Monday, June 26, 2006

Puppet Up! Puppets at the Improv

My friends Sean & Patrick from Swazzle have been attending a very special improv class at the Henson lot, taught by The Groundlings, and Muppeteer Victor Yerrid. (Patrick invited me to participate in two of the "beginner" classes) This past week, they (and the whole troupe including Brian Henson) performed at the Hollywood Improv.

I had been there a few years ago to see some of the cast of Whose Line Is It Anyway? (Ryan Stiles, Drew Carey). This was similar, though with small flat-screen monitors everywhere for the puppeteers to use while performing, and large ones for the audience. There's definitely an added level of hilarity when you add puppets -- people laugh as soon as, say, a crab and an aardvark, or a valley girl and three aliens, appear on the screen. Not that Ryan Stiles or Colin Mochrie couldn't inspire outbursts of laughter with their physical and vocal mimicry, but seeing them as stylized puppets takes it to another level. For most people, puppetry is a novelty and video puppetry (ala Muppetry) even more so.

This went above-and-beyond just puppets and "adult situations" though. Anybody can swear and move a puppet around. These performers can act, switch characters on the fly, and make you believe that a bunch of foam dolls are really living things. The results were extremely funny. Tyler Bunch made up an hysterically dumb super-hero (at a homeless shelter) on the spot. Julianne Beuscher, the lone female performer, killed with everyone of her characters, whether a valley girl in post-Apocalyptic Australia, a Philippino girl suffering from overly tight panties, or a mouse torn between her beaver lover and a dream of cutting nosehair (he finds it hurts too much). Victor Yerrid and a Middle Eastern-sounding aardvark wanting to get his "ears" enlarged. Both Sean and Patrick held their own as nerdy guys, Haliburton phone operating rabbits, boardgaming crabs, and inconsiderate alien neighbors. There were no bombs in either show Saturday night, which I thought was amazing.

In July, the Puppet Up! folks plan to do this again as a live taping. Part of the troupe is off to Edinburgh to perform in a festival. Who knows? This could end up as a TV show (preferably on cable)

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posted by Brian at 3:49 PM


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July 19, 2006  

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