“Puppetry of the Penis”

Thanks to Vue Weekly, Annie and I got to see a show on Thursday night at the Winspear that has travelled the world over: Puppetry of the Penis.

Given that the tickets were free, I didn’t expect that the seats would be so close – orchestra right, sixth row back, aisle seats. Looking around, I didn’t see the 60- 40 gender split I expected after reading an interview with one of the Aussies who started it all – there were way more women, sprinkled with just a few gentleman that looked like they were trying their very best to blend into the crowd.

The act started off with a very funny comedienne from Hamilton, Ontario, whose name has slipped from my memory. My favorite bit of her act was when she declared that she had wanted to fit into a new dress she purchased by the time of tonight’s show. With a flourish, she took off her jacket, revealing her dress, raised her arms, and announced that she had done it, receiving cheers from the audience. When she turned around to get some water to drink, we were treated to the pins barely holding the garment together, with full view of her Paul Frank underwear.

After a rather lengthy intermission, we were finally treated to the main act – Martin and Dan, two young Australian blokes with fairly diluted accents, came out onto the stage each wearing a cape. Energetic, enthusiastic, and of course, not at all shy, the two men used many a term over the course of the evening to describe their exercises – including “penis installations” and “dick tricks”. With a camera positioned just below the stage projecting everything onto a screen behind the performers, even those in the upper and dress circles were able to have a good view of the “puppets”.

Though I shouldn’t have been shocked to see what I did, I can’t say I was entirely ready to know that it was possible to stretch, scrunch, bend, fold and twist the male anatomy into the shapes such as the Eiffel Tower, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and a sea anemone. Annie’s favorite was the snail, and well, I don’t think I had a favorite. For those curious, the show does sell a do-it-yourself handbook that will show, with step-by-step instructions, how to form 26 penis installations in the comfort of your own home.

It was an interesting experience, I will admit, but one you do have to be entirely prepared for in order to fully enjoy.

Comedy for a Cause

After dinner, Mack and I went to a YRAP fundraiser, Comedy for a Cause, at The Comic Strip on Bourbon Street in West Edmonton Mall.

This experience was definitely better than my last, where the $25 ticket price bought only moderate chuckles. The evening was MC’d by Paul Brown of The Bear “fame.” Late to the stage, he gave the impression that he had just arrived, barely oriented to the event at hand, and immediately launched into a haphazard tirade about the trouble with kids and crystal meth. As this was a fundraiser for the Youth Emergency Shelter, where the law and drug addiction could very well factor into a teen’s stay, it was, needless to say, the wrong kind of comedy for this group. One woman at the YES table in particular glared at Brown all night and looked quite unhappy with his vein of jokes. After some reflection, I’m fairly certain he had deliberately intended on being offensive.

The two comics were at opposite ends of the spectrum, and I found it interesting how both of them integrated family anecdotes into their routines, but only one of them managed to make it work. And so I ask – what makes a comedian funny? I can’t answer that, but I can tell you that Willie Santos crashed and burned. I’m not sure if it was just a nervous reflex either, but he actually started to alienate the audience when he questioned why we weren’t laughing.

John Wesley (of Last Comic Standing “fame”), on the other hand, was great. He was affable, energetic, and self-sacrificing without putting the audience on the defensive. He had some classic material – his relationship with his father, the differences between Texas/the United States and Canada, and ex-girlfriends. He even poked fun at Calgary with a line about the hick Pied Piper leading all rednecks south.

As for the venue itself, it is hard to blame the waitresses when they are clearly doing their job, but it was unnecessarily distracting for them to be asking for drink orders at seemingly 10 minute intervals, walking in front of patrons trying to pay attention to the show, at times even causing the audience to miss out on the punch line all together. Though in Santos’ case, perhaps pouring on the alcohol was a good thing.

All in all, it was a fun evening, and even better that the money raised went to a worthy cause!