On this date in 1948, Teller was born Raymond Joseph Teller in Philadelphia, Pa. (Teller changed his name legally to his stage moniker, “Teller,” and has a U.S. passport issued with a single name.) Teller graduated Amherst College in 1969 and taught English and Latin in New Jersey before leaving to work as a magician in 1974. Teller and fellow magician Penn Jillette have been collaborators since 1975, at first as two of three members of The Asparagus Valley Cultural Society.

Since 1981, the two have performed exclusively as Penn & Teller. Teller is the “silent” half of the duo, performing stunts and magic tricks while Penn talks. He is so well known for his silence that video of him speaking is considered a novelty. According to an older version of Penn & Teller’s website, Teller began performing silently at fraternity parties because he found it was the best way to get party attendees to actually pay attention to his magic tricks.

Since 2001, Penn & Teller have performed their magic act at the Rio in Las Vegas, although they do occasionally continue to tour. In addition, they have appeared in several television specials as well as having created, produced and starred in two television shows, “Penn & Teller: Bullshit!” which aired on Showtime from 2003 to 2010, and “Penn & Teller Tell A Lie,” which aired on the Discovery Channel beginning in 2011. They started another hit TV contest show for aspiring magicians titled “Fool Us” in 2011 which returned in 2015 and ran for several years.

“Bullshit!” focused on challenging and debunking beliefs that are not questioned by those who hold them, including many religious views. “Penn & Teller Tell A Lie” focuses on portraying several true but astonishing facts as well as one urban legend. (The lies were revealed at the end of the episode.) In 2014 he and Aaron Posner adapted and co-directed a critically acclaimed and commercially successful production of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” featuring songs by Tom Waits, at the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Mass. Iterations of the production followed in Chicago, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. They followed that up with a Shakespearean “Macbeth” adaptation in Chicago in 2018.

Teller describes himself as a skeptic and atheist, and is a fellow of the libertarian Cato Institute. He has collaborated with Jillette and others to write books about magic and has written a biography of his father, “When I’m Dead, All This Will Be Yours!” Joe Teller: A Portrait by His Kid (2000). In 2003, Penn & Teller were the recipients of FFRF’s Emperor Has No Clothes Award.

Freedom From Religion Foundation