Penn Jillette’s fascinating revelations about Apprentice and Donald Trump

The Celebrity Apprentice cast member Penn Jillette talks about production of the show, Donald Trump, and reality TV in general in an excerpt from his new book, Every Day is an Atheist Holiday!: More Magical Tales from the Author of God, No!.

Considering how much he talks about the show and Trump, who he says has hair that “looks like cotton candy made of piss,” the timing of his book and this piece is pretty amazing, as Penn is competing on the all-star season, meaning the book was published while he was simultaneously on a reality show that he’s revealing things about. (On Saturday, he tweeted that he was home, apparently from filming the show.)

The excerpt, published in Salon, is hilarious and full of the wit and sharp observations you’d expect from Penn, who admits to sucking up to Trump because that’s what the show is about: “I made a deal with the producers and myself that I would pretend to care what Donald Trump thought of me.” He writes things such as, “If you’ve gotten yourself into a situation when Clay Aiken is going to talk about his feelings with you, it’s time to kill yourself.”

Penn outs the show for its tasks: “The secret truth of The Celebrity Apprentice is that it isn’t very hard. The tasks are nothing. Makeup starts just after 5 a.m. and the show goes to about 10 p.m., but you spend most of that time doing nothing. … but like junior high, you do that easy work surrounded by people who are full-tilt hormone-raging bugnutty.”

He discusses the availability of alcohol but points out that “most of us never drank a drop, and even the drinkers were moderate. But the producers didn’t need anyone drunk; they got their telegenic outbursts from ego depletion.” His discussion of ego depletion is perhaps the best description of being on a reality TV show I’ve ever read.

Perhaps most fascinating in light of Donald Trump’s increasingly irrational behavior is Penn admitting that in the boardroom, Trump would go “into his free-form rants in front of a captive audience, he would talk about articles written about him and defend himself against charges made, as far as I could tell, by random bloggers with a few hundred hits. Attacks that could have no impact on his life at all. It sounded like this cat was Googling himself, being bugged by what was written, and then defending himself to people who were trying to improve their careers by playing a TV game with him.”

Oh please, let Trump have Googled himself and read this.

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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.