Sixty for 60: The Best of Steve Whitmire

(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. 

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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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Happytime Hypocrisy

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.

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Snippets

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!

“From There to Here”

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:

 

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Breadcrumbs

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: 

8:20
8:45 (Caroll and Deb Spinney)
9:08
17:17  (The question is, “What’s a lesson you learned later in life that you wish you would have known sooner?”)
19:56

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Sesame Saturday: “Skidamarink”

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.

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Karaoke with Kermit

This is a contest to benefit the WE Schools charity, which is a worthy cause. Apparently, Disney is not going to see a cent of the money, so I can support this and spread the word with a clear conscience. However, I have mixed feelings about the prize and the promotions.

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Short but Sweet: Steve Whitmire Q&A From Fanboy Expo in Knoxville, TN

A few weeks ago I got a Google alert on a brief interview that Steve Whitmire gave to a local news station in Knoxville, TN regarding the Fanboy Expo that was going on there. I hoped that would not be all that we heard out of Knoxville and happily, it is not. 

This morning, YouTube helpfully and accurately suggested that I might like this 25-minute Q&A that Steve gave at the Fanboy Expo. This panel was recorded and posted by Joseph Scarbrough, a name I recognize from the Muppet Pundit forum, even though I don’t think I ever interacted with him there, but a big “thank you” to him on the off-chance that he’s reading this.

This panel is a little different than some of the other panels we’ve seen. It’s shorter by approximately 20 minutes, and instead of the moderator sitting up front with Steve and asking him questions that we’ve already heard a gazillion times, he stood in the audience and helped with their questions. The whole thing pretty much consists of audience questions, so in that sense, it’s a true Q&A

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Google Alert: “Live” Steve Whitmire panel at Florida Supercon

This alert was sent two hours ago and I’m just seeing it now, so I don’t know how “live” it is, but it’s a video of Steve doing a panel discussion in Florida, and I’m watching it now. Check it out:

Oh, I didn’t know it was going to embed itself.  Cool!

It’s good that Steve has something to keep busy with while the O2 show’s been going on the in UK. I imagine that still has to sting at least a little.

Oh, I just realized that this is from several days ago, so it’s not live as in “happening this very minute,” but it was recorded live, and now it’s available for us to watch, so yay!

Muppet Babies 2018 Review: Part 2

I don’t know about you, but I could sure use some happy right about now, so here is my tragically belated and unreasonably long continuation of my review of Muppet Babies 2018.

(Part One of my review can be found here.)

Initially I was only going to watch and review the first episode of Muppet Babies because it was available for free on Amazon and YouTube.  Then I saw that episode 5 was going to feature characters of Steve’s, including Rizzo, and I was very curious to see how they would handle them, so I purchased and watched that one too.  Here I’ll be reviewing all four of the stories that I saw over the course of the two episodes.

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The World Turned Upside Down

As I mentioned previously, I still have feelings I need to work through in regard to the Schism, starting with how I first found out about it. It was through this disturbing introductory bit on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert:

It wasn’t just that the bit was tacky and unfunny; it was that they didn’t provide any explanation afterward. I sat through the entire subsequent monologue on the edge of my seat, screaming at the TV, “What’s going on with Steve Whitmire and Kermit?!? You can’t just turn my world 90 degrees on its axis without further comment or followup!”

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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.