Getting Punchy

Who can talk about puppetry for any age group without drifting to that most delightfully acerbic of all marionettes, that comical ne’er-do-well Punch?

Not that the hook-nosed buffoon has ever, by any means, offered “family-friendly” entertainment.

In fact, with his spew of curses, Punch surely embodies an early foray into adult entertainment, especially when joined by his abusive puppet-wife, Judy.

Adding to the mayhem of Punch and Judy shows, the characters took to brandishing sticks with small paddles that made a slapping sound when they hit anything — usually each other. With these devices, Punch and Judy became the first slapstick comedians.

Get it?

According to, the famous Punch dates back to 14th-century Italy, where he was portrayed by wandering theater troupes. It wasn’t until a couple of centuries later that he merged with the British glove puppet and gained himself a spouse. These puppet shows were often banned from proper theater venues and were thus performed in the streets.

While the material may have been considered uncouth, it’s unlikely that, in those dark days of public beheadings, a little bad language and spousal abuse was considered unfitting amusement for young audiences.

About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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