International comedy star David Strassman returns to Australia with his brand new show Chuck’s Revenge! Chuck Wood’s sharp-tongued, caustic and sarcastic humour has been cracking up audiences for years. This show is an all-new creation from the dark and twisted mind of the puppet master. We catch up with David Strassman himself to find out more.
What first drew you to magic and ventriloquism?
When I was a kid, I went to Disneyland and I was blown away with the theatrical effects that it offered. There were rides, sound stages and robotics, and it was just phenomenal. From that, my dad bought me some magic tricks, and I started doing magic for the local neighbourhood kids.
In Year 7 I was offered a class in ventriloquism. I really took it for the easy grade, and I excelled in the class. My teacher showed me how to advertise in the local papers so I could do kids’ parties and when the money started coming in, my interest really picked up.
Ventriloquism isn’t an easy thing to master but you do it so well. What’s the secret?
The secret is making your puppets look alive through your puppetry and the depth of character. If you were to scrutinise my DVDs, you’ll see that my lips do move here and there, but what I’m really doing is presenting a puppet. For example Ted E. Bare, that is so well fleshed out with hopes, dreams and fears and my puppetry makes him look like he’s really living and breathing. So you really aren’t looking at me when I’m doing his voice – that goes away in the first 2 seconds of my show.
Most people know you because of Chuck Wood and Ted E. Bare. Give us an insight into these characters.
Chuck represents the fantasy we all have of wanting to challenge authority; he’s the bad, naughty boy. When we’re children, we’re taught the word ‘no’, and from then on we have to edit what we do and say in public. Chuck can tell a bloke in the front row to get stuffed, because he’s fulfilling our fantasy to want to do that, which we can’t do. Because he’s not real, there’s no consequence, so he fulfils our secret desire to want to do that. That’s the common denominator and basis for Chuck, and from that I have expanded his character to be naughty, walking the thin line between what is politically correct and incorrect and what you can and shouldn’t say in public. He kind of straddles that line of naughtiness. Aussies love it!
Ted E. Bare is slow, and he represents the shyness and self conscious part in all of us. His character is universal; everybody has self doubt and everybody has self consciousness, and Ted E. Bare represents that. Through his questions and wondering, we totally relate to his inability to comprehend certain things.
You’ve travelled the world as a performer. What have been some of the highlights of your career so far?
I once did a show a couple of hundred kilometres outside of Alice Springs to an Aboriginal community. That was outside with Ted E. Bare and Chuck. I’ve been able to take Ted E. Bare to children’s hospitals throughout the world, including Australia. We walk from bed to bed and are able to provide a little diversion to children. I’ve been doing this ‘play therapy’ for almost 30 years now. I’ve performed for Prince Charles; that was pretty exciting. Tom Hanks came backstage after a show once and told ME I was brilliant. That’s a pretty big highlight in my career.
Your new show is called Chuck’s Revenge. What is Chuck so mad about?
Well, he has heard that I’m thinking of retiring, and if I retire, then the puppets all die or end up in a suitcase or a museum. He doesn’t want to die, so he’s convinced and bribed all the other puppets to be on his side so that he can take over my personality and become the dominant one in my head. When I discover this, in a fit of exasperation I exclaim, “I wish I never met you puppets!” And through a bit of theatre magic, that wish comes true. Suddenly I’m found in a world where I don’t exist and all the puppets exist as though I had no influence on them. They’re different versions of all my puppets and I have to, through them, find the clues to get me back home.
There are brand new sets, brand new lighting and special effects, and I’m introducing my first Australiana character! A koala bear is going to be debuting in this performance. His name is Sydney Australia Wellington.
Wow! What’s Sydney Australia Wellington like?
He’s in recovery, so he’s not on ‘The Euc’. He actually represents one of my puppets who changes in the new reality.
Who are some other puppets that we’ll see in the show?
This show is pretty much the standard sitcom Strassman, so you’ve got Chuck, Ted E, Sid the beaver, Kevin the alien, Grandpa Fred.
Angel, my female robot, has gotten a complete physical upgrade and makeover. The last one looked like a bad can opener; this one now is hot. The new Koala Bear is in the show and a drunken clown. You get the whole family and some very wild twists and turns and unexpected stuff.
Are there any other plans in the works for this year?
Yeah I’m coming back to Australia in July. A mate of mine works for Imparja Television in Alice Springs, and he’s also a Discovery Channel, National Geographic videographer. I’m bringing my 8-year-old son, he’s bringing his 8-year-old son, and we’re going to drive from Alice to Darwin and go on an amazing adventure and film it for a possible TV special. So that will be a lot of fun.
How can readers stay up to date with your work?
Well, Ted E. Bare has his own fan club on Facebook. Also Chuck and Ted E have Twitters, and my website at www.chuckwood.com has all the venue information. I’ll also have some apps available soon on the iTunes store.
They are Ask Chuck and Ask Ted E and you ask them your questions about your future, love life and money, and they answer you. That will be launched in a couple of weeks. I’ll make an announcement online for that.
Thank you David. Good luck with the tour.
David Strassman will be performing his adults only show at C.ex Coffs on Saturday 28 May. For more information contact the club on 6652 3888.