Teller (magician)

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Teller in vitro 1997
Raymond Joseph Teller

(1948-02-14) February 14, 1948 (age 76)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
EducationAmherst College (BA)
Years active1974–present

Teller (born Raymond Joseph Teller; February 14, 1948) is an American magician. He is half of the comedy magic duo Penn & Teller, along with Penn Jillette, and usually does not speak during performances. Teller is a H.L. Mencken Fellow at the Cato Institute.[1]

Personal life[edit]

Teller was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania,[2][3][4] the son of Irene B. (née Derrickson) and Israel Max "Joseph" Teller (1913–2004).[5][6] His father, who was of Russian-Jewish descent, was born in Brooklyn, New York, and grew up in Philadelphia. His mother was from a Delaware farming family. They met as painters attending art school at Samuel S. Fleisher Art Memorial.[7][8] His mother was Methodist, and Teller was raised as "a sort of half-assed Methodist".[9] He graduated from Philadelphia's Central High School in 1965, and in 1969 graduated from Amherst College with a Bachelor of Arts in Classics. He became a high-school Latin teacher.[10]

At some point, Teller legally changed his name to the mononym "Teller", his family surname.[11][12] He had reportedly been using the mononym professionally for at least some time before the 1975 formation of the Asparagus Valley Cultural Society.[13] By December 2000, he reported that his own parents were calling him Teller.[14]

Teller poses for a photo for his dad hanging from a tree in Love Park

Teller taught Greek and Latin at Lawrence High School in Lawrenceville, New Jersey.[15][16][17] In 2001, he was inducted into the Central High School Hall of Fame.


In 2018–2019, Teller had three back surgeries over 18 months. In late September 2022, he underwent quadruple-bypass heart surgery.[18]



Penn & Teller in 2012

Teller began performing with his friend Weir Chrisemer as The Othmar Schoeck Memorial Society for the Preservation of Unusual and Disgusting Music. He met Penn Jillette in 1974, and, with Chrisemer, they became a three-person act called Asparagus Valley Cultural Society, which started at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival and subsequently played in San Francisco. In 1981, Jillette and Teller began performing exclusively together as Penn & Teller, an act that continues to this day. On April 5, 2013, Penn and Teller were honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the live performance category.[19] The following day, they were recognized by the Magic Castle with the Magicians of the Year award.[19]

Teller rarely speaks while performing but regularly speaks in other contexts, such as interviews.[20] Teller's trademark silence originated during his youth, when he earned a living performing magic at college fraternity parties.[21] He found that if he maintained silence throughout his act, spectators refrained from throwing beer and heckling him and paid more attention to his performance.[22]

Teller at CSIcon 2023


Teller collaborated with Jillette on three magic books, and is also the author of "When I'm Dead All This Will Be Yours!": Joe Teller – A Portrait by His Kid (2000), a biography/memoir of his father. The book features his father's paintings and 100 unpublished cartoons which were strongly influenced by George Lichty's Grin and Bear It. The book was favorably reviewed by Publishers Weekly. Teller's father's "wryly observed scenes of Philadelphia street life" were created in 1939. Teller and his father's "memories began to pump and the stories flowed" after they opened boxes of old letters that Teller read out loud (learning for the first time about a period in his parents' lives that he knew nothing about, such as the fact that his father's name is really Israel Max Teller). Joe's Depression-era hobo adventures led to travels throughout the U.S., Canada and Alaska, and by 1933, he returned to Philadelphia for art study. After Joe and Irene met during evening art classes, they married, and Joe worked half-days as a Philadelphia Inquirer copy boy. When the Inquirer rejected his cartoons, he moved into advertising art just as World War II began.[6]

Teller is a co-author of the paper "Attention and Awareness in Stage Magic: Turning Tricks into Research", published in Nature Reviews Neuroscience (November 2008).[23]

In 2010, Teller wrote Play Dead,[24] a "throwback to the spook shows of the 1930s and '40s" that ran September 12–24 in Las Vegas before opening Off Broadway in New York. The show starred sideshow performer and magician Todd Robbins.[25]


In 2008, Teller and Aaron Posner co-directed a version of Macbeth which incorporated stage magic techniques in the scenes with the Three Witches.[26] In 2014, Teller and Posner co-directed a version of The Tempest, which again made use of stage magic; in an interview Teller stated that "Shakespeare wrote one play that's about a magician, and it seemed like about time to realize that with all the capabilities of modern magic in the theater."[27] In 2018, Teller and Posner co-conceived and directed a brand new production of Macbeth at Chicago Shakespeare Theater in Chicago, Illinois.[28] In 2022 the Round House Theater staged Teller and Posner's adaptation of The Tempest and made a video recording of it temporarily available for purchase, to stream.[29]

Teller directed a feature film documentary, Tim's Vermeer, which was released in 2014.[30][31][32][33][34] He and Jillette served as executive producers, with distribution by Sony Pictures Classics.[35]


  • Jillette, Penn; Teller (1989). Penn and Teller's Cruel Tricks for Dear Friends. New York: Villard. ISBN 0-394-75351-8.
  • Jillette, Penn; Teller (1992). Penn and Teller's How to Play with Your Food. New York: Villard. ISBN 0-679-74311-1.
  • Jillette, Penn; Teller (1997). Penn and Teller's How to Play in Traffic. New York: Berkley Trade. ISBN 1-57297-293-9.
  • Teller; Teller, Joe (2000). "When I'm Dead All This Will Be Yours!": Joe Teller – A Portrait by His Kid. New York: Blast Books. ISBN 0-922233-22-5.
  • Teller; Karr, Todd; Abbott, David P. (2005). House of Mystery: The Magic Science of David P. Abbott. Marina del Rey, California: Miracle Factory. Archived from the original on October 29, 2013. Retrieved April 4, 2013.

Film and television[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1986 My Chauffeur Abdul
1987 Miami Vice Ralph Fisher Season 4 episode 8: "Like a Hurricane"
1987 Long Gone Hale Buchman Jr.
1989 Penn & Teller Get Killed Self
1995 The Fantasticks Mortimer
The Drew Carey Show Geller Season 1 episode 6: "Drew Meets Lawyers"
Season 2 episode 17: "See Drew Run"
1997 Sabrina the Teenage Witch Skippy Season 1 episode 1: "Pilot"
Season 1 episode 13: "Jenny's Non-Dream"
1998 Dharma & Greg Mr. Boots Season 1 episode 20: "The Cat's Out of the Bag"
Babylon 5 Zooty Season 5 episode 8: "Day of the Dead"
The Simpsons Self Season 11 episode 6: "Hello Gutter, Hello Fadder"
Season 22 episode 18: "The Great Simpsina"
2000 Fantasia 2000
2003–2010 Penn & Teller: Bullshit!
2004 The West Wing Season 6 episode 8: "In the Room"
Penn & Teller: Fool Us
2012 Atlas Shrugged: Part II Laughlin
2016 Director's Cut Rudy Nelson
2018 The Big Bang Theory Larry Fowler 3 episodes
2021 History’s Greatest Mysteries- Season 2 Self Episode 2 “Houdini’s Lost Diaries”
2022 Young Sheldon Pus 1 episode
2023 Mrs. Davis Magic consultant


  1. ^ "Teller – Cato Institute".
  2. ^ "Penn and Teller". The Advocates. Archived from the original on December 21, 2013. Retrieved October 20, 2014.
  3. ^ "Teller". Retrieved October 20, 2014.
  4. ^ Morrow, Kathleen (Summer 2007). "Teller". Penn State University, Pennsylvania Center for the Book. Archived from the original on May 15, 2013. Retrieved October 8, 2013. Biography based on sources including "Email correspondence with Teller. 12–14 August 2007".
  5. ^ "Obituaries: Newspaper and Funeral Home Obituaries and Death Notices from the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand".
  6. ^ a b "Forecasts", Publishers Weekly, August 15, 2000.
  7. ^ "'The Exorcist' at the Geffen: No green vomit, but plenty of evil – The Ticket". Jewish Journal. June 27, 2012.
  8. ^ "Joseph Teller, artist, father of magician". philly-archives.
  9. ^ "Hollywood Now: The Monuments Men, Teller Directs, Jason B". Archived from the original on October 6, 2017. Retrieved February 6, 2014.
  10. ^ Lahey, Jessica. "Education Is Performance Art". The Atlantic. Retrieved February 1, 2018.
  11. ^ della Cava, Marco R. (November 16, 2007). "At home: Teller's magical Vegas retreat speaks volumes". USA Today. Retrieved June 27, 2012.
  12. ^ "Penn & Teller: Rogue Magician Is EXPOSING Our Secrets!!!". April 12, 2012. Retrieved June 27, 2012.
  13. ^ Trillin, Calvin (May 15, 1989). "A Couple Of Eccentric Guys". New Yorker. Retrieved March 25, 2023.
  14. ^ "Dec. 7, 2000: Teller of "Penn & Teller"". Archived from the original on April 17, 2001. Retrieved March 24, 2023.
  15. ^ Penn & Teller on Broadway | Talks At Google, August 4, 2015, retrieved August 12, 2018
  16. ^ "Reparations". Penn & Teller: Bullshit!. Season 4. Episode 7. May 15, 2006. Showtime (TV network).
  17. ^ Lahey, Jessica (January 21, 2016). "Teaching: Just Like Performing Magic". The Atlantic. Retrieved January 24, 2016. Teller taught high school Latin for six years before he left to pursue a career in magic with Penn...
  18. ^ "As Teller recovers, it's the Penn & Michael show at the Rio". October 28, 2022.
  19. ^ a b "Magicians Penn & Teller Get Star on Walk of Fame". CBS Los Angeles. April 5, 2013. Retrieved April 7, 2013.
  20. ^ "Teller Explained Why He Remains Silent on Stage During an Interview in 2015". Heavy, Inc. May 18, 2020. Retrieved March 17, 2020.
  21. ^ Elber, Lynn (April 25, 2007). "'Silent' Teller to magically make 'Macbeth' a 'horror thriller'". Archived from the original on September 30, 2007. Retrieved May 21, 2007.
  22. ^ "For Penn & Teller's Magical Partnership, The Trick Is Telling The Truth". National Public Radio. August 1, 2015. Retrieved August 1, 2015.
  23. ^ Macknik, S.L., King M, Randi J, et al. (November 2008). "Attention and Awareness in Stage Magic: Turning Tricks into Research". Nat. Rev. Neurosci. 9 (11): 871–9. doi:10.1038/nrn2473. PMID 18949833. S2CID 1826552.
  24. ^ "Play Dead". Retrieved August 2, 2011.
  25. ^ Chareunsy, Don (September 16, 2010). "Teller's Las Vegas-born Play Dead is headed to off-Broadway". Las Vegas Weekly. Archived from the original on June 7, 2014. Retrieved September 27, 2010.
  26. ^ Kaufman, Joanne (January 8, 2008). "The Magician Not Only Speaks, But Chooses to Utter 'Macbeth'!". The Wall Street Journal. New York. Retrieved July 23, 2015.
  27. ^ Shea, Andrea (May 14, 2014). "The Silent Man Speaks: Teller Re-Imagines 'The Tempest' With Magic". Boston: WBUR. Retrieved June 10, 2014.
  28. ^ "Teller and Aaron Posner to Create New Macbeth for Chicago Shakespeare Theater". April 13, 2017. Retrieved November 2, 2018.
  29. ^ Desk (January 16, 2023). "News: Round House Theatre Announces Virtual Streaming of 'The Tempest'".
  30. ^ "Sony Pictures Classics Unlocks Tim's Vermeer". July 29, 2013. Archived from the original on July 15, 2014. Retrieved September 5, 2013.
  31. ^ "Teller's 'Tim's Vermeer' Bought By Sony Classics". Variety. Retrieved June 4, 2014.
  32. ^ Itzkoff, Dave (July 29, 2013). "A Documentary by Teller Explores the Magic of Vermeer". The New York Times.
  33. ^ "Sony Pictures Classics picks up "Tim's Vermeer"".
  34. ^ "Telluride Film Review: 'Tim's Vermeer'". Variety. Retrieved June 4, 2014.
  35. ^ "Triangulation 118".

External links[edit]