BWW Interviews: Patrick Bristow Talks PUPPET UP: UNCENSORED
Puppet Up! Uncensored is a hilarious adult comedy from The Henson Company which opens next week in Toronto. Featuring puppets designed by the famous company and a group of talented puppeteers/comedians, the show aims to engage, make you laugh and get a little dirty in the process!
When the show was announced as part of Mirvish's 50th Anniversary Season at a special press event last month, members fromPuppet Up! Uncensored gave the audience a special sneak peek at what they can expect next week when the show opens. They presented a prepared piece and then pulled up a volunteer from the audience to show their improvisational skills.
After the announcement, BWW sat down to speak with Patrick Bristow (Co-Creator/ Director/ Host) to try and determine whether 'Colin' was a plant (because he was so good), the rules of improvisation and just show dirty this show becomes.
Ok first things first, was Colin a plant?
No. I absolutely promise. Normally when someone does that well the piece doesn't always go well, but we had fun with that guy. When I went up the alley I was getting a 'no seriously don't ask me' vibe from a lot of people. We look for someone who is smiley and clearly wants to do it but we also need someone with a certain degree of physicality. So my nervous system goes crazy when I'm doing it because I have to pick well. But no plants.
If I get an improv suggestion I've had before I will often try and add something to it to keep the cast constantly on their toes.
Tell us a bit about the puppets you travel with. How many are there and do they require a lot of work?
We have about 80 puppets we travel with and they require constant attention - we actually have puppet wranglers! They need a lot of attention because they take a lot of wear and tear and we need to take care of them.
How about the improv portion of the show... We often hear that the first rule of improv is to 'never say no'. Does this apply inPuppet Up?
I say sometimes you have to let 'characters' say no. That's the big difference. For example, if you ask 'Tommy, did you steal the cookie out of the cookie jar???' He's going to sheepishly say 'No' but we know what that really means! That said, you have to make sure that the 'no's' never get in the way of the storyline.
Ultimately we endeavor to tell really great short stories that are hopefully hilarious and grounded in audience suggestions. That way it bullseyes with what they want to hear.
Have you ever had anything go horribly south?
Not HORRIBLY south but definitely southward, definitely headed towards the equator. I find that usually happens if a person is looking to this show to be their 'big opportunity audition'. So when I'm looking for an audience volunteer I look for someone who genuinely wants to please. If they're adorable, likeable and earnest the audience warms to them and it's a better experience for everyone. Plus they get a puppet at the end!
You gave the audience a sneak peek today with our volunteer 'Colin' - would you say that the Toronto response was on par with what you've had elsewhere so far?
It's a bit hard to tell with a morning event versus the evening when people are coming out after work to unwind, have a drink etc, but overall I thought it was great! I felt like the audience laughed when it was deserved, stayed with us even when something didn't quite land and I loved the level of engagement we were getting. Sometimes I find I can't even understand audience suggestions and then I have to play the 'dumb Yank' which I do quite well, but it's always good to be able to authentically engage.
Is it REALLY R rated? Just how raunchy is it?
Well it's obviously at the discretion of parents, but for the comfort level of the audience we generally don't recommend any children. We sometimes want the suggestions to get rude and we want to explore that, and people aren't as comfortable if there is an eleven year old sitting next to them. Our 'R rated' restrictions are therefore just as much for audience anonymity and enjoyment as anything else. We want that license to go to a dark place, or a politically charged place. It gives us creative freedom.
Plus I don't know if you've noticed, but puppets get away with MURDER! Seriously, they can go places your average comedian can't.
When and Where?