Damn! Penn & Teller: Bullshit! is not only one of the very best shows on TV, but it should be mandatory, required viewing for all Americans. Why? Because we are all so fucking stupid, that’s why. And Bullshit! takes our ignorance, pompousness, and, well, our very own special brand of good USDA bullshit and crams it down our collective fucking throats till it comes out our collective ass. Honestly friends, one of the most Ruthless things I have ever watched, TV or otherwise. Bloody fucking brilliant, too. Even the opening credits kick ass. I just wish that Bullshit! was on HBO instead of Showtime so that people could see it.
What I am going to do is break the review into episodes, specifically the five episodes on the DVD I rented. All five are excellent in their own right, with some entering into the superlative. Most importantly, RENT THIS FUCKING DVD!! Buy it for your friends as a gift. Leave it in stranger’s mailboxes. Move it up your Net-Flix queue — whatever you need to do to get the word out about Bullshit!. Fuck-an-A this shit is dope!
What a way to start the show. Penn & Teller try to demonstrate the social importance of boobs. They take a woman and strap her boobs down and have her stand on a street corner and get people to answer questions about toilet cleaners. Not one guy will give her the time of day. Then they put her in a cleavage top with a hidden camera right between her tits, and every time a guy stops and looks at her tits a little bell rings. You can imagine. So, they then talk to a plastic surgeon that says that the only way to get bigger tits is to have surgery. They then visit a “licensed” hypnotherapist (almost everyone one of the kooks they attack is somehow “licensed” by somebody) who says that she can make women’s tits grow hypnotically. Total bullshit, of course. The results. One woman is so upset at the lack of results that she won’t even talk to them, a second woman had zero growth and the third woman claimed her bust size grew half an inch. Then it turns out the third woman is friends with the hypnotist and has been seeing her for years. In other words, BULLSHIT!
Even better, from my perspective, is when they attack the penis enlarging industry. Three guys, one with a pump, one with pills and one who is going to perform dick-stretching exercises, all visit a urologist who measures them. For one month they pump, pop and pull and then go back to the dick-doc. The results? Zero growth for all three. Not one centimeter! But we all new that. This episode was noteworthy because while Penn & Teller are doing the monologue, there are a dozen or so naked people milling about behind them. Most of the women are really hot. All the guys look gay, or just shaved. Whatever, Penn gives a pretty good speech about how it is normal to want to look at tits and dicks. Much more happens in the episode, and all of it is great. Oh, and our buddy Ron Jeremy is interviewed a whole bunch. About his ten inch cock. So that’s good.
This is the episode that made me realize that Bullshit! is not merely great, but utterly fucking phenomenal! OK, so they point out that the bottled water industry in America is a $4.5 billion a year thingy-thing. Then they interview all these reasonably intelligent looking people about bottled water and invariably all of them say 1) It’s cleaner, or “purer,” than tap water. 2) It tastes better than tap water. 3) It’s healthier than tap water. Then they interview the water management dude and he explains that while tap water is regulated by more than 1,000 EPA employees, bottled water is regulated by one dude for the FDA, and it is not even his full time job and there are more than 1,000 bottled water companies in the US alone. Even better, while all the tap water they tested was totally safe, 33% of the bottled water contained ARSENIC! Then they did a taste test between Evian and New York City tap water. 75% of people preferred NYC’s aqueducts to the French Alps. Then they showed that even though the name of the water might be something like “Yosemite” or “Everest,” thereby invoking images of pure mountain springs, odds are that your bottled water, which is more expensive than gasoline, comes from Corpus Christi, Texas. But the best part is yet to come
They plant a “water steward” in some buttfuck, trendy Santa Monica restaurant. He brings out the “water list.” On it are waters with names like, “Mt. Fuji” and “Amazon.” The prices range as high as $7 a bottle. The suckers order the water and compare notes. Every person thinks they can taste some special characteristic in the water; Mt. Fuji tastes “glacieral,” etc. What the idiots don’t know is that the water steward is out back filling up the bottles with a fucking hose!!! Honestly, one of the mot hilarious things I’ve ever watched. Just the look of joyful cruelty on the steward’s face is worth a million dollars as he maliciously blasts water into the bottles. Fucking brilliant.
You would think this one would be like shooting fish in a fucking barrel, but it was easily the weakest episode on the disc I rented. Still very good, but a little confused and rushed. Also, unlike the other charlatans Penn & Teller expose as fucking frauds, the creationists are seriously scary, not just laugh out loud funny. I mean well funded isn’t even the right sort of language. One of them is in the fucking white house! What do you call that? Awful, just awful times we live in. Anyway, the episode starts with the Cobb County, Georgia school board deciding whether or not the teaching of evolution should be “balanced” with the teaching of creationism. Besides wanting to blow a whole in my TV set with a gun, I was chilled to the bone. I have read about this sort of thing, but to actually watch these fucking asshole, anti-intellectual traitors get up in front of a mic and put their 90 IQ points on the line as they try to explain that “evolution is just a theory” and “our government is of the people, by the people and for the people” just makes me wish more than ever that Lincoln had simply let the South go. Fucking disgusting. Of course, the lone voice of dissent is a Jewish science teacher transplanted from Brooklyn, i.e. he had a decent education. And even though they never say it on film, you know each and every parent with their stupid-ass “Evolution: It’s a Leap of Faith” pin is thinking, “fucking Jew…”
The main problem with the episode, is that in the half hour it runs, Penn & Teller are only able to scratch the surface of what makes these people as dangerous as Nazis. Let me just get on my high horse here for a minute; you can’t balance science with fairy tales! You fucking can’t, no matter how much you want to. These people, fundamentalist Christians, are fucking their children for life. How can you become an astronomer if you don’t understand light years or red shift? Seriously, if you teach your children that dinosaur fossils are animals that didn’t make it onto Noah’s Ark you should be lined up and shot. It’s the ultimate cruelty, legislating ignorance for future generations. Not only don’t they know shit about science, but apparently history is not these goons forte, either. I mean, wasn’t this exactly what the fucking Dark Ages were about? Greek and Roman knowledge not agreeing with church dogma, so Europe was plunged into 1,000 years of ignorance and slavery? It just makes my heart sick. And while Penn & Teller did what they could, they just didn’t go far enough here, they didn’t get angry enough. They should have told the camera crew to beat the fucking shit out of all the morons they had to interview. One scientist they feature gives the anaology that there are no calls to balance teaching the Holocaust with Holocaust deniers. That’s next, for sure, once they nip this whole evolution thing in the bud. Naturally, the episode ends with the board voting to “balance” science with religion. Galileo groans.
This episode was almost as good as the bottled water one. The gist of Penn & Teller’s beef is that practitioners of Feng Sheu (or Feng Shuanal as Jaquay so brilliantly likes to call it) all claim that it is a science. That’s their scam. So, logically, P & T make the assumption that OK, if it is in fact a “science,” all the results would be repeatable. They get a hold of a woman in a typical, affluent Southern California suburb and contact three Feng Sheu folks to amp up the Chi in the woman’s home. Neither of the three Feng Sheu’ers knows about either of the others. Predictably, these people are talking out of their fucking asses!!! None of their Feng Sheu furniture rearranging is even close to the other’s. The three don’t even agree on which way the bed should face. At one point, two of the three agree that the furniture in a particular room should be left as it is, but one says that the red couch is good for “wealth and prosperity” while the other says the exact opposite. Again, not science by any means. Just complete stinking bullshit. Also good in this episode is the two twin brothers that get haircuts. One gets a $150 Feng Sheu cut and the other gets a $16 cut at “Joe’s Barbershop.” People on the street are asked to pick out which is the Feng Sheu cut. Fourteen people get it right, and fourteen get it wrong. As Penn points out, Feng Sheu is a region in China where all the people are totally impoverished and live in dirt-floored huts.
Self Help Groups
Another favorite of mine, though again, probably too easy of a target. As Matt Cale said to me once, “there is no scarier phrase in the English language than ‘I just joined this group…’” In this episode (as in others) they have a bunch of psychologists and psychiatrists explaining the appeal of self-help gurus. And it is all the shit you would come up with on your own if you stopped and thought about for two seconds. Part of being human is being really confused and scared all the time. New problems mount every day. The myth of Horatio Alger has been force fed into our fat, poor American mouths since birth. Interject into this miasma a charismatic person who claims to not only have all the answers, but for just a small fee, he’ll give them to you! Of note is that almost all of the people attending the seminars featured in this episode are right around mid-life crisis time. Tony Robbins is hilariously depantsed, as are a whole raft of other bullshit scam artist thieves. One asshole even goes so far as, “This pen is like your problem [he drops the pen on the floor], all you have to do is let go.” Again, just cheap hucksters who know nothing of Freud, Jung nor their really important and well-documented and scientific legacy (more Freud than Jung, there).
But the Piece d’Resistance is the “University” that two batty old fools run out of their mobile home in Florida. First of all, I’ve read enough Zen Buddhism to always be ready for my master to appear. Sure, it’s bullshit, too, but so am I. My point is, if ever find a person who claims to know the meaning of life and they’re wearing tie-dye, I’ll either kill them or myself. Unbelievable! This one still baffles me. OK, so these two women charge people money to come into their home and walk on glass, break boards, snap arrows with their necks and ultimately walk on fire. All parlor tricks that any self-respecting human being would instantly see for what they are, tricks. To emphasize this point, Penn & Teller get a high school physics professor to explain each of the tricks and repeat them. In other words, it is just fucking snake oil that any asshole could sell. But man, have you got to see the reactions of these people after they break a board or walk over some broken bottles. They appear actually convinced that they have made some sort of profound breakthrough in their lives. As one of them says, “There is only fear and love, and I have lost my fear.” Look, if life is that simple, I want out. Fucking awesome episode.
Oh yeah, another good one, but again, like the self-help folks, besides bilking seemingly innocent people out of their money, these people have no bite. Unlike the creationists who will be the death of us, or at least me. Getting back to the point: So Penn & Teller explain how these fucking liars have dropped the term psychic from their bag of tricks and are now using the phrase “remote viewing.” Same bullshit different name. In this episode, one of their experts is the Great Randi! For those of you who don’t know who James Randi is, first, shame on you, second, as his website explains;
James Randi has an international reputation as a magician and escape artist, but today he is best known as the world’s most tireless investigator and demystifier of paranormal and pseudoscientific claims.
I personally love the Great Randi because one time I saw him go to Russia where these two women claimed they could simply look at a photograph of a person and then tell you everything about them. So, the Great Randi only brought photographs of American serial killers. Awesomely, the women chose Ted Bundy. Something like 25% percent of what they said could be misconstrued by those looking to believe as being accurate, but as Randi pointed out they missed the fact that he beat eighty women to death with blunt objects. Fucking Ruthless! Stealing a page from Randi, Penn & Teller get in on a remote viewing class where the instructor, for a $330 fee, is going to “teach” the students to “remote view” a photograph in a sealed envelope that Bullshit! has provided for the class. The photo is of a spiral staircase. Rest assured, not one student even comes close! They also talk about how the CIA wasted $20 million of our tax dollars (as well as ten years of “research”) investigating remote viewing. As the Great Randi points out, he could have came up with the same conclusion, in two minutes, for $1.75. Also very cool was the cop who explains that psychics actually kill people when police departments waste time using them to find bodies. Since NOT ONCE has a pyschic ever found a body or helped any investigation in any way, whenever police departments waste time with this fools, the killer is out doing more killing. Mark Klaus, of Polly Klaus fame, makes a particularly excellent condemnation of these lying cocksuckers. Also exposed, though this one really was too easy to be any fun, are those fork bender assholes. I mean, this fucking dork had his students bending spoons with both hands!!! What the fuck is that?!? Somewhere I have a great book from the seventies all about the power of pyramids and it is filled with pictures of the author’s son sitting under a PVP pipe pyramid holding a bent fork. Pet psychics and past lives experts get their comeuppance, too.
And there is a lot more going on in these episodes than I mentioned. But at root, they are all about the same damn thing; slaughtering, bar-b-qing and then eating sacred cows. I really want to express to you how very much I enjoyed this show. Again, Bullshit! is an idea whose time is long overdue. Shove this shit back into the mouths of the assholes that spew it. I’ll be renting the rest of season one as soon as I can. Bravo Penn, bravo Teller. What is also nice and refreshing about the show is that they don’t even try for a “balanced” approach. They simply present the lunatics, liars and scum bags as they are, and then call them “assholes” and “thieves” and my favorite, “fuckers.” Also good is that while Penn is, in his typical bombastic style, railing against the bullshit, Teller is in the background doing funny and clever stuff. Like during the Feng Sheu episode Teller learns that Penn only has $23 in his wallet, so he just starts kicking over all the furniture. Also, bravo to Showtime for having the nuts to not only air a show with an “indecent” word for a title, but for airing such a refreshing, ballsy and frankly important program. I only pray that in season two they attack astrology, the one pile of bullshit that needs it the most. Go Bullshit!