and actress Lisa Rinna.

Jillette wasn’t always a libertarian. A rebellious high school student who couldn’t stand his classmates being drunk and high — he claims he never so much had one sip of alcohol, much less dabbled in drugs — Jillette skipped college for clown school. Soon thereafter he met his diminutive counterpart Teller, a high school Latin teacher, ultimately forming a professional relationship that would become one of the most successful magic acts in history. (If CelebrityNetWorth.com is even remotely accurate, Jillette is personally worth north of $150 million.)

But when he was starting out in show business, Jillette says he was kind of a “classic jive ass, bullshit, Hollywood liberal,” not a libertarian. It was conversations with technology businessman Tim Jenison that helped change the way he thinks about the world.