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The ask Jim Lewis thread is now open

Discussion in 'Henson People' started by dwayne1115, Feb 20, 2007.

  1. dwayne1115

    dwayne1115 Well-Known Member

    more more more

    here we go another batch of goodies for you all, i hope you injoy



    .
    JIM LEWIS - More Things I Sort of Know…7.9.07

    1. When you're writing a show, like Muppet Classic Theater or It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie, how much collaboration do you have with the songwriters? Do you write the movie with an "insert song here" place? Do they come to you with the song and you place it in the
    script? Or do you discuss with them the kind of song that's needed and then they go and write it


    In the case of “Muppet Classic Theater,(MCT)” each of the retold stories was built around a song. Once I had the idea and angle for the stories (e.g. Piggy as a proto-feminist in the “Three Little Pigs” or the Elvis Elves), I would write an outline of the script. The songwriters would take this and figure out the best place for the song…and how it could creatively, inventively, comically and otherwise perfectly advance the story and the characters. I think all the songs worked wonderfully. That, by the way, is the usual process for putting songs in a script. Of course, when you’re doing a movie or longer form story (and not a series of small stories as in MCT, the songs need to fit together, to build upon each other; in essence, they need to tell the story all by themselves. This is something that Paul Williams (I bow in his general direction) especially brilliant. You can hear his songs and see the movie in your mind.
    As for “It’s A Very….” Etc. That song was added after I’d done my part of the script, so I can’t say how that worked.



    2. I have heard and read some things about a Script or story or something written by Jim Henson and Jerry Juhl called "the Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made”. Have you seen or heard anything about it, if so can you talk about it?

    Yes, I have seen it. Yes, I have read it. No, I can’t talk about it. (To paraphrase Kelly LeBrock: Don’t hate me because I’m dutiful”.---winner of A Dennis Miller Obscure Reference award)




    3. You said that you co-wrote Muppet Classic Theater with Bill Prady. Were you involved with the writing of all of the story segments, or did you write some all by yourself while Bill wrote others by himself (perhaps you wrote three and Bill wrote three), or is it a little bit
    of both (perhaps you and Bill both wrote two story segments by yourselves, and then collaborated on two togetehr, or something like that.

    It’s been a few years, but my recollection is that I wrote “Three Little Pigs,” “Elvises & The Shoemaker” “Rumpelstitskin” and “Emperor’s New Clothes” and that Bill wrote the “Midas” and “Boy Who Cried Wolf”. Eventually, they all went through one typewriter (hey, I said it was a long time ago), but in this particular case, I don’t think Bill and I sat in room together and wrote.


    4. Do you think the characters like Croaker, Goggles, and Blotch,from "Kermit's Swamp Years" will ever be seen in another production? Or are they pretty happy down there in the swamp?

    Regrettably they’re probably not going to be seen soon. But as we all know, I’ve been spectacularly wrong before.

    5. Where did the idea come from to have Clifford host Muppets Tonight, and where there any other candidates to host the show?

    That’s one of those internal decisions I was not privy to, so I’d just be making up a story to answer the question. Of course, I could make up a story--but not at these prices.

    PS: Just a thanks to everyone for these questions. As the great Rowlf once sang, it’s like “strolling down memory lane without a ding-dong thing on my mind”. A pleasure for me and, I hope, interesting to any who care about the Muppets as much as we do.
  2. RKUNKLER

    RKUNKLER New Member

    :sympathy: never sang“strolling down memory lane without a ding-dong thing on my mind”. It was :concern:. I would also like to know if Jim will be at Muppets music and magic in August.
  3. Beauregard

    Beauregard Well-Known Member

    I think, I may be wrong, that Rowlf sang that song on "Ol' Brown Ears is Back."

    Thank you so much Jim for answering the questions, and Dwayne for organizing all this!
  4. RKUNKLER

    RKUNKLER New Member

    I have another question. What is Gerry Parks up to lately
  5. dwayne1115

    dwayne1115 Well-Known Member

    ok im confused,

    Ok now i have went off the deep end and packed up all my close and moved to Tennesse back home so give me a few days to get settled and i will send some more questions.
  6. theprawncracker

    theprawncracker Well-Known Member

    I can send 'em if you want me to, Dwayne. :)
  7. dwayne1115

    dwayne1115 Well-Known Member

    souinds good to me, i just want to say i love it here in TN im back in the town i was born in and the town i thought i would never live in agin. Things are really going good but i just need some time to get settled
  8. theprawncracker

    theprawncracker Well-Known Member

    That's great Dwayne, that you found somewhere to be happy! I'll send the next round of questions! :D
  9. dwayne1115

    dwayne1115 Well-Known Member

    Thanks i have a good question.

    When writeing a Chitmass movie such as its A Veryy merry was it hard to get in the Chrstmass spirit or did you write it durring Christmass.
  10. dwayne1115

    dwayne1115 Well-Known Member

    hummm somthing needs to go on here
  11. Beauregard

    Beauregard Well-Known Member

    I'm re-reading Before You Leap (when am I not?) so I should have a few more questions for this thread soon.
  12. theprawncracker

    theprawncracker Well-Known Member

    Jim, I just received the Muppet 2008 Day-at-a-Time Calendar, and it is AMAZING! I just want to know if you had anything to do with writing all of the captions for the calendar, it's great, punny humor, right up your alley, and it references Muppet Magazine, which I know you had a hand in! :)
  13. Gorgon Heap

    Gorgon Heap Active Member

    My original question was combined with another question, which sort of altered its meaning. I'll attempt to rephrase. The original question was:
    To restate, the Muppet writing style has changed over time, from the golden era before Henson's death, through the years that followed. Has there been a conscious effort to change the writing style over the last several years or has it just happened? Specifically, there are some elements found in earlier work that have either been forgotten or purposefully discarded, both in dialogue and character.

    For example:
    -Kermit's smarmy asides to the camera and little insults directed at his friends have basically been phased out
    -take a Boober Fraggle line, like "I am distinctly un-hilarious!" or "I pride myself on my inability to guffaw!"- would such lines ever be used today?
    -certain facets of Gonzo's personality, such as his self-delusional belief that he's a performance artiste of the highest caliber, denigrating his audience to the level of "yokels, rubes!" (Of course, one could say that Gonzo has matured over the years.)

    Then there are projects like "Kermit's Swamp Years" and "Muppets Wizard of Oz" which, if I remember correctly, you had nothing to do with (more's the pity), and the writing styles of these have NOTHING to do with the style originated by Jerry Juhl.

    My question is, are the little subtleties lost in antiquity? Have they been thrown out on purpose or just overlooked? Is there any element to the writing that you would like to see more of?

    (If you couldn't tell, I'm big on vintage Muppet writing and have come to idolize Jerry Juhl, counting him as a looming influence on my own writing style.)

    David "Gorgon Heap" Ebersole
  14. Beauregard

    Beauregard Well-Known Member

    I have a question about Piggy's appearence on the Late, Late Show with Craig Fergy. It was an amazing appearence. Did you have anything to do with the writing of that?
  15. theprawncracker

    theprawncracker Well-Known Member

    I think I'm going to go ahead and send Jim this batch of questions... it's been too long since we've had any answers.
  16. dwayne1115

    dwayne1115 Well-Known Member

    yea that would be nice.
  17. theprawncracker

    theprawncracker Well-Known Member

    Answers from Jim...

    "What is Gerry Parks up to lately?"

    I honestly don’t know. Fraggle Rock and the special, “A Muppet Family Christmas” was before my time at Henson, so I’ve never had the pleasure of working with Mr. Parks. But from all accounts, he’s a gem of a person. I’d be curious myself.


    "When writing a Christmas movie such as It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie was it hard to get in the Christmas spirit or did you write it during Christmas?"


    No, I didn’t write it at Christmas, but thanks to all my Perry Como and Bing Crosby Christmas CDs and such DVD’s as “A Christmas Story,” “Going My Way,” “Holiday Inn” and “March of the Wooden Soldiers,” it was easy to get into the spirit.

    "Jim, I just received the Muppet 2008 Day-at-a-Time Calendar, and it is AMAZING! I just want to know if you had anything to do with writing all of the captions for the calendar, it's great, punny humor, right up your alley, and it references Muppet Magazine, which I know you had a hand in!"

    Sounds great. I wish I could take creditÉor even a copy of this. Go out and buy it! I will.


    "To restate, the Muppet writing style has changed over time, from the golden era before Henson's death, through the years that followed. Has there been a conscious effort to change the writing style over the last several years or has it just happened? Specifically, there are some elements found in earlier work that have either been forgotten or purposefully discarded, both in dialogue and character.
    For example:
    -Kermit's smarmy asides to the camera and little insults directed at his friends have basically been phased out--take a Boober Fraggle line, like "I am distinctly un-hilarious!" or "I pride myself on my inability to guffaw!"- would such lines ever be used today?
    -certain facets of Gonzo's personality, such as his self-delusional belief that he's a performance artiste of the highest caliber, denigrating his audience to the level of "yokels, rubes!" (Of course, one could say that Gonzo has matured over the years.)

    My question is, are the little subtleties lost in antiquity? Have they been thrown out on purpose or just overlooked? Is there any element to the writing that you would like to see more of?
    (If you couldn't tell, I'm big on vintage Muppet writing and have come to idolize Jerry Juhl, counting him as a looming influence on my own writing style.)"

    Not sure I can do this question justice. I know what you mean. I think some of it has to do with the fact that when the original creators of a character perform a character, they feel a greater latitude in how the character acts; when a new performer takes over a character, they tread more gingerly. That’s just a theoryÉ.and of course it doesn’t work with the Gonzo example you cite. For awhile, Gonzo was taking more responsibility. I think this was an effort to take some of the hosting duties off Kermit’s shoulders. Now that there’s no need to do this, we’ve all pushed in the direction of Gonzo being more true to his absurdist plumber-performance-artist-daredevil-all-around-weirdo origins.
    All that said, as times change and people change, things change. I’m not sure what it means, but as Jerry Juhl might say: “Let’s see if they buy that before we start rewriting.”

    "I have a question about Piggy's appearence on the Late, Late Show with Craig Fergy. It was an amazing appearence. Did you have anything to do with the writing of that?"

    I helped write the opening bit
    and, as usual, I gave Eric (or any performer) some
    material beforehand, but then it's all in their hands
    (literally). I didn't see the spot. Glad it worked so
    well. Craig F. is great. He gets the premise and makes
    the bit work.
    Best, Jim
  18. Beauregard

    Beauregard Well-Known Member

    Thanks, Jim! The piece was wonderfully executed.

    I have a few trivial questions!

    I was trying to whip up some Fly-shoe Pie the ther day (following the strict guidelines set out in BYL) but it didn't work out for me. I was wondering, if there a method to seperating the Pond Water from the pond scum?

    Also, I couldn't help but wonder if you prefer Fresh Muffins or Fresh Bagels?

    Beau
  19. theprawncracker

    theprawncracker Well-Known Member

    GREAT questions, Beau. I think I have a question or two too...

    I'm currently re-reading "Before You Leap", and was wondering if there was every any dispute from Disney to include Kermit's Sesame past. Like, did they ever not want to put the picture of Big Bird in? Or not want to deal with the legalities of mentioning Sesame Workshop characters?

    Also, when writing a scene where Gonzo and Rizzo order a pizza, what would they have on it?
  20. TogetherAgain

    TogetherAgain Well-Known Member

    Jim, I have a bit of an odd question... but then, it's the Muppets, so what ISN'T odd? ...I digress. My point, if I have one, is this: How do you, or how does any Muppet writer, write for the Swedish Chef? Do you just give a general idea of what Chef would be trying to convey, hand it the Muppeteers, and say, "Have fun!" Or do you write it all out, or... Just- HOW? And I suppose I could ask the same about Beaker and chickens and so forth, but I'm particularly curious about the Chef.


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