Return to Transcripts main page
Honest Questions with Penn Jillette
Aired November 2, 2007 - 19:00:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
GLENN BECK, HOST (voice-over): He`s smart, funny, larger than life.
PENN JILLETTE, MAGICIAN: A miracle or a magic trick?
BECK: With opinions on everything from God to guns.
JILLETTE: Gun control is bull (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
BECK: Penn Jillette, one half of the famed Penn & Teller duo. He has as much of a knack for tricks as he does for pissing people off.
JILLETTE: Usually, at least a few people are on our side.
BECK: Libertarian, atheist, author, illusionist, Penn Jillette joins me now for a full hour of honest questions.
BECK: I have to tell you, I -- America, buckle up. If you don`t know who Penn Jillette is, this is going to be an hour unlike you hear on most television shows. This guy is extraordinarily frank on what he believes.
I am thrilled to have you here.
JILLETTE: That`s your job, though. You`re also extraordinarily frank, aren`t you?
BECK: Yes. Aren`t you sick of all the politically correct bull crap?
JILLETTE: Well, you know, and that`s a good example of it right there. Yes, a little bit. A little bit.
BECK: Oh, just a little?
JILLETTE: Little bit.
JILLETTE: I think that we`re trying very hard to be very aggressively outspoken. I mean, the name of our show is -- well, I can`t say it here. But the name of our show is "B.S."
JILLETTE: When you`ve titled your show that, you have to go very, very hard to not do any of the politically correct stuff.
BECK: But I have to tell you -- I have to tell you, I`ve seen your show. I think it`s just honest.
JILLETTE: Yes, well, we try really hard, you know. And it`s funny that we live in a time where a pro-science show -- you know, the show is usually positioned as we`re debunking and we`re busting things.
JILLETTE: But that`s not what it is at all. It`s just a pro-science, you know, pro-logic show, and it`s amazing that that`s rare on TV.
BECK: I find -- you know what? It`s rare in anything that really kind of matters. It`s not rare in your home. But it is rare -- you know, I read this great quote the other day. It said, "I don`t believe that any society has ever become more tolerant. They just change targets."
JILLETTE: Oh, yes.
BECK: I think that`s what we`re doing.
JILLETTE: You have to always remember when you`re -- when you`re talking about the woes of the world, that everything gets better all the time, you know. We are -- we are safer, better educated, healthier than we`ve ever been.
BECK: Yes. Most people don`t -- most people don`t even know that our drinking water 100 years ago, you say is it cleaner then or now? They would say oh, then. Just take a drop out of the stream.
JILLETTE: And that there are more trees. You know, there are more trees in the USA than there were then. Because when you use trees for paper, they`re less apt to go away. You know, we don`t have a shortage of popcorn because people eat it. When you use things, we grow more of it.
BECK: So let me ask you this. I don`t know if you saw the -- I don`t know if you saw the story this week about the University of Delaware coming out and having the R.A.s do a -- I like to call it an indoctrination program, where they`re -- where they`re saying, "Tell me about your first time when you realized what race you were."
And they come -- they come out and they have defined racism as all white people, and people of color can`t be racist. Do you...
JILLETTE: Well, you know, I`ve been to -- I`ve been to China. I`ve been to India. I`ve been to the Middle East. And what`s interesting over there is that they`re not talking about working on racism at all. They`ve called it something else. They call it pride.
You know, in China the racism towards white Americans, African- Americans, any kind of Americans, is complete and absolute. And it`s so non-questioned that they talk about how many racial problems we have. And of course, we do, because when you`ve got the U.S., Canada, England, you know, several other countries are the only ones trying to have different races living together equally.
BECK: So how do -- but when you`re being so politically correct and yet you`re still trying to point the finger at everybody who`s a racist and you`re trying not to be a racist.
I was in the subway the other day. I came across this sign. It was amazing. I`m walking down into the subways here in New York, and there`s cops everywhere, and there`s a sign that says, "You`re about to be asked to be searched. Your bag may be searched." Now, it`s a warning.
And I`m thinking, if I`m a terrorist, I now get out. And then you get up there, and it was just a bunch of cops that were just standing around. I love the New York City cops. But they weren`t asking anybody, because there was another sign that said, "You do not have to submit to a search." Just so they wouldn`t offend anybody.
JILLETTE: It`s good that someone remembers that. You know, I`ve often thought -- I`m going to fly back to Vegas right after I do this show. And if I were to put on a T-shirt that simply said "Live Free or Die", I don`t think you`d get through airport security.
BECK: You wouldn`t. People wouldn`t -- I don`t think people would even understand that.
JILLETTE: I mean, it`s remarkable that the idea used to be, you know, land of the free, home of the brave, and there was supposed to be some risks associated with freedom. And that`s one of the things that saddens me the most.
BECK: But don`t you think -- not only some risks with freedom but we`ve lost sight of -- we concentrate on the rights but not the responsibilities.
JILLETTE: Well, you know, I guess so. I guess so. But I think that the responsibilities will come if you give the freedom. I mean, if you look at -- we`re going into our sixth year of "B.S." on Showtime. And the major thing we push is just the idea that you can -- you can`t ever go wrong with more freedom. I mean, the original idea this country was based on, which is the freedom to do stupid things...
BECK: Yes. Freedom to fail.
JILLETTE: Freedom only -- freedom only means the freedom to be stupid. You know?
BECK: Yes, yes.
JILLETTE: Because you don`t need freedom to do what everybody thinks you should.
BECK: Well, I mean, honestly, do you really -- do you really think that today our government would allow someone to go out and fly a kite with a key on the end of it? I mean, OSHA would come up and say, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, no kites with keys."
JILLETTE: Absolutely. And I think that there`s a great deal of joy in having -- in having people do nutty and dangerous and stupid things. And it`s also, with the politically correct, thing you have to trust freedom of speech. You know, you can have -- the answer to bad speech is always more speech.
BECK: Not in this society anymore.
JILLETTE: And if Dog the Bounty Hunter wants to have that -- wants to say that tape to his son and then it gets played, the best thing for that to happen is for everybody to comment on that and -- and be repulsed by it.
BECK: Right. So -- but not in this society anymore, Penn. Not in this society.
JILLETTE: Well, you have to remember, when everybody talks about the -- how things have closed up somewhat, I think they might be a little wrong. I mean, Eminem, what, three years ago had the No. 1 song in the country with obscenity in it and absolute, complete unequivocal attacks against the president.
And that`s something that any patriot should really sit down and cry with joy. The fact that we live in a country -- I hated Michael Moore`s movie. I hated "Fahrenheit 9/11".
JILLETTE: I hated it.
BECK: I love it. Hang on. See, I told you, America, this guy`s great.
JILLETTE: But seeing that -- there`s another part of this.
JILLETTE: Seeing that name on the marquee of a theater just filled my heart with joy.
BECK: See, you know what?
JILLETTE: The fact you can come out with a movie that hates the country that much is just glorious.
BECK: Yes, there is...
JILLETTE: You don`t see that in any other country.
BECK: Right. There is nothing more American than speaking out against America or American -- there is nothing more American.
BECK: With that being said, though, I -- a phrase that Thomas Jefferson wrote that changed my life is, "Question everything, even religion, for if there be a God, he must surely rather honest questioning over blindfolded fear."
To me, the key is honest questioning. And too many people engage in just questioning because it`s their agenda. They want to further their agenda.
BECK: How do we get to a place in our country where -- I mean, these damn Republicans and Democrats are driving me out of my mind. Honest questions.
JILLETTE: One of the things that we`re falling, for, though, and the campaign finance reform did horrible stuff with this, is the two-party system. The idea that you`re supposed to pick one or the other.
JILLETTE: That`s not built anywhere into the idea of the U.S. And that`s the thing that saddens me the most. Is I was -- during the last election I went to all -- all the places I`d walk by that were Kerry places and Democrat places, and I would say, "Say something good about your guy without saying something bad about Bush."
JILLETTE: None of them could. It was astonishing. And they`re going to do the same thing again.
BECK: We have the same thing. Conway, our producer, can you tell me, how many people did we go through, when we were trying to find people that could speak for the Republicans, speak for the Democrats.
Every time they would get on the first time I would say, "Say something that the opponent does right." And they wouldn`t do it.
JILLETTE: I wasn`t even asking for that. Say something your guy does right. You know, everybody`s voting against people; nobody`s voting for. I didn`t know anyone who was voting for Kerry or for Bush.
JILLETTE: They were voting against the other one.
BECK: You know, it`s so strange, because that`s what the -- the Republican strategy now is so many people will come out and vote against Hillary Clinton.
BECK: I don`t want to vote against an idea. That is not American. I want to vote for something.
JILLETTE: Sure, sure. And they always do that, you know. And I would say, I would say a bad thing about Gore or a bad thing about Kerry, and the reaction would be, "Oh, so you`re voting for Bush." Those are your only choices.
And I would say, "No, no, no, no, no. I dislike Bush more than you do, because I don`t want to put someone else in power. I want someone with less power there." You know? I don`t want -- it`s not my guy should be having all this power. It`s nobody should be having all that power.
Let`s pull it back. Let`s have it limited. And let`s have individuals have more power. I mean...
BECK: Hang on. Hang on just a second. He`s starting to sound like that crazy Ron Paul guy.
JILLETTE: He might be right.
BECK: We`ll get back to -- we`ll get back to Penn Jillette here in just a second.
GRAPHIC: Penn Jillette graduated from: A) Columbia University; B) Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Clown College; C) Harvard University; D) Baltimore College of Magic & Mayhem.
GRAPHIC: Penn Jillette graduated from: B) Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Clown College.
BECK: I`m spending an hour with a guy who went to clown college?
JILLETTE: Deep research. Horrible skeletons at the bottom of the closet.
BECK: What is clown college like, you poor man?
JILLETTE: Well, first of all, you obviously did not go through Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Greatest Show on Earth Clown College. Or you would never say clown college. You`d say Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Greatest Show on Earth Clown College.
BECK: So tell me what the final exam at clown college is like?
JILLETTE: Final exam is doing a three-hour show in an arena for only about 40 people with all these clowns -- I wasn`t a good clown at all. I got in because I was a very good juggler. And they thought, well, maybe -- and I was also the youngest. We`ll let the juggling guy in and maybe do OK.
But I`m not physically funny. I work with a partner who`s silent. He is funny physically.
BECK: Not so much.
JILLETTE: I can`t really make a good face. I guess that`s about the best I have.
BECK: I just want to say, America, this is quite possibly my favorite transition in my 30-year career. So you were a juggler. Let me ask you about the libertarian candidate and why all libertarians like you are perceived a little nuts.
JILLETTE: Well, you know, the idea that you`ve got -- you`ve got a country that has been giving more and more to the people. Ben Franklin has a quote that I won`t get exactly right, but that P.J. O`Rourke quotes all the time, that you know, America will do OK until people learn they can vote themselves money.
JILLETTE: That`s not the exact quote. I know it`s much better.
And I think we`ve got this whole thing where every program has grown so big that simply the idea that people should have more power to themselves comes off nutty.
BECK: Well, that`s not it. No, that`s not it. Look at the guy.
JILLETTE: Look at me.
BECK: You`re a magician. You went to clown college!
JILLETTE: I`m sorry. I`m so sorry.
BECK: Gees. I mean, aren`t there -- look, I believe in so much of what libertarians -- they -- that philosophy...
JILLETTE: Did Harry Brown seem like a nut to you?
BECK: Don`t remember Harry Brown.
JILLETTE: Yes, well, he died a couple years ago, but he ran three years in a row, and what I loved about him was, although he was absolutely as crazy as me, there was no hint of it. He didn`t have fingernail polish on, not a stupid beard.
JILLETTE: He wasn`t like screaming into your face. He was nuts. And he ran, I guess it was, you know, eight years ago would have been the last time.
BECK: See, here`s the problem. I think libertarians are closest to the founding fathers that we have. That`s what they -- that`s what they were talking about.
JILLETTE: That`s all they`re trying for.
BECK: Right. And it was -- it`s brilliant, brilliant stuff. And it`s great. But good God in heaven, isn`t there any libertarian out there that`s...
JILLETTE: Well, the problem is that, and I forget who said this, it was a science fiction writer, who said to get everybody in the country libertarian all you had to do is convince the dope people that the gun people were OK and the gun people that the dope people were OK and everyone was libertarian.
Now, you know, I`ve never had a drink of alcohol or a puff of marijuana or any recreational drug in my life.
BECK: Of course not. You couldn`t make it through clown college.
BECK: You had to be sober.
JILLETTE: And although I use guns in our show, I hate being around them. You know, my feeling about gun control is that everyone in the country should have a gun except me, because I hate to carry things.
JILLETTE: Even a cell phone`s a bit much for me.
JILLETTE: But if everybody else had a gun, you`re OK because the overwhelming majority of people are good. And so if they all have guns, the bad guys are outnumbered automatically.
JILLETTE: And I think that it`s just very hard to get across to people that, even if you aren`t a dope smoker, having it legal is better. It will save you money.
BECK: Yes, but you know, here`s a problem -- here`s the problem with that. Because I agree with you. But you would have to conquer something else. You wouldn`t have to just convince the dope smokers that the gun guys are OK. You also then have to convince people who are trying to save the world to take a step over the body of the guy who is killing himself with drugs. You know what I mean?
You have to be able to say -- and again, to quote Franklin, to butcher Franklin, you have to allow people to fail.
BECK: And most people in America wouldn`t do that.
JILLETTE: Or you have to help them one on one, which is the part that`s always forgotten.
JILLETTE: I have a good friend in Vegas, a rich guy, philanthropist, does great stuff, and wants to be a libertarian, but he says to me, who`s going to take care of the crack babies? And my answer is, "You."
JILLETTE: Not someone like you. The guy I`m talking to, "It`s actually you. You have the money to take care of the crack babies in Vegas. You`re a philanthropist. You do it."
And he goes, "Well, you know, other people wouldn`t do it."
And I go, "No, but you would."
BECK: But nobody does it...
BECK: ... because everybody looks at like the government should be taking care of this.
BECK: No, the government shouldn`t be taking care -- I have never, ever felt charitable on April 15.
JILLETTE: It takes all the joy out of it. Remember that -- that hero -- I mean, why isn`t she president now? She was -- about -- about ten years ago there was a case where they tried -- maybe it was less. Tried to put in community service where you had to, in order to graduate from this high school...
JILLETTE: ... do X amount of community service. There was a straight A student who was volunteering for nursing home work, like ten times what they required in school but would not put in for it, because then it wouldn`t be volunteer work.
BECK: That is -- you know what, my daughter...
JILLETTE: I said, why -- let`s make her president right now.
JILLETTE: I mean, I know she`s 15.
JILLETTE: Just make her president. Let her have eight years. I`m fine with that.
BECK: Couldn`t do worse than some of the clowns in Washington. No offense to clowns.
JILLETTE: You with the clown thing.
BECK: I know. I`m sorry.
JILLETTE: You enjoy that much too much. I should have done more research on you. Just a clown and a Mormon. We both wear funny underwear. Different reasons.
BECK: All right. Now listen, here`s the thing. My daughter and I were having a conversation about this very thing. That charity is dead in America for a lot of -- for a big part of the reason is you now have to do it to get into college. It`s no longer that you do it because you want to.
JILLETTE: Although even as cynical as you want to be about that, even with the taxes and the government taking over so Americans are still charitable and helpful...
BECK: Yes. As individuals. Yes.
JILLETTE: It`s all the people that say, you know, "We`ve got to take care of these people." Those people are the ones who can say you`re going to do it.
JILLETTE: And I`ll help you. We`ll all take care of it.
BECK: More with Penn Jillette in just a second.
BECK: We were in the break. I wish you would have heard this. We were just talking about Hillary Clinton, and I said, how does somebody who comes out and says, "I want higher taxes. I want bigger government," how are they winning?
JILLETTE: I don`t know that. I also don`t know -- didn`t she say something, I won`t get the quote exactly right, America can`t afford all my...
BECK: I have lots of ideas, and America can`t afford all of them.
JILLETTE: I don`t know what that means, but I know it`s bad. I know that if I said that, if I went on Stern and said that.
JILLETTE: That afterwards I`d walk out and the PR guy would be going, "Don`t say that thing about America not affording your ideas."
BECK: It`s amazing.
JILLETTE: It sounds like Charlie Manson.
JILLETTE: It sounds like a crazy -- and I don`t know. Somebody should be able to explain to me what it means, because obviously people didn`t just go, "Aahh, she`s out of the race." So people can`t...
BECK: So tell me...
JILLETTE: But she`s our next president, and that`s OK.
BECK: How is -- how does this country go from where we were to where we are, to where we`re looking at...
JILLETTE: The New Deal.
BECK: It is, isn`t it? Have you read "The Forgotten Man"?
JILLETTE: No, I haven`t.
BECK: You have to read that book. You`d love it.
JILLETTE: It all happens in the New Deal.
BECK: It does.
JILLETTE: It all happens when they make a bad decision on how to save people, and people think that everything that happens good after that is because of that.
BECK: Did you see -- there`s one candidate -- maybe it`s John Edwards, it may be Hillary -- that is saying that they`re going to bring the new New Deal. It`s another New Deal kind of program.
JILLETTE: New and Improved Deal.
BECK: I just -- I can`t tell you how much I love you that you hate Michael Moore as much as I do. My biggest problem with Michael Moore...
JILLETTE: I didn`t say -- we talked about, for the next season, doing something about his -- on his sick -- his "Sicko." His...
BECK: Yes. Health care.
JILLETTE: ... health care. And we decided not to do it in the next season. So I get a reprieve. I haven`t seen the last movie.
JILLETTE: Maybe it`s wonderful.
BECK: No, it`s not.
BECK: Here`s the -- this is when I thought to myself, "This guy I cannot tolerate." He has in his, you know, best-selling book a few years ago a chapter that is how you`re not going to be able to make it because the system in America is set up against you, and you`ll never succeed.
And I thought, you little fat boy from a poor family, how did you make it? You`re flying around in a private jet. How did you make it?
JILLETTE: Yes. I`ve never -- I`ve never really understood that. I think that you can have so much compassion without being defeatist. I mean, you can go into the Ayn Rand stuff and all that objectivist stuff and believe it completely, which I think I do.
JILLETTE: And while you`re doing that you can still say that some people get a bum deal. They can be helped out a little bit. You don`t have to say that nobody...
JILLETTE: ... should be allowed the freedom to be able to do stuff because some people are going to be hit by trucks. You can still help people out.
BECK: I want to -- I want to get into some of the -- the weird things that are going on in our country right now. And how much time do we have before the break?
Let me just start here. The 9/11 truthers.
JILLETTE: Well, you know, there`s something -- I talked to Hitchens about this, and Hitchens knows everything. I guess I can just end there. He knows everything. So if you bring up to Hitchens...
BECK: Let me just counterpoint. I think he`s wrong about Hitchens. But that`s...
BECK: Hang on, hang on. Let me take a break now.
JILLETTE: He knows history.
BECK: We`re going to come back in just a second.
JILLETTE: We`ll get to 9/11 truthers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JILLETTE: The guys who founded our country gave us the right to have guns so when the time came for the next revolution we`d be armed and ready. So when people support gun control for their comfort or their peace of mind, they`re forgetting that they`re killing something there, too. Gun control is bull (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BECK: How true it is, man. Most people want to say that it`s about sportsmanship.
JILLETTE: Yeah, I don`t...
BECK: They weren`t sportsmen.
JILLETTE: I just don`t know why you only want the guys in power to have guns.
JILLETTE: It seems like you want -- you know, all of this comes from, all of the problems you talk about seem to come from the fact that we forget that everybody`s good. If you run into a Starbucks and say, "My Ferrari`s parked outside, and I have to run to the emergency room with my wife, could you take care of my Ferrari, and park it, and I`ll get back to you later?" As long as you pick the person, as long as you`re the one throwing the keys and no one comes up and goes, "Let me take that for you," your chances of hitting a bad person are really, really low.
Most people are wonderful and really great. And we have media now that has to report all the bad news, so you get this distorted view. My mom and dad, you know, toward the end of their lives were shut-ins, and they lived in a small New England town and watched the news on TV. And I lived in New York City and was doing a show on Broadway. And I`d have to call them every day and say, "Mom, I`m not getting beat up in the streets every night. There aren`t riots all the time. Things are really OK."
BECK: I think news is like sausage. You don`t ever want to -- you might like to eat it, but you don`t ever want to see it made.
BECK: It is so far away from the original truth most times.
JILLETTE: Yes. It`s so funny that when you first -- and this experience we`ve lost, because we`re in show business. But when you had that first experience...
BECK: This is show business?
BECK: It ain`t that great, gang.
JILLETTE: ... of reading a newspaper article that you know something about, remember the first time that happened?
BECK: Oh, yes.
JILLETTE: Because you aren`t from a city family or anything, right?
BECK: No. No.
JILLETTE: So you had that experience of you`ve been reading the paper for eight years, and then all of a sudden there was one article you knew something about, and there were mistakes all the way through it. And for another two years, you say, "Oh, I guess the stuff I know about has bad reporters assigned to it."
And then all of a sudden it dawns on you: Every interview with me has been wrong, because every interview with everybody has been wrong.
JILLETTE: Every description of our show is wrong because every description of events is wrong. And people have to remember that there`s just a sloppiness there.
BECK: So then how do you agree on truth? And let`s come back to the 9/11 truthers. These guys believe that we took down the World Trade Center. It`s now 12 percent of the population. That`s going to get larger, not smaller. Rosie O`Donnell, Charlie Sheen, all of these celebrities are beating this drum.
JILLETTE: It`s astonishing. But there was something -- I started to say about Hitchens, is I asked Hitchens the -- I read an article years ago...
BECK: This is the atheist.
JILLETTE: Christopher Hitchens, smart guy.
JILLETTE: Right after the Lincoln assassination, OK, everybody said, you know, John Wilkes Booth, and that everybody believed that for about eight, nine years. And then all these conspiracy theories came out and flourished for a good hunk of time and then just went away. And the Kennedy assassination, we saw that same thing. It was Lee Harvey Oswald, boom, and then all of a sudden the Oliver Stones and everything just build up over a 10-, 15-year period.
And I think that, whenever you have a horrible event caused by a very small thing, one man shoots the president or one man talking to another two or three, in Booth`s case, I think -- and with 9/11, you`ve really got a conspiracy of, what, 150 people. It`s a small amount of people that did 9/11. So many people would much rather have evil, an evil conspiracy than just simply chaos and the ability for a small number of people to do bad things.
And I think it has more to do with drama than it has to do with paranoia. What happened on 9/11 was so horrific and changes all our lives forever that it can`t just be 150 people. It`s got to be something deeper.
BECK: So then tell me -- let`s go into this. Then tell me about how it`s not a giant, global conspiracy on global warming. This thing is the biggest bunch of bull crap I`ve ever heard, and yet it`s everywhere.
JILLETTE: Being a skeptic, as I have been, there`s one basic rule you have to follow, which is never, never attribute to conspiracy what can be attributed to ignorance, you know?
BECK: Yes, but you can`t -- wait a minute.
JILLETTE: People will never get together -- how are you defining conspiracy?
BECK: You can`t tell me -- you can`t tell me that this is ignorance. Look, I`ll buy into the globe is warming. I mean, it`s a cycle.
JILLETTE: There`s five parts of what we call global warming. There`s, "The world is getting warmer." There`s, "We caused it." There`s, "We can do something about it." And there`s, "This is what we should do about it." There`s, "Don`t number them in advance because you may not have as many as you started with."
BECK: That`s the last one?
JILLETTE: That`s the basic one. It`s always in everything. But probably...
BECK: I`ll give you the first one.
BECK: Yes, but the rest of them I don`t. And you can`t attribute that, this massive global push for those three, to ignorance. These are supposedly the smartest people on the planet.
JILLETTE: You can certainly put it to the fact that human beings -- two things have always been true about human beings. One, the world is always getting better. Two, the people living at that time think it`s getting worse.
It`s because you get older, your responsibilities are different. Now I`m taking care of children instead of being a child. It makes the world look scarier. That happens to everyone.
And on top of that, we have this horrible -- you can call it Judeo- Christian, I think it`s even deeper than that, deeper than the Abrahamic religions -- of this horrible guilt that things go well. I mean, my kids won`t have polio, you know? And I`m old enough that my parents were still reminding themselves they didn`t have to worry about it. You know, I wasn`t going to get polio. I had the vaccine. They still worried about it.
And I think that there`s this huge amount of guilt for how good things are, and there`s this puritanical strain that liberals don`t know how to deal with because, you know, they don`t have the religion that started that. They just have this, you know, what I call it is we hate ourselves. It`s this, "Things are too good. It must be our fault. We can`t be doing this."
And whether you`re recycling or whether you`re doing penance or whether you`re hitting yourself with a whip, it`s all the same thing of just not being willing to say, "Wow, we`ve got it really good, but let`s help a few other people."
BECK: So George Carlin was on the show a couple of days ago.
BECK: Great guy, and shocked because I thought for sure he was going to hate me. And he came on, and we had a really good conversation.
JILLETTE: He`s a wonderful man.
BECK: Yes, really nice guy and great conversation. In the conversation, he said, "America`s over. It`s over. Our freedom is gone. It just hasn`t caught up to us yet." You sound like an optimist, everything is getting better. Debunk that.
JILLETTE: I have been a huge fan of George Carlin`s since I was a kid. I`ve known him and he`s been very important in my life for a long time. He`s a hero of mine, but we could not disagree more. It`s amazing how, right after 9/11, he wrote in his notebook, and I typed in my journal, because he`s a little bit of a Luddite, "There go our civil liberties." Within an hour of the towers going down, that`s what both of us were thinking.
And yet I see it as constant vigilance, and we have to fight for our civil liberties, and things will still go because people are really good, and he sees it as Doomsday. And it`s really funny how many things George and I can agree on, and yet I`m this ridiculous Pollyanna where I think everything`s going to get better.
I feel very certain that my children will live in a world that`s freer, safer, cleaner, and more beautiful than the one that I lived in, which was much better than my parents`, which was much better than their parents`, and all the way back.
BECK: You know what`s funny? Because you are so -- I used to be there. I used to be. I did.
JILLETTE: "I used to be like you, kid."
BECK: You know what? I don`t like the fact that I see so many things and I think, "Good God in Heaven, unless people wake up, there go our civil liberties."
JILLETTE: There are such amazing counterexamples, you know? And I think this is important to bring up. We`re both part of nut minorities, right? You`re Church of the Latter-Day Saints, and I`m an atheist. There`s a few more atheists than there are you guys, but not many. We`re minorities. We`re not running the country.
BECK: Oh, yet.
JILLETTE: You`ve got the Boy Scouts.
BECK: We have the Boy Scouts.
JILLETTE: You`ve got the Boy Scouts, right, and we get the scientists. But it`s incredible to me that, in these two groups that are not in the most positive groups in our country, we are treated very well and people like us are treated very well. And we have many fans of our show who are aware that we`re atheists and are they themselves Christians and really understand the marketplace of ideas, and that seems to be expanding rather than narrowing, you know?
We have a country, and this is -- I want to stick up for these people because nobody does, and I`m the last person who should be. But you have a huge number of people in this country who believe abortion is murder, OK? They don`t think it might be or it might be a little wrong; they believe absolutely it`s murder. And they have been dedicating their lives and now getting into another generation of dedicating their lives to fighting this that they believe is murder, and they are doing it overwhelmingly nonviolently. That has never been done in the history of the world.
Now, I disagree with them, and that`s not important. What`s important is they`re standing outside abortion clinics, they`re holding their signs, they`re screaming, they`re yelling, they`re writing their Web pages, they are using the marketplace of ideas, absolutely, but, by and large -- there are some horrible examples, but it`s single-digit, single-digit examples of atrocities they`ve done -- and yet they have that strong feeling.
And that gives me hope. And it gives me hope that I can talk to them, and I`m an atheist and say, "I disagree with you, but, man, I love the way you`re fighting, because you`re fighting the way the founding fathers wanted."
BECK: Back in a second with Penn Jillette.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JILLETTE: It was perfect! Using this take makes it the best way to make our point. It was fine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
Looks like the boom was in that shot.
BECK: I don`t know what that -- we`re back with Penn Jillette, thinker, general smart guy...
BECK: Juggler. Went to clown college. I mean, I could just put that up there
JILLETTE: You don`t want to ever put smart guy and clown college together.
JILLETTE: I`m a guy that juggles and makes jokes, you know, and it`s kind of bothersome to me -- I mean, this is one of my pet peeves. Since I was sticking up for the anti-abortion people and having an atheist do that is kind of...
JILLETTE: ... I also -- the campaign finance reform that says that, if you`re a juggler who makes jokes, you can go on a show like this and give your political opinion forever, but if I happen to be somebody that did something less important, like invented a heart valve and made some money and wanted to take an ad out that said this position, instead of making jokes with someone like you, I wouldn`t be allowed to do it? It`s astonishing to me that I get to voice my opinion on things because I learned to juggle. There are people so much smarter than me who know so much more who don`t want to go on TV and make jokes with you, but might want to take out a minute ad.
BECK: So how do you get from a place where I think we are, we`re at cakes and circus. That`s where we`re at right now. The whole world is set up on cakes and circus. How do we get from there to grabbing our country back?
JILLETTE: Well, first of all, cakes and circus is a great place to be. When you have...
BECK: When you make money on cakes and circus.
JILLETTE: ... when you have leisure time is when people do beautiful things.
JILLETTE: You know, when we`re just trying to get food into our children`s mouths, we`re just trying to get clean water, beautiful things don`t happen. I mean, other than raising a family, which of course...
BECK: But don`t you think...
JILLETTE: So I think that, once you have the leisure time -- you know, I think that in, you know, 1988, I was running around saying that the Web was going to change the world and that the Internet and information going directly through was going to change the world. Now, it turns out I was a pessimist, you know? The changes the Internet have made are unbelievable. And I`m not just talking about the porno you download. That`s wonderful.
BECK: I don`t. You`re the atheist.
JILLETTE: Oh, that`s right.
BECK: I`m the Mormon.
JILLETTE: I confuse us so often. Which one was the one who went to clown college?
BECK: I know. Remember me. I`m not wearing glasses, America.
JILLETTE: But, you know, there`s really cool stuff happening on the Internet. There`s stuff that no one could have imagined. Juggling is better because of the Internet. No one guessed that. But it turns out that you take little video clips of people juggling, and people can watch them in Russia, you know? Those kids get better. Juggling improves. Everybody improves. And as everybody gets to talk to everybody else, I think that`s where we...
BECK: But as everybody is talking to each other, nobody`s really listening to the people...
JILLETTE: Yes, they are.
BECK: Wait a minute. Wait a minute. People are not listening or explaining how they are, and I don`t get it. They`re not listening to what`s really happening, for instance, in the government, where we`ve been convinced that you don`t pay your fair share.
JILLETTE: Well, yes, that`s talked about a lot. And actually, because it was a friend of mine that worked on the big tax reform, it was me personally.
Yes, there`s an awful lot of that. But I remember once I was at a -- when Nader was running for president -- I guess he`s run many times, but one of the times he was there as what they consider to be a spoiler. I was in San Francisco doing an NPR thing, you know? And I said, "You know, Nader`s 100 percent right. Corporations do run this country." And the whole crowd cheered. And I said, "But he`s wrong, because that`s a good thing."
The fact that the Internet is working its way around governments, you know, both really bad governments and pretty good governments, the Internet works around it and gets people around there. You know, there`s a whole problem with stuff not being paid in terms of taxes in cyberspace, and all of that stuff is moving that way.
So you`re looking for the solution, things getting better, by going back to the founding fathers, but we`ll go back to the founding fathers through the future. It`s always technology. The United States was invented by the Guttenberg press. You know, that was taking new technology and saying, "Wait a minute. What if we took this to the logical conclusion?"
And the ideas were profound enough, they are the only ideas that can include the Internet. An idea of a top-down government does not include the Internet. And the Internet is more powerful than any government, because the Internet is nothing except individual people talking to...
BECK: You know the thing I found amazing...
JILLETTE: And you should download some porn, because it`s great.
BECK: When I was looking for some solutions -- I mean, you know, I`m not like you. I worry a lot. And so I`m thinking about all these things, and I think what -- how do we solve this? And then I realize, you know, our founding fathers didn`t make a mistake. It`s not like they went, "Hey, Thomas, the font`s too big. You can`t fit it all on a page. We the people." It is really -- and I assume that`s what you`re talking about on the Internet, as well -- it really is the solution. Once we connect, once we...
JILLETTE: Well, you have a built-in meritocracy. You can`t tell who`s putting the stuff out there. But it`s really bad, because it means that the person that teaches you fire-eating on the Web might have the wrong information, you know?
BECK: You don`t know what the truth is sometimes.
JILLETTE: But my children, you know, who are 2 1/2 years old and 1 1/2 years old, and are going to go on the Internet, are going to have skills that I can`t imagine, to be able to tell what`s bogus and what`s real and how to get there. And we`re worried so much about predators and people finding our children on the Web, what we don`t realize is, in this particular battle, our children will be better than us. They will know more about how to protect themselves than we ever could.
BECK: Back with final thoughts from Penn Jillette.
JILLETTE: Final thoughts?
BECK: Final thoughts.
BECK: Back with final thoughts with Penn Jillette. I know I`ve taken you down on clown college, but you have made several comments about my faith today. And the one thing that you said, I think the last time we were on together, I asked you a question, and you didn`t give me a serious answer.
BECK: From what I understand, I have been told you will not have a person of faith at your house. And I asked, would I -- and I`m not asking for an invite. But I`m asking, is that true? And if it is, why?
JILLETTE: Well, this is the exact same argument I had with Christopher Hitchens, which you`ll like, because Hitchens likes to drink now and again, now and again being every second he`s awake. And I`ve never had a drink, and I don`t like in my house people drinking or doing drugs or anything. It`s an absolute rule I have in my house. I don`t want to be around that. And I use that example...
BECK: We have something in common.
JILLETTE: Yes, so Hitchens wanted to come over and watch "The Aristocrats" and bring some liquor with him. And I just said, no, leave it outside, man. Just don`t do that. And he goes, "Oh, I don`t want to offend your religion," you know, and turned it into that whole thing.
I used that -- if you want a real, honest answer, and nothing flippant, I use that as an example of how much I believe in freedom with personal responsibility, which is I`m very willing to go into the world around people who drink, and who smoke dope, and who do all sorts of things I won`t do. I don`t even gamble, you know? I`m the same as you, except for, you know, that little God thing.
And my example was it`s exactly the same with religion. You know, I don`t want my kids exposed...
BECK: I would have you at my house, but you wouldn`t have...
JILLETTE: Do you have people over at your house who drink?
BECK: No. Well, yes, yes, yes, I do. Yes, I do. Yes, I do.
JILLETTE: Well, I may have to change that. You know, I now have -- I now have a family, and that changes everything. If my daughter wants to bring home a friend who`s religious or, as we go on, I suppose, smokes dope, I no longer have the right to do that. It was who I wanted to surround myself by.
I used that as an example, not as a rule that you couldn`t come to my house, but rather, when people talked to me about stuff, to tell them you can believe in people`s rights outside of your house and still have rules within your house. It was an example of that. What I`m saying is, if you dislike pornography, don`t have it in your house.
BECK: He still wouldn`t have me over. Are you hearing him?
JILLETTE: You know what we`re going to do? We`ve got to have you over and film it.
BECK: No, no, I don`t want your pity invite.
From New York, good night, America.