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Strassman ain't the dummy

David Strassman with Chuck Wood.
David Strassman with Chuck Wood.

HE may play with dolls for a living, but David Strassman’s show has nothing to do with children.

An unsuspecting punter at one of his shows last December discovered this the hard way.

That punter turned out to be former Queenslander of the Year Ron Grant and he made his distaste known by heading to the front of stage and yelling at the ventriloquist for the foul language he voiced through dummy Chuck Wood.

"If it had been anyone else I’m sure everyone would have just kicked him in the pants," says Strassman.

"My show is not for children. He probably saw the poster with Ted.E.Bare and thought it was a friendly show, but that’s not what it is.

"What was strange was that he actually got up and came to the front of the stage. Most people would just leave – for him to come up was really strange.

"I just did what I had to do, I made jokes. I respect my elders so I didn’t take it too far, but I had to come out on top because people have paid money to see me."

Despite calling Los Angeles home, Strassman is a familiar face in Australia – little wonder, considering he has spent the past 20 years travelling here three times a year to do shows. His dummies are just as well known, in particular Chuck and Ted.% E.Bare.

Strassman’s gig has been evolving since he first ordered Chuck as a child. However, what the dummy has evolved into after 27 years on the stage alongside Strassman is by no means childish. Chuck is a 13-year-old boy. He’s pre-pubescent and downright nasty. And he swears like no other and has demonic tendencies.

The thing that made the biggest impact on Strassman’s longevity as a ventriloquist was when he and a friend decided to put robotics in the dummies.

The dummies can be controlled remotely, bringing the profession into the 21st century.

Strassman says it isn’t just the movement that captures his audience’s imagination.

"It’s theatre, it’s not just a guy on stage with a doll," he says.

"There’s conflict and characters with serious neurosis. That’s why people relate to Chuck.

"The character’s twisted and neurotic aspects are what make them so believable."

Strassman comes out with a new show each and every time he tours. This time around the crux of the show is based around Strassman’s own retirement. Unfortunately for the dummies, if Strassman’s out, so are they. Being the clever boy he is, Chuck has wised up to what’s going on.

"Chuck has figured out, because he’s in my head, that if I retire, all the puppets die," Strassman says.

"So his idea is to save them all by taking over as the puppeteer.

"At one point in the show the dummies wish that I never existed and it comes true and the world is turned around so that I was never here. It’s all very twisted and weird."

A grown man who plays with dolls for a living may be considered a little odd in some circles, and the fact Strassman’s father was a psychiatrist gave rise to a few accusations in the press earlier in his career.

If anything you might think his father’s profession would help in the formation of the ventriloquist’s characters, but he was quite curt in his response.

"It’s made zero difference but, yeah, I’m all f***** up," he says.

"Some journalist years ago picked up on that and decided that I was all f***** up growing up, because I lay on my dad’s couch every afternoon and that’s why now I have to play with dolls.

"It’s not true but yeah, it makes a good story so I just let it ride."

Tickets are on sale now for David Strassman’s, Chuck’s Revenge tour. The tour heads to the Lismore Worker’s Club May 29, 6pm. Tickets $43, 6621 7401 www.lismoreworkers.com.au.

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