Matt Vogel: Gnarly to the Max

Happy birthday to Matt Vogel! Yes, I know that his birthday is actually tomorrow. Today I want to celebrate him and some of his Muppet troupe characters, and tomorrow I want to say something in regard to his work on Sesame Street

When people talk about Matt Vogel, they usually talk about all the characters that were originated by other people that he has nobly endeavored to keep alive. That’s all well and good, but today I’d prefer to concentrate primarily on his original characters (with one exception, but I’ll explain when I get to it).

’80s Robot

I love ’80s Robot. I wish he could come live with me and bring his cache of 30-year-old sodas. Suddenly I want a pop; I want a … Shasta!

I also think that ’80s Robot would be good to have around from a home security standpoint, not because he could fight off intruders but because he could incapacitate them with the noise from his “mo-dem.”

Constantine

How can such an unrepentantly and irredeemably evil little frog be so gosh-darn lovable? I’ve been thinking about this a lot, and I think I’ve finally figured it out; Constantine is one of the few Muppets who’s still allowed to embrace that subversive quality that Frank Oz refers to as “affectionate anarchy,” thumbing his nonexistent nose at the powers that be. Getting to watch him verbally browbeat Ricky Gervais doesn’t hurt either. 

I love this song so much. I’ve said it before elsewhere, but Matt’s vocals are swoonworthy. If I were in Miss Piggy’s shoes, I wouldn’t be fooled into thinking that Constantine was Kermit, but if he were singing to me like that, I probably wouldn’t care either. 

Uncle Deadly

Yes, I know that Uncle Deadly is not a character original to Matt, but in my mind he is. Let me explain:

Due to my relative inexperience with The Muppet Show at the time, when I saw The Muppets in 2011, I mistakenly thought that Uncle Deadly was a new character created specifically for the movie. Therefore, my concept of who and what Uncle Deadly is was informed almost entirely by Matt’s performance. 

I can never remember which is which, but I’ve heard it said that the difference between a comic and a comedian is that one says funny things and the other says things funny. Everything Uncle Deadly says is hilarious because he says it in that impossibly posh voice and melodramatic…tone

Uncle Deadly is one of the few Muppets whose “Thoughts of the Week” consistently make me laugh (the other one is Walter…go figure). His “you know you’re a fashion victim when…” riffs are all hilarious and ought to be compiled in book form:

But my favorite Uncle Deadly moment came in the wake of what I call the “Schism” and everyone else refers to as the “Kerfuffle,” when Disney delayed their release of a certain significant “Thought of the Week” video for six weeks and then released their backlog on a daily basis over the course of the last week in August. During his customary intros and outros, Uncle Deadly noticed the discrepancy and complained about it more vociferously by the day. His mounting frustration was increasingly hysteria-inducing. It was a much-appreciated moment of comic relief during what was otherwise a terrible and depressing time, and I’d like to think that it was another moment of “affectionate anarchy” on display.

Oh, don’t get me wrong; I’m sure the lines were scripted, and I’m sure the executives gave their blessing to the whole thing. But the intention behind the words spoken belongs entirely to the performer. Obviously, I have no way of knowing what Matt’s intention was, but I would like to believe that it was a subversive one, an intention of sticking it to The Man so subtly and so deftly that The Man doesn’t even realize he’s been skewered. 

So again, happy birthday to the totally radical, phan-tastic, criminally talented, deservedly beloved Matt Vogel!

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