Puppets aren't just for kids anymore, and this Saturday night Tucson Puppet Works is aiming to prove that with The Puppet Variety Show. With the rise in popularity of television shows like Comedy Central's "Crank Yankers," MTV2's "Wonder Showzen" and movies such as "Team America: World Police," puppetry is leaving its squeaky-clean image behind in exchange for more grown-up humor.
So is this trend of bad-mouthed puppets indicative of diminishing morals in the media, or have those who grew up on Sesame Street just returned to their roots for inspiration? Probably both, but Tucson Puppet Works puppeteer Charles Swanson sees it as Americans finally catching up with their international peers.
"In other countries, puppetry crosses all ages. It's not just for kids," Swanson said.
This Saturday, The Puppet Variety Show is not just for kids; in fact, it's not for kids at all. The adult-themed puppet show will bring five troupes of puppeteers together for one night of bawdy humor, Muppet-style.
Each troupe will have something special planned for the evening: Dennis the Red will be doing "Not So Modest Mouse" and "Jimi Hendrix." Praboo Puppets is showing the short film "Fart Wars." Mr. Fishsticks will be presenting "The Red Scarf and Beautiful Witch." And Seņor Don Gato will be presenting "La Frontera."
The Tucson Puppet Works puppeteers have their own special show planned for the evening. They will be presenting the "Potty Humor Trilogy" which, logically, is made up of three acts that take place in the bathroom.
"We'll have elements that are immature. It's literally potty humor. It's set in the bathroom and there are naked puppets and bad words," Swanson said. "Instead of the 'Rubber Ducky' song, we have 'Pink Wormy'. It's a puppet penis."
Guy Fromage will host the evening's festivities, and musician Lemonman (front man for Galactic Federation of Love) will be rocking the acoustic guitar throughout the evening.
Dennis the Red and Praboo Puppets have been involved with Tucson Puppet Works for several years. Tucson Puppet Works has been performing in Tucson since 1996, when they were awarded a grant from the Tucson Children's Museum to put on a production of "Where the Wild Things Are." But they've never put on a show quite like this.
"It's our first time to have an entire evening of events," Swanson said.
Tucson Puppet Works is probably best known in Tucson for its work with the All Souls Procession, which winds its way through downtown every fall. The puppeteers also put on shows throughout the year.
Made up of four main puppeteers and a team of behind-the-scenes volunteers, Tucson Puppet Works performs at art galleries and parties. Free All Souls Procession workshops are offered during the year and bring interested community members into the Tucson Puppet Works folds.
The Puppet Variety Show will take the stage at 8 p.m., Saturday June 11th. The Tucson Puppet Works studio is a part of the Sixth Street studios and is located at 44 W. Sixth Street (NE corner of Sixth and Ninth Ave). The puppeteers are asking for $5-$10 per person, on a sliding scale.
"Most people will probably pay $5," Swanson said. "But if just a few people appreciate what we're doing enough to pay $10, that would be great."
Just remember to leave the kids at home, unless you want your child learning the bawdy birds and bees from a bunch of naked puppets.