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Puppet Up! – Uncensored is a live show produced by The Jim Henson Company combining puppetry and improvisational comedy created by Brian Henson and Groundlings performer Patrick Bristow. The show is advertised for "adults only" and as "uncensored." However one rare and "exclusive" set of shows "for children" were held in Edinburgh in 2006.
The sketches in the live show are not pre-planned, and the shows contain all true improv. The puppeteers in the Henson improv troupe trained with Patrick Bristow for nine months to perfect their improv skills prior to their first show. Just like the Groundlings, the Henson improv sketches are performed based on audience suggestions.
Brian Henson, producer of the show, recalled the genesis of the show in a 2006 interview stating, "we began doing puppet improv workshops to hone our comedy skills and realized that we were having so much fun that audiences might enjoy watching too." In the fall of 2005 a show was performed in the sound stage of the Jim Henson Studios for friends and invited industry guests. The two shows were so successful that the group was invited to the 2006 U.S. Comedy Arts Festival, where it made its public debut. Jim Henson's Puppet Improv was performed at two shows featuring Henson, Bill Barretta, Julianne Buescher, Leslie Carrara-Rudolph, Drew Massey, Paul Rugg, Allan Trautman and Victor Yerrid. Willie Etra was the musical director and operated the keyboards.
In August 2006 Puppet Up! traveled to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for 30 shows. Two versions of the show were performed: the regular "adult only" version and, for the first time, a family-friendly "for kids" show.
Puppet Up! performed two shows at Caesars Palace in November 2006. These shows were filmed as part of HBO and AEG Live's The Comedy Festival. TBS produced an hour-long television special from these shows that aired five days later on TBS. TBS also ordered 30 web-exclusive episodes of "Puppet Up!" for their "Laugh Lab" video service on TBS.com. The web series debuted on TBS.com on March 7, 2007.
In July 21, 2016, Puppet Up! - Uncensored began performing monthly shows at Venetian Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas
Stuffed and Unstrung
In 2010, the show was brought to New York City under the title Stuffed and Unstrung, featuring all new technical effects and original music and staging. "Stuffed and Unstrung" pays tribute to Jim Henson with re-creations of two of his most famous routines.
- "I've Grown Accustomed to Your Face" features a female puppet (which resembles the earlier version of Kermit the Frog) singing the classic song to another puppet (who resembles a rebuilt Yorick) who scarily changes features
- "Java" depicts a violent brawl between two creatures trying to dance to the rollicking Al Hirt instrumental track.
Bobby Vegan and Sampson Knight from the pilot to Henson Alternative's Tinseltown appear as the fictional executive producers of "Stuffed and Unstrung." Bobby and Sampson appear in a pre-taped video introduction and segments for the show as well as being featured in the show's promotional material.
Early on, the improv show featured many puppets recycled from past projects from The Jim Henson Company. As the show grew, new and original puppets were created that joined the show. In 2006, new Puppet Up! puppets were designed by Julianne Buescher and Drew Massey. The puppets were built by Julianne Buescher, Drew Massey, Patrick Johnson, and Sean Johnson with help and guidance from veteran Muppet designer/builder Jane Gootnik. These puppets have been labeled as the Miskreant Puppets.
Alongside Bristow and Henson, among the puppeteers who have performed in Puppet Up! are:
- Anthony Asbury
- Grant Baciocco
- Jennifer Barnhart
- Bill Barretta
- Julianne Buescher
- Kevin Carlson
- Leslie Carrara-Rudolph
- Brian Clark
- Marcus Clarke
- Melissa Creighton
- Stephanie D'Abruzzo
- Alice Dinnean
- Peggy Etra
- James Godwin
- Patrick Johnson
- Sean Johnson
- Donna Kimball
- Karen Maruyama
- Drew Massey
- Ted Michaels
- Alison Mork
- Michael Oosterom
- Carla Rudy
- Paul Rugg
- Colleen Smith
- Allan Trautman
- Victor Yerrid
TBS later adapted "Puppet Up" as a web series with different sketches performed on shows during different locations. Episodes 1 -15 were taped before a live audience at The Improv in Hollywood on June 24, 2006. Episodes 16 - 26 were taped before a live audience at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August 2006. Episode 27 was taped before a live audience at The Grove in Anaheim on March 4, 2007.
- Puppet Up! was featured in an episode of Celebrity Apprentice.
- Some of the puppets from Puppet Up! have appeared in other series, including Simian Undercover Detective Squad, Neil's Puppet Dreams and That Puppet Game Show. They often appear as different panelists on the news satire series No, You Shut Up!.