IN 2006, Belfast comedian Paul Currie fulfilled a childhood dream when he became a Jim Henson muppeteer. In 2010 that dream bubble burst, and it came from a conversation with the man who was and is Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch.
The 84-year-old Carroll Spinney is one of the the last remaining original Muppeteers. Speaking with him made Currie realise he was clinging on to something that was long gone. That realisation has inspired the new show, Hot Donkey, which won Best Show at the Comedian’s Choice Awards in Edinburgh this year, and is coming to the Vodafone Comedy Carnival.
Following that conversation, Currie ditched the TV puppet career and has focused on stand up. Now, he feels ready to speak about this experience. “Why do we watch as Henson’s art and passionate anarchy is diluted and exploited by money obsessed corporations?" Paul has asked. "It was never about the iconic puppets, but about the puppeteers. You simply can't have one without the other. You can't take a puppet and just place it on another performer's arm, just as you can’t hand another comedian a bowler hat, moustache, and cane and say, 'You’re Charlie Chaplin now. Go make more Chaplin films'."
Hot Donkey is Currie’s most personal show to date, as it examines letting go of our obsessions with icons and brands. It looks at our fascination with rule breakers, and those who question social structure, while we remain scared of breaking rules and questioning the world ourselves. It asks that we take iconic artists as inspiration, but only that, as we must ultimately follow our own heart and gut, to create new art and new culture.
“Yes, Jim Henson is dead and so are The Muppets, but Henson inspiration is very alive," says Currie. "He has taught me to be original, and stand out, and push my own art! Long live the new anarchist artists and visionaries! The real creatives who put quality over quantity!”
Paul Currie performs Hot Donkey at The Mick Lally Theatre on Sunday October 28 at 8pm. He also performs an all ages show in The Mick Lally on Sunday 28 at 3pm; and at mixed bill shows in The King's Head (Friday 26, 2.30pm ); Black Box Theatre (Friday 26, 7pm ); and at the Spiegeltent (Saturday 27, 9pm ).