Sixty for 60: Live Appearances by Muppets

Welcome to the final regular installment of 60 for 60, a year-long celebration of the work of Steve Whitmire in anticipation of his 60th birthday next month. This month’s theme is live appearances by Muppet characters.

Kermit TED talk

“The trick to the show [Muppets 2015], if it works, is to make it feel for the first time that you’re seeing the Muppets in our world.” –Bill Prady, SDCC Panel 2015

Of the many strange and perplexing things that happened in conjunction with the Muppets’ 2015 series, one that I found to be among the strangest and most perplexing was this bizarre statement by Bill Prady, that it would be the first time that the Muppets were in our world. How are they not in our world? Not only have six of their eight movies been set in our world, but the Muppets make live appearances in our world all the time. And when they do, it results in some of the best and most entertaining material because they’re usually a little freer to do some ad libbing and to be themselves, insofar as the Muppets have selves, which is a deep philosophical dive that I don’t think I’m ready to take at the moment and would probably require a whole other entry even if I were.

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Brief Footage of Steve Whitmire’s OCon Q&A

If the pattern holds true, it looks like the full video of Steve’s OCon Q&A may be going up within a few weeks. I don’t know for sure that that is the case, but they have full panels from last year that went up in early September, so that’s reason to hope. 

Because my memories of the Q&A are so sketchy, even with my notes, I’m going to hold off publishing my impressions of it for now. 

To tide us all over in the meantime, I found this highlight reel of the days’ events. A few moments of Steve’s Q&A, sans audio, are shown at about 43 seconds in: 

I looked to see if I could see myself in the background of any of these clips, but I didn’t, not at the Q&A or in any of the other footage.

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Sixty for 60: Interviews

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.

Steve_Dave_stage

(Technically not a picture of an interview, but one I happen to like.)

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.

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Emphasis

Today I received a comment on my previous entry from Dane Mychal, one of the hosts of the CF3 podcast. I want to pull out a quote from that comment for emphasis:

“Steve, as you know much more than I, is an incredible talent and wonderful human being, but I wanted to give this specific anecdote for perspective: This was early Sunday morning on the last day of a 3-day convention. Media guests tend to get burned out by Day 3 and 4 of these things and start to just mail it in. The MAC had been open for an hour that day by the time we came up to see Steve. Out of the 10 or so celebrities in Media Guest Row, he was the ONLY one there promptly at the prescribed time and remained the only one there for quite a long time. It was just about the first thing we discussed with him before we had even turned the recorders on. This man is a professional and puts his best effort into everything he does. We also requested to pay him for his time because we believe in compensating talent for such things. He was floored and insisted that we take autographed photos with us, which I am happy to have!”

This was the first convention of this kind that I’ve ever attended, so I don’t know what the norms are, but I can confirm that Steve was the first media guest on the floor that morning, the only one on the floor for some time thereafter, and although I wasn’t paying a lot of attention at the end of the day, I know that there were several who left before he did. 

Thank you, Dane, for the benefit of your perspective!

Mark Hamill Reveals Skeksis Scientist Voice

Well, I decided to follow Mark Hamill on Twitter just in time to hear his version of the Skeksis Scientist’s voice as he plugs the Dark Crystal panel at San Diego Comic Con.

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Meeting Steve Whitmire, Part 3: Basking in Reflected Glory

Read Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

I took notes at the Q&A so I could talk about it in detail regardless of whether or not any video of it shows up online. I intend to do that in a separate post, but here I’d like to give just a brief overview and mention the parts that are relevant to the rest of my story.

Before I talk about Steve’s Q&A, I need to back up a bit to talk about one of his visitors from the morning. I mentioned her briefly in one of my other posts. She was the lady who was part of her church’s puppet troupe, and she brought along a Whatnot for him to sign (one of those ones that Disney marketed and sold for a while). She was accompanied by two teenage kids, but of the three of them it was pretty clear that she was the one most excited to meet Steve (not that the teenagers were entirely disinterested). Her Whatnot was one that they allowed new puppeteers in their group to practice on and learn with, so Steve not only signed it across the back of its head, he also wrote a short message of encouragement.

The autographed Whatnot was one of several puppets present at the Q&A. Scrubby was there with Ethan, and the lady and the baby were there with their Wembley, and there was also a guy there with a Kermit. I’m not sure if it was a fan-made Kermit or a toy that he’d bought, but they appear briefly in the following video alongside Steve (and Mitzi):

Also, it wasn’t a puppet per se, but there was someone there with a very detailed plush toy of Rizzo. I meant to ask the guy where he acquired such a thing, but then I didn’t get around to it.

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Meeting Steve Whitmire, Part 2: “Nice” Is Not the Word I’m Looking For

This is Part 2 of a series of at least three. Click here for Part 1.

Steve’s booth was next to Gigi Edgley’s, who was also making an appearance at OCon. I had seen that that was the plan and wondered if that was going to be awkward, given her close association with Brian Henson. But I didn’t want to ask Steve if it was awkward, because I thought that that somehow might make it more awkward. However, Steve brought up the subject of her appearance, asking me if I was familiar with her work. I told him that I’d never seen Farscape but that I had watched Creature Shop Challenge. He said that he hadn’t met her before this convention and wasn’t familiar with her work, but that he’d gotten acquainted with her over the course of the convention.

Clearly there’s no bad blood there.

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Men in a Tub Interview Steve Whitmire

But first the bad news: I’m having some sort of issue with my left wrist, so trying to lay off typing for a while, which means a delay in the rest of my OCon saga. 

And now the good news: Whatever was going on with my wrist last week seems to have resolved, so I can now talk a little bit about this interview, although I don’t have that much to say about it.

I really appreciate that this interviewer purposely tries to delve into the more obscure stuff. I mean, I knew that Dreamchild exists, but I’ve never heard anyone talk about it before. 

However, I don’t like the fact that, when searching for stock Kermit images, they decided on a screen grab from the first Vogel!Kermit video. I imagine that it wasn’t intentional, but now it seems like Simula-Kerm is looking over Steve’s shoulder and mocking him. I wonder if Steve noticed what graphic they were using at the time. 

Meanwhile, I’m continuing to scour YouTube for more videos or other content from OCon. If anyone has any or knows of any, please let me know. Thanks. 

Meeting Steve Whitmire, Part 1: An Old Friend I’ve Just Met

Before you begin reading, I should warn you: This is an extensive, detailed, impressionistic, lengthy, and potentially incoherent account of my trip to Omaha Comic Con to meet Steve Whitmire. I’m writing it in such great detail not because I think it will be interesting to you (although I hope it will be!) but mostly to fix my own memories of it as firmly in my mind as possible.

If you want the tl;dr version, the entire experience can basically be summed up in five emojis:

😱🤩🤗😊😂

I knew that meeting Steve at OCon was going to be an emotional experience. I anticipated that, as a result, I was going to have difficulty controlling my tears, that all the feels were going to turn my brain into guacamole, and that I was going to have a hard time talking to him as a result.

I tried to prepare myself beforehand to counteract these effects. I made notes about what I wanted to say, and I tried to imagine what would happen when I met him. When it happened for real, I was successful in the former regard (controlling my tears) but had less success in the latter (communicating articulately). All things considered, I think I did pretty well, because there was NO WAY I could ever have predicted or prepared for what actually happened.

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Observed Interactions Between Steve Whitmire and Fans at OCon

Before I get into my immersive, detailed, and probably incoherent description of hanging out with Steve Whitmire at Omaha Comic Con, I want to talk specifically about the interactions I observed between him and the fans. I was at Steve’s booth most of the day, and so I got to witness the interactions firsthand. 

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Back From OCon–BEST DAY EVER!!!

Right now I don’t have a lot of time to describe my experience at OCon, but I wanted to say that I went there, and I met Steve, and IT WAS AWESOME!!!

I could tell you that Steve was nice to me, but “nice” doesn’t really do it justice. Take everything you’ve ever heard about how nice Steve Whitmire is and multiply it seven times seven times. That’s how nice he was to me.

He literally treated me like a VIP. He gave me a hug when he met me, he let me hang out at his table, he gave me an autograph for free, and he recommended my blog to a whole room full of people. 

Speaking of which, if anyone who also attended OCon is reading this and has/finds pictures or video of the event related to Steve’s appearance, I’d love to share that stuff here. You can use the “Contact” link to send me an email, or you can tag me on Twitter (@frogoflamancha) or Instagram (@mary_arlene_flm)

Thanks, everybody. I’ll post about the rest of it as soon as I can. Watch this space. 

Interview with Steve Whitmire Ahead of Omaha Comic Con

Steve is appearing at OCon this weekend and gave an interview to the Omaha World-Herald. 

The interviewer makes Steve’s Muppet departure sound more volitional than it actually was, but he gets brownie points for not referring to Steve as a “voice actor.” 

There’s also an interesting sidebar about the 20 “most powerful puppet characters in the world.” It’s kind of funny that the author makes a point of mentioning that Socrates contemplated the question in ancient Greece, but the puppet characters included all seem to be American in origin and date back only as far as the 20th century. 

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Sixty for 60: Ernie

Welcome back to 60 for 60, a celebration of the work of Steve Whitmire in anticipation of his 60th birthday coming up later this year. This month is a celebration of Steve’s work as the irrepressible Ernie.

Just as Ernie and Bert are undervalued as one of the great comedy teams of all time, I feel that Steve Whitmire’s work as Ernie is tragically under-appreciated, especially by Muppet fans of a certain age. Whether playing alongside Frank Oz or Eric Jacobson, he’s done some stellar work in skits, songs, and bits that stack up against any of the great Bert and Ernie sketches of the pre-1990 Sesame Street era.

This was the hardest 60 for 60 entry that I’ve put together since I talked about Wembley last November. I could easily devote at least three months of this project to Steve’s work as Ernie. I would run out of months of the year before I ran out of material.

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