Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Tommy Cannon on the Yanky Panky Puppet Slam #Phoenix

Tommy Cannon has hosted and performed in many of the puppet slams at the Great Arizona Puppet Theater in downtown Phoenix, telling dirty jokes downloaded from the internet with his sock puppet, Hector. He will be performing in the Yanky Panky Puppet Slam at Great Arizona Puppet Theatre July 6th & 7th. 

2010, photo: Diana Welsch

Marsian: How long have you performed at Puppet Slams. Tell us about the first one.?

Tommy Cannon: I have performed in GAPT's puppet slams since April of 2002. The first slam was nuts and funny. We had no idea what we were doing. My friends and I did a piece that I wrote called "Finger War" it was about a magical land where all of the disembodied fingers of shop teachers go. It was very fun and our puppets and props fell apart as we performed with them.

M: How do your puppet slam pieces tie into the other kinds of puppetry, performance or your art-life at large?
TC: ...I have had opportunities to perform slam pieces at other venues in different contexts. I've performed slam pieces in art show openings, concerts, and variety shows at Space 55, the Eye Lounge, and The Trunk Space. The improv community here in Phoenix has seen anumber of improvised puppet shows as well... all because of GAPT's slams.

M: What cities have you performed in puppet slams or cabarets in?
TC: I've only performed in slams in Phoenix, Tucson, and St. Paul, MN. So, the furthest and most exotic for me would be St. Paul. It's totally not a desert there and it's so... it's so.... GREEN!

M: What's the funniest, freakiest, edgiest, or weirdest show you have seen?
TC: One time I saw a character named Oscar the Otter describe the etymology of the word c*nt.

M: Sounds edutaining What was the worst puppet slam you performed?
TC:  One time a certain troupe from a certain town two hours from Phoenix sent up some very rookie/ unprofessional performers. Thankfully they were on last because 75% of the audience left during their set.

M: If you were to form a puppet slam circuit near you for touring, what slams/cities would this include?
TC: I am grotesquely unfamiliar with what the other cities are doing. So, route would be uninformed. I guess I'd like to visit San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Fe, Austin... does that sound good to you?

M: Sure, there is Adult Puppet Cabaret hosted by Animal Cracker Conspiracy in San Diego, Puppetzilla in Los Angeles and soon Cabaret Automata in LA as well. Tell us about a fabulous failure (at a slam) and what you've learned from it.
TC: One time I hosted a slam wearing a banana mask and told an Aristocrats joke. It was horrible. It taught me to keep the crazy at bay. People just want things to be a little bit naughty and a little bit weird. They didn't pay their admission to go to the asylum with me.

M: Why are Puppet Slams important to you? What gap do they fill? 

"Puppet Slams provide a short form of visual theater that is satisfying in a way that no other entertainment is. They fill the gap of giving grown up audiences the same fun visuals you can get with children's TV or an art museum visit in a live show."

M:  What inspires you to create a puppet slam piece?
TC: Deadlines.

M: Any other slam artists you are inspired by? 
TC: Gwen Bonar with her Oscar the Otter pieces inspire me because they are so damn funny. She does those pieces with perfect timing. It's her timing with that character that blows me away.

P.S. The Oscar the Otter pieces involve a 5 year old otter boy teaching us grown up lessons on things that would be inappropriate for a 5 year old (or anyone) to talk about.

M: What pieces do you have in circulation?
TC: Oh I have five Mount Rushmore pieces that I do. As you've probably gathered, I have the Presidents of Mount Rushmore talk to each other to comedic effect. I also do a number of Bible related shows with Dain Gore. Also, with Dain Gore, I do a piece called "Tristan's Tale" which is about zombie art school.

M: Wow, zombie art school - that hits close to home. Where can people contact you to perform?
TC: If you wish to perform in GAPT's slams give the staff a call at (602)262-2050 or write to them at

M: Where would you like to see the Puppet Slam Network in the future?
TC: Still going strong.

M: What advice do you have for up and coming slam artists?
TC: Go to the Phoenix Guild of Puppetry to get connected with people. Make a video of yourself working and send it to GAPT. If they like it they may put you on. Find your thing. I'm not much of a puppet builder or manipulator, but I'm pretty funny. So, I sell that.

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