Teller's Chat Transcript

Photo By: Georgia L. MaherTELLER -  ok folks, start asking questions

<fuzzyone> Q: Any chance we'll see you in Canada?

TELLER - If it ain't on the schedule, then it ain't in the cards at the moment.

<MsUnivac> Q: When did you realize you were an atheist?

TELLER -  oh, let's see.... hmmm... it's hard to pin down I don't think I named it "athiest" until i hung around with Penn for a while...

* Rand0m > (when jesus told him he is)

TELLER -   and realized that I wasn't merely uncertain, I positively BELIEVED there was no God.

<IslaStar> Q: I met you for the 2nd time last month in Boston. My name is Amy and Im a friend of Penns. I talked to him briefly about this but would love to hear more about how you did the upside-down thing in your movie. It must have been incredibly difficult!

TELLER - A: (Upside-down) both Penn and I are rather fair-skinned...so they had to  paint us with really thick yellow grease paint...  they call it "Anti-Red"... every bit of our costumes were taped to our flesh, and we had video monitors that were sitting right-side up, so we could see what we looked like upside-down, because we were upside-down, looking at the monitors. When we first did it on SNL, I thought we didn't have a chance in HELL that we'd execute all that stuff without one of the dingbat camera men moving the camera too far up/down...

<IslaStar> Penn said you broke all the blood vessels in your faces...

<TELLER>  and those tricks we do, like when Penn throws the light bulb through the hoop... well you just can't imagine how HARD that stuff is when gravity is in the wrong place.

<Psyonia> Q: Would you ever consider publishing a book just for your short stories and essays?

TELLER -  YES, I probably will publish a book of my short-stories and essays.. give me ten more years or so, to get a few more in the bag.

<XmasPlant> Q: This is a question from Kara. I really enjoyed The Juliet Letters article! It made me fall in love with that album. Any other musical recommendations that inspired you or have had a profound effect on you?

TELLER -  the piece that changed my life was the Wanda Landowska recording of the well-tempered Clavier by Bach.  I was studying for my finals in the Illiad (in Greek of course) in the room of a fellow student, who had crazy Wanda on his phonograph. I got REALLY sleepy aboput 4am, and tottered to my room for a nap. For the next solid hour, I dreamed Greek text, with a soundtrack of Wanda at the harpsichord.. it was CREEPY! There was so much power in

<Miriam> wish I'd heard the beginning of this story the way that music was put together...

* daputz is 19/m/Canada and recently saw Penn & Teller at Balley's in L.V. and wanted to tell him what a good show it was

TELLER -  A: (continued) that I HAD to understand it, so I started taking Music & Theory courses. And those courses led me to think about art in time, in a way that still effects me today. I don't think I could plot a P&T bit if I hadn't had that Bach stuck in my head back in college.

<Solinas> Q: Your effect with the flower and the shadow gives me chills. What was your inspiration for the effect?

<TELLER>  (Shadows) I was sitting in my room late at night when I was about 16. I had lit a candle, and I was fascinated with playschool blocks. So I built a tower of the blocks on my tabletop Next to the candle. I noticed the shadow of the blocks on the wall. On an impulse, I reached over and touched the shadow... and at that same moment flicked the fingers against the tower of blocks. They clattered to the desktop and I got chills. I spent the next 11 years thinking about the idea off & on. For some reason Playschool blocks didn't seem right for the stage. I built myself voodoo dolls & tried it with that... but the  dolls looked mechanical. Somewhere around 1975... I hit on the notion of using the rose, and almost immediately the idea at the blood at the end came to me. I planned to prick myself on the thorn of the rose, but when I tried that in front of the audience, they didn't understand the gesture. So now I cut myself on the knife, and everyone understands. Someday maybe I'll be a good enough actor to convey the idea of the thorn.

<XmasPlant> awww...

<Jivaro> I always thought you pricked yourself with the thorn.

<MsUnivac> Q: You have a knack for picking great subject matter for your articles. Could you discuss your selection process... how you decide something is worth pursuing and writing about?

TELLER - I write things that capture my interest to my friends on the internet. They're just letters. Every once in a while, when I finish a letter... I'll think "You know? This would make sense in an article!" my pieces also sometimes start out as diary entries.

<Jivaro> Q: Have you been thinking about doing another movie?

TELLER - Right now we're in a top-secret deal  about a TV series, we'll let you guys know as soon as we're allowed to talk about it.

<Mofobabe> wow , that is good news

<Rand0m> Q: What is your favorite myth, or mythological cycle, and why? And in the same vein, to what mythological figure/type would you relate yourself/your work?

TELLER  - ..thinking...

TELLER - hhhmmmm....

TELLER - ( TEX - you stumped him!)

<JR> lol

* JR laughes

<XmasPlant> he he he

* MagicGirl sets back siping her tea

* TellerBot is stunned by his namesake

TELLER  -  as much as you might think I'm a big mythology buff, cause I used to teach Latin, I don't really pay much attention to mythology.

<XmasPlant> Q: I ADORED the Mutter!! Do you have a favorite section or exhibit?

TELLER - The wall of skulls.

<XmasPlant> cool!!

<dymphna> Q Is there any chance the Fantastiks will see the light of day? On video or anyplace else?

TELLER -  from everything I hear from the studio, I'm  sorry to say...NO.

<dymphna> rats

<Mofobabe> if anybody did not get answered ask again now.

> <JR> q: The one about secrets revealed was it answered?

<Falsto> no my secrets revealed q didn't get answered

<JR> I 2nd that falsto i want the answer on that one

<Keet> i 3rd it

<MagicGirl> Q: What do you think of David Blaine? he did that show "Street Magic"

TELLER -  I loved that show, I thought it was the best magic special I've ever seen on TV. It doesn't bother me that Blaine is not the greatest close-up performer in the world....

<JR> agreed here teller

TELLER - That show had GRIT. You could feel what it felt like to watch  a great magic trick.

<XmasPlant> it was a great magic show

<XmasPlant> Q: Is there anything you miss about teaching?

TELLER - (pause)...not that I can think of!

<fuzzyone> Q: What do you think of David Copperfield?

<MagicGirl> Fuzz dont go there

<JR> I 2nd that falsto i want the answer on that one

<fuzzyone> Sorry, didn't mean to offend.

TELLER -  I don't really think of him much at all. He's working in an entirely different form. Um, to me it's like a foreign language...I don't get it.

<JR> lol

> <Falsto> I wish Stuttering John would go at DC with his questions

<XmasPlant> heehee

<JR> the guy cracks me up...

<Falsto> Q: What's up with this "first TV interview" you did for TLC?

TELLER -  uh...better keep your eyes on that carefully. I think its an imposter posing as me. You never see his lips move, do you?

<Psyonia> Q: Do you ever see any of your former students at shows?

TELLER - Frequently, they're all bald and have 2 kids.

<ctuna> heh

<Psyonia> hee hee hee

* XmasPlant chuckles

<JR> lol

<tgoddess> Okay, here's the question AGAIN. Where did the names Skippy Buggs and Rudy come from?

TELLER - Long ago, there was a first initial attached to  my name... One reporter thought it was the letter R. He took Penn aside  and said "So, what does the R stand for?"  Penn acted very serious and embarassed...

<XmasPlant> how can you be serious and embarrassed at the same time?

TELLER - he said "If you PROMISE not to tell Teller I told you, I'll  tell you"..the reporter promised... Penn whispered "It was Rudolph"..the reporter was gleeful,  and kept his dirty little secret to himself. Naturally, Penn was lying. So, when we came to name our little company, we wanted to call it "________ and Rudy's Discount Corp. We needed one Syllable. We were discussing gansters at the time.. Buggs seemed perfect. Skippy? I don't know, we nickname people all sorts of names...

TELLER - A: (continued) we call our business manager Binky. Our old Director of Internal Affairs we called Sweetie Pie...

<XmasPlant> lol

TELLER - When we performed with the Boston Pops, the conductor was so small and Cub Scout-like, we called him Skippy.

<tgoddess> And Krasher is just "Krasher." And Glenn is Shecky. And Nate is going to end up being "Pierco, the Goped Boy!"

<Mofobabe> LOLOL

<TheBosley> <---doesn't want to know what they call the Stalkers!

<Miriam> LOL.  I thought maybe there was a fan there.

<XmasPlant> he he he

<Miriam> How did you guys get to be on babylon 5?

TELLER -  A:(Bab5)they called us out of the blue, I suppose it's because they wanted a comedy team, and there's nobody left as a comedy team except us and the Smothers Brothers. And I bet we were cheaper.

<Keet> Q: what did you think of the "secrets revealed" shows?

TELLER - Didn't see either one, heard they were BORING. It's not as easy as it might seem to expose a trick and make it entertaining.

<UriSux> YEAH!

<tgoddess> It wasn't easy for this guy to do the tricks WITHOUT the exposure and make it entertaining.

<MagicGirl> I hated those shows

<fuzzyone> I did too. I don't want to know!

<Falsto> Valentino can toss my salad

<UriSux> hehe

<MagicGirl> Q: There is a rumor that the reason you don't talk (much) on stage is beacuse you don't like your voice. Any truth to this?

TELLER -  See our show, listen to the spirit singing in the cabinet. What extraordinary beauty of tone, pitch, and modulation.

<XmasPlant> he he he

tgoddess> Teller's singing voice is lovely.

<XmasPlant> yes it is quite

<Miriam> I agree, TG!!

<MagicGirl> I guess that's a no on the truth factor

<Rand0m> Q: Are you more intuitive or logical in the process you go through when coming up with bits? From what you've described, it sounds as if there have been quite a few "happy accidents" resulting in your pieces.

TELLER -  I watch for accidents. Watching for them makes them happen, and makes them useful.. but once that moment of inspiration is over, logic, research, labor, and much furrowing of the brow is what turns that accident into something worth the price of admission. Believe me, if you had seen me in my room with the playschool blocks, you wouldnt have paid a dime.

<Rand0m> oh, I know a few people who probably would. *grin*

<UriSux> wow..Tex spells goooood

<ctuna> : Teller, Hi from Diane (Bubbles) and me! Also, do you know a place near L.A. called "Aladdin's Books and Magic", (nostalgic Magic supplies, etc.) and would you like to meet for lunch while youre in the area?

TELLER - Why yes I know Aladdin books, thanks very much.

<JR> Q: How much of a role do you play scripting the bits as far as what Penn says?

TELLER - A:(scripting) It's hard to nail down exactly where all the text comes from, but my and large, once we have decided what "beats" we are going to hit, Penn leaves the action to me, and I leave the words to him.

<JR> cool

<fuzzyone> Q: Have you ever performed in Canada?

TELLER - Yes, many times, we were in the Missisauga late last year.

<MagicGirl> Q: what (if any) advice do you have for a magician just geting started?

TELLER -  2 things... ONE - read books on magic rather than buying a lot of junky props from the magic store. TWO - perform. No, not just in front of your mirror...

<JR> lol

<Falsto> is he hella "lapper"?

TELLER - perform for PEOPLE. Go after every birthday party, Cub Scout banquet, and Bar-Mitzvah that you can get. Your first 1,000 shows will probably be AWFUL... painful.. the kids may throw things - they threw things at me -but if you've got a real calling, you will go home, wash the goo out of your costume, dry your tears, have a nice strong cup of tea, and pack for the next show.

<UriSux> U can tell a magician... he's the only non Jew that remembers his first Bar-Mitzvah

<XmasPlant> lol

<tgoddess> Q: Who is the best close-up worker you've ever seen?

TELLER - impossible to say. I've seen lots of breath-taking, throat-clutching, close-up. I've seen Jamy Swiss, Eddie Fechter, Mike Close, and MANY others. Some of these guys are so good, it really makes me ashamed to call myself a Magician.

* daputz waves goodbye to everyone nice to see you teller, have a good one

<Mofobabe> okay, I'm asking this for someone else OKAY....... but ... their question is " does it ever get bothersome for you that people tend to call you " cute" all the time?

TELLER - yes, I think it's revolting.

<XmasPlant> Q: I heard a rumor that you were going to take on writing a column for a magazine or newspaper... Is there any truth to this rumor?

TELLER - Yes, Esquire mag., starting as soon as I can get my ass in gear.

<tgoddess> Georgia, are your fingers falling off yet? Hee-hee.

<Falsto> Q: What do you think of Howard Stern? And have you ever been asked "really good" questions by Studdering John?

TELLER -  A:(Stern) I've met Howard only once, he's a hard-nosed businessman. Thats my whole impression of him.

<tgoddess> Q: What magic books (if any) have you read recently that you'd recommend?

TELLER - Recently :"The Genius of Robert Harbin" by Eric Lewis, quite inspiring.

<IslaStar> Q: Has there ever been a time, perhaps when you weren't as successful, when it seemed like you should move on to other projects separately? Have your goals/vision always coincided? (hope that's not too broad)

TELLER - (goals) Let me think...

<ctuna> Comment: Just wanted to say "THANKS" to both you guys for doing this kind of thing for your fans.

<fuzzyone> Me too. It's great what you do for your fans.

TELLER - We have had doubts, and we have had fights so deep and long that they make me think of fights between Tyrannosaruses and Stegasaruses. But...we have always been able to rely on one another. It's that reliability, that assurance, that when the gig happens, your partner will show up SOBER and do his job. That's a lot more important than agreeing on every artistic point.

<tgoddess> Teller would make a good marriage counselor.

<IslaStar> But there was never a point when one of you said "I think I'm going to dental school; see ya"??

<Miriam> LOL

<UriSux> Q: have U heard from Elaine Lund lately AND... whats the news on The Foxy one passing after DMC?

TELLER - Spoke with Elaine Lund maybe 3 months ago..she's an impressive lady. Bob was a great guy, but not a very good organizer. he left her the world's most interesting private museum, and Michigan's biggest organizational headache. But Elaine is very strong. She and that museum will survive.

<UriSux> uh huh...tough old broad...LOL

<JR> sweet

<XmasPlant> Q: Have you done any interviews in print lately that we should be reading soon?

TELLER -Nothing national, it's all been press for the LA run which starts March 24. But do make sure to tune to Dharma & Greg April 1!

<Rand0m> Q: We know about what fascinates you about magic, what you love business?

TELLER - Magic is a REALLY hard form to work in. Everything you do has to look impossible. This isn't any stroll in the park, ya know...I mean... all a song writer has to do is write a clever song. He doesn't have to make the guitar do backflips in the air over the audience while he's singing. OH! It's too damn hard!

<ctuna> Don't tell Nugent that.

<fuzzyone> You do make it look easy though - impossible, but easy

<UriSux> Q: and the news on Karrol?...have only heard rumor

<ctuna> Yeah, we need GOSSIP!

<UriSux> no...gossip is bad

TELLER - A:(Karroll) Karroll Fox died in Las Vegas at his hotel room last Wed. night or Thurs morning.

<UriSux> :(

<JR> oh NO!

<UriSux> damn

<JR> :(

<ctuna> Wow

<UriSux> I got an email but didn't believe it

<tgoddess> someone on alt.magic wrote a nice little obit about him...

<Solinas> alt.magic was very quick with the news

<UriSux> well i called Mullica and he hasnt returned yet and grrr....thank U

<Keet> good night everyone

<tgoddess> I have a question about the barrel bit. I could have SWORN that in a very early iteration of it, both you AND Penn were on stage together during it and you were talking about how tall you were (it was in Cleveland a couple years ago, I believe). Am I hallucinating on this?

<tgoddess> If I'm mistaken, I owe Swiss an apology. We argued about this for 20 minutes....

TELLER - No Maggie, on this one thing, you're NOT halucinating!...

<tgoddess> HA! I KNEW it!


TELLER - That was our very first attempt to put the barrel trick on stage. Don't you feel privileged to have seen such an unspeakably bad performance? That's what proves you're a REAL fan. You still like us after you saw THAT.

<tgoddess> What do you mean "THIS TIME?" Ha-Ha

<TheBosley> <---Was at that Cleveland show too!

<TheBosley> lol

<tgoddess> Oh, Teller...you know I'm only a fan 'cuz Krash pays me under the table! Hee-heee.

<Solinas> <----- sad he's never seen it.

<XmasPlant> Q: You said once that if you weren't a magician, you'd be a film director. Are there any directors now that you feel are doing a great job? And, are there any directors you'd like to work for?

TELLER -  Thinking...Many. Any.

<Jivaro> Q: I'm not sure if you saw my message earlier. I've seen (and met) you about four times (in AZ) when you were at the Scottsdale Center of the Arts and Gammage Audotorium. I was the t-shirt/rat trap/bible guy. Remember me?

TELLER - Remember you? Of course I do!.... I remember every single person who has ever come on stage in the 5 or 6 THOUSAND performances Ive given.

<XmasPlant> lolol

<Jivaro> You let me pet the rabbit once. :)

<tgoddess> I'm looking forward to the "new & improved" Barrel segment in June. It'll one part the Stalkers won't have memorized yet!

<TheBosley> lol

<Falsto> Q: How would a guy get a job with such a fine organization as yours, and what kind of skills would be needed/are you looking for?

<UriSux> LOL...Fals still lookin fera gig

TELLER - If you can invent brilliant AND practical material, that suits our style, there's a lucrative job waiting. But i will caution you.... many have tried. ALL have failed.

<dymphna> Q Recently in People magazine there was a story about a fellow who claims to speak (for a price) to the spirits of deceased loved ones. Why do you think that charlatains like these keep popping up? Why do people want to believe in frauds like this?

<tgoddess> Read Mike Shermer's book, WHY PEOPLE BELIEVE WEIRD THINGS, and you'll get a better idea of why, dymphna.

<Rand0m> fabulous book. also read a lot of Martin Gardner, just to secure yourself even further against such atrocities. ;}

<dymphna> it's on my list Maggie. Im asking for an opinion

TELLER - The world is very complicated. Complexity scares some people, and they retreat to simple, and invariabely wrong but consoling explanations of things... Beats me why they should be such chickens.

<UriSux> hey...we seellin books here??? have I GOT a book for U!!!

<UriSux> heheh

<JR> lol

<tgoddess> So Teller...are you going to take that guy up who offered to put you and Penn in a porno movie? Hee-hee.

<tgoddess> I just want you guys to know that I DO forward your stuff to the guys.

<XmasPlant> hey now, maggie!!

<XmasPlant> lol

<MsUnivac> Q: I was surprised to learn you and Penn started out not each other. When did things start to change? Do you genuinely like each other now?

TELLER - (TEX - ok, MsUnivac's question will be answered, then ONE more....then we're done)

<fuzzyone> Q: Will you do this again?

<tgoddess> Oh, sure...bail when I ask the JUICY question...Ha-ha!

<ctuna> <-- wondering what the title would be (of porn movie)

TELLER -It took about 10 years for us to realize that,in spite of our almost daily, knock-down, drag-out fights, we were each the best friend the other would ever have.

<Rand0m> Q: Is your work an outlet for your emotions, ordo you stay detatched from it emotionally?

TELLER - Art is not an easy outlet for the emotions, it's not like screaming or dancing around in a circle. There's work involved. But once the work is done, you end up feeling your emotions expressed with more freedom than any random exclamation could equal. There's nothing in the world more satisfying.

TELLER - Of course I'll do this again.... good night!

<MsUnivac> Thank you

<XmasPlant> awwww....

<UriSux> danka

<Jivaro> Thanks for being here!

<fuzzyone> Thanks - that was great!

Nick change: TELLER -> Tex

<Mofobabe> thanks for being here teller

JR thanks teller for being here...as i'm sure we all do

         ******** Additional Questions & Answers************

Upon reviewing the transcripts of the chat, Tex (Gerogia Maher) noticed that 4 questions were not answered. She asked Teller if he would mind answering the questions via email and he graciously agreed. Here are those questions and answers:


<IslaStar. Your piece "The Price of Admission" is beautiful. Can you say more about how artists 'pay' for what they do?

TELLER : I'm afraid I said it all as well as I could in that piece. The rest is the reader's job.

<MsUnivac> How did you hit upon the notion of refusing to apologize to each other in your professional relationship? How do you make it work?

Teller: We noticed that apologizing seemed to be a way to continue an argument, usually more meanly. "I'm sorry I smashed into your car. There just didn't seem to be another way out of the driveway you were blocking...."etc. We can smell a fight coming now, and when it happens, we just quickly stop. Sometimes this means walking away from each other and pulling it together. Sometimes it's just a quick change of topic. Now, mind you, this does NOT apply to artistic disagreements. On artistic disagreements, we really hash stuff out to the last hairsplit. It's not always fun, but it's how we make progress and get the really hard stuff in place. The development of our newish Houdini seance/opera piece was one long artistic argument, and the result is something I'm very proud of, a rich, strange event neither of us would ever have dreamt up by himself.

<TFinn> If you could kill Andrew Lloyd Webber without fear of punishment, how would you do it?

TELLER  - Oh, I'd let the gnome live, confine him to the set of Sunset Boulevard, and force him to listen to Sarah Brightman and Michael Crawford 24 hours a day. That's the hell he deserves.

<tgoddess> Are you going to take that guy up on his offer to put you & Penn in a porno movie?

TELLER - I don't think we've decided yet. It's sure an intriguing proposition. And I suspect we'd be in character rather than romantic lead roles.



A HUGE thank you to Teller for being so gracious, patient, sharing and wonderful!

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