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Theatre / Punch and Judy

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I did NOT see that coming!
"That's the way to do it!"
Mr. Punch

Punch and Judy is a traditional puppet show, most familiar to British children as a seaside attraction. It is generally played by a single puppetmaster called a "Professor", with two characters on the stage at any one time. These include Mr. Punch, a hunchbacked jester with a squawking voice and a big stick; his long-suffering wife, Judy; their baby; an unnamed ghost; Joey the clown; the policeman, and a sausage-loving crocodile (sometimes named Snap), and in some performances a hangman and the Devil.

As its history can be traced back to the 16th century, it makes all of the show's tropes Older Than Steam at least.

Punch And Judy provides examples of:

  • Advertised Extra: Judy is a titular character, but doesn't usually have a very large role — she is traditionally killed off very early in the show. That said, some modern versions of the show averts the trope by having her survive, and go on to appear several times throughout.
  • Amusing Injuries: People are often beaten up for comedic effect.
  • Audience Participation: The children are expected to reply to Mr. Punch's Catchphrase, "That's the way to do it" with a shout of "Oh no, it isn't!"
  • Black Comedy: So black that many modern versions are often heavily censored compared to more historical stagings.
  • Catchphrase:
    • "That's the way to do it!"
    • "HE'S BEHIND YOU!!"
    • "Who [insert random horrid act inflicted upon the baby by Punch]?"
    • "Rooty-tooty-toot!"
  • Commedia dell'Arte: Punch is based on the Pulcinella character.
  • Composite Character: Some performances combine the character of the Ghost with the character of Judy, making it Judy's ghost.
  • Dragged Off to Hell: Some renditions end with The Devil showing up to collect Mr. Punch for his misdeeds. On the other hand, a popular twist is for Mr. Punch to succeed in killing the Devil!
  • The Executioner: A recurring character is the Hangman ("Jack Ketch") who shows up to execute Mr. Punch for his crimes. Punch, being Punch, is usually able to fool the Hangman into being Hoist by His Own Petard.
  • Hand Puppet: All of the characters, except the baby, although they were originally marionettes.
  • Head Bob: Traditionally the puppets don't have articulated mouths, and use head bobbing to indicate which one is speaking.
  • Ironic Echo: There's at least one rendition of the act where Punch ends up playing one trick too many on Snap the Crocodile, who promptly eats him (off-stage, of course) and returns repeating Mr Punch's "da-da-da" sound, culminating in a mock belch.
  • Karma Houdini: In many versions, Punch is a psychopath who kills his own baby by throwing it out of a window, beats his wife to death with a stick, kills several other characters whom he encounters and finally outwits the devil himself to get away completely scot free.
  • Lighter and Softer: While in traditional performances, it's pretty explicitly made clear that Punch kills the other characters — but several performances soften it to just having him "beat" them, knocking them unconscious and so forth, and it's made clear that they aren't dead and will be fine.
  • Minstrel Shows: A widely performed version in the 1850s featured a Blackface minstrel puppet named "Jim Crow." Needless to say, that character vanished without a trace from later performances.
  • Non-Ironic Clown: Joey the Clown, who is probably the nicest of all the characters. Where Punch is a Comedic Sociopath, Joey is more a harmless prankster who is generally portrayed as a friend to the audience. Being one of the few genuinely sympathetic characters, he tends to survive the show.
  • Refuge in Audacity: The entire show, especially the violence, is played as outrageous comedy.
  • Slapstick: The style of the show, even named after the type of stick Punch uses.
  • Sole Survivor: In some tellings, a crocodile will be the one character Punch fails to kill. Joey the Clown is also usually spared; in some performances Joey is the last character on stage when the show ends, and the one who says goodbye to the audience, sometimes with a comment like "Mr. Punch is gone, and if there's no Mr. Punch there's no show — goodbye!"
  • Throw the Dog a Bone:
    • In some shows, Judy will get her hands on Punch's stick and beat him with it. Though this is usually followed by Punch snatching it back and beating her with it.
    • There was a TV short of an act that involves Punch playing dumb to try and get out of helping Judy put away some groceries because he wants something to eat. After Judy has put them all away herself, she finally asks what he wants — only to be told that he wants the very things she put away. She then angrily beats him over the head with each (canned) item in question.
  • Unsympathetic Comedy Protagonist: Mr. Punch is an unapologetic sociopath who beats and even kills people with very little provocation, but he's still the protagonist of the show.
  • Villain Protagonist: Well, it's hard to see Mr. Punch as anything but the villain of the play, given how pretty much every act of murder in the show is performed by him.
  • Would Hurt a Child. Would not only Hurt A Child, but would Throw A Baby Out Of The Window For Crying Too Loudly.