Penn’s Sunday School review
I heard about this podcast somewhere very recently (I can’t remember where) and instantly subscribed. I’ve been a fan of Penn and Teller since they were first shown on British TV at the end of the 80’s, so it was a no brainer for me. Teller (obviously) isn’t a character that lends himself to the audio format, but Penn certainly is. So without further ado, let’s head off to Penn’s Sunday School and preach some peace and love.
So what’s it about?
Penn’s Sunday school seems to be an excuse for Mr. Jillette and his friends to just sit around and “shoot the shit”. There are reminiscences of past lovers, starting out in the industry, and some “current” topics (current at the time anyway). Don’t let this fool you though. While I use the rather flippant term, there is much to enjoy here, and it is far from some droning ramblings to fill the silence, or gaps in Penn’s ego.
Each week he’s joined by regular guest hosts Michael Goudeau and Matt Donnelly. Occasionally special guests sit in (Piff The Magic Dragon was a particular highlight). There are also a few interviews thrown in too, just in case you should get bored of the regular format (you shouldn’t). These are usually people from or adjacent to Penn’s line of work, but there is very little “shop talk” here. That wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing, but as it goes they just talk about “stuff”. Shows they’ve seen, places they’ve been. As I said, “shooting the shit”.
Is it any good?
Of course it is. If there’s one thing that Penn can do (apart from magic, juggling, and playing bass), it’s talking. He’s a phenomenal raconteur and all his stories are brilliant. This isn’t to say that the other guys just put a penny in the slot and watch him go, they are all very witty and entertaining, and are more than capable of holding court with Mr. Jillette.
One of my favourite episodes came very early on. It was the “McDracula” episode, when one of them had been to Romania and the whole hour was spent making various vampire jokes and arguing about why Americans would “do Transylvania better”.
I really don’t think there is anything better than genuinely witty people firing off each other and making each other laugh (and not in that irritating, smug way that “comedians” on Mock The Week or other panel shows do either). I guess that comes from being magicians or clowns. You need to engage the audience more than other professions.
This series has drawn more than one weird glance my way as I snort out loud at something when I’m on the train, or as I walk through town and a massive smile stretches across my face for no apparent reason. A particular example of this was when they Google translated a Japanese review of Penn’s album. That is something I don’t think will ever not be funny.
You don’t have to be a magic fan to like this podcast, there’s plenty to enjoy here. Actually, if you are a magic fan then you probably won’t like it, if that’s all you’re after. They are less likely to discuss the “reverse faro shuffle” as they are to talk about books, or offering car rental companies money to trash a car.
I appreciate that I’m very late to the table here. I’ve got hundreds of episodes to catch up on, and this review is entirely based on the first 20 or so. There may be some format changes I don’t yet know about, or some groundbreaking new development. I really try to avoid skipping too far forward, so forgive me for maybe missing out on something important.
And remember, “we spinning dick, swinging play”.
You can get Penn’s Sunday School here:
Or wherever you get your podcasts