|Kasper's English Cousin Punch
Punch was introduced in Great Britain in the seventeenth century by an Italian performer
named Pietro Gimonde. The original Pulcinella was a marionette. Over time, his name
was anglicized to "Punch," and he became a hand puppet. "Pleased as punch" probably
originated from Punch and Judy puppet theater.
Whereas the german Kasper has abandoned much of the bawdiness of 17th century
street performance, Punch embraces it. The traditional Kasper and modern Punch use a
slapstick to beat the crocodile, police, and even the Devil. "Slapstick" originates from the
Commedia Dell'arte baton made of wooden slats fastened together like a castanet. On
impact, the slapstick makes a loud slapping sound. The term has become synonymous
with physical comedy.
Punch is aggravated by his whining child, nagging wife (Judy), and ineffective bureaucracy.
This eventually leads to Punch hitting other characters with his slapstick, but it is a very
ritualized form of violence. Traditional shows ended with Punch defeating the ultimate evil
and proclaiming "Huzzah, Huzzah, I've killed the Devil!" In modern endings, Punch is
punished by being swallowed by the crocodile, scared into repentance by a ghost, or
arrested by the police.
Punch performances also differ from Kasper by use of a "swazzle." The swazzle is used to
give Punch a high pitched, squeaky sound. Punch performances are usually put on by
"professors". In some cases, Punch may be unintelligible, and the "professor" must act
as an interpreter. Professor Edwards was kind enough to grant us permission to use his
picture (on the left).
During the 19th Century, Punch performances could be easily found on the streets of
England. Today, they are much less common. As a continuing english tradition, Punch
performances are more likely to be found on the beach during holidays.