Entertainment

Magician Penn Jillette apologizes for calling Newfoundlanders 'stupid'

Member of popular duo Penn & Teller tweeted several apologies after appearance on Real Time with Bill Maher

FILM TIFF TIM'S VERMEER 20130906

Penn Jillette of the famous magician team Penn & Teller apologized for comments about Newfoundlanders he made during an appearance Friday on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher. (Michelle Siu/The Canadian Press)

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Celebrity magician Penn Jillette has apologized after Newfoundlanders took him to task for insulting their intelligence on a talk show.

Jillette, half of the comedic magic duo Penn & Teller, talked about his Newfoundland roots during an appearance on HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher that aired Friday night.

"I'm probably from Newfoundland, which is just a euphemism for stupid," Jillette told the host.

"All of those people up in the frozen North that club seals, those are my people."

Some Newfoundlanders used social media to complain about the remarks, and one Twitter user described the comment as "discriminatory."

Jillette apologized to the Twitter user, and called the comment a failed attempt at self-deprecation.

"I've been (to Newfoundland) and loved everyone I met," Jillette tweeted. "I was really stupid and out of line."

Comedian Mark Critch, a native Newfoundlander, intially took offence at Jillette's comments, telling the magician on Twitter that until he learns about his heritage, he should act like his famously-silent partner Teller and "shut it."

Critch walked back his criticism after Jillette explained he was a setting up a comedic "bit" that got cut off.

"Wasn't hating you," Critch tweeted. "(I) have dealt with these stereotypes all my life. Curious as to what this 'bit' was going to be."

In the 24 hours after the show aired, Jillette tweeted more than 130 remorseful and often self-flagellating messages to the people of Newfoundland. He referred to himself as an "idiot" in 50 tweets, and used variations on the words "sorry," "fail" and "wrong" more than 200 times combined.

"I apologize to people of my favorite place, Newfoundland, and my family for screwing up on Real Time," he tweeted. "May I apologize without apologizing or mitigating to the people of Newfoundland. I was wrong. Wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong."

Jillette also apologized for a "sloppy" apology, then apologized to his two million Twitter followers for clogging their feeds with apologies.

Several Newfoundlanders forgave Jillette for the slight, some inviting him back to the island to make amends in person.

"You're a typical Newf," one Twitter user wrote. "No control over what comes outta ya gob."

The well-known skeptic also referenced his family's origins in a passage of his book God, No! in which he reflects on the notion of identity.

"Being proud of some imaginary group you were born into seems insane and wrong," wrote Jillette. "I went back to Newfoundland to see where my grandfather grew up, but I'm not a Newfoundland American.

"I'm Penn Jillette ... who didn't even do well in Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey the Greatest Show on Earth Clown College."

Jillette said he plans to address the Newfoundland controversy on an upcoming episode of his podcast Penn's Sunday School. Teller, meanwhile, has remained characteristically silent on the issue.

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