He and Mark Sieve came up with the "Puke and Snot" shtick in the '70s, and they took it to festivals everywhere.
Actor Mark Sieve isn't sure what he will do when the Minnesota Renaissance Festival opens Friday. He will be there as Puke, but Joe Kudla will not be there as Snot.
Kudla died Monday of an apparent heart attack at his northeast Minneapolis home. He was 57. "Puke and Snot" have entertained hundreds of thousands of spectators at the Festival for 34 years with a feisty, vaudeville style street theater that had a ribald, Elizabethan flavor. Imagined as a lark, the act expanded to several other Renaissance Festivals, and both Sieve and Kudla became well known for their efforts.
"I talked with Penn Jillette about it and he said keep the show going," Sieve said. "It's the best tribute we can do. But it's going to seem weird to walk out on stage."
Actor John Gamoke, who has played the role, will replace Kudla.
Sieve and Kudla were acting in community theater during the early 1970s and when the Renaissance Festival came to town, they worked as street performers. Guthrie actor Ken Welsh was performing Shakespearean soliloquies and Kudla, who did a character called The Black Knight, stopped by to heckle. Welsh took after him and Kudla found it great fun. After the festival, Kudla hatched an idea with Sieve that they should use that same kind of guerrilla approach and create seemingly improvised meetings at which they would confront one another and attract a crowd.
"Our senses of humor meshed," Sieve said.
"Puke and Snot" became a hit at festivals in Texas, Maryland, Florida, Canada, Colorado and California. They also became well known in Twin Cities comedy clubs during the 1980s. Kudla was last seen on a Twin Cities stage in 2007, when he portrayed wrestlers "The Crusher" and "Mad Dog Vachon" in a production of "The Baron" at the History Theatre in St. Paul.
Sieve said that Kudla's willingness to try almost anything helped draw crowds.
"I really believe people liked to watch him because he was unpredictable," Sieve said. "He had great timing and this strange energy in his eyes."
Great timing in comedy, bad timing in business, Sieve said with a rueful chuckle. He was miffed when his partner didn't show at the Renaissance Festival grounds Monday for a brief run through. Then he learned the sad truth.
"I'm really struggling with it," he said. "But he lived the exact lifestyle he wanted to. I used to do these fatherly-brotherly lectures about his diet and he told me, 'When it's my time to get out of the canoe, I'll get out of the canoe.'"
Kudla was a lifelong resident of northeast Minneapolis. He is survived by a daughter, Angela; his mother, Mary, and a brother, Michael.
Graydon Royce • 612-673-7299