If you remember the muppet show you will remember that there was always a storyline woven throughout the show. Much like a quilt, each segment could be completely unique and stand on it's own, but the thread pieced the show together. Perhaps it was Fozzy the Bear learning ventriloquism (remember the little Charlie McCarthy look alike?) Or it could have been Monsters running around with Vincent Price. Or Gonzo romantically chasing chickens.
The same thing can be true in your shows. Rather than have totally separate pieces with different puppets, think of a thread. It could be each puppet talking about "the cheap vacation you took me on. I wanted Disneyland and I got this place!" Or it could be each puppet saying something about your clothes. "You need a new outfit! Horizontal stripes do NOT look good on you! Hey, folks! I found Waldo! Where's Blue and his clues, Steve? Make it one stripe and make it jagged and you've got Charlie Brown! Put the jagged line on your forehead and you could be Harry Potter. While you're at it, change your name. Tony Borders! What kind of name is that? Toe Knee! You must be a leg man! Toe Knee! That's why you're always sticking your foot in your mouth! And Borders! I hope you like to read a lot! (This also puts your name into the audience's mind.)
Of course it could be a thread you initiate. "I'm looking for ------(the puppet for your finale.) Have you seen him? He was supposed to meet me here." You would tell this to each puppet and then do whatever routine you want.
Magicians have a thread simply by changing the magic words. Same tricks, same routines, but the words change. Everyone say, "Pizza City is a magical place!" Ta-da! Pizza City thinks you wrote a whole show for them!
So rent a muppet show and look for the threads and try to apply it to your own show.
This post get an AXY award. It's thinking like this that can REALLY improve your show. Great job of thinking Tony, and thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts with others.
April 10 2008, 3:42 PM
Thanks, Steve, but the real credit goes to Kermit the frog. One of my lifetime goals was to work on a project with Jim Henson. He, Frank Oz, and Jerry Juhl (a main writer) were phenomenal.
I did have another thought. (Two in one day! Brain strain!)
For those who are chomping at the bit to get a remote-control hands free Axtell puppet, you could use it as the thread. If you use a backdrop (we'll talk about those later) then each time you go behind the backdrop the remote puppet could come to life. (Thank goodness! I thought she'd never leave! Boys and girls, ever since I saw Mr. McGee's? Magical Emporium I decided to show you how we toys come to life! But I don't want _____ to know about it. If you see him starting to come back then I want you to clap your hands, so I will know he's coming. Then I'll get really still again."
This does four things.
1. Adds a mystical element to your show.
2. Gets you more applause. (Act pleasantly surprised, like they are clapping because they like you.)
3. Puts your name in front of the audience each time the puppet comes to life. (Is Tony Borders gone? Would you like to know how he did that trick? It isn't real magic. This is how he does it... then you appear)
4. Lets the children think they know a secret that you don't know.
Bonus: For magicians, you don't even have to know ventriloquism to use it this way! Control him and speak from behind the curtain. "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain."
He does have his moments
April 10 2008, 5:01 PM
Nice work, Tony.
I've returned from a pilgrimage to Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. My immediate post mortem is that the folks I met want a better health system.
Also a sign on a GUNSTORE in New Orleans floored me. It read, " The heck with Iraq..let's rebuild New Orleans".
The Tour Director and I experienced such hospitality.
Two things..what a nightmare week it has been to fly..actually be stranded all day in the airport at the Big Easy, and finding one's way in Baton Rouge is a challenge.
Again, thanks Tony. I know what has to be done..just have to sit down and write it. Ron
April 10 2008, 5:41 PM
I intended to say Welcome Back yesterday. Your common thread could be your trip. "When I was in New Orleans I met an animal that is known for it's gigantic smile, but it can be very deadly! No, it wasn't a politician. It was a crocodile!" (Bring out a crocodile.)
Then I visited Mississippi. I asked her if Mr. Sippi was home. Indeed he was and he decided to ride back with me so he could see how the Yankees live. (Are Canadians Yankees?) (Bring out The Old Storyteller)
Then I went to Alabama and met their state bird, the mosquito. Is a mosquito a bird? No, you're right. It was bigger than a mosquito. Alabama's state bird is the house fly. The horse fly? Here it is! The Dodo! (Whatever it is you bring out a bird and it does it's routine.)
Fried or blackened gator
April 11 2008, 6:36 AM
We now have a new talking point at supper. In Kenner, Louisiana the Tour Director said, " Please pass the alligator." ron0
April 11 2008, 8:59 AM
Alligator tastes like chicken, only it has a much bigger bite!
April 11 2008, 10:50 AM
Great post Tony
I learned a lot today
What happens when
April 11 2008, 12:28 PM
Tony, what happens to your thread when someone needles you??
April 15 2008, 8:15 PM
Let me see if I have this thread idea straight. If I do or don't please let me know.
Is a thread like the "Lotion" thing in Jeff Dunham's "Arguing With Myself"
Like the D.C. jokes in "Spark of Insanity"? Please let me know
April 15 2008, 8:16 PM
April 11 2008, 4:50 PM
The things you mentioned are called a "running gag". Those are best done with different performers, such as at a convention. However, different puppets commenting makes it funny as well.
A "running gag" is something that the first person may have commented on and then everyone else picks up on it and makes an additional comment in their act. It becomes funnier and funnier as more people get in on the gag. For example, at one magic convention the first performer did a trick called Professor's Nightmare. The next had planned it, so when he got up there he said, "This is a trick that you probably haven't seen in years!" and he did the trick. Later another performer said, "I'd like to show you a brand new trick, never seen by a live audience." He did the same trick. (Each one had their own story, called patter, or even a variation of the trick.) You can see how that becomes a running gag.
The thread is a story that really has little to do with each segment, but it keeps popping back into the show. On one muppet episode here is how it worked:
Kermit announces the show. In the background Gonzo is balancing a spoon on his long nose. Kermit talks briefly to him about it.
Go to special guest singing a song with puppets.
Next Fozzy comes out with a spoon on his nose. He is trying to balance it but it won't stay. Then he goes into his jokes.
The old men make some comment about the spoon being in poor taste.
Special guest's dressing room: Gonzo is showing the special guest how to balance a spoon. Kermit comes in and chases him away and they go to the skit.
So you see that the spoon portions could be taken out completely, but then the rest of the show would have nothing in common.
In a live show it could be something as simple as each puppet asking, "Where are we?" to something as complex as you inviting each puppet to a surprise party for the last puppet to come out. It takes less than a minute. They may discuss what gifts to bring, etc. But it ties it all together and helps the audience anticipate the final puppet.
P.S. In the spoon episode the entire group of Muppets is walking around with spoons on their noses at the very end. BRILLIANT writing by Jerry Juhl.
April 15 2008, 8:17 PM
April 11 2008, 7:09 PM
I getcha' now. Thanks Tony
April 15 2008, 8:17 PM
April 12 2008, 6:28 AM
I think its also called a recall
Like Jose Jalapeno's "On a steeeek"
April 15 2008, 8:19 PM
April 15 2008, 10:25 AM
This is a GREAT topic!
I terrific thread was taught to me by another magician. During a rope routine he would tell the audience that Will Rogers could do a wonderful trick with rope, but itís too hard to him to do. So, heís not even going to try. Then a little later on, he would mention the Will Rogers trick again and say how hard it is. But heís still not going to try it. Finally, at the end of the routine, he makes an attempt at the trick that is SO hard to do.
Iíve done this and the applause after the final trick is amazing. The audience really believes that the trick is incredibly hard to do. This idea could be done during the whole show. One trick could be so hard to do that you save it for last.
In my new show, I teach the different parts of a story. So, I have a bookworm puppet introduce the next topic in the show. These routines are only about two minutes long but they really link the show together. At the end, we talk about the conclusion of a story which also happens to be the conclusion of the show.
April 15 2008, 8:46 PM
Another name for this is a sub-plot. The real story is that we are on stage right now and we have a show to do. The sub-plot could be that you pull out a note and it's a reminder that your mother's birthday is tomorrow and you need to get her a gift right after the show. It can be confused as a running gag because it's funny as it keeps coming up.... the puppet could keep bringing it up.
...so what are you going to get her?
... have you decided yet?
... you didn't have it on the calendar did you?
... really? Would you want that if it was YOUR birthday?
The sub plot is a breeding ground for running gags. Another GREAT show for threads is Mary Tyler Moore. Absolutely fantastic writing. Another good one is THE OFFICE.
April 16 2008, 6:51 AM
I decided not to get my ______ anything this year. She didn't use last year's gift.
What did you get her last year?
A headstone. (a will) (a cemetery plot)
I decided not to get my ______ anything this year. She never cashed in the gift certificate I got her last year.