Penn & Teller: Bullshit!

Season 2 Episode 10


Aired Monday 10:00 PM Aug 19, 2004 on Showtime



  • Trivia

    • The things Teller takes out to "improve his conscious contact with God" while acting out the 12 Steps are: a Buddha statue, a chalice with Hebrew lettering, a small cross, a crown of thorns, and a whip with which he beats himself.

    • When Teller acts out the step in 12 Step where he is supposed to make a list of those to whom he has wronged, and make retribution to them, he writes Penn's name quickly on the envelope.

  • Quotes

    • Penn: And there's an odd irony! The very AA meetings that work to free you from your timewasting compulsion can become...A NEW KIND of timewasting compulsion!

    • Penn: AA was started in 1935, and the treatment has remained the same since then. Now, if alcoholism is in fact a disease, would treatment be the same today as it was three score, nine years ago? If your doctor told you he was gonna treat your cancer with the same method that was used in 1935, you'd SCREAM and RUN! Real science is refined and changed all the time. Now, maybe we're being too harsh. There are two reasons it might not have changed since 1935. Number one, it's a religion. And religion change is tantamount to heresy. It's faith, it's not supposed to be tested by science. Or number two, the treatment works, infallibly. For everyone, all the time. Hmm. I wonder which it is?

    • Penn: ...Gary Busey disagrees.
      Busey: You do have a choice. To make the right choice. And you do have a choice to make the wrong choice. But those places show you where the wrong choices will take you as you have learned by making the wrong choice in your choicemaking.
      Penn: least we think he disagrees.

    • Penn: Many of the people who enter AA have been ordered to by the courts. Go to AA or lose your license. Or by their employer. Go to AA or lose your job. Or insurance companies. Go to AA or lose your benefits. So for a lot of people, AA is compulsory religion. We have a few problems here, not the least of which is...The Constitution: a little piece of paper that Teller and I, kinda sorta ABSOLUTELY F*CKING believe in! And it says, in the USA, you can't...mandate...religion.

    • Mack: The notion that you're specially, personally incompetent and completely unable to make decisions for yourself with respect to your entire life is a notion that is intended to undermine your sense of self-confidence and self-esteem so as to make you amenable to religious conversion.

    • Penn: [on their undercover investigative AA reporting] We hate this Michael Moore sh*t, but the big point is: if your technique works and your numbers are good, you aren't hiding. You're shouting!

    • Schaler: Despite the fact that people in AA say the higher power can be anything, there IS one thing that it cannot be and that is yourself. You are not in charge of your own life.

    • Penn: Teller, bring in Jonesy. [Teller goes off screen and comes back with a short man of average build.] This is our piano player, Jonesy. He used to be QUITE fat. 90 POUNDS fatter. He developed his own special ONE Step program. It's like the 12 Step with some minor adjustments and it can work for just about anything. Jonesy, tell 'em about it.
      Jones: Just stop f*cking eating so much.
      Penn: Thank you. [Teller leads him away] May not be easy...but it's true.

    • Schaler: Drinking alcohol, putting the alcohol into one's body, is an activity, a behavior, that is an expression of choice and preference. But having a real disease, like cancer, is not something you can control with willpower. It's a big difference, there.

    • Schaler: Addiction is a behavior, and because it's a behavior, it's always voluntary. There's no such thing as an involuntary behavior.

    • Penn: 12 Steps sounds like technology, right? It has NUMBERS. Do step one, step two, and so on, and you've fixed your flat tire or cured your rash. But 12 Steps ISN'T technology. It's religion. In religious cults, you take people with bad problems and teach them to define themselves as sinners, diseased to their very core. You teach them to be ashamed, weak, helpless. Then, you offer them ONE way out: by obeying an infallible authority, like a God.

    • Penn: Before we get into this show, Teller and I wanted to mention that we don't know D*CK about addictions. Like everyone else, we don't even really know what the word "addiction" really means. We're both STONE SOBER atheist entertainers. We're not resisting alcohol or drugs. We don't even think about it. We feel NO temptation. If you're f*cking up your life with drugs or alcohol or religion, we have no idea what you're going through. We made a choice a long d*mn time ago not to go down that road. But, we have a job to do here. So we got a whole gang of cleaned-up drunks and dopers to teach us how 12-step programs are supposed to work.

    • [first lines]
      Penn: Hi, I'm Penn.
      "AA Group": Hi, Penn!
      Penn: I've been sober for 49 years. I've never had a drink of alcohol in my life ever. Ever. And that's not bullsh**. 12-step programs? THAT'S a bullsh**!

    • Paton: In terms of this journey we are going to be using a book called the "big book" [holds up very small book]
      Penn: JESUS CHRIST! If that's a big book he must be a f*cking giant! RUN, SAVE YOURSELVES, RUN!!

  • Notes

  • Allusions