Puppet Up! Uncensored

Puppet Up!They most certainly puppet up, sometimes they puppet out, sometimes they pup themselves into hoopy, poopy pieces of no-fun. It’s a hybridization of Whose Line Is It Anyway? and The Muppet Show, and once the shock wears off, it goes to hell but it comes back.

Not discounting the probable fiddly-bits of improv theater, anything, and I mean anything, can come from a drunken crowd of grown-up REM fans. Once host and creative director Patrick Bristow welcomes us, it’s time to get things started on the most sensational inspirational celebrational Puppetupational Puppet Up. Eight of Henson Alternative’s (HA!) master manipulators hold the funny-looking little buggers above their heads and commence zig-zagging before a camera mounted at the headline. Simultaneously, the “Muppet Show Effect” projects onto four screens throughout the theater. My eyes roam between the magic and the magicians, preferring the magic.

So here’s the thinking. Mr. Bristow gives the audience a scenario to fill in like a Madlib. “I need a person doing something.” A dentist! A guy licking his balls! A genie sitting in a bathtub! “Okay, and now I need a place where this happens.” Kuwait! Denny’s! My dick! “So, are you ready to watch a lost episode of 21 Jump Street featuring a guy licking his balls that takes place on my dick?” Yeah! Wooo! “Okay, Puppet Up!” And so begins an advance, stage-left, upon a massive, rectangular armoire filled with beautiful creatures. Sometimes they go two at a time, sometimes all eight of them suit up, or “Puppet Up”, for their improv routine. Once the lights dim, the troupe puppet-trates.

Sometimes they really do puppet up. The first routine is funny and adult-oriented. An old grumpy Muppet Show critic looking dude and a weasel with unblinking bug eyes show slides of their vacation without foreknowledge of the images. “This is where we stayed.” Slide. It’s a toothbrush. The puppets stare at us. The weasle says, “That’s why I stopped blinking.” Okay, you had to be there. Coming back from the intermission, the troupe surprises us with a James Bond film opening sequence. The audience calls for “The Spy Inside Me” and I shout out “Dr. Spike” as a villain. Not only do they produce a spike to ensorcel with slow-mo and suggestive marionette élan, playing the perspective gags for everything they can, and riffing on the name “Dr. Spike” with obligatory muppet felacio, but somehow they manage to weave in the name of Dr. Spike: What’s not to like/when you’re dealing with Dr. Spike.

As for the hoopy poopy stuff, the first act derails with a skit about aliens running an orthodontist’s office, doing the ol’ Sesame Street bit where each says one word until they form a sentence. For no fucking reason, one puppeteer gets sick of that, switches from alien to human, starts talking in complete sentences, and ruins it. It was like a kind of torture to watch that! They may work without nets, or at least without strings, but that doesn’t mean they work without audience. If you abruptly jump from kooky alien talk to English, at least suffer from turrets and make liberal use of the F word.

But enough with the kooky talk. Host Patrick Bristow may not know this, but he isn’t very likable. His stage persona is this thinly-veiled schoolmarm of an emcee who hovers above the shouts and suggestions, telling the audience with a hint of deprecation that they’ve had enough with the cheese jokes, or they’ve done George Bush to death. If your open yourself up to the floor, and the fat guy with the mustache shouts out “Balls of Cheese!”, and you say, “No, we get a lot of cheese jokes and we’re sick to death of doing them,” what do you think just happened to your credibility? I quote from the flyer, “Open your mind, release your inhibitions, and feel free to shout out the first ridiculous thing that pops into your head”. The man just did that and now he wants “Balls of Cheese”. That’s why he paid his hard-earned money to see Puppet Up! Nobody wants to be told they’re ordinary or that you’re sick to death of their humor. Fuck Bristow. I ought to puppet my foot up his smarmy ass for acting like “Dr. Spike” was something he would not have deigned to touch, not even gloved.

Maybe the future hosts of Puppet Up should be celebrity guest stars, a homage to “The Muppet Show”. Now that’s the kooky talking!

Puppet Up! Uncensored
Next shows:
Sat, January 10, 2009
Sat, February 28, 2009