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Punch and Judy

Punch and Judy is a traditional, popular, and usually very violent puppet show featuring Pulcinella (Mr. Punch) and his wife Judy. The performance consists of a sequence of short scenes, each depicting an interaction between two characters, most typically Mr. Punch and one other character (who usually falls victim to Mr. Punch's club). It is often associated with traditional British seaside culture. The various episodes of Punch and Judy are performed in the spirit of outrageous comedy — often provoking shocked laughter — and are dominated by the clowning of Mr. Punch.

The show is performed by a single puppeteer inside the booth, known since Victorian times as a "professor" or "punchman", and assisted sometimes by a "bottler" who corrals the audience outside the booth, introduces the performance, and collects the money ("the bottle"). The bottler might also play accompanying music or sound effects on a drum or guitar, and engage in back chat with the puppets, sometimes repeating lines that may have been difficult for the audience to understand. In Victorian times, the drum and pan pipes were the instruments of choice. Today, the audience is also encouraged to participate, calling out to the characters on the stage to warn them of danger or clue them in to what is going on behind their backs. Also nowadays, most professors work solo, since the need for a bottler became less important when busking with the show gave way to paid engagements at private parties or public events.

"[Pulcinella] went down particularly well with Restoration British audiences, fun-starved after years of Puritanism. We soon changed Punch's name, transformed him from a marionette to a hand puppet, and he became, really, a spirit of Britain – a subversive maverick who defies authority, a kind of puppet equivalent to our political cartoons."

The Punch and Judy show has roots in the 16th-century Italian commedia dell'arte. The figure of Punch is derived from the Neapolitan stock character of Pulcinella, which was anglicized to Punchinello. He is a manifestation of the Lord of Misrule and Trickster figures of deep-rooted mythologies. Punch's wife was originally called "Joan."

  • Mr. Punch
  • Judy
  • The Baby
  • The Constable
  • Joey the Clown
  • The Crocodile
  • The Skeleton
  • The Doctor
  • Toby the Dog
  • The Ghost
  • The Lawyer
  • Hector the Horse
  • Pretty Polly
  • The Hangman (a.k.a. Jack Ketch)
  • The Devil
  • The Beadle
  • Jim Crow ('The black man')
  • Mr. Scaramouche
  • The Servant (or 'The Minstrel')
  • The Blind Man
  • In FoxTrot, an American comic strip, character Jason Fox plays a prank on his sister Paige by pretending to do a Punch and Judy show using only Judy. When Paige asked, "Where's Punch?" Jason had the Judy puppet "punch" Paige in the nose.
  • Punch and Judy are Agatha's adoptive parents in Girl Genius (under the pseudonyms Adam and Lilith Clay). They were also companions and creations of the legendary Heterodyne Boys, one of which was Agatha's biological father, and are depicted as characters in traveling theatre troupes depicting the Heterodyne Boys' exploits.
  • The DC Comics villains Punch and Jewellee, wearing greasepaint and harlequin clothing styled after Punch and Judy puppets, appeared regularly in the pages of Suicide Squad.
  • In Hergé's The Adventures of Tintin, the comic Explorers on the Moon features the Captain Haddock telling the two bumbling detectives, known as Thomson and Thompson, "they need two punch and judy men like you on the pier". To which the Thomsons demand an apology.
  • In the Marx Brothers' comedy film Monkey Business (1931), Harpo joins a live Punch & Judy show (performed by an uncredited Al Flosso, a famous American Punchman) while trying to avoid capture by the crew members of the ship he has stowed away on.
  • In the movie Charade (1963), Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn watch a Punch and Judy show in a Paris park.
  • The Ingmar Bergman film The Silence (1963, or Tystnaden) features a boy, Johan, who plays with Punch and Judy dolls.
  • In the film Time Bandits (1981), a Punch and Judy show is seen when the characters are transported back in time.
  • The horror film Dolls (1987), by director Stuart Gordon, features a young girl named Judy, who is gifted with a Punch doll that comes to life and protects her.
  • In the animated movie The Little Mermaid (1989), the protagonist interacts with a Punch and Judy show while exploring the town.
  • At the beginning of the holiday film "The Santa Clause" (1994), Scott Calvin (played by Tim Allen) speads Christmas Eve at the North Pole in a suite that includes a self-operating Punch and Judy puppet set; the pair momentarily break the fourth wall during their performance to exclaim in would-be shock at the sight of Calvin in his boxers.
  • In the film 102 Dalmatians (2000), Chloe, Kevin, several of the dogs, and Waddlesworth the parrot attend a Punch and Judy show, which is disrupted when Oddball the spotless Dalmatian puppy attempts to steal a spotted sweater from one of the puppets.
  • In Land of the Dead (2005), a group of slum children watch a rudimentary Punch and Judy-inspired show where a zombie puppet gets beaten by a human puppet.
  • One of the killers in the movie Screamtime was a puppeteer, who used a Mr Punch doll.
  • The dolls appear in Gone Girl (2014), as part of the clue and suspected "murder" weapon.
  • Game designer John Tynes created a role-playing game called Puppetland based on the Punch and Judy shows and stories.
  • Edward Picot created a five-part puppet-animation of the Punch and Judy story called The Calamitous Tale of Mr Punch
  • In Mrs. Miniver (On Hampstead Heath) by Jan Struther, the family take in a Punch and Judy: "The baby yelled and was flung out of the window; Judy scolded and was bludgeoned to death; the beadle, the doctor, and the hangman tried in turn to perform their professional duties and were outrageously thwarted; Punch, cunning, violent and unscrupulous, with no virtues whatever except humour and vitality, came out triumphant in the end. And all the children, their faces upturned in the sun like a bed of pink daisies, laughed and clapped and shouted with delight."
  • In Diana Gabaldon's 2011 novel The Scottish Prisoner, Jamie Fraser watches a Punch and Judy show in London in 1760.
  • Charles Dickens' novel The Old Curiosity Shop (1841) features the Punch and Judy performing partners Mr. Codlin and Short Trotters.
  • The Tragical Comedy or Comical Tragedy of Mr. Punch (1994), a graphic novel written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Dave McKean, explores a boy's memories triggered by a Punch and Judy show.
  • Russell Hoban's novel Riddley Walker (1980) utilizes Punch and Judy characters as quasi-political symbols.
  • Punch, Judy, and several other traditional characters figure prominently in the plot of Christopher Fowler's novel Bryant and May and the Memory of Blood: A Peculiar Crimes Mystery (2011), which centers on a re-creation of real life crimes depicted in a Punch and Judy show.
  • In Diana Wynne Jones' children's novel The Magicians of Caprona (1980), a Punch and Judy show is a part of an important series of events.
  • In The Anubis Gates (1983) by Tim Powers, the clown-magician Horrabin is introduced performing a morbid version of the Punch story.
  • In Rivers of London (US title Midnight Riot) by Ben Aaronovitch the main antagonist is the ghost of Mr. Punch and murders in a style that mirrors the Punch and Judy story.
  • A Punch and Judy show was featured in M.R. James's story, "The Story of a Disappearance and an Appearance".
  • A character in the Gillian Flynn novel, Gone Girl (as well as the 2014 film of the same name), receives Punch and Judy dolls as a gift.
  • In John Masefield's 1935 novel - "The Box of Delights" the main character Kay Harker meets the centuries old Cole Hawlings who performs his Punch and Judy show several times through the novel.
  • The Punch and Judy show is popular in the town of Mejis in Stephen King's The Dark Tower series.
  • In the Terry Pratchett novel Dodger, Punch and Judy is mentioned several times, usually with nothing but disgust from the titular character, who finds no humour from something he has seen play out many times in the rookeries of Dickensian London.
  • The Punches, Mr. Punch and his wife, are a troublesome couple prone to domestic violence calls that become neighbors and thorns in the side of DCI Jack Spratt in The Fourth Bear, the second Nursery Crimes novel by Jasper Fforde published in 2006.
  • In Robert Coover's short story "Punch", from his 2005 collection A Child Again, Mr. Punch murders several people (including Judy and their baby) with a stick, and then proceeds to have sex with Polly.
  • The Judybats, an alternative rock band from Knoxville, Tennessee, took their name from a song written by a friend of theirs, which contained the line "punch me with a judybat" in a punning allusion to Punch and Judy shows.
  • Early concepts of Pink Floyd's rock opera The Wall centered on the characters of Punch and Judy. These later became Pink and his unnamed wife.
  • The American vocal group The Cascades released the song "Punch and Judy" (1963), about a girl who always makes a fool of her boyfriend.
  • The band Marillion had a #29 hit in the UK in 1984, with a song entitled "Punch and Judy", satirising marital strife.
  • The band The Stranglers included a song on their 1984 album Aural Sculpture called "Punch & Judy."
  • The band Lightning Seeds' album Jollification features a song called "Punch and Judy", that deals with issues of domestic violence.
  • "Punch and Judy" is the eighth track on the album Either/Or by Elliott Smith.
  • XTC wrote a song entitled "Punch and Judy" during recording sessions for their album English Settlement.
  • Punch and Judy inspired a 1967 opera of the same name by Harrison Birtwistle.
  • The classic version of the Punch and Judy show is done at the Texas Renaissance Festival every year in the Sherwood Forest area of the festival. It features all the classic characters and it is done in classic format and stays true to how it was done in the Victorian age.
  • In February 2012 a London-based theatre company Improbable performed a string of shows at the Barbican Theatre London, called The Devil & Mr Punch which is an adaptation of the Punch & Judy story.
  • Punch, the former British humour magazine, was named after Mr. Punch, and featured his typical likeness as its logo.
  • One of the episodes of the British sitcom Are You Being Served? is entitled "The Punch and Judy Affair" in which the cast plans to put on a life-sized Punch and Judy show.
  • In Bewitched, Season 8, Episode 8, annoyed with a violent Punch and Judy skit on a television show whose advertising is handled by her father, Tabitha zaps herself onto the set to help Judy, and becomes an instant hit with the sponsor, who wants her to continue to be part of the show, despite her parents' objections.
  • The 1992 children's television series Big Comfy Couch frequently had puppets resembling Punch and Judy called Punch and Moody.
  • In the Japanese anime Cowboy Bebop, the presenters of the Big Shot TV show are named Punch and Judy.
  • In the Doctor Who serial Snakedance, a Punch and Judy show is briefly recreated despite the alien setting. The only difference to the traditional show is that the Crocodile is replaced with the snake-like alien Mara.
  • The Doctor also used a puppet of Mr. Punch to 'sonic' the Ice Governess in the Dr. Who Christmas Special The Snowmen (2012).
  • In Season 2, episode 1 of Luther features a killer who wears a Mr. Punch mask, and DCI John Luther refers to him, accordingly.
  • A Punch and Judy show is a running theme, and its professor an important character, in the Midsomer Murders episode "Destroying Angel".
  • A Punch and Judy show is a running theme and its unknown professor the mastermind in The Avengers episode "Look — (Stop Me If You've Heard This One) — But There Were These Two Fellers..." (broadcast on TV on 4 December 1968 and later adapted for the South African radio series as "Stop Me If You've Heard This ...")
  • Two characters, one named Punch and one named Judy, appeared in nine episodes of The Batman as henchmen of the Joker.
  • The two appeared as security of the "Puppet Government" in The Goodies episode "The Goodies Rule - O.K.?".
  • Police Chief Wiggum refers to Bart and his girlfriend Gina as "Punch and Juvie" in The Simpsons episode "The Wandering Juvie".
  • In the final season of Downton Abbey, the characters Tom Branson and Bertie Pelham perform a Punch and Judy show for Lord Grantham's grandchildren.
  • Mr. Punch was seen in one of the idents for the now defunct channel BBC Choice.
  • In episode 31 of The Jungle Bunch, "Punch Toad and Judy Frog" is a parody of Punch and Judy.
  • The Punch cigar brand was named after Mr. Punch, and features him on the label
  • Punch and Judy: A Short History with the Original Dialogue by John Payne Collier, illustrated by George Cruikshank (1929, 2006) Dover Books
  • Mr. Punch by Philip John Stead (1950) Evans Brothers Ltd.
  • Punch & Judy: A History by George Speaight (1955, 1970) Plays, Inc.
  • The Art of the Puppet by Bil Baird (1965) Ridge Press/MacMillan
  • Punch & Judy: A Play for Puppets by Ed Emberley (1965) Little, Brown
  • Punch and Judy by Peter Fraser (1970) B.T. Batsford, Ltd.
  • Punch and Judy: Its Origin and Evolution by Michael Byrom (1972, 1988) DaSilva Puppet Books
  • The Punch & Judy Show: History, Tradition and Meaning by Robert Leach (1985) Univ. of Georgia Press


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