September 24th is a significant date in Muppetdom. Most serious Muppet fans probably know that it’s Jim Henson’s birthday, and many know that it’s also Steve Whitmire’s birthday (which I celebrated on Monday). But there’s another reason why September 24th is significant that even the most dedicated Muppet fan may not be aware of: Jeff Moss passed away from cancer on September 24th, 1998. This year marks the 20th anniversary of his death.
(I know that today is also Jim Henson’s birthday, and I have something special and separate planned for him on Saturday.)
I am sure you are already aware that today, September 24th, 2018, is Steve Whitmire’s 59th birthday. It sort of sneaked up on me, and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do to commemorate the occasion. I thought of showcasing some of his best work as some of his most prominent characters via YouTube video, etc. Then I thought, “Next year is his 60th birthday; maybe something like that would be more appropriate for the milestone?”
Then I realized, with Steve having worked with the Muppets for nearly 40 years, there’s a wealth of stellar material to showcase. Rather than try to confine it all to one day, why not spread it out over the course of a full year?
Here’s my idea: from now until September 2019, I’ll showcase five examples (be they videos or whatever) of Steve’s best work on the 24th of each month. Each month will feature a specific character or unifying theme. Then the project will culminate next year on Steve’s 60th birthday with a compilation of 60 examples of his best work.
I do not now, nor will I ever, understand this way of relating to one another. That being said, I love Matt for his self-deprecation.
(Not that I didn’t love him before, but I love him even more now.)
I want to take a moment to reiterate my reader-response-informed theory of criticism: it is neither the creator of an artistic work nor the audience that confers meaning upon it; rather, meaning is created when the intention of the author meets the interpretation of the audience. This is not to say that the creator of a work cannot have his or her own interpretation of its meaning; rather, it means that the creator’s interpretation is not the “only” correct interpretation.
I bring this up again because the matter of Bert and Ernie’s sexuality became an issue again this week. I’ve written about this extensively elsewhere. I believe that, much like Batman in The Dark Knight, Bert, Ernie, and all the other Muppets are whatever each of us, as individual viewers, need them to be.
If you recall, I had mixed feelings about the possibility of entering this contest, but then it was revealed that the winner gets to pick the songs. That, the possibility of meeting Matt, and the fact that the money goes to support a good cause rather than lining Disney execs’ pockets made the prospect irresistible to me.
For those who may be concerned, the above video is 100% free of silly string.
Among people who know me well, I’m not known for having a very generous attitude toward blue humor. As a matter of fact, if you were to ask the people I went to high school with, most of them would probably say I was something of a prude. (They might not actually use the word “prude,” but they would say something to that effect.) And my poor, patient younger brother could attest to the number of times he’s shown me an R-rated movie that he really likes, hoping that we could enjoy it together, only to have me watch it like a deer in headlights, and sometimes get on my high horse about it after the fact.
All of which is just to help you to understand where I’m coming from when I say that I saw Happytime Murders recently and actually really loved it.
Based on his appearances in the “Muppet Thought of the Week” videos on YouTube, Walter has now become one of the funniest Muppets. Does that qualify as irony?
Prior to last summer, Walter was sometimes paired with Robin the Frog (as performed by Matt Vogel) in “Thoughts of the Week” and other short videos, a pairing that works pretty well, given that they’re both characters who are supposed to be a little younger. Check ’em out:
However, since Matt started performing Kermit, performing Robin as well would have been difficult, particularly during those live shows that everyone seemed to enjoy so much. Peter Linz now describes himself (on his Twitter profile and elsewhere) as the performer for Robin, so I guess that recast is now official.
I really identify with Ernie in these sketches, not only because, if I have an interesting book, I can read in circumstances that other people would find too distracting, but because I sometimes don’t realize how annoying I can be to other people.
“Dixie Wailin'” is certainly one of my favorite Fraggle Rock songs, if not my very favorite. So it bothers me that almost everyone who covers it seems to get the lyrics wrong.
You guys…I saw Happytime Murders last night when movie tickets were discounted, and I actually really loved it.
Maybe it was because I hadn’t seen the trailer, maybe it was because I had zero expectations of Brian Henson, or maybe it was all the bootlegged Kids in the Hall sketches I binge-watched beforehand to put me in a more receptive mindset, but I thoroughly enjoyed the movie.
I’m writing a full review but don’t know when I’ll get it finished, so I just wanted to let you know that I found it to be much better than reviews would have you believe. I laughed a lot and even cried a little, but in a good way.
As you’re probably already aware, there’s a movie coming out today called The Happytime Murders, directed by Brian Henson. I haven’t talked about the movie here, and the reason is that I haven’t been able to bring myself to watch the trailer, and I make it a point not to critique things that I haven’t seen. It’s a personal quirk of mine; I call it “integrity.”
There is a certain Muppet fan site, which I will not identify by name, that regards Happytime as Serious Business, and they are Very Concerned about the movie’s R-rated content, concerns that they expressed in an extremely sanctimonious commentary on the movie* that none of them have technically “seen,” raising questions about its worthiness of the Henson name and worrying about its effect on Jim Henson’s legacy.
It’s been a week since I found and posted any long-form video of Steve’s convention appearances, but rest assured that I am still looking and will update as I find them.
In the meantime, I’ve found some short videos that don’t seem to merit blog entries all their own, but make for a good post in combination. First is a minute-long snippet within a slightly longer video that loyal reader and commenter Andrew K alerted me to about the Steel City convention in…Pittsburgh, I’m assuming(?) in which Steve gives a puppetry lesson to a little boy who reminds me a LOT of my nephew. To be clear: the little boy in the clip is NOT my nephew but kind of looks like him. Anyway, I’ve cued up the video so that when you click on it below, you should go right to the good stuff.
Also, I think it’s kind of weird that, as Steve enters to audience applause, the moderator says, “Come on, guys! You can do better than that!” They’re already giving him a standing ovation; what do you want them to do, levitate? It wouldn’t bother me except that the guy almost sounds angry about it; I seem to be getting flashbacks to gym class from it.
Second, I have no idea what “Surge of Power” is or why it needs celebrity endorsements, but here’s Steve giving them a shout-out at the Great Philadelphia Comic Con back in April. Yay!
Even though I’ve been actively searching for more video of Steve’s convention appearances, I didn’t expect to find anything out of Gen Con so soon, since it just ended yesterday. And yet, even though I wasn’t looking for it specifically, I found one this morning. It’s not a Q&A this time, but it’s Steve giving an hour-long chat and telling awesome stories:
I’ve been keeping an eye out for more videos of Steve Whitmire convention appearances for two weeks now. I haven’t found any more complete panels yet, but I did find this compilation in which a little girl dressed like Harley Quinn (I think?) interviews a lot of people at the Florida Supercon, including Steve and the Spinneys.
It’s about a 23-minute video, out of which there are maybe five minutes total (probably less) in which she talks to Muppet performers. Unfortunately, these instances are spaced out throughout the entire video. If you’re like me and you don’t want to sit through the other interviews, I’ve provided timestamps and links below to the portions of the video that we’re most interested in:
I wanted to post this video a few weeks (or possibly months) ago, but I couldn’t find it on YouTube. I tried searching for it by the name of the song, which was difficult because I didn’t know how to spell it. I’ve known this song for most of my life, but I’d never seen the title or the lyrics written out.