• “Miss Piggy,” “Kermit The Frog,” and all your favorite Muppets will be there.
May 16 marks 30 years since Jim Henson passed away. To remember his delightful legacy, here's a public access video of him and Don Sahlin (who went on to create and voice Rowlf) from 1969, teaching kids how to make puppets out of random household objects like tennis balls and socks.
Jim Henson's "The Coffee Break Machine" (1967), a skit in an IBM training film, was the first appearance of a proto-Cookie Monster, then green, who evolved from a puppet named the Wheel-Stealer. (A slightly different version of the clip appeared on the Ed Sullivan show that same year.) From the Muppet Wiki:
A proto-Cookie Monster wanders upon a talking coffee machine that has been set in "Auto-Descriptive" Mode. As the machine describes its parts, the monster eats them. Once the machine is finished, the voice of the machine from inside the monster tells him that he has activated the anti-vandalism program, which harbors the most powerful explosives known to man. The monster instantly combusts. The version on the Ed Sullivan Show is slightly different; in this version, the machine itself is an explosive device.
Caroll was an artistic genius whose kind and loving view of the world helped shape and define Sesame Street from its earliest days in 1969 through five decades, and his legacy here at Sesame Workshop and in the cultural firmament will be unending. His enormous talent and outsized heart were perfectly suited to playing the larger-than-life yellow bird who brought joy to generations of children and countless fans of all ages around the world, and his lovably cantankerous grouch gave us all permission to be cranky once in a while.
In 2018, Spinney retired from Sesame Street. Below is Sesame Workshop's video tribute to him and the following is from a New York Times profile from the time:
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Although they had previously crossed paths in the 1960s, Spinney pinpointed a fateful encounter at a Salt Lake City puppeteers’ festival in 1969, when (Muppets creator Jim) Henson watched him try to perform a multimedia show that went gradually awry.
As Spinney recalled, Henson came to him afterward to say, “I liked what you were trying to do.”
Soon after, Henson invited Spinney to play two Muppet characters that were being developed for “Sesame Street,” which made its debut on public television later that year. One was Oscar, who was envisioned as a cranky, trash-loving purple character. (He was orange in his earliest appearances, before taking on his familiar green hue.)
I remain convinced that Dr. Julius Strangepork was up to no good. It is entirely possible he is in league with Sir Topham Hatt.
I am also rather certain that was a chicken lovin' Sith Lord. Read the rest
7 years ago, I posted Cookiewaits's video mashup of Cookie Monster performing Tom Waits's "God's Away on Business," but I somehow missed that Cookiewaits followed it up the next year with this brilliant mashup for "Hell Broke Luce," which is something of a favorite around these parts. If that's your bag, don't miss the Sesame Street gang performing the Beasties' "Sabotage." (Thanks, Richard Callaghan!) Read the rest
From the Muppet Wiki:
Bernie und Ert was a recurring sketch on the show created by Attik Kargar, who performed the puppets and supplied the voice of Bernie. Bernie and Ert are an obscene parody of Bert and Ernie on Sesame Street, and especially as re-dubbed on Sesamstrasse. The pair are a same-sex couple, with no nose and one eye each. Each sketch focused on such topics as crime, drug abuse (Bernie is a cocaine addict), and S&M practices. In February 2003, Bernie and Ert were dropped from the series because of legal concerns; however, older episodes circulate on the Internet. The characters lived on and appeared in another recurring sketch called Popo Club in where they wear S&M gear and go by the names Unknown No. 1 and Unknown No. 2. These versions of the characters later appeared in the German adult puppet series Eye TV – Der durchgeknallte Puppensender and two spin-off web series.
OMG, these hand-crocheted Yip Yips stockings by Carissa Browning sure do make me smile. The big mouths of Sesame Street's Muppet martians are perfect for stuffing in holiday gifts (and later for storing toys, Browning suggests).
The spaceship has landed, and any fan of late 20th century children’s public television will recognize these lovable aliens.
Crochet them or knit them, use them as holiday stockings, toy storage, kids’ laundry, whatever really!
You should also be prepared to play with ping pong balls and pipe cleaners, and do a little light sewing.
Yip yip uh-huh uh-huh
photo via Carissa Browning, used with permission Read the rest
It's a question that's floated around forever: Are Bert and Ernie gay?
Former Sesame Street writer Mark Saltzman says yes.
In a recent Queerty interview, Saltzman (whose partner is Arnold "Arnie" Glassman) reveals that the Muppet duo were based on his own (gay) relationship:
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Ok, so we have to address—that’s the big question, right? In the writer’s room, you’re all adults. Were you thinking of Bert & Ernie as a gay couple? Did that question ever come up?
I remember one time that a column from The San Francisco Chronicle, a preschooler in the city turned to mom and asked “are Bert & Ernie lovers?” And that, coming from a preschooler was fun. And that got passed around, and everyone had their chuckle and went back to it. And I always felt that without a huge agenda, when I was writing Bert & Ernie, they were. I didn’t have any other way to contextualize them. The other thing was, more than one person referred to Arnie & I as “Bert & Ernie.”
Yeah, I was Ernie. I look more Bert-ish. And Arnie as a film editor—if you thought of Bert with a job in the world, wouldn’t that be perfect? Bert with his paper clips and organization? And I was the jokester. So it was the Bert & Ernie relationship, and I was already with Arnie when I came to Sesame Street. So I don’t think I’d know how else to write them, but as a loving couple.
Enjoy these fun outtakes from Jim Henson's hour-long Christmas special from 1977, Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas. They give "drum roll" a whole new meaning.
By the way, that's Frank Oz (AKA Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Animal, Sam Eagle, Cookie Monster, Bert, Grover and Yoda) puppeteering the increasingly-frustrated mother.
Jerry Nelson, Frank Oz, Dave Goelz and Jim Henson
In 1987, Jim Henson produced and directed this pitch reel for Inner Tube (aka IN-TV), a cyberpunk, culture-jamming series that just wasn't meant to be but did inform The Jim Henson Hour's MuppeTelevision segments. From Jim Henson: The Biography:
(Muppet Wiki and r/ObscureMedia)
At the heart of IN-TV was a clever concept; each week, a live guest star would get sucked into the television set and would have to work his way back out again, usually by moving from one bad television channel to another. It was a fun idea, giving Jim an opportunity to satirize the seemingly endless parade of upstart cable channels and lame public access shows that were common in the early days of cable.
Using common objects like socks, tennis balls, wooden spoons, and even potatoes, Jim Henson and his assistant Don Sahlin show children how to make basic puppets and bring them to "life" in the 1969 Iowa Public Television show, "Volume See."