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November 25, 2017

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Q+A: Simon Morley of ‘Puppetry of the Penis’ talks path to Las Vegas

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Simon Morley and David Friend of “Puppetry of the Penis.”

‘Puppetry of the Penis’

Christopher J. Cannon and Rich Binning of “Puppetry of the Penis.” Launch slideshow »

Puppetry of the Penis

It’s one of the most unique and unusual shows ever brought to Las Vegas, and because it involves male nudity, it won’t be staged in a Strip casino hotel. Vegas DeLuxe has the “below the belt” exclusive that rehearsals start next month for this full-frontal exhibition performance at Erotic Heritage Museum introducing the amazing flexibility of the human penis, testicles and scrotum, aka “genital origami.”

It might sound like a human anatomy biology lesson, but “Puppetry of the Penis” is laugh-out-loud outrageous humor. Grandmothers love it, bachelorette parties live for it. It’s not even Chippendales on steroids. “Puppetry of the Penis” goes way beyond the stripped-down skivvies of our Rio hunks. It goes way beyond “The Full Monty.”

Note to Penny Pibbets: These are not sock puppets, and they are not shadow puppets. Two nude male comics will actually bend, twist and fold their “happy tackle” into various shapes. Maybe Neil Patrick Harris will add it to next year’s Oscar broadcast after his tighty whiteys sketch Sunday night during the Oscars spoofing a Michael Keaton scene from Best Picture winner “Birdman.”

What began appropriately Down Under in 1997 as a calendar photo shoot for producer and performer Simon Morley turned into requests for live demonstrations of “dick tricks.” Since then, it went on to become a phenomenally successful worldwide show that’s appeared in Britain, Canada, Europe, South Africa, Argentina and of course across Australia and New Zealand.

It’s certain to cause a firestorm of controversy. In fact, when Jay Leno interviewed the two stars of the show on “The Tonight Show” when it played Los Angeles and San Francisco, the NBC affiliate in Salt Lake City refused to air the program.

Finally, it’s coming to Las Vegas where the show’s offices will be headquartered to train other comedy actors in its skills for versions in other U.S. cities.

Here’s a YouTube video glimpse at the show, but please be forewarned that this is for adults only.

WARNING: ADULT CONTENT Puppetry of the Penis

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Rich Binning and Christopher J. Cannon of “Puppetry of the Penis.”

Next up, though, for Simon is getting the debut Italian version launched as he preps its Las Vegas run. I caught up with him as he finished packing for his flight to Milan, Italy.

It’s no secret that I love my champagne, and one of the tricks in his highly unusual repertoire is to make the one-eyed, moisture-seeking missile of love look like a speeding greyhound by encircling it inside the wire cage of a champagne cork.

How difficult is it to put a penis inside the wire around a champagne cork?

Very difficult. Depending on the size, of course. Are we talking a magnum?

Do you find it strange that in our Sin City, you can’t show the male organ in a casino showroom? Boobs, yes, but not the trouser snake?

Absolutely. I’m the first one to admit that there is a time and a place for the show. I don’t think it’s for everyone, and I understand that. It really is quite harmless, apart from the two-story-high video screen of male genitalia in your face. There are no swear words. Grandmothers love our show, and I really think they should be able to have a glass of brandy while enjoying some penis.

How does one ever get the idea of doing a show about the provocative pecker?

I must admit to you that it’s a party trick that’s pretty much been taken way too far. For me it started as sibling rivalries. There were four boys in my family. I think in Australia, we have a more civil climate for having a few drinks and taking your pants off and entertaining your friends. Which is why it’s perfectly suited for Las Vegas, of course. You’ve got the perfect climate out here for this sort of show.

Was it a case of seeing who had the largest or who could do more with theirs?

To be honest, it’s not about size. It’s about how big a laugh you can get, and that’s how it’s always been. I also was touring standup comedians around Australia, and I quickly realized that one of my floppy hard drives could get a much bigger laugh than what their ordinary comedy routines were getting. So after a lot of encouragement from some of the funniest people in Australia, I decided to take the plunge and show all onstage.

Is there in fact an art form called genital origami?

There is now. I’ve started quite a movement. I’m actually leaving the house in about 10 minutes and jumping on a plane to Milan because we have auditions there in a few days. There are about 30 boys all lining up hoping to be the first penis troupe in Italy.

Will you be starring in your Las Vegas version of the show?

I will probably make an appearance, but I’m in my late 40s now. I feel it’s a younger man’s game.

Have you cast the two people who will bare all for the show in Las Vegas?

Yes, we have. We’re still looking for more people. Ideally, I’d like to have two teams who are rotating there. We’ll also be using Las Vegas as a home base to do some American touring. We’re actively looking for more people, but we do have some experienced puppeteers who have worked for us in the past who are going to be coming into Las Vegas.

Why do you call them puppeteers rather than actors or comedians?

It’s a different show. It’s very much on its own. It’s not a play, it’s not classic standup comedy, it’s somewhere in the middle. It’s old-school vaudeville. It’s something you might have seen back in the Shakespearean days of bawdy reviews. I think it’s very forward in its content but very old in its format.

Do you find the penis a very unattractive part of the human body that is attractive to your audiences?

I wouldn’t say unattractive. I find it hilarious. I think God did a wonderful part in putting these parts together, but, you know, he really just dropped the ball when he got to the male genitals. It’s like a kiwi hanging off a sausage. This is the thing that always struck me. It is very laughable, but it was the last taboo.

No one’s allowed to laugh about genitalia, especially women. Especially in other countries, I mean here they’re a little bit more liberated. I think it’s very therapeutic, not just for women but for men just to really let go and not only have a laugh at it, but put it up on a big video screen for an hour and really let go.

I did look at your YouTube video. I found the boomerang rather appalling to look at, but I thought the hopping kangaroo was quite amusing.

Right, there you go. There’s something for everyone in there.

Simon, walk me through if you could what the original reaction is from an audience to what their reaction is one hour later? What does it start out with, and how does it end?

I think it starts with a bit of shock and awe. That would be the best way to describe it, and that’s why I love doing the show because when you’re standing there looking into the faces of the crowd, there are just a lot of jewels in the crowd. Even though they know what’s coming, a good portion of them actually are really thinking that there might be some shadow puppets involved.

When it finally comes and there’s the big reveal, there’s a lot of shock. Once you get toward the end of the show, it’s just hilarity with people falling off their chairs laughing. We saved some of the more difficult stuff for the end there just to give them a bit of a more wow factor.

Is some of what you do onstage in full-frontal view of the audience difficult to make a penis do?

Not really. If there’s one thing a man knows how to do from a very early age, it’s handling our genitals without hurting themselves. As far as being nervous or a little shy up there, it doesn’t really happen. As soon as you get the reaction you’re looking for, which is people laughing at your genitals, you feel quite powerful and invincible up there.

What’s the most difficult thing for the penis to do in the show?

There’s a very difficult one that I do, which is the skateboard. That can be a little tricky. It all depends. Those who are circumcised can do a much better Loch Ness Monster, but they’re going to struggle with the Eiffel Tower.

When you send out a casting call, do you have to specify measurements? Or is it unnecessary?

It’s not necessary because that’s the wonderful thing about our show: Everyone is two stories high because of the video screens. What we’re looking for is we don’t want anyone who’s huge. We don’t want to upset the old ladies. We’re just looking for a nice average package because we don’t just use the penis. We involve the testicles and the scrotum. We’re looking for a well-balanced package is the best way to describe it.

The show has been running nearly 20 years, two years shy of 20. It’s crazy. Who would ever have thought a show based on Mr. Happy would last that long?

I knew the show was going to have legs because it’s so unusual. I knew it could cross boundaries. It could cross language boundaries, and it could cross cultural boundaries. I must admit when we first took it to the Edinburgh Art Festival in 2000, I just saw the reaction.

That’s one of the largest festivals in the world, and the reaction we got there from everyone was just I knew we had something pretty special. To be honest, I didn’t think it was still going to be a big part of my life at this age.

What would you have done if you had never started playing with the rose and thorns?

I really don’t know. I was a comedy promoter, so I probably would have stayed in the business somewhere. I’ve had a great love for food for some time, but I dare say at the moment anyone would be a little wary about anything I cook knowing what my hands are capable of doing. Be assured I’ve washed a lot.

The thought of Italians playing with spaghetti and then making shapes out of their salami is beyond my comprehension.

I’ve just been racking my brain. They’re going to come up with the cannoli, there’s going to be all sorts of tubular pasta going on, they’re going to take the food thing to a new level. Twirl it round a fork?

The question is, and laugh at this with some appropriate comical relief, does it take balls to do this show?

It does. It’s an absolute prerequisite — and a complete lack of shame. We’ve always wanted to bring the show to Las Vegas. I just knew it was a natural home for it. The licensing laws, fair enough, they’re designed to stop a lot of sex shows and people touching themselves, but it really has crippled a very harmless, wonderful, healthy penis show until now.

We’re just so excited to bring the show there. Hopefully it will be a bit of a tradition. I think we’re going to find a real home there; we’re going to stay put in Las Vegas.

* * *

“Puppetry” stretches itself to the limits with more than 40 hilarious origami installations including the Pelican and the signature creation, the Hamburger. It will be performed in new exhibition space at Erotic Heritage Museum on Industrial Road behind Trump Tower and Fashion Show mall. Performances start this spring, and tickets can be purchased at the museum or online at PuppetryofthePenis.com.

Vanity Fair described “Puppetry of the Penis” as “dementedly good fun.” The New York Times has noted, “Sends audience members into hysterics.” The Toronto Star raved, “Wildly, unbelievably, exhilaratingly funny — head-shakingly, mind-bendingly, inhibition-shatteringly outrageous for an audience that ran from 20-somethings to senior citizens with everybody laughing.”

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past 15 years giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Sun A&E Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

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