If you run into Penn & Teller at Sunday’s “Aids Walk” for charity, feel free to chat them up to no end. They like it that way.
“Teller and I try as hard as we can to be about the most accessible people in show business possible,” says Penn, who serves as grand marshal with Teller for their 12th straight year.
They gab with fans after Rio performances, too.
“If you come to our show, we’re out there talking. In a sense, everybody has a VIP backstage pass. We’ll talk to anybody about anything.
“I even have Christians that come by after the show who don’t see our show who proselytize to me,” says Penn, the noted atheist. “And I’m fine with that.
“But (AFAN’s ‘Aids Walk’) is an even more casual way to walk a couple of miles with people and chat,” Penn says.
Penn and Teller are true believers in Aid for AIDS of Nevada (AFANlv.org.) Last year’s Penn & Teller Challenge pulled in $276,000 from walkers — and then the funny magic duo doubled that number with their own donations. They are running their challenge again this year.
And there are many other true believers with marquee names walking on Sunday morning at UNLV:
Chippendales Jaymes Vaughan and James Davis from “The Amazing Race”; TV and radio’s Chris Saldaña, Lauren Michaels, Chet Buchanan, Heather Collins, and Chris Jackson; plus cast mates from “Rock of Ages,” “Absinthe,” “Fantasy,” “Thunder from Down Under,” “The Australian Bee Gees,” “Sin City Roller Girls” and many other shows.
AFAN’s Executive Director Antioco Carrillo says it’s humbling to see so much support not just from big names and corporate sponsors, but also from the multitudes who walk each year.
Last year, 9,000 walkers raised $450,000. This year, corporate sponsors stepped up their contributions. A big one is Walgreens, which made a very large push in local stores for donations.
“They’re going to present whatever they raised. They kept it a secret,” Carrillo says of Walgreens. “They said they wanted to see our jaws drop.”
And since this is spring, Sunday morning looks to be a prefect day for strolling across UNLV, which gives the event a sense that it’s in a park, with a community picnic afterward, featuring food trucks.
Carrillo says many people help AFAN yearlong, not just during big events. “All these people that are involved — the entertainers — they’re always in touch with us and checking to see if there’s anything they can do for us,” Carillo says.
“Aids Walk” fundraising money helps people who are on the verge of homelessness; helps people with case management; helps clients navigate health care systems; helps people pay insurance premiums so they won’t fall totally into full charity or government services; and other assistance.
“We help the poorest of the poor,” Carillo says.
Jillette says that’s why he likes helping AFAN.
“Charities are really good. To a certain extent, the ones you pick are arbitrary,” Jillette says. “We have strong feelings about Opportunity Village and AFAN.
“What I love about AFAN is it really helps. It puts boots on the ground. It helps people that are suffering already. I like that you’re bringing food to people, and medicine."