Punchy Advice

About Punchy Advice

I enjoyed writing Punchy Advice over a period of two years, from April 1995 to April 1997. Looking back now (from 15 years later), some of it dates itself, but it still ranks among my works of which I'm most proud.

In 1995, web browsers were still in their infancy, Netscape Navigator having been introduced only the year before. Punchy Advice began as an extension of a marketing website I created for my puppetry business, Punch & Brodie. I decided to create a "home page" for each of my puppet characters, establishing each character's personality and voice. Soon after, I discovered an advice column somewhere on the Internet, which inspired me to have the puppets "write" their own advice column.

The original version featured an input form where readers could submit their questions. To get it started, I wrote the very first question myself. I emailed the link for the site to friends and colleagues who had email addresses to further "seed" it. At first, the questions were goofy, but before I knew it, strangers -- mostly college students -- started finding the site and posing questions seriously. Then one day in late May, a site called "Spider's Pick of the Day" (long gone by now) promoted my site, and the next morning my inbox was packed with questions! Starting then, I continually received enough questions to write a column nearly every day.

One aspect of writing the column that I especially enjoyed was the opportunity to explore opposing replies to the same questions, depending on the puppet character's point of view. I flattered myself that Punchy Advice was actually richer in that respect than typical advice columns like Dear Abby, which was limited to a single voice.

Another aspect I enjoyed was the opportunity to advance story lines here and there. Early on, Bradley divulged that he had an "Internet crush" on some woman in Canada. On June 20th, 1995, he revealed her name: Sarah. Four days later, he surprised every one including me by leaving to try and meet her.

Finally, I loved the interaction with the readers, especially those who followed and contributed regularly. They paid the highest possible compliment by genuinely engaging with the puppets as though they were real people.

-- Leo Brodie