It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane!
It’s a...Hamburger?

My employer has developed an increased interest in protecting me from myself. Recently they installed a security system on their computers that prohibits me from viewing this issue’s Spotlight Site. It is classified as pornography, nudity, although it contains absolutely nothing of a pornographic nature beyond a bare bottom. Is this because the Web site I am referring to is www.puppetryofthepenis.com?

Here is where you can get information about “Puppetry of the Penis: The Ancient Art of Genital Origami”, a live comedy show involving men clothed in capes, tennis shoes, perhaps hats, and nothing else. If you haven’t heard of this yet, the puppeteers do these, these things to their, uh, genitalia. If you want to be crass about it you can call them dick tricks, but the show’s creators, Simon Morley and David Friend, more professionally call them installations. Hamburger. Bowtie. Baby Bird. Loch Ness Monster. Windsurfer. I am not making this up: the men twist and stretch their stuff, without shame, until they resemble these befitting titles. As the ad-flyer warns, “Make no mistake, there are no sock puppets in this show.”

Morley and Friend would have you believe that this kind of behavior is (now?) common in their native Australia. I’ve never been there and know next to nothing about it so, hell, maybe it is. But the story is the two gentlemen were separately honing their personal sculpting techniques long before becoming aware of each other’s existence. The two met at college and, I imagine, as things sometimes happen when people get drunk together, some less widely known personal information comes out of one that validates something complementary in the other. Yin meets yang, peanut butter meets chocolate… you get the picture. Anyway, so these two guys end up collaborating on a stand-up (har de har har) comedy routine where the two of them, garbed as previously described, spew out some witty banter while performing acts of penile and testicular derring-do.

Obviously, feel free to visit the site as you please, but I’ll just mention the main info you will run across while navigating the site: tour information, merchandise information, and press information.

The North American tour of Puppetry of the Penis (POTP) is closing up round about October, but shows are still going on in Australia and the United Kingdom for the rest of 2003, with shows to come in certain parts of Europe and Africa sometime in the future. Meanwhile, auditions are being held for the expansion and franchising of the tour with invitations extended to both the circumcised and the uncircumcised “who possess a unique combination of natural talent and a complete lack of shame.”

If you can’t make this year’s tour and you are overcome by your sick curiosity, you can purchase the show or its documentary “Tacklehappy” on DVD or video. If you have a lot of time on your hands and you want to learn a new skill you can purchase instructional books and videos (although these claim to be “for the serious puppeteer”). There are even PENIS t-shirts available just in time for Christmas (hint-hint, Mom).

The site also publicizes the show’s advertisements and media coverage, the latter of which includes a mixture of rave reviews and puritan outrage that has followed the show since its 1998 debut at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. It seems that people either love the show or run screaming at the mere suggestion of it. For example, some 80-year-old lady claimed she had been waiting 65 years for a laugh like that. Conversely, the people who claim the most objection to the show have never seen it and never plan to.

All that polarity is only beneficial publicity, as much as any press is good press. Nobody sells out a show whose subject matter evokes apathy. To me, the show sounds like a magnet for flocks of middle-aged women in desperate need of a giggle. Okay, I won’t put it down. What amuses me about the whole idea is the taboo on male nudity because I guess I can see it from both sides (and I limply assert there are only two sides). On the one hand, I guess the penis is prurient in a way that mere tits and asses are not. But on the other hand, what’s the big fucking deal? I don’t actually think that this show is going to demystify the penis for anyone who needs it, and why can’t you have a little fun with it — that’s what it’s for, right? I mean, one theatre in New York actually got a bomb threat. Turned out to be a hoax but come on, people, settle down. KSL Channel 5 in Utah, which is a Bonneville Station (slogan: “Long after people forget what they hear, they remember how they felt” — I kid you not), opted not to air a Jay Leno interview with Morley and Friend in which they both appeared fully clothed. The station’s general manager was quoted as saying, “I don’t think that genital discussions need to find their way on to television in an amusing kind of way.”

What’s funny is KSL was trying to avoid a San Francisco morning program’s slip-up that accidentally offered a glimpse of the two puppeteers during a performance — from the waist down. Oh my, think of the children! Speaking of accidental glimpses… I was trying to do some innocuous research for this article at work and the aforementioned security system DID allow access to the “Tacklehappy” site, which has minimal but unmistakable male frontal nudity. It’s my employer’s computer and they can restrict its use as they see fit, but I wish they would at least be consistent about it. I mean, I thought I was safe from that sort of thing.

© 2003, Heather Egland
Images: puppetryofthepenis.com

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