As the world was celebrating World Puppetry Day on March 21, Turkey’s only puppet show ridiculing news reports aired its 73rd episode. It is the first show in Turkey that combines puppets with journalism.
With serious political statements, death notices, news of bomb explosions and information on new laws, news shows are usually not to be laughed at. Yet, Ömer Pekin, the writer, project owner and one of the dubbing artists of the show, and his friends hope to lessen the intensity of the news while encouraging people to question events in Turkey with their show “Kuklagiller” (The Puppets).
As the name implies, this is a puppet show airing on Turkey’s oldest channel, the state-run Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (TRT), delighting a devoted and growing audience by ridiculing news reports while tackling controversial issues for five to eight minutes.
Though they are few, there have been satire shows before on Turkish television. Yet, “Kuklagiller” is different from the previous ones in many respects. First of all, it uses puppets to lampoon news shows; and the second is that it avoids political jokes and harsh criticism; instead it mocks the way news reports are usually presented.
Although it was launched on Dec. 12, 2011, the show has already proved a huge hit on the Internet by releasing hundreds of videos as well as proving a success in TV ratings. The man behind the show is Pekin, but the dozens of puppeteers and dubbing staff give the show a large crew.
Pekin says he and the rest of the crew aim to attract children by using puppets while appealing to adults with the content of the jokes. “Even if they do not understand, children tend to watch a show if there are puppets in it. We wanted to appeal to children, too,” explains Pekin as to why they decided to do the show with puppets, speaking to Sunday’s Zaman earlier this week.
As for the difficulties of using puppets, Pekin says although puppets have relatively limited animation, it is possible to make up for this lack with witty jokes. “Furthermore, for the first time in Turkey puppets are used in a show that appeals not just to children, but also to adults.” Unlike many examples in the world such as the satirical puppet shows “XYZ” in Kenya, “Les Guignols” in France and “Spitting Image” in Britain, “Kuklagiller” is not a daring satire that aims to harm political figures by lampooning them. This show merely parodies news broadcasts, with either real or fake stories.
Pekin explains that they don’t want to have a political tone in order to appeal to a wider audience. “Fifteen or 20 years ago it was easier to make political jokes, but today it is not that easy. On top of that, it doesn’t feel right to use puppets for political jokes,” says Pekin. The show has about 55 different puppets, which were created in three months; the number of puppets in “Kuklagiller” is likely to reach the hundreds in several months.
“We have 15 regular characters. These are used in almost every episode, and these characters are not to be changed. Yet, we have to offer novelties in each episode to attract the attention and concentration of the audience by adding new characters to our puppet family,” states Pekin, who is confident his team will improve and as it improves produce more laughs.