Penn Jillette On Father’s Day

Heart health
June 9, 2017

Father’s Day might conjure up cutesy images of ties and mugs for most, but for magician, comedian, and author Penn Jillette, he envisions unique challenges when picturing the perfect celebration. Despite having lost over 100 pounds more than two years ago, he’s not perfect—and sometimes reverts back to old eating habits more than he might want, especially on occasions such as this. Read on for Penn’s take on Father’s Day.

Father’s Day

By Penn Jillette

My dad has been dead for 18 years and I’ve had children for 12 years, but it’s still hard for me to feel like Father’s Day has anything to do with me. Our oldest child is a test tube baby but that’s not the problem. Our younger was conceived the fun DIY style but I still feel a little outside Hallmark’s ideal. Maybe it’s the fingernail polish I always wear, or maybe it’s having a job where I’m paid to think about myself that keeps me stuck in adolescence.

So here I go thinking about myself on Father’s Day. After I lost over a hundred pounds, my new lifestyle included what my health guru, CrayRay (Ray Cronise), calls “Rare and Appropriate” and my juggling guru, Jason Garfield, calls “Retro Eating.” It means taking a day and going back to eating “anything I want,” even though the whole idea of the lifestyle change was to change what I want. It means going back to eating what I used to eat when I was fat, sick, and miserable just for fun. How stupid is that? So stupid I’ve been doing it about every couple weeks. CrayRay does not approve of hooking R&A to time, he thinks it should be hooked to people and situations, but I wait at least two weeks between my retro eats.

When I first lost the weight, I was like clockwork – every two weeks I would go into full gluttony. Sickening: steak, foie gras, cheesecake, ice cream, french fries, doughnuts, candy, macaroni and cheese, pancakes, and lots and lots of bread and butter all in the period of a few hours. My weight didn’t go up much from this, and then it would go right back down in a day or two. Sporadic doesn’t matter, it’s chronic that kills you. My buddy, Dee Snider, of Twisted Sister quotes his dad (this is the Father’s Day blog entry): “No one gets fat in one meal and no one gets healthy in one meal.” Any one meal doesn’t matter.

Every couple of weeks I would retro eat my little heart out. Then I would feel awful. Not worse than when I ate like that all the time — my micro-biome can still handle it, maybe handle it even better now — but I would feel the same as when I was fat and sick. I’d feel fat and sick. I didn’t like it then, I don’t like it now.

Maybe if it’s stupid to eat Standard American Diet all the time, it’s also stupid to eat SAD occasionally. If it’s been at least two weeks, should I get fish and chips in London?

Piff the Magic Dragon, pictured, provided Penn with restaurant recs
Piff the Magic Dragon, pictured, provided Penn with restaurant recs

Piff, the Magic Dragon (I’ll be playing his dad, “Pop, the Magic Dragon” on Television this fall with a dragon suit and everything) told me the best place for fish and chips when we’re in London is the Rock and Sole Plaice in Covent Garden, and a magic dragon telling you what fried food to eat: isn’t that as rare and appropriate as possible?

Father’s Day is a whole other situation. My children know that I celebrate by eating badly, and on Father’s Day they’ll want to take me out for some real retro eating. I’m creeped out and embarrassed writing this paragraph. Do I really want my children to learn that the right way to celebrate is with sickening and self-destructive behavior? Is that the lesson a good dad gives? It sure wasn’t the lesson my wonderful father gave me.

On second thought — my children have seen me play Plants vs Zombies 2 — they know they need to learn all the important stuff on their own. They know very well their dad doesn’t have all the answers.

Wait, maybe I’ll have fish and chips at the Piff place with my children right on Father’s Day, we’re all going to be in London. That’s good thinking. And a huge Cadbury milk chocolate bar for dessert. Make it two. Then I can spend June 19th regretting it. It’s not what my dad would have done, but it’s what an adolescent like me would do.