Since the early eighties, David Strassman has been a master of the craft of ventriloquism, from humble beginnings busking on streets to huge sell-out stage shows across the world.
First performing on Aussie shores in 1991, he’s back touring his beloved “second home” with the evil and cheeky Chuck Wood and adorably loveable Ted E. Bare in tow. Tierney Seccull caught up with Strasso for a yarn about his new show, The Chocolate Diet.
Tell us about your new show!
It is, I think, one of my funniest shows yet. All of my characters go through amazing issues they have to resolve. One of them is that Ted E. knows he gained some weight from the lockdowns. And we don’t really mention those two dark years – because no-one wants to really remember them anymore – but he is addicted to chocolates, as we all are, and I try to convince him that he has to wean off the chocolates, and he doesn’t want to, ‘cause he loves them, it’s all he eats.
And so, we finally convince him that you can have chocolates, but you have to have a healthy diet as well. And he commits to going on a diet, and he comes back impossibly thin, he went too far. So that’s a hilarious routine. Then he comes back later on in the show and goes the opposite way, he’s enormous. Ted E. Bare goes through three physical transformations in this show, and it’s absolutely stunning and hilarious. It’s funny.
Oh, poor Ted E. Bare. Many of us can relate to a few unwanted COVID kilos. And you’re bringing your evil mate Chuck Wood with you, too?
Yes, Chuck is having gender identity issues. So, he is culturally relevant and he’s pro LGBTQI+, he’s pro women. He is going through a hilarious transformation, however, it does not take the piss. It’s respectful and funny. I’ve been vetted by the pride community … and for people like this hetero male, it’s an achievement to be able to be vetted by the pride community. But at the end, Chuck turns out to be the bastard he’s always been, so he hasn’t changed too much!
Two huge journeys for your puppets in The Chocolate Diet. What inspired the show?
I always do cultural and current affairs in my show, it’s not like I’m a political comedian or someone trying to preach, you know. Jim Jefferies is great because he talks about society’s ills, but ya know, I’m a puppeteer, it’s a puppet show! Except my puppets are twisted and all have issues that reflect our issues – I’m kind of holding up a mirror to all of us. And the great thing about these puppets is that they can say sh-t that no one’s supposed to say, because we know they’re not real.
They can certainly get away with being a bit cheeky! If they’ve not had the pleasure before, what can audiences expect from your show?
It’s a laugh every moment. I’m a grown man that plays with dolls, but the dolls or puppets are twisted. It’s not for the faint of heart, it’s not for little children, it’s not for the overly religious, but it’s definitely for someone who wants to laugh so hard – and this is no joke – that your face will be hurting by the end of the evening.
Ventriloquism is such a unique craft requiring a lot of skill – there’s a lot on the go managing the puppet’s body and their words, as well as your own. Is that difficult at times or have you just been doing it for so long that it comes naturally?
It comes naturally, it’s almost second nature. When I know a script so much and it’s ingrained in my memory … that’s when my show blossoms and the characters improvise. They take on truly a brand new life of their own.
It’s astounding to me sometimes, because they’ll say things and think of things that I don’t think of, and it will literally cause me to stop and cack myself laughing in front of the audience because I’m surprised at what came out of their mouth!
You regularly tour Australia and NZ with your live shows – what is it that keeps you coming back?
I’ve a long history with the Northern Territory, and Australia is my second home. You’ve gotta love a place where the slogan is “she’ll be right, mate” and “let’s have a sausage sizzle at Bunnings on Sat arvo”.
I first came to Alice in the mid-nineties, and I’ve spent a lot of time in the outback camping, travelling. I’ve been to Hermannsburg and Ntaria, and I’ve been between Alice and Darwin. I love the outback mentality.
One thing I love is that you are aware that nature is more powerful than you are. When you’re living in a city, like Sydney or Melbourne, it’s different – everything is muted. But the person that lives in the NT or in the outback, you are a sturdier person, in my opinion.
That is one of the reasons I keep coming back, not just to do my shows, but to explore the surroundings. It’s the power of the country.
Photos: Adam Shane Photo