Penn & Teller, Fast Food, and Bull@#$%!

If you’re a ShowTime subscriber, I highly recommend you watch the latest episode of the Penn & Teller series Bull@#$%!   They already took on the obesity epidemic a season or two ago, and this time they took on the bias against fast food.  Here’s a clip:


It’s not my public style to call MeMe Roth a @#$%ing skinny-@$$ fat-hating snob who should just #$%@ off, but believe me, I’ve thought it plenty of times, and I laughed out loud hearing Penn just come out and say it. 

That bit of deliciousness aside, they also demonstrated how merely knowing that a meal came from a fast-food restaurant can influence the perception of how it tastes and how many calories it contains.  If anything, they proved what I pointed out in Fat Head:  people know fast food is high in calories.  They don’t need to be told, and they’re not  — despite what the @#$%ing skinny-@$$ fat-hating snob who should just #$%@ off believes — eating the stuff because they’re stupid.

Richard Nikoley wrote more about the episode and did some of his own fast-food analysis in his latest post at Free The Animal.


24 thoughts on “Penn & Teller, Fast Food, and Bull@#$%!

  1. Phil

    Ha, I was just writing a comment on your previous post to mention this when this post came up in my RSS reader. I’m sure you enjoyed it – when I saw the title of the episode, I thought maybe they would interview you!

    That would’ve been nice.

  2. Mary

    I LOVE Penn and Teller and saw the fast food show last night!

    And laughed at them calling MeMe Roth a @#$%ing skinny-@$$ fat-hating snob who should just #$%@ off too!

    I was hoping to see you in the show….perhaps they will do a Carbs are Bull@#$% show sometime.

    Unfortunately, I don’t think they know who I am.

  3. Jan

    I was DEEPLY disappointed this clip was only 1:42 long. I LOVE Penn and Teller’s Bull@#$% – and if they don’t know who you are, I’ll do everything I can to make sure they do in the future.

    A longer clip would’ve been nice, but I guess they only want to give away enough to pique our interest.

  4. KD

    I was hoping you would see/blog about this episode! I thought of you everytime they mentioned Mimi.

    And, the corn subsidy rant was a thing of beauty. I definitely rewound that a few times.

    I was a bit disappointed at the beginning of the episode when they implied that it’s been our evolutionary history to overeat, but it was just impossible before today. Clearly they didn’t read the studies that found it’s carbs that cause people to keep eating beyond what they need. If I eat 1700-2000 calories a day (as a now healthy weight woman) beyond that point you can’t pay me to eat any more protein and fat… Only if you throw some kettle corn my way would I even want to eat more.

    They clearly believe in the calories in/calories out theory, but that’s the only bump in an otherwise brilliant episode.

  5. Josh Goguen

    I’ll definitely have to check that out. I love P&T’s show but got a bit worried last season that they’d run out of good things to call BS on.

    In today’s world, I can’t imagine they’d ever run out of material.

  6. Tracey

    I too was hoping to see you on the show, however that disappointment aside it was a great episode. I love P&T, they get to say on TV what we’re all shouting at the TV. Can’t wait for the vaccination episode!

    It’s a terrific show.

  7. mezzo

    Unhappily my computer tells me that “this video cannot be viewed from your current country or location (Europe).

    Hmmm … I guess Showtime has some kind of region code in their videos.

  8. Josiah

    Good lord, the full episode was brilliant on so many levels. Keep up the posts Tom, you information is fantastic.

    Penn & Teller are great. I love that show.

  9. Sarah

    What about the episode “Eat This” where they slam the high-fat, high-protein, low-carb Atkin’s diet because doctors say it’s bad to be in ketosis calling it “starvation”?

    If I had one complaint about their show, that would be it: they trust conventional medicine a little too much.

  10. Maxx

    The best part of that episode is when Penn exposes the fact that HFCS used in soft drinks is cheap because of government subsidies. Now there are groups who want to increase taxes on soda to prevent people from buying them. Subsidize and and then tax. You can’t make this stuff up.

  11. Howard

    I’ve gone to YT to look up more of their videos. It’s really unfortunate that Penn feels it necessary to use foul language gratuitously in these clips. I’m not a prude, but I believe it stains the message. It’s as if he’s trying to be the “maverick,” but still fit in with his buddies in Hollywood. I could not show these to my inlaws, for example, and they are just the naive types who need to hear the information. The message is very important and I wish he had the civility to deliver it like you, Tom.

    Different styles. I promised myself when I began doing standup that I’d do a put on a show my grandmother could watch.

    But I have to admit, sometimes when faced with morons like MeMe Roth, I want to just unload with a string of obscenities like Penn does. So I sort of live vicariously through his outbursts.

  12. k_the_c

    Calorie in/Calorie out “theory” is better known as the conservation of energy or the first law of thermodynamics. Problem is, Calorie in – Calorie out applies to “closed” thermodynamic systems. A human body is not a closed system. Rather, it’s better described as an “open system.” Conservation of energy always applies, but the first law of thermo for an open system is not as simple as Calorie in – Calorie out.

    That’s right. Energy is always conserved, but the proponents of calories in/calories out treat it as a black-box system, without accounting for the possibility that calories out adjusts as a function of calories in.

  13. Dan

    Richard provided a link to the full length YouTube version.

    He got it right when mentioning corn subsidies, but there could have been fewer “F” words:

    “The same government that uses our tax money to make soft drinks cheap, wants to use more of our tax money to make soft drinks more expensive.”

    Makes a lot of #^$%# sense.

    I’ve started thinking of MeMe Roth as MeMe Hoth (as in the ice world from star wars.) She really casts a chill over everything. 🙂

    She does strike me as a bit of an ice queen.

  14. Dave, RN

    Meme needs to see “fatHead” and get an education. I wonder what she’d say when she sees yo lose 12 lbs eating at fast food joint all month.

    She also needs to read “Good Calories Bad Calories”, Sisson, Kurt Harris…

    But then her head might explode.

    MeMe just hates fat people. She pretends to be sympathetic now and then, but watch her long enough and the snideness comes through.

  15. John Hunter

    I’ve heard the calorie is a calorie so many times that i want to punch the next person that says it. You know it’s just like putting fuel in a car right. Well, actually yeah. Say you start putting 87 octane(fats and proteins) in and putting in a cup of water (carbohydrates) with every fill up. Eventually your car is going to start going less miles per tank. Eventually it will stop running and all the while, those calorie in calorie out people will be blaming the 87 octane fuel. You should use ethanol (complex carbs) instead of petroleum. It’s not that water (the carbs) clogging up your fuel lines and filters.

    Now add in your car’s ability to turn the heater on and off and create new car tissue or not.

  16. Greg F.

    I’m happy to come across anything that lets MeMe show her true colors. She pretends to be all about concern for the overweight, but what she seems to truly feel is contempt, with all the talk about people being stupid, holding pants up before the camera, etc. The segment where she’s horrified by watching people wolf down hamburgers and seems disgusted by the idea of people actually enjoying what they’re eating makes me wonder if she herself has an eating disorder.

    And don’t get me started about her line (not in the Penn & Teller show) that she comes from a family with overweight members, so she’s “had to struggle” herself. Someone should show her the segments in your film where you talk about how your son never gains a pound and yet you have to be very careful. She really thinks she’s thin because she’s got discipline and moral superiority that fat people don’t have. Unfortunately, a lot of people think it’s like that and walk around feeling false superiority.

    A journalist asked if she has an eating disorder, and she replied, “No! I’ve never even been on a diet!” Never take advice on losing weight from someone who’s never had to actually do it.

  17. Kate

    I loved watching how that show edited Meme to look very unlikeable. Oh horrors! a woman wears a size 16!! From the video, she looks like the type to laugh at when splashed by a truck.

    I’d laugh, no doubt. Especially if I was driving the truck.

  18. Craig

    The show had some really good information. It’s just unfortunate that to get to it, you have to wade through a whole bunch of infantile crap. Yes – you gratuitously show breasts because you’re such non-conformists. Yes – you can spray the word fuck out repeatedly because you’re such righteous rebels. And no – it doesn’t at all make you look like talentless, over compensating twats who like so many this day and age, rely upon sensationalism to compensate for a total lack of substance. Get away from that garbage though, and you have the fact that it is Gov subsidies, paid for by taxing citizens, that make insulin jacking food products so damn cheap. And yet you have those who want to heap more taxes on top of this, so that at the end of the day, the citizen first pays with their taxes to make a product cheap, and then pays again with a secondary tax when they buy that product. A purchase motivated by its low cost. A mad system to be sure, and a madness that can be conveyed far more effectively without profanity.
    And what of that claim trotted out time and time again by the likes of Mimi (a woman who obviously wakes up each and every morning of her life thinking ME, ME, ME, ME), that people turn to fast food because they are uneducated as to its calorie density? Yes, the BS show, did show the work done which demonstrates that in reality it is the complete opposite. That fast food has been demonized to such an extent, that merely telling an individual that what they are eating is such, will see them immediately raise the calorie estimation bar. Would have been great then, if this fact, could have played immediately after Mimi and that other fool, evidencing that there whole position is disconnected from reality. But if the show had done that, why, I wouldn’t have got to hear Penn say the word fuck for the 55th time! And let me tell you, I was 54 times more impressed than I was when I heard it the 1st time. I mean, how cool is that bloke?! I think I will fucking emulate him, and teach my kids to fucking do so as well, fuck yeah!
    As to exactly why Mimi and her ilk need to create a narrative for themselves in which, they don’t have the better idea, but are instead, fundamentally better people. And as a result, obviously need to rule over our dietary choices for our own good. Well, we won’t address that one all. Instead, lets just show some more tits, and say the word fuck! Hey, look at those fucking tits!

  19. Howard

    Thank you, Craig. Glad someone agrees with me about the profanity. It’s not just style. It’s for cheap, infantile, sensationalism.

  20. Matt

    I’ve always liked watching Penn and Teller:Bullshit! from the very first episode they aired. In fact, my girlfriend got me seasons 1-4 on DVD because I liked it so much. I find myself in agree with P&T about 80% of the time, and the other 20% where I find I disagree with them, well, they’ve made me think about the subject and research it, and discussing it has often forced me to clarify and support my “opinions” with articles and research that convinced me in the first place.

    But let’s face it folks, it’s a Cable TV show….. it’s GOT to have some entertainment value to hold the audience’s attention so they don’t just flip the channel to something else. So it has nudity and language many people find offensive. Sensationalism = Viewers. Viewer’s on a CABLE television show = Subscriber’s who are paying Showtime. If Penn&Teller just sat down and gave a boring lecture about the facts and fallacies of Fast Food. About the insanity of the government subsidies on Corn and the proposed tax on sodas. Or about ANY of the subjects they have shown on their show….. if they didn’t make it fun and entertaining in some way, they would loose their audience. The show would never have gone on for as many seasons as it has.

    It is a sad fact of life that people will change the channel when watching a documentary about something important in favor of being entertained by gratuitous nudity, shocking language (which if you hang out Downtown, Anywhere, USA you’ll realize has become the norm and not the exception), or any other type of “sensationalism”. And those same people, instead of being outraged to learn how they’ve been lied to for many years, or that there is a serious global problem going on that their lifestyle is contributing to, will then talk endlessly, and mindlessly, about fictional characters in a made up location doing things they either like or dislike.

    I would seriously love it if John and Jane Q. Public, on average, could watch a serious, boring, informative show that talks about serious issues and then discuss those issues logically, citing supporting facts, evidence, studies, etc….. Then maybe many of the problems we face in this world MIGHT start to go away as solutions are found, tested, and discarded or put into practice. I really would like to see that happen. But I doubt it ever will, simply because the audience watching Bullshit! first to be entertained. If they are not entertained, they are going to change the channel.

    I wouldn’t blame Penn&Teller for the foul language, I’d blame their audience who are demanding it. That they throw in as much information as they do INBETWEEN the nudity and the shocking language (which today seems to be used primarily for emphasis rather than shock value), to me, is quite amazing.

    Whether I agree with Penn&Teller or not, I usually end up learning something new from their show. Even when it’s just that, to paraphrase Jeff Foxworthy, “It’s not that any given group is any more or less intelligent than anyone else, it’s just that they can’t seem to keep the most ignorant of them off the TV.” They have their opinions about things, I have mine. Sometimes we agree, sometimes we don’t. But ya’ know something, when I disagree with them, I think I end up learning more than when I agree. P&T aren’t all knowing, they’ve said so themselves (well, Penn has at least. Teller just stood there): “Bullshit! is an evangelical show. We stand up here and tell the truth as we see it.” and we the viewers are free to agree or disagree as we choose.

    And the truth as I see it, is that Bullshit! wouldn’t stay on the air (sadly) if the majority of Showtime’s viewers (a subscription based network) didn’t enjoy what they’re seeing, nudity and foul language included.

  21. xorvical

    You guys got to understand that plenty of the show’s style is actually meant to cause that reaction on you guys. The nudity is satire. And there is much fun regarding the profanity. In part, it comes because you can legally call those guys assholes, and say that they are full of bullshit , but if they said fraudsters instead of assholes and lies instead of bullshit, they would be more open to libel lawsuits (I am not making this up).

    More so, there is a whole bullshit episode about how profanity is… bullshit. It really makes no sense to give so much importance to words, they are just that.

    They explained the title in the first episode. Frauds, charlatans, ripoff, etc., all have legal implications. Bull@#$% doesn’t.


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