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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

When Penn and Teller first started performing in 1975, the duo was unlike anything else out there.

In 2018 … well, there’s still not anything else out there like Penn and Teller. The comedy/magic greats will perform at The Show at the Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa on Friday, Dec. 7.

During a recent phone interview with Penn Jillette—of course we interviewed the one who talks—he said they made a conscious effort to be different when they started out.

“Alfred Hitchcock said if you wanted to be a director, don’t see great movies and say, ‘I’m going to do that.’ See bad movies and say, ‘At least I won’t do that,’” Jillette said. “I came out of a background of really disliking magic. Teller was in love was magic since he was about 5, but I really never liked it. I was a juggler and a musician. I didn’t like magic because of the obvious dishonesty of it. Besides the obvious dishonesty of it … I disliked the lack of thought in magic. Teller and I started a conversation when we first met, and we would think about magic shows, saying, ‘We don’t want to do that.’ It’s like the Sex Pistols when they said they didn’t want to be the Beatles. Out of that came a kind-of honest relationship with the audience where we occasionally tell them how the tricks are done. We always tell them when we’re lying, and I like to think they never leave the theater believing something we ourselves don’t believe is true.”

Jillette elaborated on their avoidance of dishonesty.

“When you saw a human being cut in half onstage during a magic trick, nobody—and I’m eliminating deeply mentally ill people, or someone who is too young to be at the show—leaves the show believing they witnessed a murder. The same goes with mind-reading and memory tricks. You need to leave the theater with us not misleading you on anything—we try to follow that as carefully as we can. Out of that, the skepticism, the atheism and the comedy comes.”

Penn and Jillette have never been afraid to get political or controversial, be it in their act or on their TV shows—especially Penn and Teller: Bullshit!, which ran on Showtime from 2003 to 2010.

“The nice thing is that our politics tend not to be nowadays in one of the camps that’s fighting,” Jillette said. “We’re both libertarian and atheist. That position is seen by both sides, Republicans and Democrats, with an eye roll. We’re so socially liberal that not even the Democrats agree with us. We’re so fiscally conservative that even the Republicans don’t agree with us.

Bullshit! is where most of our politics came out. We were so concerned with being pro-science, pro-rational and pro-human that the politics ended up not being partisan, in a very strange way. I used to go on talking-head shows as a pundit, but now that there is nothing to talk about on the news except the president—and I have made my position very clear, because I knew the president well—I’m kind of done. … I’m not willing to go on TV now and talk about the latest outrage. I like to remind people now that the world is getting better, and this momentary thing is just a glitch.”

Bullshit! tackled subjects ranging from religions to multilevel marketing to recycling—and a few episodes stirred up some intense anger.

“People often ask us who got the most upset after an episode of Bullshit!, and I must tell you that this fills me with shame,” he said. “We expected Christians to be a problem, but many Christians practice what they preach, and their reactions were very gentle, very kind and very understanding. But the Sept. 11 truthers and the chiropractors were out of their fucking minds. There were a couple of nuts who didn’t like the Sept. 11 show and threatened, of all people, our prop guy. The police had to be called and showed up at the offices, which is very strange.

“The chiropractors were very aggressive and claiming boycotts, which is a perfectly reasonably way to react.”

There were subjects Showtime refused to allow Penn and Teller to tackle.

“Scientology was one of them, because they were scared,” Jillette said. “Showtime and the lawyers told us, ‘You don’t fuck with Scientology,’ because there have been some bad things that happened. We also wanted to do that book The Secret that Oprah was promoting. (Showtime) didn’t want us doing that because of some sort of publishing entanglement that would have made us at odds with other parts of the company—not so much that we could affect their commerce, but that it could be a conflict of interest and may violate other contracts.

“We wanted to do one on reality shows like Big Brother and The Apprentice, but it’s impossible to get the footage—as we’ve seen with our president, because it’s incredibly locked down by legal teams.”

Penn and Teller remain busy these days, including their Las Vegas residency and their show Penn and Teller: Fool Us, a magic-competition show on The CW.

“We’ll be shooting all of the Fool Us episodes in early February and March,” Jillette said. “Teller and I are writing material to put in our show. We’re at a point now where our show is changing, and (new) material is going in every week, so it’s really fun. Teller and I are in our 60s now, and it’s supposed to be a time when you calm down—and we’re now writing material faster, better and crazier than when we were on Saturday Night Live, David Letterman and Broadway.”

Penn and Teller will perform at 8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 7, at The Show at the Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, in Rancho Mirage. Tickets are $45 to $65. For tickets or more information, call 888-999-1995, or visit www.hotwatercasino.com.

Published in Comedy

During the month of December, there are more than enough events to keep you entertained—whether you’re in the Christmas spirit or not.

The McCallum Theatre has a great list of Christmas-themed events. At 7 p.m., Monday, Dec. 5, enjoy a special Christmas presentation from the Vienna Boys Choir. One of the best known boys’ choirs in the world, the group’s various incarnations perform about 300 concerts a year. Fun fact: The boys in the choir are around the ages of 10 to 14. Tickets are $37 to $77. Locals will take the stage at 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 10, in a show being assembled by Best of Coachella Valley radio personality Jim “Fitz” Fitzgerald of CV 104.3 called “A CV Christmas.” The show will feature Kal David and Lauri Bono, Ronnie King, Brightener, John Stanley King and others. Tickets are $27 to $67. At 8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 16, and Saturday, Dec. 17, Johnny Mathis will be bringing his 60th anniversary Christmas tour to the McCallum. You can’t go wrong with Johnny, especially when he’s singing Christmas tunes. Tickets are $67 to $137. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has some good stuff onstage in December. At 8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 2, Celtic Woman will be performing a Christmas-themed show as part of the “Home for Christmas: The Symphony Tour.” Celtic Woman has made a name for itself by performing Celtic music that’s mixed with folk and new-age sounds. The group’s Christmas repertoire is very popular and has added to Celtic Woman’s success. Tickets are $49 to $89. If you aren’t in the Christmas music mood … at 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 3, there will be a performance by ARW (Anderson, Rabin and Wakeman). These three members of YES hadn’t performed together in 25 years, so this is one tour you’ll want to catch if you’re a rock music fan. Rick Wakeman made the Moog what it is today in rock music, and Trevor Rabin’s guitar-playing is legendary in prog rock. Tickets are $39 to $79. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 10, the Goo Goo Dolls will be returning to the Coachella Valley. I’ve mentioned how annoying it was hearing the song “Iris” over and over during my junior and senior years of high school … and my high school even made the song part of my prom. Ugh! Tickets are $49 to $79. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 800-827-2946; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has a couple of events worth mentioning. At 9 p.m., Friday, Dec. 9, Penn and Teller will be stopping by. Originally known for magic shows that included comedy, the duo stepped it up for a television show on Showtime called Bullshit!, which featured the duo taking on a variety of subjects, from Sept. 11 conspiracy theories to bottled water and beyond. Tickets are $45 to $65. Looking for something to do on New Year’s Eve? At 10:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 31, bring in 2017 with Huey Lewis and the News. Huey is a big part of one of my more tortured childhood Christmas memories: I once asked for a Metallica album … and received his Sports album instead. Boo, Huey! Boo! Tickets are $105 to $125. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Spotlight 29 has a couple of intriguing December offerings. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 3, former Supertramp vocalist and songwriter Roger Hodgson will be performing. He wrote most of Supertramp’s most well-known hits, which have sold more than 60 million records, so this should be a pretty good show. Tickets are $45 to $65. At 7 p.m., Friday, Dec. 91 and 7 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 10; and 1 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 11, Spotlight 29 will be hosting its Winter Gathering Pow Wow. This Native American custom includes dancing, singing, visiting and the renewing of old friendships. This event is free and family friendly.Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566www.spotlight29.com.

After an epic summer, Morongo Casino Resort Spa’s entertainment schedule has slowed down just a bit—but there are a couple of great December shows worth mentioning. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 3, Morongo will be opening the Drum Room, a new bar and lounge on the 26th floor of the hotel. The grand opening will feature some great cocktails and appetizers in the venue, which has great leather seating and huge windows offering stunning views of the desert. At 9 p.m., Friday, Dec. 9, there will be a performance by the Charlie Daniels Band. If you’ve never seen the Charlie Daniels Band, trust me: Mr. Daniels puts on one hell of a show, even though he’s 80 years old and has survived prostate cancer—with a pacemaker installed in his chest to boot. He was a highlight of Stagecoach in 2013. Given this is Christmas, you can expect some Christmas tunes mixed into his Southern-rock set. Tickets are $25 to $35. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace has some events in December you shan’t miss. At 9 p.m., Friday, Dec. 9, Hanni El Khatib (upper right) will be returning to Pappy’s after a stunning sold-out show earlier this year. Hanni El Khatib denied being a blues man when I interviewed him last year, but blues and hard rock are definitely part of his sound. This show is a must-see. Tickets are $15 to $20. At 8:30 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 22, it’s locals’ night when The BrosQuitos and Yip Yops play Pappy and Harriet’s. This is a much-deserved gig for both local bands—groups with bright futures ahead of them. Admission is free. After the presents have been opened, and the holiday hangover has set in, get yourself to Pappy’s at 8 p.m., Monday, Dec. 26, for the Evangenitals. The Evangenitals is one of the best bands to see when you’re sad—because you’ll enjoy a lot of laughs at the no-holds-barred humor. Oh, and be sure to stay until the end when the band does its own personal rendition of Prince’s “Purple Rain.” Admission is blessedly free. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Purple Room has a fine December schedule. At 8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 9,and Saturday, Dec. 10, the Kinsey Sicks will be bringing a holiday show, “Oy Vey in a Manger!” to the Purple Room. The Kinsey Sicks is known as “America’s Favorite Dragapella Beautyshop Quartet” and is named after the Kinsey scale—with six meaning “exclusively homosexual.” Formed in 1993 in San Francisco, the group has earned a reputation as one of the LGBT community’s most entertaining and hilarious groups. Tickets are $30 to $45. At 8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 16, the Martini Kings will be performing. Back in October, when I was at Pappy and Harriet’s for Paul McCartney’s show, I had the pleasure of meeting Anthony Marsico of the Martini Kings. He was once a sideman for Bob Dylan, and he told me some fascinating stories from those days. The Martini Kings have a sound that modernism fans will love—and the group should turn in a great Christmas show. Tickets are $25. Michael Holmes’ Purple Room, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-322-4422; www.purpleroompalmsprings.com.

The Hood Bar and Pizza has announced a December show you’ll want to mark down on your calendar. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 10, Dali’s Llama will be performing, along with other great bands such as Supersonic Dragon Wagon; an old group including Zach Huskey of Dali’s Llama, Hot Beat Pussy Fiend; and Sleazy Cortez. Admission is free! The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-636-5220; www.facebook.com/thehoodbar.

The Date Shed has one event in December worth mentioning. At 9 p.m., Friday, Dec. 2, there will be a performance by Too Short (below). During the ’90s, when the whole East Coast-West Coast rap thing was going full-force, one man worked with both 2Pac and the Notorious B.I.G.—and that was Too Short. While his lyrics are about pimping not being easy (Has it ever been easy?), and “bitch” is nothing but a word to him, he’s a legend of the genre. Tickets are $25. The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe Street, Indio; 760-775-6699; www.dateshedmusic.com.

Published in Previews