I'll be honest: the idea of being a parent sends chills down my spine. The thought of diapers and sippy cups and Dora The Explorer and some wobbly little human being calling me "Dad" fills my heart with mortal terror.
Walking into the lobby of the theater, my vision was flooded with puppets. The lobby was full of glass cases with puppets, some small & delicate, others hulking and tall, while the walls were lined with hanging marionettes. As host Tommy Cannon later pointed out in the show, the Puppet Theater used to be a historic Mormon church, and the auditorium in which the show took place definitely still had that lingering church vibe. I could almost imagine I wasn't sitting in a folding chair but atop a phantom pew, watching puppets screw and tell dick jokes.
The Hot Damn Puppet Slam ran for about an hour and a half, and for $10 on a Friday night (you can catch it tonight, too, info after the jump) it was money and time well-spent.
The Slam was hosted by Hector The Sock, assisted by his human counterpart Tommy Cannon (whom Hector referred to as "Fucktard" throughout the evening). Cannon started off the evening by issuing a disclaimer I've heard at many a puppet show: "his mouth talks while my lips move, get over it".
So for those thinking of going to a Slam expecting the puppeteers to have lips sealed as tightly as a ventriloquist or a Go-Gos song, you are going to be disappointed. But seeing the puppeteers talk at the same time as their puppets isn't as distracting as one would think it would be, and it was easy to suspend disbelief and watch the little creatures forged out of felt and string do their thing.
The first half of the show started off with Die Puppet Die, a puppeteer duo who also do improv shows and web tv series with their creations. I knew it was going to be a good night when I got to watch a wolf super spy battle an evil pig named Dr. Bacon, not to mention that their show included what may very well be the greatest vibrating phone joke ever. Following that host "Fucktard" Cannon performed the 4th segment in his 5 part Mount Rushmore series. He made a Rushmore puppet with four mouths for each of the presidents, who spend their time arguing over what to do about a creepy tourist staring at them. And it was delight to hear a prissy lisping Lincoln talk to a psychotic Teddy Roosevelt prone to shouting things like "MANSEX! YEE-HAW!" at random.
One of the best things about the Puppet Slam was that it wasn't all dick jokes (though there were many, and they were good). One of the founders of the theater, Nancy Smith, did a segment called Keep It Short Theater which was quite poignant. Through the mouth of Rapunzel's mother, Smith talks about the life of a puppeteer and how people condescendingly react to them ("are you all just discouraged actors?" being one of the many indignities they're questioned with), and showing pictures that child patrons of the theater sent her.
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After an intermission that went on a little too long, the show closed with two more acts. Dan Dan The Puppet Man did an amazing dancing routine with an impressive Mae West marionette that went up to his waist. Rude Rabbit Productions did an abridged Romeo & Juliet that involved monkey-sex, kung-fu fighting, and prolonged shrieking death scenes. By 9:30 the show was over and the crowd started filtering back out into the First Friday streets.
This is the last show that Mr. Cannon will be hosting as well as the last show that Rude Rabbit Lisa Haslbauer will be a part of before moving to Seattle. Lucky for them to be leaving on a high note.
The Hot Damn Puppet Slam will be playing again this Saturday at the Great AZ Puppet Theater at 8pm.