Penn & Teller: My take on their bullshit

I was on an episode of Penn & Teller: Bullshit! several years ago, and have received an email almost every week from someone asking me to write about my experience:

Date: Oct 12
From: Ryan B
Subject: You on TV

Penn and teller featured you on their show bullshit. Please write about it.

I was asked to be on one of their final episodes of their final season. I think the show got canceled because they didn't have anywhere to go but down after having me on. It's not every day you get to interview a living legend like me. Frankly, I'm surprised the cancellation didn't coincide with a mass-suicide after having achieved the paragon of life. I was contacted by a producer for the show "BUllshit [sic]" (her typo), who told me she was working on an episode about "senior citizens" and that they wanted to interview me.

My central thesis, I thought, was pretty reasonable: shitty young people will eventually become shitty old people. Why give anyone a break just for being old? Isn't that ageism? I thought it was a slam-dunk argument, so it came as a surprise when they characterized my biggest problem with old people as this:

After the episode aired, I immediately started receiving email from people who thought it seemed like they weren't in the room interviewing me, and that some of my quotes seemed out of context. That's because that's exactly what happened:

Date: Apr 11
From: Kevin Kretz
Subject: Saw you on Bullshit - did they sandbag you?

I've liked your page for years and bought your book - and I like Penn and Teller but it looks like you were being funny and they portrayed it (out of context) as serious. Is that what happened?

I never met Penn & Teller. Instead, they sent some of their field producers out to interview me. I spoke to them for about two hours, and they whittled the interview down to a minute or so of sound bites they could use out of context. For example, when I said the thought of old people having sex was gross, it was because they asked me what I thought of old people having sex. They cut it to imply that I think about old people having sex on my own accord. And except for the Queen of England having a fap sess to my photos, that's not true. I'd seen a few of P&T's earlier episodes and liked the show, though I didn't keep up with it and had no idea they were on the 8th season, or still a show. I thought it'd be interesting to meet Penn & Teller, or at the very least espouse an uncommon point of view about old people: that they receive the benefits of ageism in our society and that they're just as culpable as the people doling out benefits if they accept them.


They had a narrative in mind, and they cut the interview to fit their narrative. They didn't do this with just me, they did it with everyone they interviewed. One point in particular, about old people smelling, was an opportunity for them to ask why people think this. Is it just a stereotype or is there an explanation for why so many people think this? After all, the volunteers raising their hands I used as B-roll in the video were being asked how many of them think old people smell. Everyone in the room raised their hands. My theory is that they smell because their olfactory senses diminish with age, which may result in the overuse of heavy perfumes and colognes, or less frequent showers. This phenomenon is called anosmia1.

None of that was explored in this episode. Instead, they did some slap-dick experiment where they had people wear blindfolds and smell old people after they showered–like that would prove anything. Nobody thinks old people smell right after they shower, idiots. They couldn't even get an accredited university or organization to conduct the experiment, so they went with Moorpark community college—which publishes an average of 0 academic papers per month—with no explanation. It's like they went with the first school that returned their calls.

Shortly after the episode aired, I was deluged with hate mail:

Date: Jul 30
From: Gordon Kubaska
Subject: Wow

Dear Maddox, you are the biggest stereotype that I have ever seen. Basically, you are the combination of a prick, a nerd, a tool, a douche-bag, and a dick. I hope you know that most young adults from the ages of 15-28 come to your website right after they blew a load to a girl they, or you, could never get, hoping to get a quick laugh that they are always deprived of.

I recently watched the Penn and Teller: Bullshit episode you were on. Wow, Maddox, you must have sucked a lot of dick just to get yourself on television. I hope your views on old people and you just making a fool of yourself has turned people away from your pathetic excuse for a blog page.

Thank you so much for your time. Get that dildo out of your asshole and e-mail be back. Or, maybe you will put this on your webpage that I, and no one I know, will ever look at.

Wow, so I'm a prick and a dick. Good use of insults you redundant shit-paste. Apparently I must have sucked "a lot of dick" to get myself on Penn & Teller's bullshit, because people are pounding down their doors wanting to be on their show, right? Nevermind the fact that they had to find people on Craigslist and pay them $50 each to conduct their shitty experiment. In fact, they were so hard-up to have me on the show, they contacted me twice. The first time was several years before this episode aired, about another show they were trying to put together about Florida:

Date: Oct 30 2006
From: Showtime
Subject: florida sucks

Hi, I work for the TV show Penn & Teller: Bullshit, we are collecting stories on why Florida sucks. We would love to hear your stories and see your pictures, which can be posted on [omitted]

It would also be great if you could share this address with anyone else you know who thinks Florida sucks and/or post it on your website.

Questions? Email [omitted]

Thanks! [omitted]

I'm no stranger to being exploited. People from Hollywood contact people like me with huge websites all the time thinking we give a shit about Hollywood. TV producers salivate over people with a large online following because they think if they give us a bit part or an interview on their project, that I'll plug their show afterwards for some cheap (or free, as is often the case since I wasn't paid) publicity. That's what P&T seemed to be going for, as they literally suggested I share their page on my website. No thanks, Showtime. I'm not interested in doing free promotion for your show. Part of the reason I held off on doing this critique for so long was to avoid sending them any more publicity until after the show was off the air.

In fact, I was contacted by one of the writers for the show a year later asking me to plug his art-criticism book! I'd appreciate the move out of ballsiness if it wasn't so excrutiatingly oblivious. I responded and tore him a new one, saying that their use of my comments taken out of context to pad their episode was dishonest, and how shitty the episode was. And that's not just because they busted my balls, the arguments they were making weren't even logically sound. They tried to disprove the notion that old people are shitty drivers by cherry-picking an example of one old race car driver. Who gives a shit? They even made fun of him in the episode, saying that he seems to drive well on a circular track with no other drivers.

The hate mail from the mouth-breathing Penn & Teller apes kept streaming in:

Date: Jul 29
From: kenneth mabie
Subject: just saw you on penn and teller bullshit!

and you are a fucking tool, oh yea change your pic t the bottom you bald ass moron, penn and tell made you look like a complete dickshit have fun in your little pathetic world, and i cant wait for the day you turn 65 i would gladly shoot your closet faggot ass in to space

Brilliant. Thank you from taking time away from being an astounding bigot to hammer your hands against a keyboard like a cudgel to produce a few legible words in your email. That sounds sarcastic, but I truly am impressed; the odds of producing anything legible by pounding your undoubtedly meaty paws is truly astounding. But by far, my favorite email was this:

Date: Jul 29
From: David Sweeney
Subject: You are an ASSHOLE, Chicken shit Little Punk

I just wanted to tell you that you are a Fucking little punk. I'm 55 and I will kick your ass if you have the misfortune of meeting me. You half bald,smart ass, nut less, little puke. You talk shit on the computer, but why don't you find a venue where you get a chance to meet some of the people that take cheap shots, PUKE. And, about the comments you have about "old People". I probably GET more pussy than you will get. What woman would want to have noodle dick sex with you, when they could a good lesson from someone who has actually made love to flesh and blood, not rubber. There is so much I would like to confront you about. But, you, the worthless shit you are, certainly is not worthy of me wasting any more energy on. It would be easier to just wait and hear that an "old person" stomped a mud hole in your ass. And I hope it is soon.

Unlike most of the hate mail I received after that episode, this one seemed to be from an authentic old-person because nobody calls people "PUKES" anymore. That's some 50s-era shit, oldie. You called me "half bald, nut less" and a "smart ass." And because you didn't use any hyphens and suck at grammar, I'm going to assume you were calling me smart, and an ass. Thank you. I'm not sure why you emphasized the word "GET" in your sentence about how much pussy you allegedly get, but it's irrelevant since you didn't qualify it with a time limit (compared to what? My whole life? Next week? This afternoon? In any event, wrong).

The problem with respecting old people just for being old is that you're ignoring the fact that they could be shitty, selfish, shallow, unkind, greedy criminals. You don't know someone's past based on their age, only that they've lived a while. Young rapists, murderers and thieves will grow up to be old rapists, murderers and thieves. After all, Saddam Hussein, Bill Cosby and Charles Manson are old people. So was Whitey Bulger, charged with racketeering, extortion, 19 counts of murder, money laundering, and drug distribution. He was caught in Santa Monica, California, living the life of a quiet senior citizen:

Whitey Bulger: nice old manWhitey Bulger: 19 counts of murder. What a nice old man, give him a discount!

He likely received special benefits just for being old, even though he was one of the FBI's most wanted. Giving old people discounts is judgment based on their age, not the content of their character, any way you cut it. And sometimes that discounted ice cream cone is going into the hands of a monster. Enjoy your ageism, dipshits!

Update (11-20-2015):

Penn Jillette responded and took the classy route. Looks like I owe him an autograph:

And in case there was any ambiguity:

It takes a big man to apologize. I think it's cool that Penn took the high ground and I consider this hatchet buried. Though we'll both likely get messages and emails for some time to come:

What a solid dude. Penn's alright too.


  1. Postgraduate Medical Journal - Effects of aging on smell and taste

362,975 old people got discounts on their phone bills for doing nothing more than outliving their youths.

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