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It’s Showtime Sonoma: Fakery, False Claims, and Fistfights?

Posted by: Loren Coleman on April 20th, 2006

Remember the “Snow Walker” footage of a “Yeti in a snowfield.” It turned out to be a fake that the producers of Paranormal Borderland, an old UPN program that lasted about two episodes, created to boost the ratings of their first show.

Now the obnoxious Penn & Teller and their BS Showtime Network program are claiming to have done something similar. Do they want news outlets such as Cryptomundo to talk about them because we have ignored them so well? Of course they do.

A teaser digital preview for their forthcoming “cryptozoology” episode on Showtime is broadcasting that they faked the “Sonoma video.”

Cryptomundo readers will recall that I felt the Sonoma Bigfoot footage was a fake from the beginning. I even titled my posting the “So-no-no-ma video.” I didn’t have to talk that much about the credibility of the guy who took the video, Mark Nelson, a member of the rock band Total Nutcase, as the footage itself telegraphed “fake.”

Penn & Teller decided to pick out an easy target, and attack cryptozoology. No surprise there. Here’s their program’s edited promo text:

Season 4, Episode 4: Cryptozoology BULLSH*T tours Inverness, Scotland, the home of the Loch Ness Monster, with two “cryptozoologists” who try to lure the mythical giant of the deep to the surface… with a bag of fish guts. Later, we investigate the latest mysterious Bigfoot footage posted on the internet. In between, we check in with some credentialed scientists for their take on the bullsh*t “science” of Cryptozoology. Will our scientific experts conclusively debunk the existence of mythical creatures? Here’s a hint: Crypto means “hidden” while zoology stands for the study of animals. Put them together and what do you get? BULLSH*T!

Why waste your time?

Although I did not wish to identify them at the time, I wrote about these guys here, back on November 8, 2005. P & T, through a variety of less-than-honest initial producer contacts, tried to “cover” the cryptozoology conference at Bates College last October. Several of us linked to the Bates conference caught on to their rather deceptive approach. I see they went on to others, of course.

Is the Sonomo Bigfoot video a fake? Most probably. Did P & T fake it? Who knows? Is the guy claiming to have filmed it a Showtime producer or plant, a P & T henchman or fellow traveler, or merely a faker who then subcontracted with P & T? Or are P & T pulling off the ultimate double-fake gaff to take credit for a hoax they didn’t even create? Are P & T trying to get publicity for their program? Of course.

The following is BFRO director Matt Moneymaker’s online response to the new Showtime promotional teaser.

Regarding the stupid claim by Penn & Teller that they faked the Sonoma footage:

Their claim is false. They didn’t have anything to do with the footage. They are just trying to get a buzz going about their show. They are trying to trick people into tuning into the program. It’s a ploy, don’t fall for it.

They were trying desperately to license the Sonoma footage. Mark Nelson agreed that it wasn’t a good idea to let them have it. He would have OK’d it, and even encouraged it, if he would have been involved with them. He’s a real person, yet they say it was only a front on a web site.

A clever route they are taking now … by claiming they shot it themselves in the Valley… They don’t live in the Valley. They live in Las Vegas, and work six nights per week there. They only have time to do voice-overs for their Showtime shows.

Notice how they only showed the web version of the footage on their promo. That’s the best clue that they are full of crap. They would have showed the guy in the costume holding the mask in his arms. They would have shown clips of how they set up the footage. They would have shown Mark Nelson … the person that a few us spoke with … but they can only show what is available on the web, because that’s all they have.

Keep in mind, as P&T see it, they are breaking no laws by perpetrating this hoax. The hoax is not the Sonoma footage itself, but rather their claim that they faked the Sonoma footage.

They won’t go to jail for that, or get sued for that, but they will probably increase their ratings by making that claim.

It’s a nicely clever ploy when you think about it … They know it will be difficult to show that they are lying. And any attempts to discredit their claims will only bring them attention as pranksters and help their ratings.

So they are pranksters if they faked the footage, and they are pranskters if they did not fake the footage.

Very clever.

… And Bigfoot do not exist, and all the witnesses over the centuries were lying or hallucinating the exact same things …

…. or Penn and Teller are full of sh*t and trying to boost the ratings of their Showtime program ….

Which is more likely?

Does it matter? Penn & Teller is the least enjoyable of programs around, they don’t add anything intellectually or funny to life, and now they are claiming to have faked footage that appeared fake to me from the beginning. I don’t know, Mark Nelson could be part of their fakery here, and, ultimately, it doesn’t really matter, does it? P & T’s inflated sense of their own self-worth speaks for itself, and I won’t put it past these tricksters to have set up this melodrama between themselves and the BFRO, for more viewers.

Remember these are the same folks whose producer told me that, due to their program, some people “receive some comedic treatment from Penn & Teller based upon what they say.” Their producer told me I was more or less a fool for not appearing because it was “a national, 4-time Emmy award-nominated series and [guests] get a great plug for their books, services or whatever their line of business may be.” Yeah, right.

In the end, who cares? Penn & Teller allegedly claim Bigfoot fakery, BFRO and Matt Moneymaker allegedly claim Bullsh*t falsehoods, and the verbal fistfights break out. Won’t this all merely feed a ratings frenzy for the debunkers, skeptics, fakers, and fellow travelers?

UPDATE

For a full copy of the release being used by the production company doing the interviews for the Penn & Teller program, please click here.

Interestingly, you will note that Penn & Teller’s release says they would have “the right to edit for any purpose whatsoever (including, without limitation, an informative, instructional, humorous or satirical effect) delete, dub and/or fictionalize the Footage.” Now that’s quite a license to fake whatever they want from anything one might say during their interviews.

About Loren Coleman
Loren Coleman is one of the world’s leading cryptozoologists, some say “the” leading. Certainly, he is acknowledged as the current living American researcher and writer who has most popularized cryptozoology in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Starting his fieldwork and investigations in 1960, after traveling and trekking extensively in pursuit of cryptozoological mysteries, Coleman began writing to share his experiences in 1969. An honorary member of Ivan T. Sanderson’s Society for the Investigation of the Unexplained in the 1970s, Coleman has been bestowed with similar honorary memberships of the North Idaho College Cryptozoology Club in 1983, and in subsequent years, that of the British Columbia Scientific Cryptozoology Club, CryptoSafari International, and other international organizations. He was also a Life Member and Benefactor of the International Society of Cryptozoology (now-defunct). Loren Coleman’s daily blog, as a member of the Cryptomundo Team, served as an ongoing avenue of communication for the ever-growing body of cryptozoo news from 2005 through 2013.


18 Responses to “It’s Showtime Sonoma: Fakery, False Claims, and Fistfights?”

  1. mrdark responds:

    I think you’re being a little harsh on P&T here. What you’re saying is not wrong, but just because you’re right about this instance (the Sonoma footage and their attempt to ‘debunk’ cryptozoology) doesn’t mean the show is worthless, that they’re hacks, or anything else you’re saying or suggesting. They’ve done some very good things, such as exposing psychic surgeons preying on the sick. They’re also very entertaining performers, as shown by the whole ‘six nights a week in Vegas’ bit. Bullsh*t! is probably only accurate 50% of the time, but I don’t think anyone watches it to seriously decide whether something is bogus or not, any more than they watch the Daily Show to actually follow the news. It’s an entertaining diversion into things outside the mainstream, where two funny people make fun of the oddest of the people involved in those things. In this case, they picked a lousy topic and guarantee that they’ll look foolish by the time it’s done. Any idiot can see that cryptozoology is valid…just ask the people who started catching coecelecanths (sp?) a few million nears after they supposedly vanished.

  2. msouliere responds:

    mrdark–
    I’m a vintage fan of P&T myself and have enjoyed their live performances, and I agree they’ve done a lot of good work debunking real frauds, but it really seems like their approach with their show has gotten severely antagonistic and at times quite vicious towards people on the fringe that aren’t really doing anything harmful or overly exploitative.
    People who have been subject to or nearly missed being subject to this scathing treatment might feel a little strongly about their show at this point. So I think that calling this write-up “harsh” is accurate but the harshness is perfectly entitled, at this point.

  3. Josh Harris responds:

    I think any show that has to fake an event such as a “Bigfoot” sighting lacks the iniative to be a show in the first place.

  4. Ole Bub responds:

    Who are Penn and Teller….illusionists and fakirs…JMHO

    seeing is knowing….

    Creatures from the Fat Lagoon

  5. Kathy Strain responds:

    I think the point of all this is being missed. The fact of the matter is that the video was hoaxed, and despite that being OBVIOUS by many, Matt Moneymaker and the BFRO stood by the “witness”, claimed the video was real, and called all those saying the video was a fake “pushy jerks.” That’s the point. When Matt is wrong, instead of admitting it and acting professionally, he attacks. And frankly, if P&T (who have exposed psychic surgeons and others who prey on victims for money) exposes this lack of the scientific method for what it is, then it can only benefit bigfoot research as a whole. It’s time to stand up for what is right, and if we don’t police ourselves, clearly others are going to do it for us.

  6. aaha responds:

    I agree. Moneymaker is a charlatan and “profiteer” (it’s in his name ) only out to make money/money-make off of unsuspecting and gullible people who actually believe in bigfoot and are willing to shell out thousands of dollars to go camping with his goons.

  7. jayman responds:

    It’s too bad, since I think the BFRO has done some good work in the past, and still has one of the most comprehensive sightings databases around.
    Something seems to have changed around the time Matt M. relocated several years back though. It used to be somebody would personally answer every email I sent them. That changed about that time. Also, I have noticed that sometimes a sighting report will just “disappear” from the database, no explanation. I suspect that evidence surfaced that the report was bogus, but why not say so? Even dedicated believers concede that not all reports can possibly be authentic.

  8. Jeremy_Wells responds:

    I consider myself a skeptic, but my problem with folks like Penn & Teller, and their ilk, is the venom with which they attack anything that doesn’t fit in their neat box of established science.

    If these things aren’t real, as they claim, then there is little harm done by belief (psychic surgeons bilking poor desperate cancer patients being an exception). But if there is something to cryptozoology, then it challenges their neat little world view. The irony to me is the way such “scientific” minded folks, instead of letting evidence speak for itself, will dogmatically attack anything that doesn’t fit, in EXACTLY the same way that religious fundamentalist often do.

    I’ve often pointed out to my rabidly atheistic friends that I find it funny that they get so bent out of shape over people believing in God when they don’t, because I don’t believe in the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy, but I don’t go attacking children who do.

    The actions of Penn & Teller, and other rabid debunkers, amuse me in the same way.

    the eternally agnostic Jeremy

  9. Scarfe responds:

    While they are sensationalist and crude, I have enjoyed episodes of BS in the past. Their attack on PETA was quite good.

    Even as a skeptic, though, I think they might be taking on Cryptozoology with far less scruples and rigor than P&T have shown in the past.

  10. Kimble responds:

    I fail to understand how a comedy duo have become reputible investigators. I saw James Randi debunk psychic surgeons back in 1985 in Hauk Auditorium at the U of Maine. How is it that P&T have shed the light of reason within a vaul of superstition?

    P&T are entertainers as as such their sole purpose is to pay the rent by entertaining.

  11. yakmoe plivnic responds:

    Their methodology of getting points across employs heavy doses of sarcasm and mean spiritedness.

  12. msouliere responds:

    What has struck me most about the field of cryptozoology, beyond the mystery, wonder, hope, and curiosity that surrounds it, is its revelations about human behavior.

    While many of the creatures remain hidden, we are revealed.

  13. Mnynames responds:

    Amen, msouliere.

  14. keeroc responds:

    Well yakmoe you have really done your research. Penn and Teller “liberals ” – what planet have you been living on ? it is obvious from your post that you aren’t very well informed.

    secondly who cares what P&T think of bigfoot and cryptozoology ? They are just after publicity. Their humor is weak as well as their “magical” repertoire. Exposed psychic surgeons ? – years after the news media had already debunked it.

  15. Jeremy_Wells responds:

    Let’s please not turn this partisan. Let’s remember this is a crypto site, not one for bashing…political stances.

  16. claytron responds:

    As mentioned this has absolutely nothing to do with politics.

    You really miss the point. As has been said, P&T are in the business of making entertainment. Period. If you’ve studied film/editing at all, you realize that any editing creates an intended effect. That’s how editing works. That’s why we have film and television. The effect of juxtaposing two pieces of footage can change their meaning entirely to a desired effect/meaning. If you intend to go on a show knowingly produced by Penn & Teller, you are taking a risk that they will exploit you. It’s what they do. When you produce a television series like theirs, you have to make 8-16 episodes on various topics. They/producers picked cryptozoology as one episode in that set. They’re not interested in producing a legitimate look at the field, they’re gonna poke some fun at it. They’re masters of manipulation. That’s what they do. It’s what they’ve done since they started their career. OF COURSE they will take liberties with whatever footage they can get for the program. They have to take a mess of footage and make that into something entertaining. Not educational – entertaining. If you can’t take their heat, don’t be on their show. Anyone who’s seen anything they’ve done will know how they work. They like to call ‘bullsh*t’ on whatever they think is bogus. You simply can’t deny there is alot of bogus claims in your field. There are a significant number of them, that doesn’t mean ALL of it is, but alot is. I believe many phenomenon in the field are legitimate, while others are not. Does that mean I can’t laugh at P&T discussing the issue (even if it’s not that strong of an episode)? No of course not. They’re being the skeptics of a skeptical field. You shouldn’t take so much offense. They’re not killing you’re child, they’re making an episode of a TV series. Again, the Daily Show is an excellent example. If you’re going into a comedy sitaution to get your point across, you need to reconsider the situation. It’s not MSNBC or CNN… it’s Penn & Teller… and not a documentary… an television show that relies on the same manipulation as everything else they produce. They’ll present it how they want to maximize the promotional and entertainment values of their program. Doing anything else would be detremental to them. It’s what they do, and holding that against them is silly. You act as if they’re on a crusade to destroy everything you love. Don’t take it so personally. You ARE allowed to laugh at yourself.

  17. Loren Coleman responds:

    No, I think you miss the point. You were not there, regarding the interactions their production company had to get me on the program. It perhaps was the most dishonest approach I have ever experienced in reality-based television producing. I’ve been on literally hundreds of programs since 1969, produced my own documentaries, and, my gosh, taught a documentary film course at the university level for 23 semesters. I’ve never seen a release set up to so clearly give an open-ended ability to fictionalize documentary footage to the filmmaker.

  18. claytron responds:

    Again, if you think Penn & Teller are making a straight documentary… irreguardless of their approach to you… you’ve got to be kidding yourself. Again, you know what they do. They’ve got their show to make, I’ve not heard of a production company making concessions on a talent release. If you don’t like what they’re doing, just do the right thing and avoid being on their show. Again, it’s not like you have to be on it. You could have posted, ‘I would avoid the upcoming ‘bullsh*t’ episode about crytozoology, I don’t like their practices for the following reasons,’ instead of attacking them as creatives for doing what they do. You can still be the better more professional and respect their work without taking it so personally.



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