Volume 96, Issue 20
Wednesday October 2, 2002

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Puppets may kill, but they sure are cute

By Christopher Hodge
Gazette Staff

Gazette file photo
IT WASN'T ME, IT WAS THE PUPPETS! Puppets Who Kill producer John Pattison (left) and director Alex Thompson (right) share a moment behind bars.

You'd better watch your back because you never know when puppets may kill.

Premiering Oct. 11 on the Comedy Network, Puppets Who Kill promises to be more than just another cutesy puppet show.

Originally inspired by the one man theatrical show created by John Pattison, Puppets came into its own during the 1995 Toronto Fringe Festival.

"The show was about a puppeteer trying do a show while his puppets were trying to kill him," says Pattison. "The puppets were trying to kill [him] to collect the insurance money."

Due to the overwhelming popularity of the show, Pattison got the nod from the Comedy Network to have the concept developed into an original comedy series.

"I got a lot of offers," says Pattison. "Most just wanted to buy the idea and get rid of me. I didn't want to, though; I wanted to be involved. The Comedy Network offered me creative freedom, and let me do whatever I wanted to."

Puppets is a dark comedy that follows the exploits of four socially inept puppets and one poor, unfortunate social worker.

There's Buttons, the highly sexual, adorable little bear; Bill, the serial killing ventriloquist's dummy whose previous 58 partners all suffered from fatal "accidents"; Rocko, the rough and tumble, chain-smoking dog who suffers from anger management issues; and Cuddles, a "comfort doll" used by psychologists to treat patients.

Also featured is the former head writer of Kids In The Hall (Dan Redican), who plays the unfortunate social worker charged with the responsibility of rehabilitating the vicious felt demons back into society.

"Puppets are often seen as children's entertainment," says Pattison. "We are used to seeing them on shows like Mr. Dress Up and The Friendly Giant. I want to blow away those preconceptions, to play with people's expectations."

Puppets toys with some very delicate issues which would probably get a show populated by humans into a lot of trouble.

"Puppets can say things that no one else can," says Pattison. "They have the ability to be a little bit more out on the edge than people can."

Pattison has spent many years in the field of puppetry. His résumé reads like a rap sheet and dates all the way back to his university days here at Western.

"I worked with Rick McGhie," says Pattison. "We did a comedy puppet act in the Elbow Room that was fairly popular. When me and Rick worked together, the line for [the show] would go all the way down the hall."

While the Elbow Room (a bar then located on the lower level of the University Community Centre) may no longer exist, Pattison's love of puppetry still does.

During the mid-'80s, Pattison also had the opportunity to work on the popular kids show Fraggle Rock with Jim Henson, the legendary creator of Sesame Street and The Muppet Show.

"Jim Henson wanted to appeal to kids," says Pattison. "He wanted to promote the idea of peace in the world."

While Sesame Street would eventually become synonymous with the idea of family television, Pattison also points out, "the Muppets in the '60s were way more edgy than they are today."

"[Sesame Street had] some really far out stuff back then. It was very avant-garde, and not considered part of the mainstream," he explains.

Pattison's own experience working with Henson on Fraggle Rock turned out to be an amazing opportunity to hone his skills as a puppeteer.

"I wrote an episode called 'The Wizard of Fraggle Rock'," says Pattison, who was one of only 11 Canadians fortunate enough to be hired to work on the show.

"I did a lead character called Begooney, as well as the assistant for the world's oldest Fraggle and lots of Doozers as well," he says.

Puppets Who Kill premiers on the Comedy Network on Oct. 11 at 10 p.m..

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