I am the ghost of groovymother.com. Woooooo!

This is an old page from Rod Begbie's blog.

It only exists in an attempt to prevent linkrot. No new content will be added to this site, and links and images are liable to be broken. Check out begbie.com to find where I'm posting stuff these days.

Filed under 'jimhenson'

February 16, 2011

Letters of Note: I love my Muppet life

Several letters written by Jim Henson and other muppety folks. Wonderful stuff.

August 21, 2006

Fringe Review: Jim Henson’s Puppet Improv

Fantastic puppeteering, so-so improv Aug 20, 2006 by Rod Begbie

I was a huge Muppets fan as a kid, and possibly even more so as a teenager, once I got to appreciate the tremendous skill involved in the puppeteering, and Jim Henson's incredible vision.

I'm also, as a result of watching so much great improv comedy in Boston and at the Chicago and Toronto improv festivals, greatly pained by bad improv. Literally. I curl up in my chair, cringe and groan, and squeeze Joy's hand tight as I watch some half-assed troupe miss offers, fuck up structures and spiral round helplessly on stage, unable to find an ending.

Which meant I had an interesting time at this show!

The structure of the show was a straight-forward short-form improv show. Hosted by The Groundlings' Patrick Bristow, he'd call out the names of the puppeteers to play each structure, get a suggestion from the audience, then away the puppeteers would go.

It was fantastic to see the Henson crew in action. On either side of the stage were two large screens, and above head height at the front of the stage was a camera. The performers worked as if they were creating a TV show -- Puppets held overhead, watching themselves on monitors. While it was great fun to watch the performance on stage, the real magic was the way they used that 4:3 video "stage". Characters ran off-screen and on. Came forward to the camera to mug to the audience, and in one memorable scene when hotdogs attended a "Magicians Anonymous" meeting, "appeared" and "levitated", by using and abusing the limitations of the fixed camera.

In short, all the great stuff that Henson, Oz et al pioneered back in the sixties, when they broke down the proscenium arch and explored the strengths of the cathode ray tube.

On the other hand, the improvisation was weak. Some of this was down the the cast being puppeteers who'd had a little improv training. But it was also hurt by the audience suggestions, which a better host would have been able to filter.

The best example of this was when the audience was asked for the title of a new game show. The loudest idiot in the crowd called for "Show Us Your Tits!", and that's what we got. The improvisation was dull: the "host" puppet didn't do much other than introduce the "contestants", then ask them to show their tits. However, the puppetry was sublime, as a beaver, an insect, and by divine intervention, a goat puppet with _udders_, gave their stripteases. (Stripteasi?)

As Joy pointed out afterwards, if there hadn't been puppets, it would have been a pretty crappy improv show. But for me, the delight of seeing the Muppet performers in action, cracking each other up, demonstrating their skill, and giving you some idea just how much fun they have making their movies and TV shows, it was completely worth it. ★★★★☆

August 6, 2006

YouTube - wilkins coffee 1

A massive collection of the “Wilkins and Wontkins” coffee commercials made by Jim Henson in the late 50s. Splendidly violent!

About This Site

This is an archive of groovmother.com, the old blog run by Rod Begbie — A Scottish geek who lives in San Francisco, CA.

I'm the co-founder of Sōsh, your handy-dandy guide for things to do in San Francisco this weekend.