Did you know that the puppeteers who control the actions of Muppets also do their voices?
Just as in other franchises, the Muppets and Sesame Street have seen roles passed over to new performers who take their jobs very seriously and with heart!
In today’s VOX Daily, we’re going to take a look at Jim Henson’s legacy and a number of “Muppet Performers” to learn more about their multifaceted jobs as both puppet masters and voice artists.
A Look at Some Muppet Performers
Jim Henson’s legacy is enormous in terms of his contribution to entertainment and puppetry.
Henson pioneered this form of entertainment and was the voice of Kermit the Frog for 35 years up until his death in 1990.
Henson confided that he was not a ventriloquist and would freely let his lips move while voicing Kermit, even when on entertainment programs like The Carson Show. He was convinced that people were more interested in what the frog was doing rather than what the bearded guy beside him was up to.
Over the years, many talented people worked alongside Henson including his successor as Kermit, Steve Whitmire (pictured at left).
Whitmire notes that while their performances aren’t exactly the same, that his Kermit is very much like Henson’s Kermit.
Having the privilege of working closely with Henson also gave Whitmire an insider’s perspective on what drove the character and how Henson shaped Kermit.
Whitmire also performs as Ernie, Statler, Beaker, Rizzo the Rat and Bean Bunny.
Another great Muppet Performer was Frank Oz. Oz was the puppeteer for a number of characters including Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Animal, Sam the Eagle, and Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster, Grover, Bert and more.
When Oz moved on to other directing projects, Eric Jacobson took over many of Frank Oz’s roles including Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy, Animal, Sam the Eagle, Bert and Grover. Jacobson views his participation as a caretaker role in terms of the legacy left from those who went before.
Jacobson grew up watching the Muppets and has been quoted as being a rabid fan of the show. Yesterday I posted a video of Steve Whitmire and Eric Jacobson discussing their roles and responsibilities as Muppet Performers that you can watch on our Voices.com Videos blog.
Working as a Muppet Performer is the fulfillment of a dream for many people who have come to join the team.
The Muppet Performer for Elmo, among other puppets, is Kevin Clash. Kevin has been doing the voice of Elmo for over twenty years and is currently the Sesame Street Muppet Captain and co-executive producer.
Clash has authored an autobiography called “My Life as a Furry Red Monster: What Being Elmo Has Taught Me About Life, Love and Laughing Out Loud.”
Just yesterday I saw Kevin’s name in the credits for Elmo’s World and decided to look him up. In another program, I saw Eric Jacobson listed as Grover in Global Grover and thought to look him up as well.
There is a lot of opportunity for Muppets to work as generations are now familiar with these characters and have access to an amazing legacy of films, televised programs, cartoons and specials.
Who Are Your Favorite Muppet Performers?
Let me know by leaving a comment!