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Series / Penn & Teller: Bullshit!

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They can smell it from miles away.

"You'll notice more obscenity than we usually use. That's not just because it's on Showtime, and we want to get some attention. It's also a legal matter. If one calls people liars and quacks, one can be sued and lose a lot of one's money. But "motherfuckers" and "assholes" is pretty safe. If we said it was all scams, we could also be in trouble. But BULLSHIT, oddly, is safe. So forgive all the bullshit language. We're trying to talk about the truth without spending the rest of our lives in court because of litigious motherfuckers!"
Penn Jillette

The Showtime original Penn & Teller: Bullshit! (or P&T:B.S!), hosted by comedians and stage magicians Penn Jillette and Teller, follows in the footsteps of great men like Harry Houdini and The Amazing James Randi: the pair debunks popular misconceptions and exposes both liars ("motherfuckers") and faulty science ("bullshit").

To do this, P & T interview proponents of different views in the fields they debunk, then add facetious voice-overs that mock whichever side they disagree with and introduce the people who make money from it as "assholes". They occasionally throw in some non-scientific experiments and point out official policies, rules, and methodologies of various organizations that point out the hypocrisy of said organizations. Since both Penn and Teller identify as Classic Liberals ('Libertarians'), they never fail to use the show to advocate their viewpoint — but they admit their bias and insist that the viewer should make up their own mind based on the information presented.


The pair tackled a wide variety of subjects (and offered their stances on said subjects) in the show's run, such as:

  • The Bible: The pair sum up their position with their closing line: "the characters and events depicted in the damn Bible are fictitious. Any similarity to actual persons living or dead, is purely coincidental". They also think of the Bible as a terrible source for morality lessons.
  • Gun Control: Everyone needs the right to have guns to put fear into criminals; if everyone can potentially have a gun on them, more people will think twice before they attempt to mug someone. Everyone should also have the right to keep guns in case the people need to perform an armed uprising against their government. They also claim that current gun control laws do nothing to prevent the sale of guns from the black market — in other words, if the goal is to minimize gun ownership, those laws are actually not doing a very good job of it.
  • Advertisement:
  • PETA: PETA will kill humans to further the cause of animal rights (as the group supports terrorist organizations) and has proven itself hypocritical on a number of key issues. Just to cite one example, one of the high-ranking PETA members, Mary Beth Sweeten, takes medicine for her diabetes — medicine discovered through animal testing, a practice that PETA is supposedly against.
  • Recycling: Recycling wastes more resources than it saves, and on the grand scale, it harms the environment more than landfills. P & T make exception for the recycling of aluminum (as companies can recycle aluminum far cheaper than they can refine aluminum from raw materials), but note that since private companies can profit from such recycling, they will sort through unsorted bulk trash for aluminum cans, which makes government-funded recycling programs unnecessary.
  • Wal-Mart: Walmart has become the end result of a capitalist market; they do a lot of good for their employees and help the poor all over America, which makes them unfair targets for the hate Wal-Mart stores receive.
  • War on Drugs: While they agree that the youth needs to be educated of the dangers of drug use, they strongly disagree with the government's approach of the situation and the little (if any) success they've had. They focus mostly on marijuana, which has been proven to be nowhere as dangerous as legal drugs like alcohol and tobacco and has several medical benefits.
  • ESP: Anyone who claims to have psychic powers doesn't have such powers and only wants attention or money; their belief in their self-professed "powers" doesn't mean a damn thing.

This short list gives you an idea of the subjects P & T go after: they target the liars and faulty sciences that most people believe in, then expose why people benefit from those misguided beliefs (and make fun of everyone in the process). The duo even admitted in the "Recycling" episode that they, and many other people on their staff, believed in recycling (in Penn's own words, "Everybody got a gris-gris"note ). The "NASA" episode opened with P & T reading some of their hate mail before they agreed to call "bullshit" on something they cherished.

As the careers of Houdini and the Amazing Randi demonstrate, stage magicians — who know how illusions and "magic" work — can easily expose fake miracles and phony paranormal events better than anyone else. Since they have a familiarity with illusions and the perceptions thereof (particularly in the usage of misdirection to control people's attention), magicians can also deal with things like UFO sightings and psychic photographs without too much issue. These qualities do not make P & T experts in most of what they debunk, however, and the pair often expound their opinions as loudly as possible while they call on an actual expert to help debunk their subject (a tactic they have criticized others for). In the "Secondhand Smoke" episode, when the pair discovered that they used data compiled by an "expert" with significant ties to Big Tobacco, the skeptic community criticized the show and forced them to apologize.

Penn & Teller wanted to put on The Bullshit of "Bullshit!" as the final episode; it would have pointed out their own inaccuracies, presented criticisms of the show, and probably have ended on a call for better critical thinking from everyone. Showtime cancelled Bullshit! after eight seasons before this episode could come to fruition, though.

The "lawyer-friendly" format as laid out in the page-topping quote paid off in the end: nobody ever managed to successfully sue Penn & Teller over the show.

Penn & Teller: Bullshit! contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Acrofatic: The "Obesity" episode — which focused on addressing common misconceptions about fat people — held a "Fat Guy Olympics" (with one skinny guy). Most of the "fat" guys outperformed the skinny guy - which was meant as a point to demonstrate the flaw of using the Body Mass Index (BMI) to determine obesity. Although all the "fat" guys were all obese according to their BMI, only one of the "fat guys" was actually what most people would consider fat, and he was noticeably the slowest in the group. The rest of the "fat" participants had clear muscle tone. The token skinny man (meant to act akin to a scientific control) himself was actually considered Overweight, even though he showed neither visible fat nor muscle tone. The point was that BMI was never intended to measure obesity, let alone overall fitness level; as such, BMI does a miserable job of measuring either one. Despite this, healthcare insurers sometimes use BMI to set premiums, and the segment was Penn & Teller demonstrating why doing so is such a bad idea.
  • A-Cup Angst: Discouraged in the "Sex, Sex, Sex" episode, which argues against breast enhancement.
  • Affably Evil: Rodney Coronado comes across as this during the PETA episode, despite the violent nature of his crimes, including arson and domestic terrorism. When called by the show, his response is friendly and polite. Penn calls him a "cool dude," then adds "too bad he's a fucking arsonist".
  • Alternative Character Interpretation: "Holier Than Thou" is devoted to these, offering less-than-stellar interpretations of some revered public figures. Specifically: invoked
    • They argue that Mother Teresa was a corrupt, social-climbing media darling who cared more about courting politicians and furthering her own "spiritual journey" than about improving the lives of the poor (which, they claim, she actually did very little of), and that she was not above using shady business practices to keep her charities profitable.
    • They argue the Dalai Lama is, when you look past his espoused peaceful platitudes, just the ousted dictator of an oppressive Third World theocracy who wants to exploit his position as a "spiritual leader" to regain his lost wealth and power. In other words, he's not that different from the oppressive Chinese authorities that he claims to be against.
    • While acknowledging Mahatma Gandhi was a wise political leader who did much to improve the lives of his fellow Indians and demonstrated using non-violent tactics to prove a point, they argue against his 'saintly' reputation by pointing out he openly despised the native black population of South Africa (where he began his career as an attorney), though they mention his racism wouldn't have been seen as objectionable at the time he espoused these views. He also engaged in some weird sexual and hygienic practices, among them giving young girls enemas and sleeping naked with them (a test of his celibacy).
  • Anal Probing: When Alien Abductions were covered on the show, they covered a sex toy with silver spray paint to show to people who claim to have been abducted. Upon seeing the sex toy, many claimed they were probed with a similar device. They actually made a game out of this where they paused the tape before one female abductee disclosed where in her body the aliens had inserted a probe and encouraged viewers at home to guess what part of the body it was. The correct answer was her nose.
  • And I Must Scream: Penn describing botched executions in Death Penalty. Specifically, how pre-lethal injection anesthetics don't always work.
  • Angry Black Man: Featured in the Reparations episode, with examples on both sides.
  • Animal Wrongs Group: The focus of the PETA episode is about how the organization is quite corrupt, either not condemning or outright supporting terrorism in the name of animal rights, and how they ultimately kill more animals than they save.
  • Author Appeal: The entire purpose of the series.
  • Author Tract: The Bible episode included Penn straight-out calling Bullshit an evangelical show.
    • Arguably the most obvious tract show was the Wal-Mart show, where Penn used his own hometown as an example of a town that went down the crapper because (or possibly in spite) of the fact that they refused to allow a Wal-Mart to be built there.
  • Badass Preacher: Father Henry in Death Inc. Yes, a priest on Penn & Teller's side.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: The "War on Porn" episode opens with a flashback to The '70s, with Penn going to a porno theater and wishing that there was a way to access free porn from the comfort of his own home anytime he wants. His wish magically comes true, and he's suddenly in the present day with access to the Internet. Penn believes that he wasted his wish on something too trivial, so he makes another wish, this time for The Three Stooges to come back to life. That wish is granted as well... sort of. Instead of an actual Three Stooges reunion, what Penn actually gets is the emergence of three anti-pornography activists on which the episode will be focusing.
  • Berserk Button:
    • Penn quits snarking and gets legitimately pissed whenever he sees self-proclaimed "experts" making money by exploiting people's grief for deceased loved ones, as seen in the episodes "Astrology" and "Talking to the Dead".
    • People who argue their position as scientifically proven/supported, then, when pressed, are unable to provide anything that stands up to that claim.
    • Any unscientific movement that has actually led to deaths will also get this treatment, such as anti-GMO advocates causing third-world nations in famine to reject GMO crops in food aid, the Catholic church helping spread HIV by previously teaching people not to use condoms,note  or anti-vaccine advocates causing children to get sick from preventable illnesses like measles.
    • People who use Insistent Terminology to obscure what it is they're referring to will almost always get a rant on the subject. In the fast-food episode, someone advocating for government regulations on fast food insisted on using terms like "nudging" people to eat healthy instead of "regulating." The guy even agreed the terminology was for PR reasons.
  • Bigger Is Better in Bed: Deconstructed in the "Sex, Sex, Sex" episode, where they argue against penis enhancement, although their point is not that it isn't necessary, but because non-surgical methods flat-out don't work. Ironically, in the same episode, well-hung porn star Ron Jeremy states that size and quality sex are not related, even though he's one of the people hawking a so-called "male enhancement supplement."
  • Blatant Lies: Gleefully invoked with "Elvis didn't do no drugs!" and quickly exploited whenever an interviewee is caught in one.
  • Brand Names Are Better:
    • A regular target of the show. Bottled water and organic foods are but two examples. More generally, they also mock the "expensive is better" mindset that allows merchants to charge for unproven therapies like weight loss pills and toxin flushes.
    • They lampshade their own 'brand' in the "Fountain of Youth" episode (showing how, for example Estee Lauder cosmetics have huge markups over almost identical Clinique products); "We can't complain too much, you aren't watching Paul & Teddy's Bullshit!."
  • Breather Episode: The Dolphins episode, as lampshaded repeatedly. They consider the concept so ludicrous that they half-ass the entire episode.
    Penn: If dolphins have come up with anything like shelled pistachios, they're as intelligent as us. That's our argument. I told you, we're slacking tonight.
  • Butt-Monkey: Things conspire against Teller quite often.
  • Buxom Is Better: Deconstructed in the "Sex, Sex, Sex" episode, where they generally argue against breast enhancement, but most of their ire, like with penis enlargement, is for those touting non-surgical methods (like hypnosis) that just don't work.
  • Catchphrase:
    • "And then there's this asshole." Usually used to introduce someone whose position won't be supported.
      • Played with in the NASA episode. "NASA wants to travel the 35 million miles to Mars. Are they out of their fucking minds? We've heard from politicians, tourists and space-camp counselors, and they're all so enthusiastic." Cut to man in full flight suit. "And then there's this as... tronaut!"
      • Subverted Catchphrase: At the end of the episode on colon cleansing, the 'asshole' being introduced was a literal one, or at least a photo from a colonoscopy. Penn's as a matter of fact. He was wanting to show that the best way to promote colon health was to get regular checkups after a certain age, and was basically saying 'See, I even do it myself'.
      • At one point during a segment about hair removal via waxing, they used the catchphrase to lead into a video clip of a man getting his... well... getting waxed. Penn ecstatically asserted that multiple seasons of the show and every single use of the catch phrase was simply meant to be a lead-in to that one joke.
      • In the Endangered Species episode, introducing the California politician they interview starts with this, and then proceeds to insult the person a little while after that, only for him to say that he agrees with what he's saying. Penn then apologized.
    • There's also "Fuck you in the neck!"
    • And the way Penn starts nearly every episode: "Hi! I'm Penn and this is my partner, Teller!"
    • Every so often, you'll also get: "[ludicrous premise or idea] my achin' ass!"
    • And finally, what would the show be without "[subject of the show] is bullshit!"
  • Caustic Critic: Penn is vicious, he is brutal, he has absolutely no mercy or regard for those he sees as wrong. It helps that they consist of crazies, fundamentalists and those who are actually dangerous.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Enforced. Since calling someone a "motherfucker" or an "asshole" is legally safer than calling someone a liar or a fraud, the hosts use colorful language to avoid being sued. They explain this "lawyer-friendly" format in the first episode, even pointing out how they're not ones to curse as often as they do on the show. Considering all lawsuits against the show were unsuccessful, it paid off.
  • Cool Old Guy:
    • Norman freaking Borlaug, who Penn outright calls the greatest human being who ever lived. Borlaug's research into genetic engineering for food has been estimated as saving over a billion lives.
    • James "The Amazing!" Randi, another former magician and head of the James Randi Educational Foundation, a group that debunks the paranormal.
    • Jack LaLanne in Exercise vs Genetics.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: Many, though they're just as likely to mock people with anti-corporate sentiments (see the Wal-Mart and "environmental hysteria" episodes).
  • Country Matters: In an episode on profanity, even the people speaking out against censorship hesitated to say "cunt" (though one noted that it wasn't because of his own taboos, but the fact that he would take flak from his wife for it). Penn himself, although he won't use it as often as similar words, will occasionally use it, including once in reference to Mother Teresa's convent.
  • Creator Provincialism: Lampshaded; "Scouring the globe" to find ghosts involves visiting California, Virginia and Texas. As Penn says, "we barely even left our own time zone".
  • Cultural Cringe: The anti-fast food people from the "Fast Food" episode cannot stop talking about how fat and stupid they think their fellow Americans are.
  • Darker and Edgier: Episodes about subjects like the death penalty have an understandably darker tone than episodes about subjects like pseudoscience.
  • A Date with Rosie Palms: Discussed and encouraged in the Abstinence episode.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Penn Jillette, at least in this show.
  • Deconstruction: The whole point of the show is to analyze, pick-apart, and deconstruct the various topics featured.
  • Defector from Decadence: Sometimes, a member of the group or organization being made fun of is revealed to actually agree with Penn and Teller.
    • Howard Menser, the Scoutmaster featured in the "Boy Scouts" episode, is gay. While he at first sings the praises of Scouting and what it teaches, and tells us of his 23 years leading his local troop, he cites the increasing hatred for gay people and atheists as the reason he left.
    • Mark Edward is a reformed con artist who explains the tricks of the psychic trade in "Talking to the Dead". Having worked as a psychic, he found it trivially easy to manipulate and read people. This amount of power scared him deeply, turning him around to fighting such con artistry and exposing fake psychics.
    • Kelly Dunham was once a nun who worked for Mother Teresa. She left the convent to become a standup comic and, in "Holier than Thou", spoke out against the "cult of suffering" that Mother Teresa established.
    • "PETA" had a former spokesman who left the organization because he felt that the group condoned violence.
  • Deliberately Bad Example: The "Martial Arts" episode discourages people from learning more practical disciplines like MMA, Jiujitsu and Krav Maga by having the guest expert name a move that involves disabling an attacker and breaking their neck, which is nearly, if not totally impossible to use as a legal self-defense technique. This is 100% true, but it leaves out how you can still use such disciplines to subdue an attacker and keep them from hurting you without actually killing them, and any instructor worth their salt will advise you to stop fighting and run away as soon as you're able.
    • In general, the show does this a lot. They strive to debunk large concepts in 25 minutes while making time for comedy, counterarguments, and skits like the "Bullshit Experiments." While they do interview experts in their field, they're almost always rather radical or particularly crazy (and funny) experts.
  • Doing In the Wizard: In the Bible episode the theologian they interview brings up the idea that the "parting of the Red Sea" miracle would be better translated as "the Hebrews escaped across the dried marsh". Penn can't figure out how the latter is even a miracle; the best he can come up with is "the smell didn't annoy them." He and Teller also do this against claimed paranormal phenomena on the show regularly.
  • Don't Eat and Swim: Subverted. In their "Parental Hysteria" episode, the guys exposed their six-year-old "lab rat" to various old wives' tales in order to show how there was no truth to them. One of these segments saw the kid eat a sandwich for lunch, then go swimming in a pool immediately afterwards. The kid was fine.
  • Drugs Are Bad: In the War on Drugs episode, they do agree with this, but they disagree more with the tactics used by the government in dealing with it and the misinformation they spread in programs with this message.
  • Due to the Dead: The so-called-therapist who tells a widow "luckily he died" —regarding her deceased husband, a nice man but not entirely supportive of her career — made a very tasteless joke but is far from the worst individual depicted on the show.
    • Penn makes the argument in "Talking to the Dead" that so-called psychics who claim they can talk to people's dead loved ones are getting money by conning it from people who care about this.
  • Edutainment Show: While the point of the show is to educate and get the viewer to question things, there's frequent segments meant to make the audience laugh.
  • Enemy Mine: Straight-up defied in "Holier Than Thou", when they call the Dalai Lama's somewhat shady background to the audience's attentionnote  and remind them that the simple fact that he hates China doesn't necessarily make him a good person.
    Penn: The lesser of two evils is still evil. And the enemy of my enemy is not my friend.
    • As anti-religion as the show gets, "Death, Inc." had a Catholic priest on their side.
  • Expensive Glass of Crap: Basically the plot to the bottled water and the "Best" episodes. In most cases, because the person indulging thinks they're getting the best, whatever they're eating will be predisposed as tasting better. Notably, one of the guests who actually was a food expert did obviously notice and was trying to be polite in front of his host (who was in on it).
    • One of the "both sides have a point" ideas they tried to get across was that for some people, things like presentation and the perceived "fanciness" of the meal is important, while other people are only concerned about how it tastes.
  • Fan Disservice: A man showed his formerly circumcised penis in the "Circumcision" episode (he got its foreskin restored).
  • Fanservice: Half of the episodes are loaded to the brink with full-frontal female nudity. And quite a few have fully naked men as well.
  • For Science!: With some subjects it will be pointed out how difficult it would be for some causal relationships to be conclusively proven. For example The "Penn & Teller Center For Incredibly Bad Ideas" have allegedly put five rapists into a rented house next to an all girl college... The results of this study have been suppressed by the US Department of Reason: "Did we mention there's no good science on either side of this debate?"
  • Friendly Enemy: On several occasions they get somebody from the mainstream of whatever they're covering who is actually on their side for certain issues:
    • One of their main guests on the Chiropracty episode is a practicing Chiropractor himself. While he defends the practice as a whole, he's just as mad as the hosts about some of the more ridiculous and extreme claims of his peers.
    • A recurring guest on their environmental topics is Patrick Moore, a former president of Greenpeace who says that he still believes in the cause but thinks many current environmental claims are overblown and unproven. He is obviously a rather controversial figure.
    • A lighter example is a random UFO believer the crew met at the convention covered in the "Alien Abduction" episode. She'd been sold on the event as a serious discussion of the evidence, and was utterly disgusted that it was really what she called a "vendor's fair" where people were charging for talks and shilling their books.
  • Fun with Acronyms:
    • Patti Strand from The National Animal Interest Alliance calls PETA People for Extortion, Terror and Abuse.
    • A gag that shows up several times in the anti-circumcision episode; N.O.C.I.R.Cnote , D.O.Cnote , N.O.R.Mnote , and A.F.T.R.O.T.Cnote .
  • Gay Aesop: The "Family Values" episode is pro-gay marriage, picking apart every anti-gay marriage argument that the hosts can find while also saying that the concept of the "American family" is changing. Also, the "Boy Scouts" episode features a segment where Penn decries the practice of the Boy Scouts firing gay troop leaders or preventing gay boys from joining.note  Finally, the "Nukes, Hybrids, and Lesbians" episode has a pair of lesbians going on a date in a rented hybrid vehicle, pausing the date from time to time to show how impractical the cars are.
  • Genre Savvy:
    • In the Astrology episode, one of the psychology students given a "personality test" in which everyone got the same answer repeatedly tried to question the professor about the testing system ("There's that fucking girl again with another fucking question!") and is delighted when it's confirmed what the camera crew was really for. Turns out she's a fan.
    • For all his faults, Rodney Coronado was Genre Savvy enough to politely decline being interviewed in the PETA episode, knowing that it would be used against him and PETA.
  • Godwin's Law: Invoked - they compared the leader of PETA giving an emotional speech to footage of Adolf Hitler doing the same. The very next line was "Cheap shot? Well, you bet it is. It's beneath us." Then they rolled the footage from PETA's own "Holocaust On Your Plate" campaign (which consists of footage of chicken farms played next to holocaust pictures).
    • They also used it in the World Peace episode where he said "Hitler called himself a socialist." This is actually an oversimplification - while it is true that the word Nazi is a shortening of Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei - the "National Socialist German Worker's Party" - the name is the result of a combination of nationalist and socialist groups coming together - however Hitler and his nationalists eventually ejected and prosecuted any socialists because they were too similar to communism, while not bothering to change the name.
    • The Mount Rushmore episode touches on the true meaning of "patriot". One of the episode's targets brings up the root word patria, to mean a common country according to him. Penn then cuts in with the real translation, "Fatherland", citing it as "a word Hitler was really fond of. Teller's sign even uses a swastika to dot the I in "Die Faderland".
    • Two failures in the lawn episode. A man who makes sure people's lawns are in local compliance suggested calling him a Grass Nazi, which they refused to do. The wife of a man who was jailed for not being in compliance compared it to how a concentration camp operates, which the hosts immediately mocked.
    • In the hair episode, they subjected candidates for a secretarial position against interviewers with atrocious hair problems to see how people would react. One of the interviewers, "Harry," looked like Hitler in a suit via the hairstyle and subtle references to Nazi German (e.g. "Our sales are going up!!" says Harry while doing the Nazi Salute.)
    • They also used Hitler's doctor creating the lethal injection to argue against the death penalty.
  • Global Warming: Comes up in "Environmental Hysteria" and "Being Green". Penn says the theory of man-made global warming might be true, but expresses some cynicism about it ("Al Gore must be right. He won the Oscar. That's a science prize, isn't it?").
  • Grammar Nazi: They drop in mini-lectures a few times for this reason, like The difference between acronyms and initialisms.
  • Green Aesop: Deconstructed in the Environmental Hysteria, Recycling and "Being Green" episodes and the Hybrid segment of "Nukes, Hybrids, and Lesbians." Penn & Teller find most of what people do in these campaigns to be self-serving, self-defeating, or completely ineffectual. They also tend to mock people in these movements, painting them as Know-Nothing Know-It-All alarmists.
  • Hard Work Hardly Works: Invoked in the "Exercise" episode. While they say that exercising and taking care of yourself is something that you should absolutely do, you shouldn't expect to look like a body builder or a fitness model, as their bodies are genetically predisposed to looking that way. Not to mention, for most of them it's literally their job to take care of themselves.
  • Hero Antagonist: Some of the people the show that represent the opposite side of Penn & Teller's ideas aren't always assholes and are quite sympathetic. "Death Penalty" and "The Elderly" have some examples, and Penn acknowledges that they can't really call them assholes even though they otherwise fit the role for the episode.
  • Hypocrisy Nod:
    • The most blatant is in the "Lawns" episode when, complaining about the pesticides people use and the fact that lawns are unnatural, they recreate The Summation of the "Organic Farming" episode and show themselves split-screen making opposite statements about pesticides and natural agriculture. They then quickly point out that food is necessary and lawns aren't.
    • In another episode, when discussing Mahatma Gandhi's racist comments about Africans, they point out they were made the same year that The Birth of a Nation (1915) came out, and caution their American audience about being aware of the racism in their own country's past before criticizing a major public figure in another country.
    • They often said that the ideal final episode of the show would be exposing the bullshit of... Penn & Teller's Bullshit.
  • Hypocrite: Given the nature of the show, this is to be expected.
    • One of the most blatant examples is PETA. Penn & Teller pointed out least three important hypocrisies during the episode.
      • They picket veterinarians and animal shelters for euthanizing animals, while euthanizing even more animals themselves.
      • They're supposedly against animal testing, even in medicine. They've gone as far as to supporting people and groups that has been declared as domestic terrorists for firebombing animal research facilities and giving researchers violence and death threats, yet they're perfectly fine in allowing their members take insulin developed through animal testing.
      • They also call themselves ethical while condoning violence if they believe it suits their narrative and supporting said terrorist groups.
    • In the Swearing episode, one woman suggested saying santa vaca instead of cursing. Santa vaca means holy cow in Spanish, which would be offending to Hindus. She had no problem with that, since it wasn't relevant to her religion. She actually explicitly spells out in a later segment that she doesn't consider it cursing if you use the name of a god or religious figure you don't follow ("Buddha!"); Penn speculates on whether it goes both ways and a non-Christian swearing with Jesus Christ's name is perfectly polite.
    • A couple of Wal-Mart protestors go on at length about how the company is exploiting their underpaid workforce and undermining their dignity. Then they proudly show off their merch... which is all blatantly classist "jokes" about how poor Wal-Mart shoppers are stupid inbred hicks.
  • Hypocritical Humor: They do this seemingly every other show, sometimes with a little subtlety but more often by flat-out saying something like "The real Bullshit here is us."
    • In "The Best", which is primarily about the futility of pursuing needless luxury (something which the illusionist duo are surrounded by much of the time in Vegas, mind you), they kick the episode off by flaunting awards and declaring "We're the best!" only to have Robin Leach (who, As You Know..., was the host of a descriptively-titled show called Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous back in the day) come on and declare that "'The best' is bullshit."
    • In the self-help episode Penn goes on a rant about how one of the subjects' telling a client it's lucky her husband had died is mean and insensitive. Imagine how upset he'd be if he knew about! Luckily, he died (the hosts both crack up).
  • I Know Mortal Kombat: Deconstructed as used by the Moral Guardians in the Video Games episode. To counter the claim that violent games desensitize children to violence and that realistic games teach children how to use weapons, they test it by giving a nine year old boy who plays violent games very frequently an AR-15 at a shooting range. He holds the gun incorrectly, misses the (oversized) target, isn't prepared for the recoil, doesn't want to shoot more afterward when asked, and cries from the experience.
  • Immediate Self-Contradiction:
    • In the "War on Porn" episode, the anti-porn crusader uses an appeal to adverse consequences by saying that looking at too much porn will turn people into pedophiles, then says that she has no studies to verify this claim. Penn calls her out on this, saying that the crusader just admitted she's making this up.
    • In the episode on "Exercise vs. Genetics," Clark Bar... tram calls out personal trainers that try and sell protein powders and vitamins, saying they don't work, and that you really need to exercise regardless. He then tries to sell his own protein powders and vitamins.
  • Immigrant Patriotism: Addressed in the Immigration episode.
    • Also in the "Big Brother" episode. The only test subject who continued to monitor suspected terrorism when porn stars were going at it in the next house was from Kenya.
  • An Immigrant's Tale: Also addressed in the Immigration episode.
  • The Immodest Orgasm: Deconstructed in the Orgasms episode, saying they create an unrealistic expectation for sex.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Seen in the "War on Porn" episode, where an anti-pornography activist tries to argue that all pornography is just a gateway drug for child pornography, and that men who enjoy porn will inevitably turn out to be pedophiles.
  • Insistent Terminology: Every time they cut to Kate in the Environmental Hysteria episode they make a point of mentioning that she is a prominent member and chosen spokesperson for the Rainforest Action Network. After a while Penn explains that this is because she was so unprepared and apparently clueless about her own group's stance that it comes off like they're just picking on a random person.
    • There's another one in the Exercise vs. Genetics episode; when referring to fitness trainer Clark Bartram:
    Penn: Clark Bar...(*Beat*)...tram.
    • In the PETA episode, the titular group scream bloody murder when veterinarians euthanizes animals, but when they do the same in even greater quantities, it's called "putting them to sleep forever".
  • Insult Backfire: In the episode on patriotism:
    Conservative talking head: Remember, there's also the other worry that you have no patriotism-sort of, you're soulless, you don't believe in anything, or you don't think there's anything unique or exceptional about your culture. That's the feeling I get when I go to Europe. Most Europeans, I think, don't believe in a transcendence, a spiritual element to life.
    Penn: Europe is soulless? No spiritual element? Fuck me with a freedom fry! Maybe there is something good about Europe!
  • Intentionally Awkward Title: Which was chosen because of the impact it would have. They mentioned in the "obscenity" episode that their first choice was "humbug", in honor of Houdini favoring the term in his own debunking career, but it had lost so much of its rudeness and offensiveness over time that they went with the modern equivalent.
  • The Internet Is for Porn: Joked about, but also addressed seriously in the "War on Porn" episode. The guys argue that there's really nothing wrong with looking at porn online, and that those who want it taken down (en masse, at least) are mostly appealing to consequences rather than using scientific studies. The anti-porn crusader they follow in the episode even admits she has no studies to back up her claims.
  • Ironic Echo: Penn often starts a clip of someone by saying something like "at least there (is/is not) (Fill in the blank)" and of course the person in the clip starts what he's saying with exactly the opposite of what Penn was saying, usually followed by an obscenity from Penn.
  • It's Fake Fur, It's Fine: No, it's not. In the episode on PETA, they make it clear that they have nothing but contempt for this trope, and consider it to be hypocrisy in its purest form. They point out while interviewing a PETA spokesman that he's wearing a fake leather belt, shoes and watchband, thus propagating the fashion even though his outfit didn't directly murder any animals.note 
  • I Was Young and Needed the Money: In the Prostitution episode, Penn admits that he and Teller took on degrading jobs in their past (kids' birthday parties).
  • Know-Nothing Know-It-All: Practically Once per Episode, someone that the show focuses on will be mocked for claiming to be an expert at something they really have no business being near.
    • A lot of guests come off this way when interviewed. Penn discusses this in the "Family Values" episode, saying that most of the interviewees have never talked to anyone with a dissenting opinion, and certainly no one who has a research team (like P&T do).
    • Kate Lowe, a self-described "global justice activist" in the Rainforest Action Network, is asked several questions in her episode about the environment, and can't seem to answer any of them. Penn even has to remind the audience that the show didn't just pick Lowe off the street; Bullshit asked RAN to send a knowledgeable representative of their policies and positions to be interviewed, and she's the best they could come up with. Penn even describes Lowe as someone who is "young, passionate, and means well", but wonders why she's never asked such basic questions of her cause.
    • Several life coaches and spiritual guides get painted with this brush. A good portion of humor (and subsequent mockery) from the show comes from just letting self-help gurus and people with alleged spiritual/supernatural powers show the extent of their abilities, which either aren't that impressive or rely on the viewer already believing that they'll work.
    • The "World Peace" episode focuses on both "crazy left-wing assholes" and "crazy right-wing assholes," mocking both of them by deconstructing their paths to peace as impractical, unrealistic, and poorly-researched.
  • Legend Fades to Myth: Discussed in the Bible episode. The example presented is that two different books about Elvis' eating habits give completely different recipes for his favorite sort of fried chicken, and he lived and died within living memory; just imagine trying to work out which (if either) is correct thousands of years later...
  • Logical Fallacies: Frequently used by the supporters of the topics they attack. For example in the 'War Against Porn' episode they call out anti-porn campaigners for drawing solid conclusions from their own speculations and mostly appealing to adverse consequences; "STOP THE FUCKIN' TAPE! She doesn't have any studies? So Gail is just making shit up."
  • Lopsided Dichotomy: Used in the college episode in response to a college rally organizer who told a counter-protestor to move away from the crowd for his own safety.
    There's three hundred of them, and one of us, and he's worried about their safety? He's either a pussy, or he thinks he recognizes Erin from Drunken Master 2.
  • Lost Episode: The final episode of Season 7, "The Vatican", was never released on DVD and is not available for streaming on either Hulu or Amazon Prime.
  • Manufacturing Victims: The show has an episode on 12-steppers, where they argue that the method is nothing more than brainwashing and religious indoctrination. It doesn't help at all against alcoholism, and at worst it can get people hooked on the AA movement.
    • Also done in the episode on multi-level marketing, where they say that anyone who tries to make a living doing it is nothing but a victim of the multi-level marketing companies, due to the minimal or nonexistent profit margins.
  • Mayan Doomsday: The episode "The Apocalypse" was dedicated to debunking this trope. It also showed the folks who believed in the apocalypse as taking advantage of a free Mayan vacation more than researching the supposed end of the world.
  • Merchandise-Driven: The real goal of many bullshitters is to sell derivative stuff on the side. The episodes on exercise and aliens even call this out. Also, a lot of new-age spiritual beliefs requires an investment of a lot of money, which the hosts always take time to mock.
  • Mood Whiplash: At the end of an occasional show, the mood will suddenly change from bright and bubbly to downright depressing.
    • A perfect example comes from their episode on video games, where the discussion turns to the violence in football and how people need to get their priorities straight. Then they apologize for cutting off the ending of a clip they had shown earlier of a nine year old boy and violent video game player who had just shot a gun for the first time (it wasn't specified, but he may have held it wrong and hurt himself). The ending clip shows him sobbing silently on his mother's shoulder, while the voice-over apologizes, "Sorry, Harrison." Sob.
    • Likewise is the episode on "Old People". It goes from showing humorous clips about old people's sex lives, driving, and how they smell to talking about "death with dignity"/"assisted suicide". Penn and Teller don't even bother mocking either side, which tells you how complex the controversy really is.
      • The Dolphins episode has one of the most scathing endings about the dolphin-assisted birthing practitioner. Penn even says "That's the end of serious", while lounging on a chair in a Hawaiian shirt, after condemning the person behind the idea; "It turned out she hadn't yet done any physical harm so we let her slide. But you know, we shouldn't have."
      • The Cheerleading episode swings between making jokes about P&T being dirty old men perving at cheerleaders, and meeting cheerleaders who have been paralyzed by accidents while competing.
    • The episode Signs From Heaven is mostly of them poking fun at people for believing some object contains a holy image (Such as a grilled cheese sandwich that supposedly has the image of the Virgin Mary on it). However, one segment of the episode has Penn speaking in a very solemn tone. Said segment is about a girl named Audrey who nearly drowned when she was three and is in a coma. Due to religious statues apparently leaking oil, however, Audrey's family have decided to exploit her condition as a "miracle" and have gone so far as to send Penn not only a sponge soaked in the supposed oil, but also an order form for merchandise. Penn points out that perhaps Audrey's mother should buy a conscience since hers doesn't seem to be working.
      • Penn in general seems to have an absolute disgust towards people who exploit others emotionally or whatnot for profit. It's not unusual for episodes to suddenly shift from funny and snarky to more serious in tone (often either solemn or genuine anger) whenever this happens.
    • In general, when talking about someone who has taken a path P&T disapprove of after the death of a child, Penn will stop the mockery for a moment to explain that their hearts go out to these people, and they can't imagine the pain of losing a child.
  • Moral Guardians:
    • The target in several episodes such as the College, Violent Video Games, War on Porn, and Vatican episodes. In a nutshell, Penn and Teller find such groups that try to control peoples' thoughts and/or actions to be self-defeating, filled with faulty or just plain incorrect research, and full of holier-than-thou types who seem more interested in furthering their own agenda than actually helping people.
    • In the episode on Swearing, they take particular issue with a woman guilty of possibly-unintentional hypocrisy. Specifically, instead of cursing or blasphemy, she advocates saying things like santa vaca. Penn explains that santa vaca is Spanish for "holy cow," which is an insulting reference to Hindus (who consider cows sacred). He gets really pissed at the thought that she is so dismissive of religions that aren't her own.
  • Mundane Solution: In the "Martial Arts" episode the pair point out that it's cheaper to just give a mugger your money than to go through all the time, expense, and risk of injury of learning and using fighting skills. If that's not a viable option, they suggest you Just Shoot Him, since the legal repercussions are roughly the same as beating a mugger into submissionnote  and it's much safer for you.
  • Narration Echo: From "Holier Than Thou," talking about Gandhi -
    Penn: [narrating] Wait a minute! He's sleeping naked with the girls? And the girls are naked too?
    Biographer: He's sleeping naked with the girls and the girls are naked too!
    Penn: [narrating] Cool!
  • No Antagonist: The "Stranger Danger" and "NASA" episodes don't have any assholes to attack, the episodes instead focusing on the general myths and flaws of the subject at hand.
  • Noodle Implements: In the "War on Porn" episode.
    Penn: If God hadn't wanted us to jerk off, He wouldn't have given us Astroglide, golf clubs, and used panties to wear over our heads.
  • Nostalgia Ain't Like It Used to Be/Nostalgia Filter: Deconstructed in the "Good Ol' Days" episode. Three fans of Leave It to Beaver meet Ken Osmond (who played Eddie Haskell on the show) and told him how much they preferred the world as seen in the 1950s sitcom to the modern world. Notably, none of the three fans were born when the show was made. Haskell himself was far more critical of the 1950s than they were and thought they had an idealized notion of the '50s that wasn't true to life. He did admit the 50s were pretty nice for middle class white males, but not so much for everyone else.
    • They also point out several people talking about how life was simpler several decades ago. Even though the people are talking about different decades, Penn points out in thing they all have in common: the people talking were children at the time. So of course things seemed simpler back then.
  • Old Shame: In-universe. Penn is not a fan of how the show was back in the Renaissance.
    • Out-of-universe, Penn Jillette has stated that their least favorite show is the "Good Ol' Days" episode, since it was nothing more than them bashing people that were passionate about different things.
  • Ominous Latin Chanting: Parodied in "The Vatican", where people in robes are chanting in Pig Latin. They're actually chanting "The Vatican is bullshit"!
  • Only One Name: Teller. He was originally named Raymond Joseph Teller, but legally changed his name to just "Teller".
  • Only Sane Man: In the War on Drugs episode, after listening to the arguments of its supporters, Penn claims, "Is everyone fucking high but us?"
  • Original Position Fallacy: Referenced in the end of the world episode in season one. Penn points out that since the odds are on the side of you dying in the kind of disasters doomsayers predict, it's a safer bet to just run up credit card charges you'll never have to pay than plan what to do afterwards.
  • Our Lawyers Advised This Trope:
    • The reason P&T refer to people they disagree with as "assholes" is because calling them liars or con-artists would be considered slander, which could get them sued. "Asshole" is a statement of opinion, meaning it's legally much safer. By the same token, calling something a "scam" could also get them sued, since it's accusing someone of a crime, whereas calling something "bullshit" is likewise a protected statement of opinion.
    • According to one interview this led to the humorous situation where, after sending the script to the lawyers to be checked, it was returned with a potentially-slanderous line crossed out and a note reading "couldn't you just call him an asshole?"
    • Lampshaded in the Multi-Level Marketing episode, where their lawyers told them they would be in trouble if they called these companies pyramid schemes, since it constitutes accusing them of a crime. In the middle of their rant on this restriction, the attending lawyer broke in with "Hey, I'm the one that's gonna have to defend you assholes!" At which point P&T promptly stop arguing.
    • The episode "Numbers" had Penn refer to the M&Ms used in one demonstration as "N&Ns" since their lawyers wouldn't allow it, either. He lampshades this, too.
  • Overly Narrow Superlative: In the "Organic Food" episode, they test whether there's a difference in taste between organic and non-organic food.
  • Papa Wolf: Penn gets very angry whenever he feels children are endangered or shortchanged by the show's targets. Show early on when he warns viewers to look away as there is nothing funny said or done about a chiropractor working on a kid, you can hear her bones crack, before a visibly distressed Penn says instead of showing the clip they should have called the police. Then there is the conspiracy of 9/11 victims actually being in on the plot and still alive.
    Fuck you. We really hope this fuckup runs into the family of those who died.
  • Petite Pride: Supported in the "Sex, Sex, Sex" episode which argues against breast enhancement.
  • Pet the Dog: While they're generally merciless against people they disagree with, they're far more polite and easygoing on Mark Klaas in Death Penalty, since he supports it because his daughter was raped and killed by a repeat offender.
  • Pig Latin: In the beginning of "The Vatican", a group of people dressed as monks chants in this language. Translated, they say "The Vatican is bullshit".
  • Pink Means Feminine: The gun control episode included the thought experiment of issuing all women a bright-pink gun. Partly because "tough guys" would be too embarrassed to steal them, but mostly because Penn thinks pink guns are sexy.
  • Pixellation: Used on the episode "War on Porn" for some images of hardcore porn (bodily fluids, penetration, etc.) since Showtime wouldn't allow it to be shown compared to the soft core variety as is typical (breasts). Also used to obscure the face of the young daughter of an Internet porn star couple to protect her privacy and "innocence".
    • Also used in the Orgasms episode to censor a woman's ejaculate. Showtime doesn't allow bodily fluids, but they didn't mention it in that episode.
  • Political Correctness Gone Mad: Addressed in the College, Reparations, and Sensitivity Training episodes. They pointed out that a lot of the materials used in sensitivity training courses was actually openly racist and/or sexist material masquerading as "diversity".
  • Pom-Pom Girl: An episode touched on arguments that activities in the cheer leading family should be considered sports, and proving otherwise.
  • Power Born of Madness: In the PETA episode Penn claims that "In any conflict the crazier party usually wins; that's why PETA's doing so well." They then bring out their secret weapon: Ted Nugent.
  • Popcultural Osmosis: Outside of the US, Penn and Teller are primarily known as skeptics because of this show, rather than their career as stage magicians.
  • The Promised Land: The United States is portrayed as such in the Immigration episode.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: From the end of the episode "Eat This!" which debunked fad diets and the supposed "danger" of genetically modified food:
    Penn: Unless you and yours are starving, then you need to SHUT! THE FUCK! UP!
  • Really 700 Years Old: In "Good Ol' Days", Penn claims that he and Teller have been around since at least the Middle Ages, where they were presenting a show called "Billycock!"
  • Refuge in Audacity: In the opening presentation, Penn remarks that by calling people liars, quacks and scammers one can be sued, but motherfuckers, assholes and bullshit is fair game. Both types of appellations are used anyway.
  • Running Gag:
  • Sarcasm Failure: The "Soda Tax" referenced in the fast food episode places extra government taxes on the purchase of sodas. Sodas are made using HFCS (high-fructose corn syrup). The main incentive to use HFCS is the low price due to government corn subsidies. In other words, from Penn's point of view, the government is solving a problem they created with misspent taxpayer money by taking more taxpayer money. They found the concept so asinine they couldn't develop a proper visual aid.
  • Sarcasm Mode: Penn, quite frequently.
  • Scary Stinging Swarm: In one episode, Penn goes off on a tangent about the phrase "opening a can of worms", since if you actually do that, you get some worms, but it's not very annoying or troublesome. A better phrase would be "you shouldn't open that can of bees", because when you do, you get BEES!!.
  • Self-Deprecation:
    • In the pet episode, Penn mentions that for all the craziness people spend on their pets, he himself indulges pretty substantially on personal appeals. Furthermore, the Grand Finale of the show was intended to be "The Bullshit of Bullshit", where they point out where they screwed up or were hugely biased.
    • In the War On Porn Episode, "Our argument is bullshit too. Correlation is not causation. It could easily be just a coincidence. So in the absence of evidence, who are you going to go with? The killjoys, or us? We have pictures of people fucking, and they don't!"
    • In general they love to call it "a bullshit show", even aside from the name, and to be incredulous that anyone with sense would want to be on it.
  • Sexposition: They not only did this regularly, they lampshaded it, pointing out that the only reason for having naked women in this scene was so that you'd sit and listen to a boring explanation of this week's topic.
    Penn: Now that we know you're not going anywhere...
  • Sex Sells: Humorously lampshaded often. Penn jumps at the chance to insert gratuitous nudity because it's good for the ratings.
  • Shoehorned Acronym: After an "expert" misuses the term acronym, Penn explains what the difference is between an acronym (FUBAR - Fucked Up Beyond All Recognition) and an initialism (FBI - Federal Bureau of Investigation). Specifically, acronyms can be pronounced and initialisms can not. Penn caps this off by attempting to phonetically pronounce 'FBI'.
  • Shout-Out: In the first episode Penn refers to John Edwards as the biggest douche in the universe.
  • Shown Their Work: Pretty much everything is heavily researched so that the show actually has proof to back up its claims, rather than just making things up to make the topics featured look bad.
  • Sincerity Mode:
    • Penn acknowledges that asking the boy in the "Video Games" episode to fire a rifle with no prior training (physical and mental) is unfair, and that the experience will affect him later in life, and he apologizes in voice-over for it.
    • Also in the "Alternative Medicine" episode when Penn learns that a chiropractor is doing work on little kids and even infants (which Penn points out is very dangerous) he is shocked to the point where he doesn't even break into a rant like usual and admits that he should've just called the police on the guy.
  • Sinister Minister: The Vatican and "Holier Than Thou" episodes.
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Penn. Though, as noted under Refuge in Audacity, that's partially due to not wanting to get sued.
  • Skewed Priorities: In the episode on the 2012 doomsday:
    Patrick Geryl: No computers will work after a pole shift. Mega earthquakes bigger than the Richter scale. Hurricanes and the tornadoes. The complete tidal wave that will go over the whole world. More than 99% of all people in the whole world will be dead after this.
    Penn: Are you serious?! You mean, computers really won't work?!
  • Small Girl, Big Gun: One of the women in the Gun Control episode, who argues against it because women tend to be physically weaker than men and need other means of defending themselves.
  • Society Marches On: In the United States, there have been a few changes to policy that make the show seem somewhat dated, and this is likely to increase as time goes on.
    • "Family Values": A majority of the episode is spent arguing for gay marriage, since the idea of "the perfect American family" is constantly changing. The Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide on June 26th, 2015.
    • "Boy Scouts": Effective January 1, 2014, boys identifying as gay were allowed to become boy scouts. Effective July 27, 2015, the BSA board rescinded the national ban on gay leaders and volunteers, though individual local troops are still allowed to ban them.
    • The term "libertarian" has been co-opted by the right wing fringe of the Republican party since the show went off the air, making the duo's use of it to describe their own stance seem like You Keep Using That Word.note 
    • Earlier seasons make reference to George W. Bush as being the current President.
    • In the episode on the Vatican, knowing that Pope John Paul II was in failing health, they lampshade this trope. As John Paul II appears on screen, a caption comes up that reads "If this guy is dead by the time this episode airs, just imagine we're talking about his replacement."
    • This is discussed in the "Profanity" episode. They originally wanted to call the show "Humbug" in honor of their inspiration, but ended up having to change it to the modern equivilant. In Houdini's time "humbug" was as rude and offensive as "bullshit" is today, but over time it decayed to the point that people mostly don't even remember that it was ever anything but a silly old word.
  • Special Guest: In the "Apocalypse 2012" episode, while discussing the idea that a brown dwarf star will destroy the world in 2012, they cut to Penn & Teller going up to Gary Coleman and asking if he's planning on destroying the world in 2012.
  • Stock Footage: In the Bible episode, there's a gag in which black-and-white footage from old Sword & Sandal movies is shown to illustrate Biblical events, with a subtitle labeling it "Actual Footage". Incidentally, the "Actual Footage" of the Exodus is from the 1923 silent version of The Ten Commandments. Much of the New Testament footage is from the 1912 film From the Manger to the Cross.
  • Strawman Political: This tends to apply to pretty much anyone on the opposite side of their argument, regardless of political affiliation.
    • The guests on the opposition side are espousing beliefs that tend to be more radical about their point of view, whereas supporting guests are usually more moderate. Penn has summed up the tone of their show with the phrase "fair and extremely biased" several times during the show. They are "fair" in that they allow people to express their opinions and/or ideas fully without dicking about in the editing or putting words in anyone's mouths that they didn't intend to be there. But they're "extremely biased" in that P&T steamroll over the opposition with their own side without a chance for rebuttal or explanation. Penn summed it up in the "Families" episode, where he said "we're biased as all fuck, but we try to be honest".
    • Also "biased" in that they pick and choose the "experts" from each side. For example, using only the extreme minority of climatologists who are skeptical of climate change for "their" side - and completely ignoring the vast majority of climatologists in favor of university protesters for "the other".
    • Discussed in the Vatican episode. Since they are generally going against the mainstream position, ideas that are generally considered impolite to question, and/or extremely influential groups, they feel that this is already their own counter-argument. They don't see any point in taking part of their thirty-minute show when the opposition has had centuries to make their arguments.
      • They further added that they could not get an actual Vatican official to agree to appear on the show, and discussed the theological idea that papal statements (Papal Bull as Penn calls it) are directly inspired by God instead. The idea being that going by the Catholic Church's own theology, any church statement that has not been later reversed or superceded should be fair game for criticism against them.
    • It's painfully obvious that they cherry-picked representatives on both sides in War on Drugs. They used reasonable people (albeit one with a shady past) on the marijuana legalization side and smug strawmen on the anti-drug side.
      • Even in that episode, the worst offender was Robert S. Weiner from the Drug Czar's office and House Narcotics Committee, i.e. defending drug policy is his entire job and this is the best he can do.
    • They sometimes have strawmen on their side, but the context makes them more sympathetic than the opposing side. For example Ted Nugent in the PETA episode is very blunt with his arguments, but he's an entertaining Large Ham about it. See also Power Born of Madness.
  • The Talk: Some of the focus of the Abstinence episode is how parents leaving this job up to the school system can result in a lot of misinformation, some of it intentionally wrong designed to scare teens into not having sex.
  • Talking to the Dead: The very first episode took aim at psychics who claim to be able to communicate with dead loved ones.
    Penn: (at a set dressed as Harry Houdini's grave, to the headstone) Harry! Can you believe it? The same bullshit you so thoroughly debunked almost a century ago is continuing! And even enjoying a resurgence! (to camera) See? Anyone can talk to the dead! Getting an answer, that's the hard part.
    Teller: (as Houdini, his face poking through the foam layer front of the headstone) Bullshit!
  • Three-Way Sex/A Threesome is Manly: In the War on Porn episode, one of the critics of the sex industry makes the claim that this kind of sex is torture and one of the things that desensitizes men to rape.
  • Time Marches On: The episode debunking the 2012 apocalypse theories is a little... dated, post-2012.
  • Title Drop: Used Once an Episode in the opening. Penn describes the topic of the day, ending with "(subject of tonight's show) is bullshit!" The only episode where this is untrue is the episode on profanity. They instead refer to it as "Humbug" in honor of what used to be a rather profane phrase used by Houdini.
  • TV Never Lies: In the episode on the anti-vaccination movement:
    Penn: Where the hell are you people getting your information?!
    Carl: Thank God for the Internet!
    Wendy: Thank God for the Internet!
    Carl: People say, "Oh, you got that on the Internet. That must be conspiracy stuff." No, it's just KNOWLEDGE.
  • Urban Legends: The source of a few debunkings, such as Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster.
  • Victoria's Secret Compartment: The trope is referenced by name in the "Gun Control" episode by a woman who conceal-carries in this manner.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: Addressed and deconstructed in the Video Games episode. The guys' main point is that violent video games don't make people into killers, and almost all studies that say they do show evidence of bias, either by the researchers taking the data, or because the studies were paid to say they do.
  • Visual Pun: Quite common — for instance, talking about multi-level marketing in front of a giant pyramid (asking their lawyer why they can't use "that word," no less), or alternative medicine in front of a flock of ducks.
  • The Voiceless:
    • Teller, in keeping with P&T's original act. Depending on the episode, it's either played straight, or subverted. Teller never speaks in such a way where you can see his lips move, but if you've seen every episode, you have a pretty good idea of what the guy sounds like. Some notable subversions:
      • The cold open of the very first episode. See Talking to the Dead above.
      • In the P.E.T.A. episode, wherein Penn brands Teller's ass with the show's eponymous obscenity. Appropriately, he screams in pain... Off-camera.
      Teller: Mother fucker!
      Penn: Hey, cool, Dave! He can talk!
      • In "Holier Than Thou," Teller is holding up a sign with Mother Teresa's birth name, Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, for Penn to read. Penn has quite a few problems trying to pronounce her name, so Teller lifts the board up so it covers his mouth, and says it for him, without a problem.
      • In "Yoga, Tantric Sex, Etc.", Penn is doing a Ventriloquism act using a talking puppet Vagina, however it is Teller who is talking as the puppet is covering the mouth of Teller.
      • The Apocalypse episode features a brief skit where Penn plays a sleazy used car salesman doing a commercial and Teller plays his mascot. Teller spends the entire sequence dressed as the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl, unintelligibly screeching and hooting at the camera.
    • Steven Banks, performing as Billy the Mime, has a guest appearance as Teller's executioner in the "Death Penalty" episode. As one might expect of a mime, he performs silently.
  • Waxing Lyrical: In the first environmental episode Penn points out where one of the interview subjects lifted a few lines from Big Yellow Taxi.
  • You Keep Using That Word: Their main criticism of all sides in the "World Peace" episode is that everyone is describing it in flowery poetic language as though it were something as ethereal and imprecise as love instead of "not war". They argue that this is a major barrier to ever actually achieving it.
  • You Need to Get Laid: Of the A Date with Rosie Palms variety in the "Manners" episode:
    Penn: Maybe if Gloria finished that glass of wine and touched herself under the table, she'd lighten up.
    • Invoked by an amateur porn star against a woman who despises the adult industry and on a obsessive crusade to (mis)attribute it to rape and child porn.
  • Your Approval Fills Me with Shame: Penn Jillette's response to Rodney Coronado's polite tone. "Cool dude, likes us, likes our show... Too bad he's a fucking arsonist!"


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