As some of you may know, I am one of the comedy writers for a sketch show called SomeTV!, which is currently in production in Toronto. As our godhead Nic likes to describe it, the show takes the no-sacred-cows approach of Monty Python’s Flying Circus and combines it with the playful anarchy of The Muppet Show (no hubris here, eh?).
Now, for some, that may sound like the greatest writing gig ever. Those some have clearly never written for puppets.
Human actors—or as we call them, Fleshies—can be tricky enough to deal with. Prone to completely misunderstanding the point of a scene or sketch, they tend to have difficulty learning lines that make no sense to them.
Luckily, their natural insecurity, despite the outward facing ego, means that they can be molded into subservience, if only in two- to five-minute chunks, the longest most are willing to go without checking their make-up or cell phones for calls from their managers.
At their core, Fleshies are the rhesus monkeys of the performance world, clinging to each other for some semblance of affection but ultimately willing to give that up for warmth and sustenance.
Not so puppet actors, aka the Felts or Felties.
These are the apex predators of the performance world and should always be treated as such. Sure, they look cute and cuddly, with their giant heads, bulging eyes and disarming colours, but that’s exactly what they want you to think.
You don’t write for Felties so much as start a sentence that is perpetually interrupted with ideas or lines the bastards think are smarter, funnier, crazier.
Fleshies forget their lines because they’re not too bright…Felties “forget” because they are malicious egotists.
Adding to the challenge is the near-impossibility of figuring out a Feltie. He, she or it is the poster-child for multiple personality disorder.
You think you’re writing a scene for a young Spanish girl, when out of nowhere a tall Jovian Codswadder shows up to take the scene in an entirely new direction. (To this day, the only thing I know about Codswadders is they come from Jupiter, where given the crushing gravity, their height makes no sense.)
It’s like dealing with someone with hyperactive comedic Tourettes, and trust me, I’ve taken enough improv classes in Toronto to know what that looks like.
Felties are also astoundingly lazy creatures. Sure, they look frenetic on the television screens, but in reality, these buggers will literally not lift a finger without someone doing it for them. Our show has an entire team of Feltie fluffers whose entire job is to see to the every-last needs of these freaks. We’re talking major OCD: obsessive-compulsive demands.
Trust me, the dictionary writers of the world have the concept of “puppet master” completely backwards.
To be fair, the Felties do sometimes come up with lines that are funnier than the stuff I wrote. But on the flip side, they get away with lines that no intelligent Fleshie could ever hope to pull off.
This has two impacts: 1) the Feltie doesn’t have to try very hard to get a laugh, and 2) they can be as crude, rude and insulting as they want, knowing everyone just thinks “awwww, how cute”.
There’s a reason you don’t hear a lot of puppet radio programs…the shit they come up with is repugnant.
So, why do I stay? Why do I continue to write for these self-glorified hand-warmers?
Most days, I don’t know.
But then the rent comes due and I realize that my best chances at succeeding as a “comedy writer” is to have my words (or some semblance thereof) come out of a Feltie’s mouth…and those lint-sucking leeches know it, too.
SomeTV! is being produced by Lemon Productions Inc.
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