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Tim Parsons, Lake Tahoe Action

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Penn & Teller go for ‘unwilling suspension of disbelief’ on Friday

Penn & Teller perform at 9 p.m. Friday in Harrah’s Lake Tahoe South Shore Room.

STATELINE, Nev. – When he was a juggler and a writer, Penn Jillette didn’t think much of magicians.

“Like everybody else I saw magic as a greasy guy in a tux with a lot of birds torturing women … and I wanted no part of that,” he said.

Then he met a Latin teacher who goes by the name Teller, and the two had long, long late-night conversations over coffee about magic and how it differs from theater.

“Magic has built-in irony and magic has the collision of the visceral and the intellectual and magic could be the most honest of forms because you are underlining the fact that you’re doing tricks,” Penn said. “You’re underlining the artifice. Whereas theater asks for the willing suspension of disbelief, magic explores the unwilling suspension of disbelief.”

Penn & Teller have been exploring the realm of unwilling suspension of disbelief for more than 30 years now. They are major movie and television stars and appear in Las Vegas five nights per week, 46 weeks per year. The duo performs throughout the country Thursdays and Fridays, and on Friday, Sept. 28 will be in the Harrah’s Lake Tahoe South Shore Room. Please note the special 9 p.m. start time.

Teller does not speak during performances nor did he during this interview with Lake Tahoe Action.

Penn said they are constantly writing material and illusions which sometimes take years to perfect before attempted before an audience. He said they like adding different scripts for shows away from Vegas.

Will the high Sierra Nevada altitude effect the show?

“Not the illusions,” Penn said. “It’s the breathing that’s hard. … The most important part of our job is to do things safely. We’re asking people to celebrate life by laughing at danger so it’s our job artistically, morally and of course self-preservationwise to not have anybody get hurt.”

Penn said he enjoys listening to Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion and gospel music of Ray Charles. He also doesn’t believe in God.

“Teller and I are outspoken atheists in all interviews and in public yet we do a very secular show and we have a very large number of fans who are Christian and Jewish and Muslim and the whole range,” he said. “I think the people who boycott us because of atheism is a tiny, tiny number. Probably the same number of people who would boycott Garth Brooks because he’s a Christian doing a country western show. We’re atheists doing a magic show.”