October 31, 2008

Crazy Talking Puppets

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 9:17 am by Rev. Thomas Perchlik

I have always loved puppets, I love the illusion of their lives, I love their freedom and the way both audience and performer creates their reality.  So I went to see Dunham’s show in Muncie this past weekend, not knowing any of his material, not having seen him for years.  It was a truly cross-cultural experience.

If I had seen him on TV it would have been different.  I could have taken his jokes with a grain of salt, passed them off as “mere entertainment” and laughed at the conceit of puppets, often associated with children, cussing to adults.  But this show was to a packed and lively theater of 3500 people, a majority of whom were true fans, people who had memorized numerous lines of the skits and who knew his characters as if they were friends.  There was a second show at ten that night that was almost as full.

Perhaps I am just getting old; it was a ‘college’ audience, comprised heavily of people half my age.  Perhaps that caused the jokes to go under (rather than over) my head.  In that context I felt wary, out of place, as if I had stepped into the middle of something but I did not know what it was, and thus felt a little wary and skeptical. I almost never laughed. I kept a short list of things I liked, (my favorite moment was when old Walter reminded Dunham that the puppeteer was aging but the puppet was not until one day Jeff would catch up with Walter and they would become ‘the Sunshine Boys.’) The list of things I did not like was long.  I tried to remember what sort of jokes I would have laughed at when I was twenty.  Somehow, my youthful memorizing of Monty Python lines seemed different than this.

For me there was far too little of what I would call ‘intellectual’ content.  There were too many small-minded stereotypes and too many jokes about penises and tampons.  Achmed the terrorist, (who clearly says he is not a Muslim and thus emphasizes the link,) panders to stereotypes and fears of Middle Eastern terrorists. I did not relate to the hyperactive “Peanut” puppet at all.  The term “Political Correctness” was used by the show in its original sense of ‘stupid liberal ideas about offending people.’  Gender inclusive language was a forgotten myth.

It was disturbing but good to see the crazy small-mindedness of humanity in full display.  Now I work for the larger mind  which I hope will dominate our voting this coming Tuesday.

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