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History of Adult Puppetry

Discussion in 'Puppet News' started by mupcollector1, Jun 20, 2013.

  1. mupcollector1

    mupcollector1 Well-Known Member

    I would like to study more of the history of adult puppetry and political satire of puppetry from centuries ago before communication media, like theater puppetry in Europe and the United Kingdom. As an admirer of the artform, I've been getting more and more interested in the origins of satire that involved puppetry and the early cartoonists like Gillray. I remember when I was in high school, I found this transcript of one of the earliest Punch and Judy shows and I thought it was amazing. I guess what happened was Punch and Judy had been toned down more and more to the point where the dark satire disappeared completely and therefore ending up as slapstick comedy. Basically the original version of what I've read was how Punch was a psycho killer and it starts with the dog doing their business to his lawn, the neighbor, the baby, Judy, the hangman, and finally with Punch meeting Satan and he gets rid of him, and it ends with Punch being the new ruler of well Heck. I was laughing like crazy sharing it to some friends of mine who I believe were very freaked out. ;)
    Plus I've heard a story of a puppeteer who had a Pinocchio marionette and I guess he got in trouble with some political satire within his puppetry so what he did was he went back to street performing...sort of, he sat in a chair dressed in funeral clothing next to a shoe box with the marionette in it and it said something like "All thanks to.." whoever the politician or politic was. I found that kind of interesting.
    Anyway, this research and interest of mine has nothing to do with specific politics or anything of that nature. But mainly the satirical artform before media.
    I remember reading and hearing many times that adult puppetry in Europe is what really influenced Jim Henson while he went on vacation to take a break from Sam & Friends, almost giving up with what would become The Muppets. Anyone know which puppeteers or performances he went to see? I read it was documented...somewhere on the internet.

    I love the Mark Wiener appearance on The Jim Henson Hour and how Zondra quotes "This is Mark Weiner. He's a puppeteer who goes on the streets so he can share his political messages with the little children." lol It cracked me up and Mark is like "Uh...yeah right." :) As well as the Jim Henson reference too. Hilarious. :)

    It seems that political satire, puppetry and print cartooning are pretty much around several centuries old. And there weren't many things aimed at children. There was no rating system or parents afraid if children heard something in theater or whatnot. Kind of like the Golden age of the Nickelodeon Movies days. I remember when watching some old Looney Tunes cartoons, my mother told me when I was visiting "That's horrable, what if children copied that." and I told them that generation of children watch James Cagney Gangster movies...no problem. :)

    Though of course like theater, not all puppetry was satire. I think the earliest armform I've heard was Shadow Puppetry and they would use the sunset light outdoors for the screen and the show would be over at nightfall. I heard that was one of the puppetry forms in Africa.

    Anyway, I noticed the puppetry part of the form so I was curious if anyone knew of history on this.
  2. Have you seen any of Tristan Newcomb's films? I don't know how big of a following he has, but I've been a fan for a few years. He uses store bought puppets, mainly ones made for Sunday Schools, but the dialogue is really the best element combined with the puppets delivering lines that would be shocking if done by a person.

    It isn't for everyone. It's self described as films for bitter intellectuals. One of them is about a man drinking increasing amounts of cough syrup and alcohol to recreate his inner child so he can design a pinball game that will inspire scientists to creating mind uploading technology. Another is about a father and son psychologically torturing each other during a summer of boredom, suicide attempts and hallucinations.

    The most recent is a fake documentary about a cult deprogrammer whose technique involves LSD, a demented Bible puppet and threats of genital mutilation and snuff films.

    I will warn you again, that it isn't for everyone. But the cinematography and editing is amazing, especially given the complete lack of a budget. If you've ever heard of Live Hot Puppet Chat, it was done by the same guy and he reuses many of the characters. In terms of history, it's probably the only puppet show that ever got a network shut down.
    mupcollector1 likes this.
  3. mupcollector1

    mupcollector1 Well-Known Member

    That's very interesting, I'll have to check it out. I took a brief look and did this guy do a satire on the new Star Wars movies? I think I've seen a clip on the documentary The People vs George Lucas. I notice that this guy has some of his work on DVDs, pretty cool. Thanks for sharing. I do enjoy a bit of dark humor / dark satire. Plus I've had my share of seeing some really bizarre documentaries as well. lol It kind of reminds me a little bit of Wonder Showzen, now that was a dark satirical show. One of those shows where it isn't for sensitive viewers and even though the puppetry is pretty bad, (Even the puppets where built sort of amateur unpurpose from a professional puppet builder, I seen his site before.) though the writing is pretty good. It's very interesting how someone can combine dark satirie with puppetry and kind of make it look like a nightmare world. It's like a puppet version of Robert Crumb's work in a way. Very neat. :) And like you mentioned, puppets can get away with this stuff more then a human being on camera. One of the many reasons why I love puppets. :) It's like Puppets Who Kill, they can get away with something despicable and always come out so innocent. :)

    But yeah I guess what I'm looking for is some of the early theater puppetry.

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