Henson puppeteers hit the Avalon stage this Friday with Puppet Up!
Muppets stage mock Bush assassination.
Technically, that never happened, as the Muppets are now owned by Disney, and the puppets were part of the Henson Company’s new improv company, Puppet Up!
Still, based on an audience suggestion, the rod puppets played out an audience suggestion wherein a Hal Fischmanish newscaster puppet and a caveman street reporter grill an elderly eyewitness to Bush being killed. The old man turns out to be Vice President who ends up being shot at scene’s end, right before the emcee asks the audience for their next suggestion.
The story is told to me by the show’s director and host, Patrick Bristow, who makes it clear that these aren’t the Muppets you grew up with. “The M word isn’t used around these puppets.
“Puppet Up” originated two years ago when Brian Henson arranged a private improv class would add to his puppeteers skill set. Bristow, a comedy vet who has taught at the Groundlings, was brought in, and six weeks later began to arrange a small, casual performance to give his new students some experience in front of a small audience.
“But Brian (Henson) doesn’t do anything in half-measure,” he says, and what was supposed to be an intimate show for a handful of friend became a highly produced performance inside of the Henson Studios soundstage. In attendance that night was a rep from the Aspen Comedy Festival, who was so impressed that he invited the troupe to perform at the esteemed fest.
In Aspen, a rep from the prestigious Edinborough Fest then asked them to come to Europe to perform, where they were invited to Australia. This Friday, they’ll finally be back in Los Angeles, in their first planned monthly gig at the Avalon in Hollywood.
What makes this a different kind of puppet show is obvious – it’s an improv puppet show and there are no efforts to hide the puppeteers. But what makes this unique among improv shows is the breaking of a golden rule.
“In real improv we really try at all costs to avoid breaking character,” Bristow says, but you can see the exposed puppeteers “breaking” and “getting ticked” at one anothers gags. “You get this great voyeuristic window of whats going on with the actual performer while they’re performing.”
With a cast of ten seasoned puppeteers and over 80 puppets (“the Stradivarius of puppets” Bristow insists), “Puppet Up” promises to be an edgy, witty show. Previous reports mentions a Romanian speaking weasel giving “a lecture on vasectomies while an English-speaking armadillo translates” ( from Aspen Daily News), gay cowboy donkeys, and comedy that sounds a bit reserved for “more mature” audiences.
Who would ever expect that the same folks who created the Muppets would have an adults only show?
“Just by the nature of improv, we get more adult,” Bristow says. “We’re not trying to push the envelope, but sometimes you get papercuts.”
Puppet Up! uncensored
Friday, August 17th
doors: 7pm show: 8pm