Joe the Legal Weasel

There’s a new Muppet in town. His name is Joe the Legal Weasel, he is performed by the fantastically talented Peter Linz, and he appears about 20 seconds into this video: 

I love the idea behind Joe the Legal Weasel. He seems to be a way of poking fun at the folks running Disney without them necessarily realizing that they’re being skewered from within, which is exactly what the Muppets should be doing. 

Nevertheless, this particular sketch leaves me cold. And I’m not entirely sure why. 

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CF3 Podcast Interviews Steve Whitmire (and I WAS THERE!)

In the first part of my OCon “saga,” I talked about how Steve was in the midst of a podcast interview when I met him. The podcast is called CF3 (Cult Fans, Films & Finds), and the episode just went up. In addition to Steve’s interview, it also includes an interview with Gigi Edgley, a review of The Dark Crystal, and some other stuff.

A word of caution before I post a link to the content: while the interview segments are safe and appropriate for everyone, the rest of the episode contains some explicit language. I don’t think I’m able to link right to one particular segment, unfortunately.

Oh, and by the way…I’M IN THIS PODCAST! They paused it briefly so Steve could talk to me but resumed it when they realized that we were acquainted. So you can hear me say hi to him (which I have NO MEMORY of doing, by the way), and then you can hear me getting giggly from nerves when Steve compliments my blog.

For some reason, the embed function isn’t working, so here’s the web address:

http://cf3pod.com/022-the-dark-crystal-1982-w-steve-whitmire-gigi-edgley

I’ve been told that it is also available through the various podcast apps, if that’s more convenient. 

I wanted to give you timestamps to help you find the most relevant content on your own, but for some inexplicable reason, the points where I’m finding the content are different every time I try to seek them out, so I can only give you approximate time stamps:

  • Start of Steve’s interview: Approximately 5 minutes (plus or minus 15 seconds)
  • My brief contribution: Approximately 6 minutes (plus or minus 40 seconds)
  • Steve’s rating of The Dark Crystal: Approximately 1 hour (plus or minus 6 minutes)

It’s not ideal, but that’s the best I can do.

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Sixty for 60: Homecoming and Farewell

I’d like to thank Steve for unintentionally setting up the theme of this month’s 60 for 60 post. This month I’m examining the complementary themes of homecoming and farewell. Specifically, I’m looking at the home videos that have emerged on YouTube of the time he went back to participate in a concert at his old high school after 10 years of working with the Muppets, as well as his contributions to Jim Henson’s memorial service two years later.

I’ve never actually met Steve in person and I don’t know him well even by internet standards, so what I’m about to say is pure conjecture, but from where I’m sitting as an outside observer, it seems to me that two things keep him grounded: his close connection to his roots in Atlanta, and his loyalty to Jim Henson. Both are on prominent display in the following videos.

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Sixty for 60: Beaker

Welcome back to 60 for 60, a yearlong celebration of Steve Whitmire and his work in anticipation of his 60th birthday later this year. This month we celebrate Steve’s work as Beaker, specifically in the viral videos that the Muppets made for YouTube.

“I get the impression that Beaker is a guy who goes home at night […] he’s a smart guy, he works in a lab, [yet] he probably doesn’t have much of a social life. He’s pretty introverted because he really can’t talk, so his only means of communication is the internet.” –Steve Whitmire

Despite the fact that Beaker is one of my favorite Muppets, I originally hadn’t included him in this project, for reasons that seemed to make sense at the time but that I can no longer remember. Then I watched the viral videos in which he features again and realized what a travesty it was to leave them out, because each of them is completely brilliant, and it’s some of the best and most Muppety content the Muppets have put out in the last 30 years. By all accounts, Steve had a lot of input into the creation of the viral videos, which means that he gets a lot of the credit for their quality and success.

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Sixty for 60: Rizzo the Rat

In anticipation of Steve Whitmire’s 60th birthday next year, I’m celebrating his work and his characters one month at a time in this year-long series, 60 for 60. This month, the spotlight is on Steve’s first major Muppet character, Rizzo the Rat.

“I’m going to make that rat a star.”–Jim Henson

Who is Rizzo the Rat? According to TV Tropes, Rizzo is a Big Eater, a Lovable Coward, and a Jerk with a Heart of Gold, all of which seems accurate and consistent to me.

Personally, Rizzo strikes me as a savvy, street-wise opportunist with a talent for self-preservation. However, he has standards, and even though he was born in the sewers, there are depths to which he will not sink. For example, he’s not above taking advantage of his friends, but he’ll never sell them out completely, and he’ll always be there for them in the clinch. 

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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).

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Walter and Robin

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.

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SoDak Stuff FOREVER!

In honor of the July 4th holiday, Tough Pigs had a feature in which they posted Muppet YouTube videos connected in some way with each of the United States (plus the District of  Columbia).

The video they used for South Dakota was kind of weird, but then again, it wasn’t their first choice. Their first choice was Muppet Mount Rushmore from “Sex and Violence,” but they couldn’t find it on YouTube. (Odd…I know it used to be there, although that was five years ago by now.)

Anyway, it appears that the states were listed in the reverse order that they were admitted to the Union, and they used “Stars and Stripes Forever” for Delaware in order to have a big finish.

Now, I’m not saying that “Stars and Stripes Forever” is inappropriate for Delaware, but in watching the video again, it seems to me that there’s a lot of South Dakota stuff in there as well. My contention is that “Stars and Stripes” would have worked just as well for South Dakota, and to prove it, I’m going to count all the South Dakota-related stuff in the video:

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Muppets’ Fourth of July: Before and After

This is what the Fourth of July looked like before the Schism:

This is what the Fourth of July looks like after the Schism:

 

CONCLUSIONS:

  • The Fourth of July was much more fun before Steve’s unwarranted dismissal. Now it’s apparently just tears and kazoo anthems against a plain background (not that I have anything against plain blue backgrounds 😉 ).
  • That said, however, I do enjoy Walter’s kazoo harmonies. 
  • Daaaaaaaamn, Steve as Beaker totally killed the piccolo part on “Stars and Stripes Forever!”
  • On a related note, I never thought I would say this, but I MISS RIZZO!
  • Sam the Eagle clearly stopped plucking his eyebrow(s) sometime between 2009 and 2015.
  • It’s really difficult to take pride in a country where kids are put in cages by pumpkin-headed demagogues, which is an incongruous thing to post on a Muppet blog, but it’s something that unfortunately has to be iterated and reiterated until our lawmakers get the point.

Sesame Saturday: The Lost Boy and the Creepy Yo-Yo Man

Since I referenced this sketch yesterday, I thought I would post it today and talk a little about it.

I just love these weird old Sesame Street sketches. I remember being strangely mesmerized by this one every time it came on, with its weird dreamlike landscape, eerie soundtrack, and the enigmatically creepy yo-yo man, who is off-putting but ultimately helpful.

I also find it sort of amusing that, due to the lack of scale in the animation, it appears that the boy got lost amidst all these bizarre things approximately 3 yards from his front door.

March for Our Lives: Songs and Solidarity

When I was young, my ambition was to be one of the people who made a difference in this world. My hope is to leave the world a little better for having been there.”
                   –Jim Henson

To the Parkland students, and all March for Our Lives participants:

The courage, fortitude, and perseverance you have shown in the face of overwhelming adversity is both inspiring and humbling.  I graduated from high school in 1999, weeks after the Columbine shooting, and if my generation had done what you are doing now, maybe there wouldn’t have been a need for you to step up and speak out.  I can’t go back and change what is past, but I stand in solidarity with you now.

Jim Henson has always been a hero of mine, and you are now doing what he aspired to do, and ultimately succeeding in doing: making a difference and bettering the world.  Jim Henson believed in the power of children; he created Fraggle Rock in 1983 with the express purpose of bringing peace to the world.  

I know that you’re experiencing a lot of pushback, and I’m sure you understand that that only shows that you’re having an impact.  If the NRA weren’t scared of you, they wouldn’t waste their time or money trying to discredit you.  

Nevertheless, all that negativity can be tough to bear.  I know that you’re not lacking in strength, resilience, and determination, but I also know that you–that we–have a long, hard fight yet to be contested.  I’ve often found that music–particularly Muppet music–has the power to comfort and inspire, so I’ve curated a list of what I consider to be the best and most uplifting songs from Henson-related productions.  When the world seems dark and hopeless, I hope that they will bring a little light into your hearts.

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Tribute

As my first real attempt at video creation/editing, I made a video tribute to Steve Whitmire:

Special thanks and apologies to my fellow Muppet Pundit commenters Matt L., Richard X., and Rocky D., whose photos/artwork were among those that I co-opted for use in this video.

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Phantom of the Opera: Everything’s better with Muppets

phantom5

 

Faust, a five-act grand opera, is by Charles Gounod with a French libretto by Jules Barbier and Michel Carré.  It is loosely based on Faust, Part I, by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.  Goethe’s lesser-known follow-up, 2 Faust 2 Furious, focused on a man who made a deal with the diesel.”

–Erik Forrest Jackson, pushing all my geeky English-major buttons in an explanatory footnote of Muppets Meet the Classics: The Phantom of the Opera

When I opened the book and saw that the epigraph was a quote from a renowned French philosopher and a line from an old infomercial, I knew I was going to like this book.

When I started laughing hysterically at the table of contents, I knew I was going to love this book.

When I finished reading it, I wanted to go back and read the original novel again to compare the two; the mark of a good book is that it makes you want to read more.

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