Punch Up! is a regular drag, burlesque, stand-up, spoken word, and rap variety show that’s unapologetically queer and underground, but open and accessible for all. Emphasising acts that are political, vulnerable and commercially questionable, we are openly anti-fascist, sex-positive, body-positive, and curious. We create opportunities for underground artists and have high expectations for their critical engagement with society.
By mixing genres, we recontextualise their meaning. Going to a rap show, an audience expects a specific milieu and will receive the work accordingly. By interspersing rap performance between stand-up and burlesque, the context provides new vantage points to receive the work: politically charged, involving the body of the performer, and as a mode of performance that is notable precisely for its conventions and specificity. This may sound somewhat overblown for a queer variety show, but I find it is the small differences like this (performing in a swankier venue than usual; representing one’s genre as well as oneself; working as part of a temporary, contingent whole) that provide interesting nodes of exploration. Deliberate curation provides not only an opportunity for the audience to experience something new, but also the performer, who is able to perceive a new way of looking at their own art. It could be argued that this mutual act of seeing things differently is a contributing factor to what many people have described as the “community” feeling they get from attending or performing there.
Punch Up! is produced and presented by Mira Eskelinen, Juuso Kekkonen, and James Lórien MacDonald.
Produced at Mad House in 2018 and since then at Korjaamo. We have also collaborated with YLE Kioski in an EU election special in 2019.