Art & Design


Why David Strassman’s careful what he wishes for

Posted by Alex Switzky


David Strassman is a performer who works with puppets, changes his voice and usually doesn’t move his lips when the puppet is moving theirs, but he doesn’t really see his act as ventriloquism. “My puppets have full, dimensional realities. At the end of the show, it feels like it’s been me and twelve other people on stage,” he explains.

Strassman has been performing for decades, and with his new show Careful What You Wish For it’s clear that he is at the height of his talent. The LA-based performer has long been a darling of the Australian stage. “It was all by accident,” he tells me. “I came out in 1991, I was at the Comedy Club and my act was held over for six weeks. When I returned I did Hey Hey, Bert Newton – every show you can imagine. I think I ingrained myself in three generations.” He’s more than happy to work his Australian experiences into his shows, pointing out that downtown Footscray is a setting in Careful What You Wish For.

The plot of the show offers some introspection into Strassman’s life as well as an excuse to stretch  his characters out to new places. In the show Chuck, one of Strassman’s most well known characters, hears that Strassman is planning to retire and “leads all the puppets in rebellion against me, then I go through a wormhole.” This leads to an alternate universe full of even crazier interpretations of Strassman’s stable of characters.

Strassman’s devotion to his craft goes beyond impressive and into worrying.  As an example of the upcoming feats audiences can expect, he explains: “I do a seven way phone conversation where all the voices are me. I developed a handheld wireless device that lets me control Chuck from five feet away while he sits on a couch, so I’m doing that while I have Ted E Bear on my other hand at the same time.” Even more impressive, he does all of this preparation without any traditional rehearsal. “My rehearsal is memorisation, I say the routines on my phone and I play them while I drive around.”

His dedication to evolving the craft extends deeper than showy tricks. “My characters are like stage play characters, they have hopes, dreams. The shows are about conflict and resolution.” He also has little time for anyone who limits his chosen medium. “Jeff Dunham got lucky with Achmed the dead terrorist,” he says, unprovoked. “The timing was perfect, everyone hated the stupid fucking George Bush war. He took ventriloquism down two notches.”

Careful What You Wish For offers strong characters, technical marvels and Strassman’s trademark brand of humour. When it opens in Melbourne in November, Strassman should bring ventriloquism up far higher than those two notches.

Careful What You Wish For opens at the Athenaeum Theatre on November 7.
For tickets visit click there.

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