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Couple of questions for Muppeteers

Discussion in 'Henson People' started by jeffkjoe, Aug 10, 2005.

  1. jeffkjoe

    jeffkjoe Well-Known Member

    Any Muppeteers out there?

    Here are a couple questions that struck me while watching TMS: S1:

    1) What kind of endurance levels does one have to keep their hands above their heads for such large amounts of time?

    I recently was watching the Grover skit from 1970 where he sings "Over, Around, and Through" and THAT was a 3-4 minute song done in one take.

    How did Frank Oz do that??? His arm muscles must have been burning. What kind of exercises or methods do you have to alleviate the pain?

    2) Also, this may sound strange, but what if a Muppeteer has an itch or a sneeze in the middle of a take? I mean, you can't stop what you're doing, otherwise you'll blow the take.

    Man, hats off to Muppeteers. It looks easy, but I'm sure it ain't.
  2. Gonzo14

    Gonzo14 Well-Known Member

    I've wondered that myself
  3. muppetsforever

    muppetsforever Well-Known Member

    i totally agree. i have a heck of a time keeping my arms over my head when i curl my hair :D
  4. Skekayuk

    Skekayuk Well-Known Member

    If you don't have a copy, go and borrow the book 'Tooth And Claw The Inside Story Of Spitting Image' from the library, and read Pages 40 and 41. - it had a very brief overview of how Spitting Image originally coped with the problem.
  5. Punch'n'Judy

    Punch'n'Judy Well-Known Member

    It's important to remember that the Spitting Image puppets were very heavy. Much heavier than the majority of Muppets.
  6. Muppetsdownunder

    Muppetsdownunder Well-Known Member

    I wonder how they did it myself.
    When I was attending the puppetry for film and television workshop in sydney we all got into some pretty uncomfortable positions and held our hands up for a while but nothing compared to what real television puppeteers have to go through. We started every session with hand and arm exercises and a basic warm up, I guess it helped a bit.
    When we were making the puppets I wondered why it would matter about weight, surely it wouldnt make that much difference, I now know why its best to have the lightest possible puppet!
  7. OverUnderAround

    OverUnderAround Well-Known Member

    As you learn the art, you build up a tolerance to keeping your arm up over your head. I think in a typical 8-hour workday, you would probably have your hand up over you head about 6 hours, depending on the scene. I know of no excercises to relieve such pain, but one tries not to sleep on the shoulder you had up all day... It really smarts in the morning.

    As for question 2, well if you blow a take, that's life. A good director will understand.

  8. Secret Squirrel

    Secret Squirrel Well-Known Member

    Not a Muppeteer, but I'll help


    1) It burns. It can be brutal, but that's the job. Most shots, though, only last two to three minutes. Seven minutes is generally accepted as the upper limit for any single take, but I recently saw a stage puppeteer do a fifteen-minute stand-up comedy set in a crouching position (no kneepads) which was impressive.

    Some of the original performers have started to notice back or shoulder problems over time. I don't know of any specific exercises but it's a good idea to see a physiotherapist once in a while.

    2) It's like any acting gig. You train yourself not to be distracted, but if you have to sneeze, you have to sneeze.

    secret squirrel
  9. minor muppetz

    minor muppetz Well-Known Member

    According to one of the muppet morsels, Dave Goelz didn't like performing two characters at the same time because his nose often itched.
  10. Beauregard

    Beauregard Well-Known Member

    If a regular life actor has a sneeze or an itch, what do they do? It's just the same for the Mupeteers. Or else, (As I've heard peopel do), you make the pupept seeze and it just makes the take funnier. "Over, under and, and, Archooo! Sorry about that. Through."
  11. jeffkjoe

    jeffkjoe Well-Known Member

    Hey Secret Squirrel -

    Thanks for your reply -

    And this is why I have such respect for Jerry Nelson, Carroll Spinney - the fact that these two artists can keep their hands over their heads for so long - I can't even do it when i try the same movements at home for the same duration of the take.....

    It's just simply amazing.
  12. Gorgon Heap

    Gorgon Heap Well-Known Member

    Secret Squirrel,

    We know you are regarded here as a contact within the goings-on at Henson and environs, but should we take it from the above reply that you are a puppeteer by occupation?

    David "Gorgon Heap" Ebersole
  13. Fozzie Bear

    Fozzie Bear Well-Known Member

    Puppetry is NOT easy. It's hard work. You're not just acting anymore, you're acting through your hand! LOL!!

    As far as endurance is concerned, while teaching puppetry classes I've told kids to just start putting a sneaker on their hand and holding it over their head for the duration of a commercial. This helps as time progresses. I've also taught them about crossing their fingers so they don't get the flipping-of-the-lid going on, and exercising. Practice makes perfect, and when you DO think you're perfect, you still need more practice! (obviously, there's a TON more to it all than just this).

    The Muppeteers DO make it look easy, and that's because they are so talented. If it didn't look easy, they wouldn't be doing their awesome jobs that they do.

    David, SS did say he's not a Muppeteer in the title of his above thread; but, that still doesn't mean he's not a PUPpeteer, so...good question.

    I'm just thankful SS comes around and shares info with us.

    I miss Jerry and Karen, too. They used to show up a long time ago and help with info.
  14. Muppet Newsgirl

    Muppet Newsgirl Well-Known Member

    Of course they make it look easy, 'cause they're all brilliant. But yeah, I once remarked that a massage therapist could make a small fortune just off of working out the kinks in the Muppet performers' shoulders and upper backs.

    I recall reading that Louise Gold had all the new puppeteers for Spitting Images lift weights. And I think most of us know about that interview in which Richard Hunt said that he dealt with a sore right arm by going to a basketball court and shooting left-handed baskets. "That gets both arms sore."

    But as Jim Henson said when Linda Ronstadt asked him about sore arms, "You get used to it."
  15. Fozzie Bear

    Fozzie Bear Well-Known Member

    I had a panel discussion this weekend and someone asked about puppetry. I thought about this thread and the last couple of posts. The question was, "How hard is it to do puppetry?" And, without hesitation, I said, "If the members of the audience sees it and thinks it's easy, while still believing in the characters, then you've done your job as a puppeteer. It's a hard performance because you're not just wiggling a doll, you're pushing a performance through your arm and hand to bring life to a pile of fabric. Puppet posture, movements, coordination of their hands with the movement of their heads and mouth synching with the words--it's all hard. Holding your hand above your head all that time is hard and painful, but you do it all because you have a love of the craft. Or, because you're a great performer who doesn't like to be seen!"

    The last sentence is almost me. :)
  16. CensoredAlso

    CensoredAlso Well-Known Member

    Yeah sort of like when Richard Hunt said puppeteers seem to prefer anonymity because "they all had weird childhoods." Lol
  17. Fozzie Bear

    Fozzie Bear Well-Known Member

    He was too correct!
  18. MelissaY1

    MelissaY1 Well-Known Member

    I know Dave Goelz has had shoulder surgery in the past from years of puppeteering. It's very physically demanding and can cause some long term issues...
  19. ShiveringCactus

    ShiveringCactus Active Member

    I remember reading about Steve Whitmire performing Kermit in the Rose Parade and setting the record for the longest continual performance at 2 hours 45 minutes! That must have hurt! :eek:
  20. Muppet Newsgirl

    Muppet Newsgirl Well-Known Member


    It's like I said...a massage therapist could have made a small fortune working on the Muppeteers' shoulders and upper backs alone. In fact, I wonder if the crew ever had a massage therapist on standby on the set?

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