About Penn & Teller's Bullshit

Penn Jillette, here denouncing God for the Blasphemy Challenge and flashing peace signs, is the the louder of the two Bullshit! hosts calling us hippie fucktards -- which is a lot like the pot calling the kettle black in this case. Neither Penn nor Teller actually interviewed us (nor do they any of their featured guests), Showtime producers who solicited us did, so all of the commentary you see on any Bullshit! episode is rehearsed, including the faked indignation, to match whatever their editing room technicians produce from the stock footage.

Bullshit! is a comedy entertainment program, not a news documentary program. Penn & Teller are editorializing, not investigating. We were approached by producers, not reporters. As such, the point of the program is to sensationalize and entertain rather than inform. And as is frequently the case, facts are no friends of Penn & Teller. Here they are responding to a study that demonstrates that second hand smoke is, in fact, harmful to your health contrary to the claims of Penn & Teller on Bullshit!. They were also decried by the scientific community and actual skeptics (if you actually believe Penn & Teller at face value, you are less than a critical thinker as they are illusionists, trick people for a living and are up front about it) for their dangerously ignorant and heavily biased denouncement of global warming in their Environmental Hysteria episode. And their contention that you won't suffer any tumors from holding your cell phone, a microwave emitter, to your head for long periods of time has been called into serious question by a study conducted by a Swedish research institute.

And that's just for starters. Why? Because Penn & Teller don't actually research anything. Showtime producers told us that they spend about a week per episode gathering up footage for it. Penn & Teller begin with a conclusion and get evidence to support that conclusion, the antithesis to the scientific method. The only people less credible (albeit more sincere) would be the psychic and religious snake oil salespeople exposed as frauds on their program.

Bullshit Defense of Walmart

Here's a clip from the episode we were featured in of Penn & Teller arguing that sweatshops that Walmart uses to produce low cost, sometimes lead-laden products, suck but they're better than alternative employment in third world countries ... but sweatshops still suck so this isn't much of a defense. Wouldn't support for American manufacturers and American jobs be better?

And this is about as stong of a defense that Penn & Teller can mount for Walmart. Not that Penn's lame quip about Robert Greenwald's skilled editors not being unionized was much better.

The average pay figure of about $10 per hour for Walmart employees that Penn & Teller cite is a number produced by Walmart itself and cited by Walmart CEO Lee Scott and it's actually the median pay skewed upwards by the huge salaries of company executives. "[T]he average pay of a sales clerk at Wal-Mart was $8.50 an hour" according to research cited in the previously linked article. Wasn't that what the so-called single mother featured recently hired on at Walmart touted in the episode said she was being paid? Yeah.

The argument that Walmart creates jobs is offset by the fact that those jobs tend to suck worse and are fewer than the jobs it destroys.

Sprawl Busters' Al Normal featured in the episode showing a film crew around the suffering downtown area of Penn's home town of Greenfield pretty much sums up our take on doing the show as well in an interview he did later for the Greenfield Optimist:

“They did the filming about three months ago,” explained Sprawl-Buster Al Norman. “They told me that Penn & Teller were libertarians, and that they would trash my point of view.” Norman said he agreed to appear on the show anyway. “I didn’t really care what they said in rebuttal. I looked at a sample of the show and decided it was pretty much a farce from start to finish.”

Our Statements In Context

  • Breeders: Our "Breeders" shirt design is a criticism of professional Welfare moms whose only talent is dropping a litter of unwanted children they can't possibly support every 9 months for which they are rewarded a fat taxpayer paid government check in which to buy cartloads of garbage that one couldn't give away at a garage sale for themselves while their little subsidized miracle meal tickets quarrel in the isles completely unattended (as MANY Wal-Mart employees writing in -- even ones that hate us -- attest to) and the fact that Wal-Mart caters to and therefore enables this social assistance dollar, in large part by refusing to stock contraceptives like the morning after pill in their pharmacies and allowing their right-wing nut pharmacists to refuse to dispense with them when they do. Taxpayers like us support the lifestyles of these incompetent if not deliberately lazy individuals with foul, selfish attitudes and senses of entitlement often as inflated as they are who expect handouts and special treatment for their precious gift of impoverished, neglected human lives to society and therefore we have paid for the right to judge as horrible and unacceptable those "gifts" as they howl, swear at their failed parents and pull shit off of shelves. They flock to Wal-Mart in stressed-to-the-max spandex thunder-thigh retaining pants like flies on shit in a way that one just doesn't find them at other retail establishments and are the bane of every Wal-Mart employee.

    It is not a commentary on hard working, responsible families and it is not a reflection of everyone who shops at Wal-Mart as anyone who isn't one of these irresponsible assholes (not victims - no one forced them to spread their legs, take an unprotected dip in the community gene pool or to give birth to hungry mouths they couldn't afford to feed beforehand) should well be able to recognize.
  • Monkeys: The "monkeys" statement was originally in the context of discussing Wal-Mart's high employee turnover rate and their appeal to unskilled workers who can be, and often are, fired on a whim (often to save money), easily replaced by the next applicant and are powerless to do anything about it. We both come from hard working, unprivileged backgrounds and have performed the jobs that P&T cast us looking down our noses at. We relate to and respect the workers in those positions but we were never under any illusion that we couldn't be fired and replaced in the same day for unskilled work. Wal-Mart knows that too which is why they fight tooth and nail against the right for workers to better protect their well earned livelihoods by unionizing.

    The statement was inspired by Kevin Smith's movie, Clerks, where the character Randal says to his fellow clerk, Dante, "Jesus, you overcompensate for having what's basically a monkey's job. You push fucking buttons. Anybody can just waltz in here and do our jobs." A must-see for anyone working retail.
  • Seniors: The "bottom of the barrel" and "no spring chicken" statements were originally in the context of our discussion about clandestine life insurance policies Wal-Mart is known to take out on their senior citizen employees (who are often greeters) without informing either the employees or their families and naming Wal-Mart as the sole beneficiary, dubbed "Dead Peasant Insurance," essentially making those employees worth more to Wal-Mart dead than alive. It's great that our seniors are given an opportunity to remain active and social but that shouldn't be a license to cash in on grandma and grandpa's immanent death. It's bad enough when relatives circle like vultures. It's absolutely ghoulish for a multi-national corporation to do it.
  • Nazis: The mock Nazi salute was originally in the context of a discussion about Wal-Mart's use of ritual (the cheer) to encourage conformity, obedience, submission and to discourage dissent and Wal-Mart's use of euphemisms ("associates", "coaching", "flights", "decision day", etc.) designed to manipulate what these terms actually refer to by disguising them in more innocent sounding language. Both of these devices were successfully employed by Nazi propagandists. Apparently Bill Maher came to a similar conclusion when on his show, Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO, he opined: "Stop comparing everyone to the Nazis! George Bush is not a Nazi, Republicans are not Nazis, not even neo-Nazis are like the Nazis. No one will ever come close to being like the Nazis ... except for Wal-Mart." (paraphrased)
    Wal-Mart T-Shirt (left), Nazi SS Totenkopf (right)
    Wal-Mart T-Shirt (left), Nazi SS Totenkopf (right)
    Unrelated but ironic, about the time we were giving our interview, shirts bearing Nazi emblems were discovered being sold at Wal-Mart and despite Wal-Mart's hurried apologies and promises to pull said shirts they were apparently still available at various stores for sale throughout 2007.

    It was not our intention to compare Wal-Mart employees to Nazis. Regardless, it was in poor taste and it was not our intention to make light of the horrors of the Holocaust and we understand a lot of people don't have a sense of humor about anything even remotely associated with that tragic period in history.
  • Penn's geography is off. The Wal-Mart we are shown flipping off is in Chehalis not Cinebar, Washington. Cinebar has a post office and a lot of trees and cows. There are no Wal-Marts or copy shops among them.
    Wal-Mart Flooded in Chehalis, WA - December 4th 2007
    December 2007: Wal-Mart Flooded in Chehalis, Washington.
    And here is that same Wal-Mart a year after the footage was shot during our interview with P&T's production crew. No exposed breasts or creative expletives but to CNN's credit they did get the location right while their meteorologist explained how paving over what is essentially a flood plain that Wal-Mart and the developing town center growing around it built upon contributed to the flooding. We shared our concern with the producers about the likelihood of this occurring last year while houses, roads and people washed away in flooding then just east of this location so it's a sad irony that our prediction came to pass so soon afterwards. It'd be one thing if Wal-Mart was the only thing affected by this devastation but, unfortunately, Mother Nature is a cruel and indiscriminate mistress when She's having one of her "heavy flow" days and pissed off like this.

Some Perspective

  • HEL*MART is a Wal-Mart parody web site and therefore essentially falls under entertainment. We don't actually hate Walmart, we just make fun of how bad it is. Our use of sarcasm, exaggerated imagery and vulgar language are all indications of the nature of this site as they are with P&T:BS!. And as with BS!, one needs to look elsewhere for useful information which we link to on our resources page.

    Here are a couple other Walmart parodies by Mad TV that we really enjoy.

  • We knew what we were stepping in when we agreed to do the interview with P&T:BS!'s producers. We understood the aforementioned "nature" of the show, having enjoyed the previous four seasons of it and observing how they treat the subjects and the individuals featured -- all of whom voluntarily signed the frightening releases (we know because we read them) that we did giving P&T the right to literally "exploit" any footage their production crew was able to obtain in any way they saw fit. That might seem like a stupid decision for us to make unless one considers that our Hel*Mart Wal-Mart parody project here already capitalizes on an existing controversy fueled by Wal-Mart's own unmitigated greed and irresponsibility -- the same controversy that P&T chose to exploit for BS! episode 51. There was no dirt that P&T could dig up on either of us the way they have done to past guests featured on BS! and we feel that we have a strong position (when it's not hacked into rearranged sound-bites) so the social consequences were minimal. Therefore, regardless of the light P&T cast us in we predicted (correctly) that the exposure (bad, ugly or good, but probably bad we were informed by their producers) would result in the controversy receiving more attention (something that Wal-Mart does not want) and increase our sales revenue, which it did.

    However, we underestimated the sheer proportion of the BS! viewing audience that thinks that the little people in the TV are talking to them, personally. Whether a mind-boggling percentage of America was this disturbingly stupid prior to BS! and P&T merely decided to tap this gaping, collective vacuum between the eyes and ears of the overtly impressionable proletariat or P&T have deliberately contributed to the dumbing down of America for shits, giggles and assloads of cash is a matter of debate. We suspect a bit of both. Either way, they must be proud and we can only imagine the loony nutball letters they must receive on a regular basis.


  • The P&T production crew are a great bunch of guys who stuck it out through some of the worst weather that Washington had to offer. Apparently none of them were big fans of Wal-Mart either.
  • We appreciate Penn & Teller offering us a once in a lifetime opportunity to be featured on their Bullshit! program -- even though it meant being mercilessly roasted alive -- which we have personally enjoyed for many years. Even we thought that we came off like snobby, elitist assholes the editors did such a good job and yet we may never have to pay for advertising again. The Tel*Mart parody on our shirts was absolutely priceless and the pairs of fine breasticals a nice final touch! We are most certainly pro-mammaries.
  • We thank our customers for their patronage, for supporting worker rights, for supporting American products and for making our Breeders shirt one of our best selling designs.
  • Our friends and family laughed their lily little asses off with us at our ridiculous television portrayal on BS!. That's what it's all about and we appreciate their unconditional support.
  • And thank you for reading this long, possibly insulting, hopefully somewhat amusing rebuttal to P&T:BS!. Tell us what you think. If you'd like to attempt to contact Penn & Teller you might start on their web site or Showtime.

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