October 1, 2022

A few years ago, as hard as it may be to believe, I was wearing a Beaver suit around Bellingham Washington doing off the wall stunts for The Morning Deal, a morning radio show on 92.9 FM, Independent Rock. I was the producer and as such it was my job to take on any and all challenges like a race to Seattle, me hitchhiking and a listener driving (I won, thanks to traffic) or seeing how much money I could panhandle on a busy corner to determine how much spangers make an hour (about $18.75 in 1998). When I found a beaver suit, that began our series entitled “Can a guy in a beaver suit…?” Buy a shotgun at Walmart..no. Go into an IHOP kitchen and make his own pancakes without speaking. Yes. Speak at a city council meeting. Yes. And that was the one that made it on TV and got me to thinking about how fun it would be to create an adult puppet show called either Mr. Beaver’s Teahouse Puppet Theatre or The Pumpets. I never made it past a few public access classes and some sample home videos…but now, the son of Jim Henson has done the job for me…read on..oh mighty readers…
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EDINBURGH (Reuters) – The creators of The Muppets and Sesame Street are staging a rude and lewd puppet show that is strictly for adults only.
Even Miss Piggy would blush over the antics of “Jim Henson’s Puppet Improv” that is spearheading a renaissance of puppet shows for grown-ups.
At this year’s Edinburgh Fringe arts festival, there are more puppet shows listed for adults than for children.
“That really pleases me,” said the late Jim Henson’s son Brian, director of the Muppet Christmas and Treasure Island movies now revelling in the freedom of performing for adults only.
Every afternoon at the Fringe, his anarchic troupe of puppeteers do an improvisational show for kids. Every evening the air turns blue for the show that takes off into surreal flights of fancy dictated by the audience.
“It is lovely to do a show where you can go wherever your brain takes you,” said Henson, winding down after a show in which the audience asked the puppeteers to play half a dozen hot dog puppets auditioning to be Ricky Martin’s backup singers.
But would father have approved?
“I think he would have loved it because of how outrageous I get. My Dad really believed in community and sweetness but the other side of him was incredibly naughty.
“He always said the only reason we did this was those moments where it is like laughing in church. It becomes so infectious you cannot stop laughing.”
Henson, who first performed the improvisation show in Aspen and Hollywood, would like to develop it into a TV show. Two other projects he is working on are also just for adults.
“There is something really therapeutic for us about this adult improv,” he said.
Henson hailed the renaissance of puppets for grown-ups, applauding the success on stage in New York and London of “Avenue Q” and the hit movie “Team America:World Police” which satirises
President George W. Bush’s “war on terror.”
“Avenue Q was very, very clever. They are specifically parodying Sesame Street with an adult twist. Team America is a more unique choice as they decided to do it with marionettes.”
Hyundai Puppet Theatre,
South Korea’s answer to Henson, has also won acclaim at the Edinburgh Fringe with its production of “Puppet City.”
So does Henson feel puppeteers around the world are trying to redress the balance so adults get a look in?
“Yes, absolutely,” he said.
“The Americans are more action-oriented. They want to see the puppets beating each other up. British audiences are more intellectual. They like to see it sick and twisted but in an intellectual way.”

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