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Penis puppeteers fun (and appropriate) for the whole family
Nexus (Camosun College)
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Published: Monday, November 2nd, 2009
VICTORIA (CUP) – Apart from exotic dancers, not many people can say they make a living playing with themselves onstage. Rich Binning is one of the lucky few.
Along with his cohort Chris Cannon, Binning started showing off moves he learned from a Puppetry of the Penis book as a way to entertain his friends in theatre school. At first they never thought they would make a career out of the act, which originated in Australia in 1997 (the original puppeteers are penis pioneers David Friend and Simon Morley).
“Chris Cannon saw the [original] show in Portland, Ore., where he’s from,” says Binning. “He bought the book afterward, and he took it to college. He did some tricks at a party and I thought it was really funny, so I made him teach me some. And then we became known for doing the penis tricks around school.”
After a friend suggested they go to a Puppetry audition in New York, Binning and Cannon hopped on a jet to try out as a duo. According to Binning, what won them the gig was their genuine understanding of the show.
“At the audition there were lots of weirdos, people who just wanted to get naked in an audition,” says Binning. “Chris and I were very familiar with the show; I think we understood the style of humour that it was.”
The pair soon discovered playing with their junk in front of a live audience was a completely different experience than doing it for their buddies.
“It didn’t really strike us as nerve-wracking until our very first show in New York,” recalls Binning. “After that first performance, we felt a lot better about getting out there.”
But it wasn’t just the performers who had to get over the shock factor. Audiences often have to get used to what they’re witnessing on stage.
“There have been people that think it’s going to be puppets and not real penises, and they’re kind of shocked at first,” says Binning. “But after 10 or 15 minutes the shock is completely worn off on everyone and they’re like, ‘Oh yeah, this does look like the Loch Ness Monster.’”
And according to Binning, a Puppetry show isn’t raunchy in any way. “A great thing about the show is how wholesome it is, in a way,” says Binning. “My mom and my 17-year-old sister came to see the show. Chris’ mom has been to see the show. There’s no foul language, no sexual jokes. It’d just be too easy to go there.”
Binning enjoys the challenge of winning over the audience, especially those members who were reluctant to check out the penile puppeteers.
“The rare one is the husband who is dragged along to a show by his wife,” explains Binning. “It’s always funny to watch those guys go from having their arms crossed, thinking, ‘Why would I want to see this?’ And then they’re the ones that end up laughing the loudest.”
While Binning feels he would like to move on to something else one day – his background is in theatre – right now he’s having a blast manipulating his genitalia on stage.
“We’re getting a chance to see the world because of it,” he says.
Puppetry of the Penis perform Friday Nov. 6 in London at Centennial Hall.