Renaissance Festival’s Puke and Snot Celebrate 50 Years

Original Puke actor Mark Sieve returns for another season
Mark Sieve has been performing as Puke with the Puke and Snot duo at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival for 50 years.

Minnesota Renaissance Festival

His name is Puke. Yes, he chooses to go by that.

He’s often seen in the company of a character by the name of Snot. (Also a chosen moniker.) And if you’ve ever been to the Minnesota Renaissance Festival near Shakopee, you’re likely nodding and smiling. This “Renaissance vaudeville duo” has been a must-see act at the RenFest for decades.

In fact, 2023 is Puke’s 50th year spewing carrot bits and witty banter while clashing swords and insults with Snot at the annual late-summer celebration of all things olde and faire.

They call it “high-fashion comedy with deadly weapons,” performed mostly in Minnesota and Maryland, says Puke, who is Twin Cities actor, author, producer, and director Mark Sieve.

The original Snot, Joe Kudla, died suddenly in 2008. An actor friend of Sieve’s, John Gamoke, joined Puke until 2017. Snot 3.0, Scott Jorgenson, has been slinging swords and sarcasm with Sieve since then. Puke and Snot are the longest-running comedy duo in North American Renaissance Festival history, Sieve says. The two don tights and puffy shirts for 10 to 15 weeks of performances a year.

“I’ve outlived a dozen kings and queens out there—not to mention avoiding prison and the executioner’s ax,” says Sieve, who is 80 years old. “Remarkable.”

How it began

Sieve and Kudla (Snot the First) were Twin Cities actors who performed “in the dirt” as solo roaming acts at the RenFest in the festival’s early years.

In the winter of 1974, over drinks at the Jimmy Hegg’s restaurant (a popular theater hangout in Minneapolis in the 1970s, known for drinks called “Jumbos” and free cheese and crackers), Kudla had an idea. As the Black Knight at the previous RenFest, he staged a confrontation with a Guthrie actor who had been reciting Shakespeare. Swords were drawn, and the crowd loved it.

Kudla proposed an act that would feature mock Shakespearean dialogue and swords. The two had worked together at Theatre in the Round, and after a few “Jumbos,” the comedy caper commenced. That summer, they wrote and rehearsed on the shores of Lake of the Isles. Sieve learned stage fighting techniques.

Puke and Snot first appeared as Mouldy and Wart, names they chose from Shakespeare’s “King Henry IV, Part 2.”

But while Sieve was working on adapting a sketch from the British comedy revue “Beyond the Fringe,” two peasant types wrapped in burlap showed up for two lines:

“It’s botched up then, Master Puke?”

“Aye, marry, ’tis, Master Snot.”

Puke and Snot it was.

Puke and Snot backstage

Minnesota Renaissance Festival

In 1975, working for $25 a day at the start, Puke and Snot began drawing clusters of crowds at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival. Snot would swing down from a tree branch to approach a woman. Puke would come out of the audience to defend her honor. The duo became so popular, they were given their own stage.

The crowds grew. They broke a few RenFest rules when they started selling T-shirts and other Puke and Snot swag, and they were the first act to wear microphones, according to Sieve. “Eventually, even the mimes had mics.”

They also became friends with a couple of other young RenFest performers in the early years: Penn and Teller. Penn Jillette and the single-name-only Teller performed their first comedy-magic act together at the RenFest on Aug. 19, 1975.

Sieve says Penn and Teller had street smarts from busking on the streets of Philadelphia and taught Minnesota nice guys Puke and Snot the valuable lesson of passing the hat at the back of the crowd—rather than having the audience come to the stage and possibly escape the plea for tips.

Mark Sieve and Joe Kudla, the original Puke and Snot

Minnesota Renaissance Festival

Name in lights

Sieve spent his first years in the small southwest Minnesota town of Ellsworth (so close to Iowa that he and a childhood buddy would bike across the border, just for the sheer adventure of being in another state, Sieve says in his first book, “Call Me Puke”). He’s the oldest of five children.

In 1948, Sieve’s dad opened a movie theater in Ellsworth. Sieve had his name in lights early, as Dad named the movie house after him: “The Mark.” While it was cool to have name fame, Sieve says he had to put up with plenty of teasing from classmates. The Mark did great business until television arrived and moviegoers stayed home. In the fall of 1956, the Sieve family moved to a farm near Long Prairie, where ninth-grader Sieve went from sweeping up after “Three Stooges” matinees to baling hay and milking cows.

The family operated the farm for five years, then ran Alma’s Cafe in Long Prairie, and, in 1967, bought Traveler’s Inn in Alexandria.

Sieve was a standout high school baseball player in Long Prairie and went on to play baseball for St. John’s University. He was scouted to play for the Minnesota Twins by baseball legend Billy Martin.

But a shoulder injury ended his Major League dreams. So, after graduation from St. John’s in the mid-’60s, Sieve became a small-town high school English and speech teacher—and baseball coach. He also guided theatrical productions, as he had been in college theater productions.

In “Call Me Puke,” Sieve says he frequently clashed with rural school officials and parents, insisting that students needed to hear about the Vietnam War and social issues.

In 1971, Sieve moved to Minneapolis to chase his stage dreams on evenings and weekends while working as a substitute teacher and coordinating a program for at-risk students.

Puke presents a rose at the Renaissance Festival

Mark Sieve

All for the stage

Sieve’s 17 years of teaching included the rising popularity of Puke and Snot, who were growing beyond the Minnesota RenFest. The duo was performing at other festivals around the country, as well as at corporate events and comedy clubs.

Starting in the late ’70s and through 1985, Sieve and Kudla worked weekends in October and November at the Texas Renaissance Festival in Houston. Sieve would catch a plane to Texas after teaching on Fridays, do five shows a day on Saturdays and Sundays, and catch the last plane back to Minnesota to be in front of the blackboard on Monday morning. He admits he may not have been at his academic best on more than a few of those Mondays.

One of Sieve’s first acting gigs in Minneapolis was at Theatre in the Round, where he was cast in “Steambath” alongside Jack Reuler, who started Mixed Blood Theatre the following year, in 1976. Sieve has worked at Mixed Blood as an actor and director. He and Reuler (who retired from Mixed Blood last year) have been friends ever since. “In hard times, we’ve been there for each other,” Reuler says.

But Sieve is far more than an actor and writer, Reuler continues, ticking off “actor, director, writer, street performer, swordfighter, and extraordinary father.”

In the foreward to Sieve’s second book, “A Disturbance in the Farce,” Reuler writes, “Mark Sieve has probably been seen by more people, has collected more money in beer steins, and has more devoted fans than any actor I have known in Mill City. Yet he is relatively unknown to most stage connoisseurs.”

Family started at RenFest, too

Sieve says in 1976, a 10-year-old kid named Pat was hanging around the Puke and Snot show, helping out with tasks like carrying their swords. One day, the boy pointed to a woman in a dark blue dress selling wine and said it was his mom. “Wanna meet her?”

He did. She became his wife, Janis. They have two sons, Pat and Peter.

Pat is a chef and runs the well-regarded food program at Carleton College in Northfield. Peter is a musician with the band Rogue Valley and performs with Lissie, Jeremy Messersmith, and others. He also publishes Meal magazine, which features “stories from across the world that examine the social life of food.”

“At our height, we were doing 25 weeks a year,” Sieve says, performing in Miami, Texas, Toronto (where they did their show under a roller coaster and had to pause when the cars rolled overhead), at the World’s Fair in Vancouver in 1986, and at Disney in Orlando.

The duo was so popular that in the 1980s, Sieve and Kudla trained other actors to take the show on the road.

When they felt the act was getting stale, they hired Twin Cities writer Michael Levin, who introduced Abbott and Costello “Who’s on First”-type riffs to the dialogue. In the Sherwood sketch, for example, Puke is a Robin Hood type, living in the forest with a band of merry men.

PUKE: The location of our forest is a closely guarded secret. Would you like to hear it?

SNOT: Sure would.

PUKE: Oh, so you know already.

SNOT: Know what?

PUKE: The name of the forest.

SNOT: No, I don’t. Would you tell me?

PUKE: Sherwood.

SNOT: (Long pause.) OK. When?

PUKE: When what?

SNOT: When will you tell me the name?

PUKE: I just told you the name.

SNOT: I must’ve missed it. Would you tell me again?

PUKE: Sherwood.

SNOT: Great. Any time you’re ready.

(And so it goes…)

That carrot that Puke famously munches and then spits with great gusto as he speaks during the act? That wasn’t planned. After a RenFest performance in one of the early years, “some guy hands me a giant carrot,” Sieve says. He was still munching on it when it was time for the next show, so he let loose with flying chunks of carrot “and covered Joe with it.”

The carrot was part of the act until just a few years ago. “When COVID-19 hit, we put the carrot down,” Sieve says.

Mark Sieve and John Gamoke as Puke and Snot 2.0

Minnesota Renaissance Festival

Joe leaves the stage too soon

Mark Sieve and Joe Kudla had waved swords and collected laughs and fans as Puke and Snot for more than 30 years when Kudla died unexpectedly in 2008. Kudla grew up in northeast Minneapolis and was as much at home sitting in a neighborhood bar there as he was on the stage, Sieve says. “He had his feet in two worlds.”

Kudla usually worked behind Sieve on stage, so “I didn’t really see a lot of the stuff he was doing,” he says. It wasn’t until watching a video about 15 years ago that Puke saw Snot mugging and reacting. “Joe was the kind of guy people watched and realized something could happen at any time,” Sieve says. “He looked dangerous.”

Kudla wasn’t careful with what he ate and drank, Sieve says, but he was an avid runner and golfer, so he figured he was fine. Kudla had ignored cardiac warning signs, says Sieve, who has had two heart health incidents himself.

Besides, they had a show to do on Saturday.

His family found him dead in his apartment on a Monday. He was 57.

Puke was on stage that Saturday with a new Snot. Sieve had convinced actor and friend John Gamoke to take up the sword and silliness. Gamoke had previously worked as a touring “clone” of Snot and continued with Sieve until retiring in 2017.

Sieve struggled with Kudla’s death. In “Call Me Puke,” he wrote that when rehearsals started, he couldn’t hear Kudla’s voice. In a phone call with son Peter, who was touring with the Chris Koza band at the time, words from his son “flipped a switch.”

“Dad,” Pat said, “the music is still there. You just have to learn how to play it.”

Mark Sieve, left, and Scott Jorgenson as Puke and Snot

Mark Sieve

Snot 3.0

Scott Jorgenson had done plenty of work on Twin Cities stages (History Theatre, Actors Theater of Minnesota), in voiceovers, and in TV commercials before he became Snot 3.0 in 2018. He jokes that radio listeners got sick of his voice when he read the weekly specials for the Rainbow grocery store for many years. Sieve jokes that Jorgenson’s 1999 “Speedo Guy” TV ad for Arctic Cat watercraft is a must-see that you can’t unsee.

In 2011, Jorgenson spent a month living in a glass apartment inside the Mall of America, part of a campaign to get people to live healthier lives. “I’m the guy in a box at MOA,” he says.

“Each of the Snots brings his own flavor to the act,” says Sieve, adding that it’s the writing that makes the show a success.

“If it ain’t funny, I don’t do it,” Jorgenson says.

Jorgenson brings a bit of improv to Puke and Snot. He acknowledges there’s a lot of “adult innuendo” in the act, “but you can also take the kids.”

“We start with Shakespeare and end with a poop joke—not even the best one,” Sieve says.

“It’s a solid No. 2,” Jorgenson adds.

Puke and Snot

Minnesota Renaissance Festival

Times are a-changin’

One of Puke and Snot’s most popular routines is “Magaga,” which has Puke giving Snot instructions on how to be a bullfighter. After entering the bullfighting ring and saluting the crowd, Puke tells Snot, “Then you reach down and pull out your magaga.”

SNOT: My what?

PUKE: Your magaga.

SNOT: In front of all these people?

PUKE: You take out your magaga and show it to the crowd!

(It continues with Puke telling Snot to hand his magaga to the Queen and much more.)

The routine with the made-up word, written by Levin, was a crowd-pleaser for years—until Donald Trump’s MAGA surfaced and, with it, unpleasant reactions from some of Trump’s supporters in the crowd.

Magaga now has a new name, Sieve says.

Another sketch by Levin about a political candidate with absolutely no experience has been dropped, Sieve says. It sounds recent but was written during the George W. Bush administration. Puke and Snot avoid politics these days.

“There’s definitely been a progression of fans,” Sieve says. In the early days, young women would tell Sieve and Kudla, “We really love your show.” Ten years later, young women would say, “My mom never misses your show.” Twenty-five years later, it was: “My Grandma thinks you’re great.”

In 2023, with the Minnesota Renaissance Festival returning for its 52nd year, it’s now year 50 for Puke. When is it time to retire? Snot 3.0 has already asked.

SNOT: “When are you gonna retire?”

PUKE: “When I no longer hear the sound of laughter.”

SNOT: “It’s never stopped you before.”

Lunch at Sea Salt on a lovely spring day with Puke and Snot (Mark Sieve and Scott Jorgenson) does not make for your typical Q&A. It’s often a delightful, hilarious, and chaotic vaudeville routine. They launch into riffs between bites of catfish po’ boy.

Current day Puke and Snot

Minnesota Renaissance Festival

Some famous exchanges

Note from Kathy Berdan, writer of the Puke profile: Mark Sieve’s first teaching job was in my hometown. When he and my brother played town team baseball in the summer and would drive out from “The Cities” for games, Sieve would stay at my parents’ house. Whoever got there first got my brothers’ old bedroom. You never knew which one you’d find asleep on the couch on game weekend mornings.

Here’s a selection of some Puke and Snot exchanges that have had Minnesota Renaissance Festival fans giggling and groaning for five decades.

PUKE: You know the best thing about being the oldest act at a renaissance festival?

SNOT: What?

PUKE: No peer pressure.


PUKE: What is it that you do?

SNOT: I tell jokes at renaissance festivals.

PUKE: I mean what do you do to support yourself?

SNOT: I tell myself that they’re really good jokes.


SNOT: I have returned for more fun and merriment to the show I have since learned is inexplicably popular.

PUKE: Being popular at a renaissance festival is like being at the cool table in the cafeteria of a clown college.


PUKE: Do you have any dietary restrictions?

SNOT: Just one. If I eat too much my tights will explode.

PUKE: I meant like exposure to glutens.

SNOT: If my tights explode my glutes will be exposed.


PUKE: I can’t do this show today.

SNOT: What do you mean you can’t do this show?

PUKE: It’s my eyes.

SNOT: What about your eyes?

PUKE: I just can’t see myself doing this show today.


SNOT: How’s your health? Have you seen a doctor recently?

PUKE: I don’t see a doctor. I see an archeologist.


PUKE: I will dance on your grave!

SNOT: Excellent! I’ve arranged to be buried at sea.


SNOT: Let’s just get this over with, I have to use the privy.

PUKE: You can use the privy backstage.

SNOT: Good, then I can stop using your trailer.

PUKE: You’ve been using the bathroom in my trailer?

SNOT: There’s a bathroom in your trailer?

If you go:

What: 52nd Minnesota Renaissance Festival, 12364 Chestnut Blvd., Shakopee

When: 9 a.m.-7 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays, Aug. 19-Oct. 1 (plus Labor Day, Sept. 4, and Fest Friday, Sept. 29)

Tickets: $26.95 (adults); $24.95 (ages 65-plus); $17.95 (ages 5-12); free (ages 4 and younger)

Parking: Park and ride is recommended. Parking vouchers are required to park on-site.

Info: 952-445-7361 or