By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Sep 21, 2011 at 9:08 AM

"Stuffed and Ustrung" is a Jim Henson alternative show for adults featuring 80 new puppets and eight puppeteers who are in full view and hold the puppets over their heads.

Most of the show is improv and the skits are based on audience suggestions. However, no matter how much your kids love Elmo, this is not a Muppets show and it's for grown ups only.

Patrick Bristow is the director and emcee of the show which comes to The Pabst Theater on Friday, Sept. 23 at 6 p.m. Tickets are $32.50.

Recently, we checked in with Bristow and asked him about whether Henson, who died in 1990, would approve of the naughty nature of the puppets-behaving-badly show as well as exactly how bawdy the performances get. How do we know, or do we know, that (the late) Jim Henson would appreciate this use of his creatures?

Patrick Bristow: Our consensus is that yes, he would love it. And that comes form his wife and his family, as well as performers who worked with him for many years. He had a deliciously dark and twisted sense of humor and his early work before "Sesame Street" and "The Muppet Show" demonstrates that sense of humor. We have a video in the beginning of the show with commercials the he did in the '50s that are very dark and with puppets. There's something about puppets and violence that is hilarious and he realized this early on and it's a window into his personality.

OMC: What are some of the topics covered in "Stuffed and Unstrung?"

PB: We have a few skits, and an opening and closing number, but a lot of the content comes from the audience. For example, we might say to the audience, "OK, what are these two puppets doing?" And someone will yell out "sensual massage" so then we improvise a skit based on that suggestion.

OMC: So how bawdy does the show get?

PB: Puppets can get away with things human actors can't because they're divorced from anything really graphic. There's a certain fun and disconnect between the innocence of their look and their more adult leanings. In terms of how bawdy? We really try to walk the line. We might even cross the line, but we don't ever want to be gratuitous. So let's say we get the suggestion that could go a little bit naughty. Sure, we'll go naughty, but if we get a suggestion that sounds disgusting, we won't go there. Not that we haven't gone places that made say, "Oh, no!" but usually in mock disgust. And this is why we can't have kids in the audience.

Our goal is not to be offensive, but it's a subjective line. We read the audience. When we had audiences in Australia, we could not be violent enough, we could not be forbidden enough. Several other audiences – though their suggestions and responses – prefer the more intelligent nonsense. Every show is a little bit different.

OMC: So are any of The Muppets in the show from "Sesame Street" or "The Muppet Show?"

PB: No, but they were all created by the Jim Henson Creature Shop. It's a whole new group of puppets, owned by Disney. There are certain stylistic Henson guidelines, and the puppet designers knows the range of the very distinct Henson look.

OMC: How long have you been with the show?

PB: Since its inception. The show happened organically and unintentionally. It started as an improv class at the Jim Henson Company, and then we were eventually asked to perform at festivals around the world.

OMC: Do parents ever accidentally show up with kids?

PB: We've had a couple of kids in the audience and I'm not sure how or why they got in. My worry is that other audience members might get nervous or embarrassed if a scene takes place in a VD clinic. I know kids are different, and some are very mature or precocious and they might be able to understand it, but I don"t think it's a good idea.

OMC: Why did you decide to show the puppeteers working the puppets?

PB: Henson's approach to puppeting was developed for TV. You never saw the puppeteers – that was the tradition. But when we did our first demo, there was a discussion whether we were going to have a six-foot puppet wall that the pupeteers would hide behind and puppets would be above it, but I realized it's so interesting to see the puppeteers' movements. There are large screens, so you can actually see how they make a puppet swim or cheerlead or whatever.

OMC: How similar is this show to "Avenue Q?"

PB: The only similarity is that we're using puppets and it's for adults. "Avenue Q" is a scripted musical and we are a variety improv show. We interact with the audience directly.

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.