Born Raymond Joseph Teller on February 14, 1948 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Teller plays the non-speaking role in the comedy/magic duo Penn and Teller, with partner Penn Jillette. Rather than calling themselves magicians, they refer to themselves as "ripoff artistes" and enjoy the being called "the bad boys of magic."

Their act is a mixture of well-performed illusion and black comedy, often using large amounts of stage blood and sharp objects, insects, or weapons (or all three). Generally Teller is the one who "suffers" from the tricks (often performed to suggest something went terribly wrong).

Though he doesn't speak while in character, Teller is far from mute, He is quite articulate and erudite (as is his partner Penn, though he seems to prefer the blustery, booming, in-your-face approach). One of the "highlights" of the cult film Penn and Teller Get Killed (1989) is when he speaks at the end. In addition, Teller has a speaking part (as himself) along with Penn in an episode of the Simpsons. There are a few other less well-known instances where "Teller speaks", as well.

I have a friend who lives and works in Las Vegas, where the duo spend a lot of time working, who has seen their show. Both Penn and Teller are quite gracious and talk with and sign autographs for their fans.

Trivia:

Like his partner Penn, Teller won't touch drugs or alcohol (though they will use cigarettes in the course of their act but only for that reason), is an atheist, and a skeptic. They are good friends with well-known skeptic and former magician James Randi who makes a cameo in their 1989 film and all three are on the editorial board at the Skeptic magazine.

He graduated from Amherst college in 1969 and taught high school Latin in Lawrenceville, New Jersey.

He has his name legally changed to just "Teller" and even has a passport issued as such.

So why does Teller do the "mute" bit?
(quoted from their site)

When Teller first began performing at fraternity parties in his college days, he discovered that if he didn't speak, the frat boys would set down their cups of beer, remove their hands from their girlfriends' breasts, and pay attention to what he was doing.
And now you know....

Some information from their official site at www.sincity.com

Tell"er (?), n.

1.

One who tells, relates, or communicates; an informer, narrator, or describer.

2.

One of four officers of the English Exchequer, formerly appointed to receive moneys due to the king and to pay moneys payable by the king.

Cowell.

3.

An officer of a bank who receives and counts over money paid in, and pays money out on checks.

4.

One who is appointed to count the votes given in a legislative body, public meeting, assembly, etc.

 

© Webster 1913.

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