Tag Archives: Muppeteers

Musing about Muppeteers :: My Appreciation for the People Behind the Fur and Below the Cameras

11 Aug

I was on Tumblr this morning, as per usual, and I was looking at the pictures of Eric Jacobson with Super Grover at this year’s San Diego Comic Con that both Lara and myself had posted simultaneously on our Muppet tumblrs today, and it really got me to thinking, which got me to writing. What follows is a long response to this picture (over on the left) that I wrote about on my Muppet tumblr today, with a few minors edits and a couple additional pieces. I guess today is ‘Julia-has-a-lot-of-feels’ day, or else I wouldn’t have spun off into this lengthy rant that not too many people are going to care about.

Anyway. Here it is.

If I had been at San Diego Comic Con 2012 and had gotten my picture taken with Super Grover, I think I would’ve asked Grover if it was all right if I had my picture taken with his friend Eric as well. I wouldn’t direct the question at the man on the floor, I would have dignified the part he was playing by addressing the cute, furry blue monster on his arm. Of course, a part of me likes to think that I would have just run straight passed everyone and flopped down on the ground next to Eric right away, but that would have disrupted his performance and thrown everything off, ruining the illusion, and I would never want that. Not in a million years. I know that later in the Con Eric was at a table for signings and pictures, but I have a feeling that upon first sight of Grover I would’ve been instantly overwhelmed and would’ve wanted to share my appreciation with the world immediately. But not for Grover. For Eric Jacobson.

You see, I know Grover’s the name and the face that everyone knows, but I pride myself in being one of the fans who appreciates the man underneath just as much as the monster up above. I wish Muppeteers got just as much recognition for the work they do as any other performer out there. Sure, you could argue that maybe if they did it’d all go to their heads, as it does with so many entertainers nowadays, but I don’t think so. I believe the material they work with keeps them grounded, humble, and human. It certainly did for Jim. These people though. They’re such amazing, talented people, and no one seems to understand that. Their job is far from easy. They portray so much emotion, brevity, and heart in their performances, all while keeping themselves out of the camera’s sight line. They have to be precise in their movements, able to shape their voices to fit a multitude of characters, and they all can sing their ever loving hearts out. They are the most under appreciated performers in all of Hollywood.

Yes, Jim truly got the recognition he deserved, as Frank still does to this day, but if you walk up to someone on the street and ask them if they know who Dave Goelz, Fran Brill, Bill Barretta, Karen Prell, or David Rudman are, they wouldn’t be able to give you an answer. However, if you ask them about Gonzo the Great, Zoe, Pepe the King Prawn, Red Fraggle, and Cookie Monster? Of course they’re going to know. Hell, Steve’s been performing Kermit for twenty-two years now, and people still don’t know the name of the man who kept the Muppets alive after Jim’s passing (well, Steve and Brain both did, in my opinion). I suppose Kevin Clash has become much more recognized, thanks to the brilliant documentary Being Elmo; however, instead of hearing people praise his work as Muppet Captain and co-producer on Sesame, I’m still much more likely to hear, “Can you believe Elmo’s played by a black man?” (Yes I can, you ignoramus.) I also think it’s a crime against nature that Caroll Spinney isn’t a household name. That man’s dedicated forty-three years of his life to making children happy. He’s a national treasure and should be treated as such (and hopefully, with the release next year of I Am Big Bird, he will be).

These performers have touched so many people’s lives with the work that they’ve done and they deserve all the praise and adoration in the world.

So no. Maybe I wouldn’t have gotten down on the ground with Eric, as not to disrupt his performance, but I certainly would have turned to Super Grover and told him, “I just want you to know, your friend Eric? I really respect everything that he’s done and he is, truly, one of the most talented people alive today. He’s one of the many people that’s changed my life for the better these past couple years, and I just want him to know that.” And I’d hope that would be enough to get my point across to Eric down below, and I hope someday I do get the opportunity to tell this to, not just Eric, but any Muppet performer I might meet. Each and every one of them has taken the last two years of my life and made it so much grander, so much more wonderful, so much more extraordinary. I will never, not ever, stop being grateful to this amazing group of people. They’ve made life a thing of beauty for me, and that is something to be truly thankful for.

After profusely thanking Eric, I would also tell him never to cut his hair this short again. Not his best look.