TechCrunch50: Penn and Teller, the iPhone App: Los Angeles Times, September 2009

The start-up world has converged on San Francisco’s Design Center Concourse this morning, where the TechCrunch50 conference is underway. And nothing says how hot the world of iPhone apps is right now than the presence of the first presenter: comedian/magician Penn Jillette.

Yes, Penn and Teller have an iPhone app, which will be for sale for $1.99 at the iTunes store as soon as Apple approves it. The app lets the user fool his or her friends into thinking that the user knows Penn and Teller, and that the famed duo will perform a card trick over the phone.

Jillette demonstrated how it works to a panel of venture capitalist judges. The user asks a friend to name a card, and then launches the app. The app mimics the iPhone home page, but enables the user to enter a code identifying the card. Then the user pretends to send a text message to Penn and Teller, and a dialogue ensues, ending with the magicians “guessing” the friend’s card.

“We wanted to create a trick that somebody could download with no instructions,” Jillette said. “We also wanted a trick that would fool … people.”

As Jillette fielded questions from the venture capitalists on stage, it became clear that he is not a typical tech entrepreneur.

“Our main beta tester is a stripper in Philadelphia named Heather who does this for everyone who hired her to do a lap dance,” he said. Heather’s tips are way up, he reported.

When venture capitalist George Zachary asked what business he was, at least theoretically, being asked to invest in, Jillette shot back, “There’s no venture capital required. We’re done and it’s for sale now.”

Asked what he was going to do next, Jillette said, “I’m going to go to Las Vegas and shoot bullets at my partner Teller.”

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