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Tuesday, March 13, 2018

'Muppet Fans Listening' by Nicholas Napoli

Frank Oz returns to his Muppets roots, in an all new Muppets Guys Talking documentary, premiering MARCH 16 th . I have been a Muppet Fan since I was three years old and as I’ve grown older, I’ve become familiar with most of the main Muppeteers, through their interviews and continued connections to Muppet productions. Frank Oz however has always been a mystery to me and now for the first time, myself and every fan who has ever wondered, will know who exactly Frank Oz is. As well as learn about his connection to Jim Henson and The Muppets, whilst surrounded by other great performers. 

Frank Oz, original performer of Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Animal, Sam the Eagle, Cookie Monster, Grover, Bert and Yoda, amongst many others, shares his stories. If anyone can give us an insight into Jim Henson, nobody can do a better job at it than Frank Oz. This simple quote from the man himself, indicates just how much of Jim’s teachings he can pass on to us. “You can’t coerce someone into creativity. You won’t get their talent, their gifts, or their authenticity. Jim was such a leader, but he didn’t lead. Jim and his outlook on life caused us to want to fall in. His nature, who he was, how he lived his life—that’s how he led. He became a leader as a result of this, but he didn’t work at leading.” Joining Frank Oz in his documentary, are four other talented character originating Muppeteers, including Bill Barretta, Dave Goelz, Fran Brill and the late, great Jerry Nelson. 

Jerry Nelson was a wonderful performer and a master of a variety of distinctly different voices. Floyd, Robin, Uncle Deadly, Crazy Harry, Lew Zealand, Dr Strangepork, Camilla, Pops, Emily Bear, Mad Monty, Gobo Fraggle, Pa Gorg, Trash-Heap, Count Von Count, Herry Monsters, The Two Headed Monster, just to name a few. Jerry Nelson appeared alongside his daughter, making a cameo appearance in The Great Muppet Caper, explaining to her that “bears wear hats”. Sadly, Jerry Nelson past away in 2012, luckily we will be able to see and hear from him again, as Muppet Fans get the chance to listen to him, one last time, when Muppet Guys Talking premieres. 

Dave Goelz is the last of the original The Muppet Show performer, who has luckily not had his characters recast. Gonzo has been weird and wonderful for over 40 years, and all this time, we have Dave Goelz to appreciate for those performances. Dr. Bunsen Honey, Beauregard and ironically, the mostly silent Zoot, have all originated from this man’s creativity. Down at Fraggle Rock, Dave Goelz performs Boober and Uncle Travelling Matt. I hope that one day in the future, Dave Goelz can return back to his Fraggle Rock characters, in some kind of big, major, production.

Fran Brill was the first female Muppeteer hired by Jim Henson, back in the 1970’s, originator of such characters including Prairie Dawn, Zoe, Betty Lou, The Countess, amongst others. Although both Prairie Dawn and Betty Lou have resided in Sesame Street since the very beginning, it wasn’t until the introduction of Zoe, that Sesame Street finally introduced a main female character, later joined by Rosita and Abby Cadabby. Fran Brill retired from acting, back in 2014, luckily fans can still listen to what she has to say, when Muppet Guys Talking premiers on March 16 th . 

Bill Barretta brought to life Earl Sinclair, and then went on to create one of my most favourite long, lost, forgotten characters, Clueless Morgan, debuted in Muppet Treasure Island. In 1996 the Muppets returned to television in Muppets Tonight and fans were treated to a bunch of new characters, many originating from Bill Barretta. Pepe the King Prawn, Bobo Bear, Johnny Fiama, Big Mean Carl, Howard Tubman and Angel-Marie amongst many others. Also including Sesame Street’s Louie (Elmo’s Father), and a favourite of mine, Bubba Rat, debuted in Muppets From Space. Bill Barretta has since then become one of the leading Muppet performers, taking over many of Jim Henson’s original characters including Rowlf the Dog, Dr Teeth, The Swedish Chef and Mahna- Mahna.

Victoria Labalme is somebody connected to The Muppets by marriage, I was never aware of who she was, until promotion for Muppet Guys Talking first began, a few months back. Muppet Fans have Victoria Labalme to thank for this new documentary, giving un an insight into how it felt, working alongside Jim Henson, as a team. After a year and a half, trying to convince Frank Oz to be part of this documentary, she luckily succeeded and Muppet Fans around the world, are very grateful for what she has accomplished for us. I for one, cannot wait to hear, this conversation in full, from the short interviews and promotional videos I’ve watched online, I can sense this is going to be a very fun and enlightening conversation. A conversation all Muppet Fans Listening can be part of, right in the comfort of their own living room. Muppet Guys Talking premiers March 16 th exclusively at, this is going to be Muppetational, inspirational, sensational and most certainly celebrational. 

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