Penn Jillette and Clay Aiken’s fascinating Blue Man Group accounts: “joy” versus “pandemonium”

The Celebrity Apprentice‘s first hour on Sunday included a fight between Clay Aiken and Penn Jillette over Blue Man Group’s cash donation to the team, which they offered by blowing cash all over the streets of New York City. The episode gave us a pretty clear account of what happened and the subsequent conflict, but both men have written accounts of the episode online to elaborate about exactly what happened, and unsurprisingly, they have completely opposite perspectives.

Penn is by far the better writer, and his entire post is worth a read, especially for his flawless summations of the series, such as, “The Celebrity Apprentice is all about watching people argue and lie while they covet money and success. Those are the artistic ideas. Donald Trump scowls and passes judgment and we all suck up and rat out to win more time on TV and get money for our charities.”

After explaining why Blue Man Group proposed exploding balloons with $10 bills, Penn wrote that after it happened, Penn writes,

“I was still crying with joy and Clay was crying with pure hate and anger towards me and my blue buddies.

Some of the camera people, the producers, the sound people, and crew ran up after the Blue Men had gone and said they had never been prouder of anything they worked on. Some of them were crying with me with joy. They had remembered why they had gotten into the arts.”

But Clay wasn’t have any of that. He writes, in part,

“I remember thinking it was sorta silly and why couldn’t they just come in their street clothes and make a donation like a normal person? I mean… Vince McMahon has made donations to Apprentice. You didn’t see him setting up a wrestling ring and having someone pile drive a suitcase of money. …

It was PANDEMONIUM. And it pissed me off. In the end, we collected a little over $4000 of that $8000. (That number is verified, Dee.) And I felt it was inexcusable that anyone would think that while raising money for charity it is okay to let money fly all over the street. (Even as I write this, I am getting mad again.)”

Both men offer interesting behind-the-scenes details: Clay notes there are deadlines we never see (“Concepts must be approved hours before things are due to the printer. These hidden deadlines can really add to the stress and make things combustible.”) while Penn notes that more than just the team has to say something’s okay (“I ran the idea by all our team members, the production company, and NBC. Everyone signed off.”).

Interestingly, this conflict is likely to affect the game, and I think there’s a potential spoiler in something else Penn wrote. After another perfect sentence–”Trying to explain to Donald Trump that beauty and art can be more important than money is like trying to explain to Donald Trump that beauty and art can be more important than money.”–he adds, “It was this episode where Donald Trump understood that he didn’t understand me, and feeling misunderstood by Donald Trump and Clay Aiken is its own kind of joy.”

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.