Welcome back to 60 for 60, a year-long celebration of the work of Steve Whitmire in anticipation of his 60th birthday in a couple months. The theme for this month is interviews of Steve (not his characters), and it is unique in that not all five examples are available in video form. As a matter of fact, most of them are not.
I planned out the themes for each installment of 60 for 60 ten months ago. At that time, of course, I had no idea that I would actually have met Steve by this time. A lot has changed since I planned out this project, and the plan for this month has changed more than any other in the interim as I re-evaluate interviews that I was going to use and new interviews emerge. But what hasn’t changed is my wish to celebrate Steve himself rather than just his characters, although they’re important too.
I’m not a Muppet performer, and I’m not really a puppeteer despite a brief amateur stint. So I can’t say that I really know what it’s like, but I imagine that it must be an interesting dichotomy. On the one hand, the anonymity that it affords you could be very valuable, but on the other hand, I can imagine that it would sometimes get frustrating to be part of something that is so popular and well known but only rarely get credit or recognition for it.
This month is all about that recognition.
This is a multi-page article in a text-based format, i.e., no video or audio. It’s an extremely detailed account of what turned out to be approximately the first half of Steve’s Muppet career. If anyone were ever to ask me, “Who is Steve Whitmire, and why should I care about him?” this interview is the first thing I would show them. Be sure you grab tissues before you get to page 3.
This one is audio only, and in my opinion, it should be required listening for all who call themselves Muppet fans. This is Muppetology 101: Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Muppets but Were Afraid To Ask.
In this one, Steve also talks about Ken Wilber and his integral theory. I haven’t gotten around to reading any Ken Wilber yet, but I’m interested in it because I kind of came up with a similar notion on my own, that everyone is a little bit right, and everyone has an important piece to the puzzle. I don’t always manage to believe it, but I do try.
“From There to Here” (Gen Con panel, 2018)
I may be breaking my own rules on this one because it’s less an interview and more a discussion. But if you’re like me and you sometimes wonder about what Steve’s life was like pre-Muppets, he talks about that a good deal in this one.
The Milo Beasley Show episode 236 (YouTube 2019)
In this interview, in addition to puppetry topics, Steve also gets to talk about his volunteer work with big cats at the Shambala Preserve.
I suppose I should mention again the explicit language in the non-interview segments. Caveat clicker. My reasons for including this one are entirely and transparently selfish. As interesting as the interview itself is, I particularly enjoy reliving the moment when I met Steve, and listening to him say complimentary things about me, some of which I missed in the moment because of the emotional overload.
Since this entry has gone through so many alterations, culminating in a last-minute substitution, there are three more interviews/appearances that I want to recognize even though they didn’t quite make the final cut. One is the Men in a Tub interview out of Omaha. I was in the room where it happened for that one too, although in that case, the room where it happened was actually a hallway, and I didn’t actually notice it was going on until I had walked past several times. Although, in my defense, their backs were to me, and they were sitting in front of a huge window.
The second is a Q&A out of Raleigh GalaxyCon (formerly Supercon). Some of the answers to questions that Steve gives illustrate to me how he could have conducted himself in a perfectly reasonable and professional manner and yet still have gotten under the skin of Disney execs, but I guess that will have to be a topic for another day.
The third is technically not an interview but an appearance that Steve and Dave made at the Center for Puppetry Arts, with Muppet characters in tow, over 10 years ago. Since I used to be a medical transcriptionist, it is especially funny to me when Steve/Kermit completely mangle some medical terms (e.g., laparoscopy is performed on the abdomen, not on the head, and there’s a difference between Lasix and LASIK). If he were a doctor and I were transcribing him, those errors would give me fits, but he’s not (and I’m not), so it’s hilarious.
Come back next month for the final regular installment of 60 for 60 with a different but related theme.