Wednesday, November 22, 2006

'Avenue Q' meets 'Whose Line Is It Anyway?'

As someone who takes improv comedy classes, I know how difficult it can be to be funny in front of an audience without a script. But I'm not lugging around a piece of felt while I'm doing it.

So, of course I was taken aback Monday night when I was flipping through the channels and found the choreographer from Showgirls on TBS, taking audience suggestions for improv scenes featuring foul-mouthed comedians strapped to carefully constructed pieces of felt.

Hand-happy hilarity, thy name is Puppet Up.

I'll say this much, as many scenes flopped like Snuffleupagus' nose, but others were really, really clever and amusing. The level of difficulty, of course, was unlike anything I had seen in the world of improv, so even when I didn't laugh, I admired the unbelievable multitasking.

No pressure or anything: Just stick with the audience suggestion, be funny, synchronize your off-the-cuff words and defined expressions with those of the puppet, be funny, interact with other puppets, keep it aligned with live cameras that crop you out of the picture, and be funny. Otherwise, it's totally easy.

If these guys ever gig in New York City, I'll definitely be in the audience.

If the concept of R-rated Muppets sounds oxymoronic to you, just remember that Jim Henson's creations were supposed to be a prominent part of "Saturday Night Live" when the show launched. So hearing his puppeteers, more than 30 years later, cursing up a storm isn't too farfetched.

Somewhat related: I'd just like to give a shout-out to any celebrity who's ever been on "Sesame Street." You earn automatic cred with me. (Remember: Put down the duckie if you wanna play the saxophone.)