In the new documentary Muppet Guys Talking: Secrets Behind the Show the Whole World Watched, five performers of some of the most iconic Muppet characters sit around and reminisce about their characters and Jim Henson. You would think by now I'd be immune to discussions about Jim, but hearing the first few strains of The Rainbow Connection brought tears to my eyes. I guess it always will.
But this documentary isn't sad. In fact, it's joyous and celebratory as the five (cough, not really guys, since one of them is a gal) performers discuss what fun it was working with Jim and with each other.
The performers who appear in Muppet Guys Talking are:
- Jerry Nelson, whose Muppet creations have included Count von Count, Snuffleupagus, Lew Zealand and Gobo Fraggle.
- Fran Brill, whose Muppet creations have included Prairie Dawn, Zoe, Little Bird and Betty Lou.
- Dave Goelz, whose Muppet creations have included The Great Gonzo, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, Zoot and Boober Fraggle.
- Bill Barretta, whose Muppet creations have included Pepe the King Prawn, Johnny Fiama, Bobo the Bear and Big Mean Carl.
- Frank Oz, whose Muppet creations have included Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Cookie Monster and Grover.
The late Jerry Nelson, wearing oxygen, appears otherwise in good health as he laughs about portraying the Count and how Snuffleupagus was inspired by Eeyore. And Bill Barretta appears rather quiet and mild-mannered, a stark contrast to his characters Pepe and Johnny Fiama.
And of course there is Frank Oz. Cookie Monster. Grover. Oz directed the film, and he and Jim Henson were two of a kind, playing off each other as they portrayed Bert and Ernie or Kermit and Miss Piggy. All agree that Jim allowed them to mess up, to work hard, and to enjoy what they did.
But not all was fun and games. The physical toll could be somewhat arduous, with a raised arm for hours on end. Devices constructed to make a certain scene work. From the craft that goes into making a Muppet to the development of the character to the writing of the lines, it takes a village to bring a Muppet to life.
Clips abound from some of the very best Muppet Show sequences, from "In the Navy" to "Danny Boy," an particular favorite of mine on St. Patrick's Day.
If you're a Muppet fan and want to hear about behind-the-scenes stories, then this will be a real treat for you. It's a great video to watch as you sip a cup of tea or hot cocoa. It feels like you're sitting among friends and having a laugh.
The Live Worldwide Online Premiere And Release Of Muppet Guys Talking! Begins tomorrow (or today, depending on when you're reading this) Friday March 16 at 2 pm Pacific | 5 pm Eastern | 9 pm GMT | 8 pm AEDT. There will also be an online live Party with the Guys on the Muppet Guys Talking Facebook page.
I promise that if you grew up on the Muppets, this will bring back a flood of memories. So check out Muppet Guys Talking when it premieres. It's almost time! (to play the music and light the lights) . . .