Master of the puppets
Friday July 10, 2009
A song about internet porn has made Trekkie Monster a star. Kylie Northover talks to him and his "supporter", Luke Joslin. SUPPOSEDLY, there's no one big star in Avenue Q, the hit Broadway musical playing in Melbourne and starring an ensemble cast of furry puppets and humans.There is, however, one cast member who has developed something of a rock-star persona - Trekkie Monster, who has become a global star.Avenue Q, for the unenlightened, is something like Rent but with puppets; a Sesame Street for adults, with the puppets swearing, singing songs such as Everyone's a Little Bit Racist and even having some wild sex on stage.Written by Jeff Whitty and scored by Robert Lopez, the quirky musical, which follows the lives of a group of New Yorkers, has been on Broadway since 2003, and has won several Tony Awards and a cult following in that time.One of the most unusual elements of the show - aside from graphic puppet sex - is that the puppeteers act and sing on stage; they're not hidden.In the Australian production, performer Luke Joslin "supports" Trekkie Monster, and joins Trekkie for his media commitments. Like Sesame Street's Cookie Monster, Trekkie shares a similar gruff, vocal delivery - and an addictive personality. But where Cookie wasn't able to stop eating cookies, Trekkie can't stop watching porn. Internet porn, specifically.The most popular song from the musical, The Internet is for Porn, has become a hit even among those who haven't seen the show. It's become a popular internet meme and on YouTube has racked up millions of hits, catapulting Trekkie to cult-figure status.Taking a break from, well, probably porn, Trekkie says he's enjoying the Australian run of Avenue Q. "It's lots of fun, lot's of fun," he says. "Very fast broadband here in Australia - a lot quicker than overseas."Trekkie, explains Joslin, is a long-time resident of Avenue Q, and now, aged somewhere in his late 20s, lives alone with his fast internet connection."He grew up there and doesn't do much; he's on welfare," says Joslin. "He's secretly been investing in porn, so is actually independently wealthy."He's also a descendant of some of the '70s puppets we know and love."I distant relation to Oscar the Grouch and Cookie Monster. Oscar's a good mate of mine," adds Trekkie, referring, of course to the G-rated Sesame Street regulars. "Oscar into rubbish, I into porn, Cookie Monster into cookies."Although popular among the Avenue Q cast, Trekkie is yet to have a non-internet based girlfriend."I would like girlfriend one day, but the way I look at it, I've got a lot of girlfriends online. Everyone assume I should date Kate Monster, just because she's a monster," Trekkie says, referring to his co-star. "Kate Monster got nice hair, nice eyes . . . but she's not for me. Too pure - not dirty enough. Although, have you seen that sex scene in the show? That made me rethink - maybe I should get in there, have a go. I bide my time."And should a real-world opportunity present itself, Trekkie isn't species-ist when it comes to dating."I happily date non-monster," he says. "My philosophy is 'not fussy'. I do like Melbourne girls - I said on my Facebook site that Melbourne girls are hot. If I find one, and the relationship becomes long-distance, I might invest in webcam."According to Joslin, as the show's bad boy, Trekkie attracts the most groupies."People come and see Trekkie do his thing, and even though by the end they know he's not someone you'd want to introduce your daughter to, they still go nuts for him," he says.Trekkie though, has been advised to behave during the show's run - particularly difficult when the theatre is so close to the city's sex shops."We have 20-minute block for interval," Trekkie says. "But I go to bars after show, have beer, sometimes to strip clubs - Melbourne has lots of those. But mostly I stay indoors, looking at internet."He's also keen to check out the rest of the country, after the show's Melbourne run."I want to see Gold Coast - I want to see meter maids," he says.And as for the show's Canberra season?"Trekkie's requested an apartment in Fyshwick, away from the rest of the cast," says Joslin."It's going to mean a bit of a commute after the show each night . . . ""But totally worth it," adds Trekkie.As for the rest of the cast, Trekkie says they are OK with the fact he's become the poster monster for Avenue Q. And for internet porn."I've got the respect of the cast. They call me rock star. Rock god," he says."My song is worldwide phenomenon - it's my anthem."What is it about a song exhorting the merits of online pornography?"It's based on truth," says Trekkie."The internet is for porn."Avenue Q is on at the Comedy Theatre until August 2.A helping handFOR performer Luke Joslin, operating two puppets in Avenue Q initially presented a learning curve - although a veteran of musicals such as Dirty Dancing, Guys and Dolls and Beaconsfield the Musical, he has had no training as a puppeteer."None of us are trained puppeteers," he says of the Australian cast. "At the auditions, the producers told us to be as instinctive as we could."It's a tricky role, given Joslin also has to sing and act, but one that he's relishing. "The puppet becomes an extension of yourself, really. Whatever actions you're playing, you're a support. Like the set supports the actors, we support the puppets."Joslin plays the twentysomething slacker Nicky, as well as Trekkie, who he says is his favourite."I've grown quite fond of Trekkie - it's quite bizarre," he says. "I wouldn't go to bed with him but I have grown quite protective of him."