iTedE is an uproarious take on our technology-laden lives. The sharp-tongued Chuck Wood and loveable Ted E. Bare have been thrust into the world of social media, constantly on their iPads and iPhones, not interacting with the real world. With everyone connected to the internet 24/7, will Strassman get them back under control?
I was lucky enough to speak with David this week ahead of the start of the iTedE tour. When I wasn't laughing at his exceptionally dry wit, I was able to find out why his new show is relevant now especially, as well as get some background on how he made his bones as a comic, puppeteer and commentator.
"In this show, I am talking about the fact that social media and technology is keeping us from using our imaginations. In my show in the first act, I'm preparing for a Ted talk, so the first act is me operating my five puppets, one at a time, traditional hand up the bum ventriloquism, no robotics. In the second act, again I'm operating five puppets live, but with a hand-held remote control, as I throw my voice into each one for twenty-five minutes in a sustained routine. Hilarious conversation on what is real and what isn't. And it's real, jaw-dropping, mind-blowing and it's just crazy."
This is a totally new show, featuring material never before seen in Australia.
"It's a completely brand new show since the last time I played Queensland. It's two hours of a laugh every ten seconds" Strassman explains. "I started out in a comedy club in New York, where if you didn't get a laugh every ten seconds, you didn't get asked back the next day. I basically hold up a mirror to our very crazy society that's addicted to our devices and social media. With puppets. And I'm a grown man who plays with dolls."
"Yeah, on Facebook. Chuck Wood has his own page, and Ted E. Bare has his own Facebook page, and of course I have my own page as well. You can actually interact with Chuck on his Facebook page, you can send him messages; of course, the more provocative message you send, the more likely you'll get a response. As long as it's not lame or vanilla, you'll probably get a response! Something completely out there…"
David is quite humble about the skill involved in both the mechanics of remote control puppetry, and basically guiding five different characters (six including himself) through a web of comedy.
"My first real innovation, what put me on the map, was when Chuck and I had an argument on stage, he fired me, and I stormed off. Everyone thought that was it, and then Chuck started talking again by himself and moving around. This was back in the late 80's, and had never been done before. Since then, I've been continuously working to better that. In iTedE, I use the technology to operate the five characters, live, all at once."
Strassman meticulously plans his show, having around 98 percent of the show scripted, while still allowing for off the cuff quips from the puppets.
"It's basically a memorisation exercise, and once the show is memorised to the point where I don't have to think about recalling the routine, the characters take on an organic life of their own. So a show that I start off in Rockhampton, on Tuesday, will be morphed and different for when I end up in Cairns four weeks later, and what, thirty-five shows later."
David still has fond memories of his first steps into theatre, ventriloquism and comedy.
"I went to a nightclub in Los Angeles called the Magic Castle, a private club for magicians. And they allowed children in on the weekends. I got called up by a magician to hold a birdcage. I was holding on to the damn thing, and then it just vanished! Vanished into thin air. That blew me away. So, I wanted to learn magic and my dad bought me a professional set of tricks, rather than the cheap old plastic set you get at a department store. So I practised them, and I think because they were more professional magic tricks I put a little bit of serious effort into it. But it wasn't until Year 8 when a teacher offered a class in ventriloquism, and I decided to take the class, he showed me how to advertise in the local paper to do kids parties and I started making money, at age 14. And that's really kept me going, yeah."