Monday, April 30, 2012

The Best Show I Never Saw

Chicago, 1990. I read a review of Stumpy's Gang in the Chicago ReaderStumpy's Gang was a parody of children's puppet shows, set in a genetics laboratory.  Although it is Frank the Janitor's job to pitch the genetic mistakes into the incinerator instead he keeps them as his friends. 

At the age of fifteen, I REALLY wanted to see this show, but I chickened out and didn't make my way through the big, scary city to find it. Every few years or so I search online for some tidbit -- a photo, something. Today, I find a YouTube channel with video of the actual show -- uploaded in 2008 (how have I missed it?!?) It is ... more ... than I imagined:

The show moved to Los Angeles in 1994 where it enjoyed a successful run at the Zephyr. I imagine there are some people on the scene today who saw it back then.

As elated as I was to find these videos online, I am even more distressed that I missed out on this all those many years ago. This show appears to be way ahead of its time. The puppets are incredible.

The lesson here is twofold: First, go see it. If you feel the urge to check something out, don't put it off, don't make excuses for yourself, go. There is no substitute for lost moments or unexperienced experiences. Second, if you make theatre, put your archives online. Please. There is no Academy of Theatrical Arts and Sciences dedicated to the preservation of stage plays, no UCLA Theatre Archives keeping the detritus of past productions in a cold, dry place. We cannot recapture the past, but we can show people what they missed.


Unknown said...

Hey, thanks for the nice comments regarding Stumpy's Gang. We worked hard on that show and it's great to hear it's appreciated.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the nice comments. Appreciated!

Anonymous said...

So cool that you found our show! You should know that the stage version was quite different. Dean and I were not involved - Pat Cannon expanded it to 90 minutes, adding new characters and ideas. And Frank was played by Jim O'Heir, who can now be seen on "Community"!

Did you also watch the outtakes? I think they're even funnier than the show!

Because I liked those so much, my dream was to do it as a weekly ad-libbed cable show and build an audience that way. But Pat wouldn't do that.

We did shop the video around in NYC in 1983, but it wasn't quite ready for prime time, I guess. I still regret it never went further!

Mark Milano

Andrew Moore said...

Thanks for dropping by, Mark! And thanks for filling in some of the blanks for me. I was wondering about the timeline, and the alternate casting for Frank.

The outtakes are hilarious!

You guys were way ahead of your time. Nowadays, this is the sort of show you find on Adult Swim or Comedy Central. The puppets are simply incredible.

Thanks again for posting these videos!

Anonymous said...

I saw this show in it's original incarnation in Chicago. All these many years later, it still stands out as one of the most original, disturbing and hilarious plays I have ever seen.

I remain a big fan.

Chang Yai said...

I had the pleasure of seeing this twisted show in Chicago in 94. I went several times. Had a blast. Hope you guys will revive it and give it another run. I was really into GWAR back then as well, and hell, they are still at it.