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An Interview with Penn Jillette of The Celebrity Apprentice

We chatted with the outspoken magician and cast member of The Celebrity Apprentice about the ups and downs of the workplace.


Photo Courtesy of Mitchell Haaseth / NBC | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2012

 

How was your time on The Celebrity Apprentice?
It’s 16 hours a day, 6 days a week with cameras on you, doing what you’re not good at, and you’re in an environment with people that you don’t know. It’s not the hardest job I’ve had - I’ve certainly worked that many hours in a week before - but when I’m working, it’s doing stuff that I’ve chosen to do so it’s a different feeling. But on the show, we’re doing stuff we’re not good at, stuff we didn’t choose, with cameras on us. It’s a goofy experience.

 

What did you think about Donald Trump? Is he exactly how we see him on TV?
I think they edit him to be a little sterner. He’s more of a regular guy. Though there is a quality about him that makes me afraid.

 

Did you have a favorite co-worker?
I love being around Arsenio because he’s really funny. I love being around Adam Corolla. Corolla’s brilliant. I absolutely had a crush on Paul Senior… because he’s so much of his own man and he actually runs a real business. I like Michael Sangredy for the same reasons. I loved George Takei. He’s just a wonderful man to be around.

 

Besides Teller, who would you say is the biggest jerk you’ve worked with?
The Celebrity Apprentice could’ve been a plot to get me to appreciate Teller.  I’ve worked with Teller for 37 years and I always thought he was the best business partner anyone could have. When I went on The Celebrity Apprentice, I came out with an appreciation of higher magnitude.  Trump would say a few times, "What would happen if Teller were here?" And I said, “If Teller were here nobody else would have a chance-- including you sir.” He’s just better than all of us put together. He really is. As for bad people I’ve worked with-- maybe Don Johnson. He says it was a bad time in his life. He and I just did not get along well.

 


Photo Courtesy of Douglas Gorenstein / NBC | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2012

 

You seemed to have left out a few cast members. How was your time with Clay Aiken?
We worked together very, very closely. The reason I didn’t mention him was, although I kind of liked Clay Aiken, he really hated me. When someone hates you, even if you don’t hate them, it can make it uncomfortable.

 

Did he tell you he hated you?
Yeah. It could have been because I get excited and go off on tangents and he wasn’t interested. And I didn’t high five him. I loved when I was around him, and he was singing in tune, because you don’t usually get to hear people up close and live sing perfectly in tune.  But I studied music a lot and I played Bebop Jazz.  He is desperately ambitious and kind of interesting to watch.

 

Do you think people carry grudges after its done taping? Will you talk to these people again?
Some of us will never talk to each other again because our paths don’t cross. I hung out with Adam Carolla a couple of times. I’ll work with Arsenio Hall again, certainly. I went out with Paul Senior just last week. I wouldn't do anything to avoid Clay Aiken at all.

 

Who is someone you never ever want to work with?
Oh, I don’t know.  I would love to do The Celebrity Apprentice with Charlie Manson. Would you? I would love to. I don't want to work with regular people. I want to be with people who are nuts. I like Ron Jeremy. Other than Ron’s big dick, people find him annoying, and I don’t.

 

What would you say was the worst job you’ve ever had?
I was a dish washer at a hospital. I had long hair, so I couldn’t work anywhere else.  And it was supposed to be a shitty job, but I liked it.  I didn’t have it long;  maybe 6 to 8 months. Then I was a dishwasher someplace else but I liked that too. I’ve been homeless and was street performing for food, and I liked that.

 

Have you ever been fired?
I’ve been fired from a situational comedy with a script they wrote specifically for me because of my voice.

 

When should you quit a job?
As soon as you’re not raging with passion. As soon as you’re not exploding.


The Celebrity Apprentice airs on NBC Sunday night.