The title "Felt" is possibly an allusion to a famous quote from early Saturday Night Live writer Michael O'Donoghue. In the early days of SNL, Jim Henson-created Muppets appeared in comedy sketches along with live actors. O'Donoghue cynically sneered, "I donít write for felt."
Considering the success the Muppets went on to have, O'Donoghue clearly underestimated their comic potential. The improvisers currently performing in this IO Theatre production understand what he clearly did not: Puppets are funny. Improvising puppets are funnier. Felt is a standard long-form improv set with Henson-style puppets performing the scenes instead of people. It is performed every Wednesday night, with a different live-action group opening each week.
The marketing for the show, which opened in 2006, refers heavily to other recent adult-oriented puppet material such as "Crank Yankers" and "Avenue Q," but Felt is not, in truth, any raunchier than the average live-action improv show; it doesn't go for the cheap laugh of a puppet swearing any more than other improv shows go for the cheap laugh of a human swearing.
The scenes they play out are actually fairly typical and grounded in reality, set in homes and offices. The work is funny and high quality, but one occasionally wishes that the presence of the puppets might spur the performers on to greater imaginative heights. The part of the evening with the highest potential is the finale, in which the humans from the first team interact with the puppets.
Ultimately, "Felt" is a funny, solid improv set, no more or less. Well, a little bit more; it does have puppets, after all.