Penn & Teller continue to amaze and amuse Las Vegas audiences
Penn & Teller reached the pinnacle of success long ago. The duo became a comedy-magic phenomenon at the dawn of the ’80s and ended the decade by portraying themselves in a hit independent film. They became Las Vegas headliners 19 years ago at the Rio, where they perform five shows a week at night and record CW series Penn & Teller: Fool Us during the day. They’ve appeared as comic book versions of themselves alongside Spider-Man and Deadpool, and most recently in animated form to solve a mystery with Scooby-Doo.
At this point Penn & Teller hold the record for the longest-running residency in Vegas history. They celebrate the golden anniversary of having their names joined by an ampersand in 2025, and it’s fair to estimate they’ll be hard at work creating new illusions as that date draws near.
It takes enormous dedication to continue to maintain that pace after four decades. Magicians have to be innovators and inventors, willing to complement one percent of inspiration with 99 percent perspiration, but the work has to be balanced with self-care. Penn Jillette proactively changed his dietary lifestyle, a transformation he documented in his 2016 book Presto!: How I Made Over 100 Pounds Disappear and Other Magical Tales. He is as lean as he is loud, and probably added an inestimable number of years to his career.
Silent partner Teller’s return to the stage this month comes after taking a convalescence in order to recover from spinal surgeries. While Penn’s natural extroversion makes him the verbal communicator of the two, Teller’s part requires a delicate physicality for his stage presence and a more demanding one for his unseen stage work. “Both of us are now over 60,” he told Las Vegas Magazine in 2016. “You have to be a little more careful about heaving boxes around or twisting yourself in weird ways. We want to have a career that lasts until we die.” Jillette reiterated the sentiment during a 2018 Tonight Show appearance. “We intend to die in office,” he told Jimmy Fallon.
There are no term limits for Penn & Teller, though. The seventh season of Fool Us will be recorded at Penn & Teller Theater in March for a summer broadcast. They performed shows outside of Las Vegas 11 out of 12 months last year. And in one of the most daring feats of endurance of any Vegas performer, Penn & Teller stick around after the show to meet-and-greet audience members as they leave the 1,475-seat venue.
Seeing them in their earlier days is as easy as streaming Penn & Teller Get Killed, which became a cult film notable for Teller speaking at the end. They had appeared as animated avatars on The Simpsons twice before lending their voices to an episode of the latest season of Scooby-Doo and Guess Who?, where they helped debunk a fraudulent ghost haunting a fictional casino. He could have gotten away with it, too, if it wasn’t for those meddling magicians.
Rio, 9 p.m. Sat.-Wed. (dark Feb. 2), $75.09-$95.27 VIP plus tax and fee. 702.777.2782