Penn Jillette revealed that he had never seen even a single episode of “The Celebrity Apprentice” before he agreed to do the series and he is calling the competition an “improvised soap opera.” Truth be told, he says he doesn’t watch any reality TV at all. So, he wasn’t one of those who campaigned to get on the show. Rather, it kind of just happened for him, as he mentioned on a conference call with reporters yesterday.
“Unlike the other people, I don’t watch these shows,” says the chatty half of the Penn & Teller comedy act, who have their own theater at the Rio in Las Vegas. “It is not part of my schedule.” But now having done it, he adds, “It is really nutty to feel it as opposed to watching it. It is funny to see people you know acting unpleasantly because there are TV cameras on them.”
With that admission, the funny man says he tried to garner interest in reality TV back when he was doing “Penn & Teller: Bulls–t!” for Showtime, but he quickly learned that contracts on reality series are so ironclad, it was impossible to get clips.
“Reality TV is a topic I brought up every eight years,” he says. “The problem is that everybody is signing these heavy non-disclosure agreements and everybody is copyrighting all the material. The contracts are so sophisticated that you almost have to go back to the Louds on PBS in 1971 to get material… We couldn’t do a show[about reality TV] because we were locked out of information. It would have been simply a talking heads show with obscenity and naked people and no video that had had anything to do with the show.”
As for working with “The Celebrity Apprentice”‘s head honcho Donald Trump, Jillette, who as a Libertarian has differing views from the possible presidential candidate, says there was no discussion, political or otherwise. Rather, “Trump really sits and pontificates and you listen to him. Although, I don’t even think that outside of the game, there is any real political discussion with Trump. That didn’t really come up. It is a very, odd artificial situation.”
That doesn’t mean that Jillette would look forward to Trump running for the Oval Office as either a Republican candidate or an independent. He says, “Although I am appalled at the idea that Donald Trump might have anything to do with our political system, having watched it, it now seems like he probably was the perfect person — and maybe that is a reason to put a bullet in our heads!”
So the question remains as to how Jillette did on the series, being a novice and all — and was he able to use any mind games?
“I can’t tell you the rules of ‘Celebrity Apprentice.’ If there were rules, I would have cheated,” he says, but won’t reveal how he did in the competition other than to add, “I would say my strong suit was simply not dying — just keep breathing and staying alive. It is the same as being shipwrecked. Your only role is not to die.”