Objects of humour: the puppet as comic performer

Article English OPEN
Price, Jason (2013)

Many of the studies that explore the fascination audiences have with puppets have focused largely on the relationship between the operator and the object and the illusion engendered through performance. Those that attend to the issue of humour, such as Dina and Joel Sherzer’s Humour and Comedy in Puppetry in 1987, tend to address generic comic components of specific puppet practices, and only minimally engage with the more fundamental concerns about how the object may be viewed humorously by audiences. This article intends to bridge this gap in scholarship by exploring the similarities between spectatorship and humour in relation to puppet practices. Drawing links between the incongruities inherent within puppet forms, particularly those revealed through the juxtaposition of object and human operator, and theories of humour, I argue that there is amusement to be found in seeing the inanimate animated, which is similar to the pleasure found in incongruous humour. While not all puppets are used for comic purposes, my argument suggests that the fundamental collaboration required for an audience to appreciate a puppet performance lends the form a particular comic specialism which may help explain why, historically, puppets appear to thrive in comic contexts.
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