The Internet is – of course – full of wonderful things. Still, just when you think you’ve seen it all there is even now the occasional surprise and the occasional gem. Then there is something so superb that you realise that there was a little gap in your heart and soul that was just waiting for this thing to come along and take up residency. That’s what happened when we first saw a Punchy Players video. So brilliant, so funny, so GOOD; were we not guffawing so hard we’d say we were speechless. The genii behind Punchy Players are Chris and Jeff who have an obvious love and affection for their subjects. We know from our fellow Hollywood-obsessed queers-n-queens on the Interwebs (including some of our very own Mermates) that there is quite the hardcore obsessive following for Punchy Players – as well there should be. As much as we constantly need more Punchy Players for that spot we have reserved for them, we also needed to know all about the PP world. So grab your Cream of Wheat, your Mounds, your Joys and your good powdered donuts and enter with us into the day-to-day worlds of your favourite Golden Hollywood divas.
How did the idea for the first Punchy Players film come about?
CHRIS: Jeff and I share a similar sense of humor and admired many of the same classic stars and TV shows. We would laugh a lot together and make up dialog when watching TV or just talking about our favorites. I told Jeff that I felt there was a project we could do together, and that our combined abilities could create something fun, but I wasn’t sure what it would be. One day Jeff was singing the old Cream of Wheat product jingle as Judy Garland. It was hilarious. I told him to record it and I would put some visuals together for it and share it on youtube. We’ve done quite a few more episodes since that one, but “Judy’s Cream of Wheat” continues to be a favorite.
JEFF: We each contribute equally to the ideas and the lines for each episode. In general I oversee the audio and Chris oversees the visual production.
We like to think of the Punchy Players going around doing Judy, Liza and Ann Miller impressions all the live long day. Are we close?
JEFF: Yes, this is actually quite accurate. We find ourselves speaking as these characters in a variety of real life situations.
Exactly how many hours of The Judy Garland Show has been watched to perfect that impression? And what do you love about her?
JEFF: I have been fascinated by all things Judy since I was four years old. I have every episode of her TV show committed to memory. She is a complete original. Her persona is so warm, unique, and delicious she is almost indescribable. As much as I love her singing. I have always been entertained by her way with words.
CHRIS: Judy had such a beautiful quality that was so rare and perfect. She was a combination of so many things. She could do it all. Jeff does such a wonderful, spirited impression of her. He emphasizes her fun side. I really like that.
Do you don an Ann Miller wig when recording the dialogue (she hopes…)?
CHRIS: I try to make Jeff wear one but he said it itches and is way too heavy.
Part of our staunch fandom of Ann Miller (apart from the wigs) is her aggressive defence of hyper-glamour. What do you love about her?
JEFF: What I love about her is that she holds nothing back. She is very honest. In spite of being wacky and funny, in nearly every interview I have seen with her, she has a longing for the Old Hollywood system that kept stars looking their sparkly and spangly best.
CHRIS: Ann always looks her best and goes around with her microphone, even in her house. She’s always ready for her public.
How do you decide which divas to use in your films?
JEFF: There are two factors involved. First is, who do we love. Second, and I often wish this was not so, it comes down to who can we imitate.
CHRIS: Yes, we try to include our favorites. They are a great motivation and joy.
Who might we see in future episodes? Any old-school/current diva crossovers?
JEFF: Someone we both adore who has not yet made an appearance is Doris Day. We are trying to work her into a future episode.
CHRIS: We haven’t done as much with current divas mostly because we are such big fans of the old-school ones.
You made a film especially for a Judy Garland fan event, ‘Judy in Hollywood’. How did that come about? And so… ehem… do you take requests? (Cough… Ethel Merman… cough) 😉 ❤ xxx
JEFF: Judy in Hollywood was a request from a friend of author Coyne Steven Sanders. Steve happened to be a friend of mine who wrote the definitive book about Judy’s television series called “Rainbow’s End”. When his friend asked us to create a special video for his Judy fan event, we were honored. It was meant to be a surprise for him. I slipped and told him we were planning it and he was excited. The sad part is that Steve died suddenly, and never saw the finished product. We dedicated the piece to him.
CHRIS: “Audrey Airlines” was a request from a friend as well. We’ve received several requests from fans and we may surprise them with one or two in the future.
We’ve been reliably informed by our Mermates that lines from Punchy Players films get quoted on an almost daily basis (example: “I looked behind the dresser and there was Howard Keel!”): did you know this? How do you feel about this? Was it part of your ultimate goal to have people pretending to be Judy Garland snooping around Ann Miller’s house?
CHRIS: We quote our favorites from the comedies and stars we love, so to hear that people have fun quoting the lines we have written is very flattering. One person said he went into a store and started doing the lines and singing about candy bars as Judy. Too funny! Some have said that thinking about the dialog often has them laughing in waiting areas or in situations where they wouldn’t normally be laughing, causing others to wonder. We’re honored and glad that we’ve brought some smiles and laughs.
Did you expect the cult following you’ve built on the back of these films?
JEFF: I think Chris always had a bigger vision for Punchy Players. My nature is to be more skeptical, and I actually worried that people might not understand what we were spoofing. I am happy I was wrong.
CHRIS: I’m not sure I expected quite the reception that our productions have gotten, but I did sense the irresistible possibilities of such a project. It’s great to connect with all of you who enjoy the comedy and love the same classic personalities and entertainers that we do. Fans of Punchy Players have been so friendly and we’re happy to have heard from so many lovely people.
Most of the featured talent in your films are no longer with us but some are, such as Miss Julie Andrews and Miss Liza Minnelli. Do you know if they are aware of your work? Would a Miss Andrews Herself or Miss Minnelli Herself cameo be a dream for the future?
JEFF: I would be thrilled to hear that they approve. I would also not ever want to offend them in any way, and we have put a lot of work into having these stars maintain their dignity. We love them, after all.
CHRIS: We’ve enjoyed putting these pieces together because we’re such admirers of these stars. If one of them did make a cameo at some point, yes, it would be a dream come true and you’d have to pick me up off the floor.
Could an extension of Punch yPlayers films perhaps be an actual Ann Miller Frog Collection? Just for me? Please? Think of the revenue you would rake in…
JEFF: Isn’t that Frog hilarious? The first time I saw that Chris’ visual of that wig on the frog’s head, I laughed myself sick.
If you could live (perhaps briefly, to consider your nerves) with any of the Punchy characters, who would top your list?
JEFF: I am afraid if I lived with any of them my illusions might be shattered, but I have always wanted to sit and laugh with Judy Garland. I would not say no to meeting or knowing any of them.
CHRIS: If I had a choice to spend time with one of them, I think I’d have to choose Julie Andrews since I’m such a fan of hers. I think that one of the reasons I thought of concepts like Judy Garland in a grocery store, is that I’ve often daydreamed of how fun it would be to just hang out with favorite stars in everyday situations. I know that many people, including us, feel that our favorite celebrities and shows are like old friends that bring us comfort. Punchy Players is a way to live those moments and spend more time with those we enjoy, even if just in make-believe.