Five Miles Up: Penn Jillette on when he leaves Las Vegas

Bekah Wright
five miles up
(Photo: Marius Brugge)

As an illusionist, magician, comedian, musician and best-selling author, Penn Jillette is known for breaking the mold. He did just that on the sixth season of NBC’s “All-Star Celebrity Apprentice” when, as a finalist, he displayed his shrewd business savvy. Where can he be found over the holidays? Bringing cheer to travelers while headlining with partner Teller at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. So where would the multi-Emmy nominee most like to disappear to for his own holiday celebration? He tells FMU of at least one place that can be ticked off the list…

What’s something you never fail to pack in your suitcase?
I pack the same exact thing for every trip: two pairs of jeans and five identical black Dickies brand short-sleeve work shirts. That's my uniform.

Carry-on or check-in?
Check-in. I hate having to deal with stuffing stuff overhead and crushing people's bags.

Window or aisle?
I’m 6'7", so I'd be an aisle guy. But, I sure do like to rest my big square head on the side of the plane. So, can I change my answer?

What’s your idea of the perfect vacation?
Being with my family. Doesn't matter where, as long as I have time to write for a bit each day.

Tell us about a vacation you’ve taken that’s come close thus far.
I took my wife to Newfoundland when we were first married. We ate, slept and did some sightseeing. It was great. Plus, they have a town called Dildo. I mean, how can that be bad?

What’s the worst vacation you’ve taken?
I recall going to Hawaii several times with girlfriends and coming home single. It's a pretty place, though. I like macadamia nuts.

Where’s your favorite destination for practicing your profession?
Of course it's Vegas. We've (Penn & Teller) been here for 20 years and have seen a lot of change. When we first started headlining The Strip, I had Dean Martin's dressing room and Teller used Sinatra's. It was pretty boss. Everyone comes to Vegas from all over and we love being part of that.

What's the silliest souvenir you ever came back with?
I am not a real souvenir buyer for myself. I detest clutter. But, I am a momma's boy and I used to get her one of those little souvenir spoons from wherever I went.

Ever try a food that you wished you hadn't?
We did a series for the Discovery Channel in the late 90s in Egypt, China and India. I have no idea what I ate for three months, but I'd expect some of it was once called Fluffy and Rover.

Favorite hotel you've ever stayed in?
Hard question. I've stayed in some pretty great hotels, though once after a gig in Pennsylvania we stayed in an old train that was converted to a hotel. I didn't fit in the bed and it was a bit unpleasant for me when I stood straight up.

The one thing you're willing to splurge on when traveling above all else.
My kids.

Three artists on your travel playlist?
It's all Bob Dylan all the time.

Where would you take someone visiting your hometown for the first time?
In my hometown of Greenfield, Mass., I'd take them for a nice, New England breakfast at Davenport Maple Farm, and then a walk downtown to the World Eye Bookshop.

You only get one more trip in your lifetime. Where will it be?
Doesn't matter. Anyplace as long as it's with my family. OK, maybe not Hawaii.