Punch & Judy, USA

I am a little bit puzzled by this cartoon: http://ozyandmillie.org/d/20070802.html

Why should that expression be a puzzle? I think the origin is perfectly obvious.

In the UK we have a tradition called Punch And Judy. It’s a puppet show starring a grotesque grinning anti-hero called Punch. Punch grins. He looks very pleased with himself. Every British child will know it.

Are these shows relatively unknown in America? Would an American child really be puzzled by the expression “as pleased as punch”

American dopers, have you ever seen a Punch And Judy show?

I’ve never seen one in person, but I saw versions of them on TV when I was a kid (San Diego). Kukla, Fran & Ollie is probably the best-known American puppet show (next to The Muppets), and it shares the traditional ‘stage’. But the stories are different.

Scottish born Canadian here, and no way have I seen Punch and Judy in North America. But I know who/what they are.

Hey, if i can hijack for a minute, who is the broad with puppets that I’ve seen on the Teletubbies who keeps saying “Naughty, naughty, naughty”… And is it just me or is there a major double entendre with all that and her sexy demeanor? Or maybe I just need to get laid more, but MAN!

I’ve never seen a Punch and Judy show, but I just read about one in “The Anubis Gates.”

Even in cases where the origin might be well-known, comedians often poke fun at words or phrases whose use has the appearance of being nonsensical.

I certainly remember hearing about Punch and Judy as a child, and I have a mental picture of what Punch looks like. I can’t recall if I’ve actually seen a Punch and Judy show, though. But I’m in my 50’s, and I wouldn’t be surprised if many younger than I have not run across them.

“Pleased as punch” is a rather familiar phrase, but I never pondered its origin (and it’s the origin, not the meaning, that is being questioned). I would not have guessed it referred to the character Punch.

I’ve seen a couple of “Punch and Judy” shows, and as I recall, Punch was never very happy, even when he was beating the crap out of Judy, so it’s possible that the cartoonist was thinking of such a thing. However, I think that the cartoonist was probably referring to “punch” as in the drink. In which case, given that it’s not something that is capable of feeling, it makes sense that one would be puzzled by how it could be pleased.

Absolutely. Not capitalized, no article (“the” or “a”) - what else could it be but the substance?

Huh, I always assumed it was the drink too.

I know what a Punch and Judy show is, but that’s because I read British books all the time and I’m a grownup. I’ve never seen one in real life, though I’ve seen a couple of pictures. But yes, I think you could easily be an American teenager who has never heard of Punch and Judy.

I know what a Punch and Judy show is, but only because I looked it up after having heard British references to it. I’ve certainly never seen one and I would bet that no more than ten percent of Americans under fifty would know who Punch is.

I’m familiar with the concept but I’ve never seen a show. I had assumed it was an old street theatre tradition that had faded away and was no longer actually performed.

I know thanks to Charade. Though why a British puppet show is being done in Paris…

I’ve heard of “Punch and Judy.” I think the humor in the strip, however, lies in the character not being familiar with them. Thus the confusion about how “punch” (a beverage) can be pleased. You need to be familiar with Punch and Judy yourself in order to see the humor.

I have heard of Punch and Judy and had a vague notion that it was a puppet show but that’s it. I didn’t have a mental image and would never have associated it with “pleased as punch”.

I remember a funny story my driving instructor told me about being on a beach in Italy with a bunch of his mates, watching an argument between an Italian couple which escalated to the point where she started belabouring him with a loaf of bread… whereupon one of said mates yelled “That’s the way to do it! That’s the way to do it!” in a Mr Punch voice. Punch and Judy are known of in Italy as well apparently, and the tone if not the words were quite obvious to everyone present, including the quarrelling couple who both started laughing. :slight_smile:

While I had seen glimpses of Punch and Judy shows on TV, I had no idea what was going on or even that the characters had names until some Neil Gaiman book showed me the whole schtick in a horrifically disturbing way. I thought it was just some odd, running joke.

I’d be completely unable to do the voice without the swozzle.

Pratchett’s Theatre of Cruelty short story must make no sense to American fans, then…

I’ve seen a bunch of P&J shows as a kid in the 1960s, and a few more at street festivals, Renaissance Faires, etc., since then, say up until maybe the late 1980s. After that the [beat the wife/girfriend with a stick] schtick got a little too un-PC to be performed in public.

But I never associated the word “punch” in the saying with Punch the character. In fact, I’ve never seen the saying “pleased as punch” spelled with a capital p in punch. So I always wondered why punch the drink made it into a saying.

I now realize the saying has all but died out too, which lends credence to the idea that the saying really was about Punch, not party drinks.

But why always the lower-case p?

I think that is way too high. Much of my wife’s family including my MIL are English. I have never heard of it in my life as far as I now. I would estimate that somewhere between .1% and 2% of Americans know about it.

Somebody performed the show regularly in Detroit when I was a kid. I remember seeing it several times on field trips during grade school. I’ve never given the expression much thought.