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‘Puppetry’ proves a hit at Melbourne laff fest

30g tickets emerge as fest's B.O. leader

MELBOURNE — Australia’s 15th Melbourne Intl. Comedy Festival wrapped April 22 marked by minor controversies, a reduced number of international artists and show-stopping penises.

“Puppetry of the Penis,” fresh (so the speak) from its 25-week Went End stint, sold 30,000 tickets to emerge as the festival’s B.O. leader.

Starring Simon Morley and David Friend, “Puppetry” was conceived a few years ago in Melbourne and quickly garnered a cult aud.

The duo undertook a national tour, which was made into a movie, before jetting to a sell-out houses at the 2000 Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Promoter Ross Mollison has cloned the act ahead of an, ahem, extended Melbourne season, a West Coast tour and a New York stand co-produced by David Forster beginning Aug. 6.

Mollison says the show is successful because it “demystifies male full-frontal on stage nudity.”

Weak currency

The, um, flaccid Oz dollar (languishing below 50¢ during fest) led to fewer international acts and the absence of a big headliner, such as Steven Wright or the Jim Rose Circus.

Local media ran with some minor conflicts, and generated a lot of ink when Network Ten latenight TV host Rove McManus apologized to audience over a 10-minute spot by U.S. standup comic Scott Capurro, while Scottish magician/comic Jerry Sadowitz was, on talk radio, accused of featuring pedophilia gags in his show.

Barry Award for the festival’s most outstanding show went to “Brian Munich and Friends” featuring Mark Pengilly, Ray Matsen and Jason Marion.

Early indications show overall B.O. up 12% on 2000’s record A$3.2 million ($1.6 million).