File puptcrit/puptcrit.0607, message 223

Date: Mon, 24 Jul 2006 13:30:33 -0400
Subject: Re: [Puptcrit] Bottlers

Eric & Jamie,
The bottler fills a few functions in a P&J show, but often a specific bottler is not used-- the professor does the jobs him or herself, or it's taken care of in another way.

an American bottler who went on to some note was bud abbot, of abbot and Costello.  bud was the assistant for punch-man and magician Al Flosso for a while when al was doing his famous coney island fakir shows.

the bottler is an assistant who travels with the punch puppeteer, helps him set up the booth, and attracts an audience through patter or music-- once pan pipes and drum, now often a hurdy gurdy or organ grinder.  the bottler's most important function was to collect the "bottle," or payment of loose change and pound notes (or dollar bills) from the audience.  This money could be collected in a bag, or by literally passing the hat, or in a long necked bottle from which no one-- including the bottler!-- could pinch some coins until the show was over and the professor took possession of the proceeds.

A bottler isn't really needed if a town council, or restaurant, or special event committee sponsors a show or pitch...  few Punch performers could survive on the money collected from a crowd these days, especially if he had to split a portion of it with the bottler.  In the old days, the bottler was often an apprentice of the show, learning his trade from the "professor."  It could also have been the puppeteer's wife or child, and there are Punch performers of whom I know who have used spouses and relatives.

Sometimes the bottler comes into the theatre and works as a second puppeteer, but that's rare for Punch and Judy.  If current shows still employ bottlers, they either simply warm up the audience or serve as an interlocutor between the puppets and the audience, repeating for clarity much of Punch's dialogue.

At Punch and Judy festivals, the puppeteers who are not performing in one of the many fit-ups on show may bottle for other Punch-men and women... at the end of the day, the monies collected are put towards a group dinner, or at least some good drinks!

There were 3 traditional Punch & Judy glove puppet shows at the PoA's East Coast Regional Fest this past weekend.  Fred Greenspan spoke to the audience, doing a warm up with a little history before his show... Alice Wallace, who plays the non-Punch parts in her two person P&J show, warmed up the audience and played a hurdy gurdy to attract and entertain a crowd before the show... and I gave a warm up curtain speech which introduced the show as well as myself and my apprentice (because I did a two person French Polichinelle show).  A bottler could have handled these duties, but as there was no collection of money in show, there was technically no bottling.

As to whether there was collecting of money outside of the show, well, that's another story!

Fred uses a bottler in some of his shows in New York and I've seen puppeteers on break bottle for performing friends at the May Fayre Fest each year in London.  But true bottling is probably relatively rare, and having a person separate from the professor doing the bottling is probably even rarer.

Sean K., NY
List address:
Admin interface:


Driftline Main Page


Display software: ArchTracker © Malgosia Askanas, 2000-2005