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The Brand New Ask Jim Lewis Thread

Discussion in 'Henson People' started by dwayne1115, Jan 16, 2008.

  1. minor muppetz

    minor muppetz Well-Known Member

    Oh I thought you were talking about some celebrity I hadn't heard of. That character had been called Beautiful Day Monster, but also had quite a few on-screen names on Sesame Street (such as Harry, Ralph, Lulu, and others).
  2. dwayne1115

    dwayne1115 Well-Known Member

    I will send these questions off tomorow!
  3. dwmckim

    dwmckim Well-Known Member

    I know i've posted about this before but i've always thought it interesting that printed media often represents Beaker-speech as "meep"'s when the noises Beaker actually makes are more "mee"'s. I always fanwanked this as Beakerspeak having "silent P's". Jim is a good person to ask about this though given his background writing for the Muppets in print media!

    That makes me think of a question though! Muppet artists often had the Muppet Style Guides to assist them with keeping things consistent. Do the writers (whether they be for books/products or actual productions) have any kind of equivalent?
  4. dwayne1115

    dwayne1115 Well-Known Member

    Here ya go!


    ANSWERS from Jim Lewis 08/02/2010




    1. From New asker FletchySRF3088: Hi, Mr. Lewis! Long time reader, first-time asker. As a big Scooter and Richard Hunt fan, I couldn't be more happy to see the go-fer back and with a permanant performer this time it seems. I'm sorry if I sound like a big Scooter freak here (I guess I am) but I couldn't help but be a bit worried about the go-fer's treatment over the years. I was just wondering what was the reason behind his disappearance for a while and the number of recasts he had when he came back? I thought it was a bit odd that he didn't even make a non-speaking, background appearance in Muppet Christmas Carol, Muppet Treasure Island and Muppets Tonight like Rowlf and some other Jim Henson and Richard Hunt characters did. I have heard that Scooter embodied more of Richard than any other character he performed, did this have anything to do with his absence and several recasts over the years? (He seems to have more performers than any other character but I could be wrong)




    I am thrilled to have Scooter back, too. As for his disappearance, I would say it’s because Scooter is a tough character to master, not just in terms of voice, but also in terms of who he is. There’s a lot of nuance involved. Scooter can come off as a nice guy or as an agenda-driven go-getter, when the truth is he’s got a marvelous mix of being always helpful and what’s in it for me. Richard had an insane ability to make you love and be wary of Scooter at the same time. It takes time and great effort to get that just right—not just for a performer, but also for the writers. And as a writer I can honestly say I’ve struggled with Scooter.. But when it happens, Scooter is a great character, a consigliere to Kermit….. As for Scooter’s absence in MTI and MT! I’m afraid we just weren’t ready to pull it off back then….As for the great and deeply missed Richard,: he was definitely part Scooter, part Statler and a huge part of what made (and makes) the Muppets such subversive fun.

    2. From Oscarfan: Jim, at the D23 event last year, 9 images were shown of upcoming Muppet videos for YouTube. Are there any more still "in the can" that will be released in the near future?



    I am not sure what images were shown. I think “Popcorn” was the last one released, but honestly I don’t recall what’s still in the bullpen. Sorry. You’ll know when I know, which is when you see it on YouTube.



    3. From dwmckin: During Muppets Tonight! what was the working relationship like with ABC? Did they have a lot of input/change suggestions on scripts or tone or did they tend to be more hand's off? Did this change between seasons one and two?



    ABC was great to begin with. They figured that the people who did the Muppets were the ones who were best suited to decide what the Muppets should do. And while it took the creative team awhile to figure out exactly what the Muppets should do, I think we had a relatively quick learning curve. The only major change in the second season was the desire by the network to appeal to different demographics (I don’t recall what demographics they wanted—younger, older, shorter, taller, wider, etc.; maybe that was part of the problem). Even there, they didn’t meddle very much. But since we didn’t fit the TGIF sitcom mold, I think they weren’t really sure what to do with the show. But hey, we got 22 episodes and several wonderful characters out it, and if it were still on we’d be in our 14th season and my mortgage would be paid….but don’t get me started.



    4. From Duke Remington: "Another Webby bites the dust" (Floyd's 5-word Webby speech)--scripted or ad-libbed?



    Both. The “speech” was scripted, but the scripted line (when it left my computer) was “Another one bites the Webby” followed by the classic Queen rhythm lick from the song of almost the same name. But when it was delivered, it became the line above.






    5. From Ryan: Dear Jim-possible,

    If you could pick one actor/famous person for a cameo in the upcoming movie, who would it be? What if Justin Bieber and Snooki aren't available?




    Oh no, you’re trying to trick me into a guest star/cameo discussion. And once those start, they never end. (Soon we’re talking about “Well what if it was anyone from history!” Attila the Hun tapdancing with Gonzo….Beaker and DaVinci……Pepe meets Abbott & Costello…..Oh, the possibilities are endless and then it’s late and we’ve got nothing done and we’re exhausted.) I always feel that the best guest stars are the least expected – Rudolph Nureyev, Robert DeNiro. It’s amazing what happens when these people meet Muppets and shed their normal persona. But I won’t name names—especially not Justin or Snooki’s.


    6. From Minor Mupptz: If you could pick an existing song for the Muppets to cover, what would it be?



    Oh, there are lots. But there’s one song written by Mel Torme called “Born To Be Blue” that I’ve always wanted Kermit to sing (a kind of counterpoint to his “Bein’ Green”). We did a truncated version of it at the Hollywood Bowl once, but it hasn’t had a full blown version. It’s a lovely song, quite sad actually. But, put on the spot, that’s the song that popped to mind when you asked. Oh, and if you want an upbeat happy song, how about the Lou Monte classic “Mama Get the Hammer There’s A Fly On Papa’s Head”.


    7. From Convicting John: We know that Beaker's speech has a lot of "Mee mee mee" in it. But since Beaker says "mee", where did "meep" come from? I've been seeing it lately (like in the Wall-E parody with Beaker). Richard didn't say "meep" and neither does Steve. My best guess where "meep" came from is this song from Muppet Babies. (It's at the 4:30 mark):

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2aLRsq3JRc



    Meep. I don’t know for sure, but I suspect it’s a writer’s error. We got bored typing mee mee mee, so we threw in an extra letter.


    Sorry DW your question about the Muppet Styil guides will be sent on the next batch.
  5. FletchySRF3088

    FletchySRF3088 Active Member

    Wow, first time I ask a question here and it actually got answered, I can't believe it! haha. I'm sorry if I sound like some star-struck fan boy or something but it's the first time I've ever had the courage to do one of these or thought of a good enough question. Thanks, Jim for answering and providing some great insight into Scooter's character and the writing behind him and thanks, dwayne1115 for sending the question! :)
  6. dwayne1115

    dwayne1115 Well-Known Member

    Hey no problem I'm glad to do it anytime!
  7. BobThePizzaBoy

    BobThePizzaBoy Well-Known Member

    I was thinking about Muppets Tonight today and really began to realize Kermit was downplayed quite a bit. Only showing up once or twice per episode. Steve had already performed the character quite a bit in two movies and a bunch of TV stuff and he was definitely around to do Rizzo so was the lack of the frog due to Whitmire not wanting to take on Kermit on a weekly TV show or the writers' choice to work on developing the new Muppets?
  8. dwayne1115

    dwayne1115 Well-Known Member

    Thats a great question!
  9. frogboy4

    frogboy4 Inactive Member

    Here's my question for Mr. Lewis. ;)

    I'm not certain you'd know the answer to this, but the Muppet puppets have greatly changed over the years in style and fabrics. Do the performers, writers or producers have any say or input into how the puppets are designed or styled? I guess many fans are still longing for the Miss Piggy of the very early 80's that Disney seems to be using a lot in print form, but the puppet seems to be the same. Any inside info on that?

    Also, once the cameras are rolling - on average how much of a final script is improvised and how much is a direct read?

    Thanks a lot!
  10. Beauregard

    Beauregard Well-Known Member

    Dear Jim,

    Have you seen my left sock? It features Kermit sporting a Christmas hat and holding a Christmas gift and I've been looking for it everywhere...I still have both Animal as Santa ones, but my left Kermit one is most definately missing. Any ideas where to look?

    Beauregard
  11. minor muppetz

    minor muppetz Well-Known Member

    I have seen a few interviews (one might have been with Jim Lewis but I can't remember) where it was said that they chose not to make Kermit the host because they didn't want one-on-one comparrisons between TMS and MT, though if it has "Muppets" in the title and is a follow-up to the Muppet Show I think Kermit should be the main focus regardless (I guess it's hard to please those who want something different than expected and those who want to know what to expect). And I think they chose to make Kermit a supporting character at first when Steve took over.

    But there were quite a few episodes that had quite a bit of Kermit. Kermit had his own subplot in the Dennis Quaide episode, and he was one of the main characters in the episode with Coolio and Don Rickles (where he chose to quit becasue of how Mr. Grouper was treating the Muppets). And Kermit was in quite a bit of the Michelle Pheiffer episode.

    Anyway, I have a question for Jim. On The Muppet Show, with a few exceptiosn each epsiode would only have one guest star, and no other non-Muppet human characters besides the featured guest star. But on Muppets Tonight many episodes featured cameos by other celebrities besides the featured guests, some of whom (Gilbert Godfried, one of the Star Trek actors, etc.) had their own subplots (usually outside of the KMUP Studio), and some scenes had human extras. Was there any reason for Muppets Tonight to have more humans in each show besides the guest star (and yes, I know that The Jim Henson Hour had other humans besides the guest stars as well, though not celebrities)?

    And considering that, the only episode of Muppets Tonight to have two announced guest stars was the one with Coolio and Don Rickles, while it might as well have just been Coolio as the guest. Don Rickles didn't really do much (probably just as much as Gilbert Godfried or Jay Leno when they were on the show), the episode had other celebrities in cameos, and the promos for the episode only acknowledged Coolio. Was there any reason to have had Kermit announced both Coolio and Don Rickles as the guest stars?
  12. BobThePizzaBoy

    BobThePizzaBoy Well-Known Member

    I'm not just talking about hosting duties. Even in many control scenes, he wasn't present at all.
  13. BobThePizzaBoy

    BobThePizzaBoy Well-Known Member

    Another question, a few years back Kermit hosted Turner Classic Movies one night choosing his favorite movies. Singin' in the Rain, The Bang Wagon, Cyrano de Bergerac and Lassie Come Home were the four movies the frog chose. Did Steve actually pick these movies or was this an effort by Muppet writers with the TCM crew?
  14. Duke Remington

    Duke Remington Active Member

    Another question for Jim Lewis:

    I know you may not be able to answer this one, but do you think you can tell us why it has been taking so long for the Muppet Show Season 4 DVD set (which was officially announced at the 2009 D23 Expo) to be released?
  15. dwayne1115

    dwayne1115 Well-Known Member

    If Ryan would like to send these questions off he can, or if he is to busy I would be glad to.
  16. theprawncracker

    theprawncracker Well-Known Member

    You can go ahead and send it, Dwayne. I'll take the next batch if that's cool! :D
  17. dwayne1115

    dwayne1115 Well-Known Member

    Sound good to me, I'll send them right away!
  18. dwayne1115

    dwayne1115 Well-Known Member

    Here are the Answers!



    Questions For Jim Lewis





    1. From BobthePizzaboy: I was thinking about Muppets Tonight today and really began to realize Kermit was downplayed quite a bit. Only showing up once or twice per episode. Steve had already performed the character quite a bit in two movies and a bunch of TV stuff and he was definitely around to do Rizzo so was the lack of the frog due to Whitmire not wanting to take on Kermit on a weekly TV show or the writers' choice to work on developing the new Muppets?



    To be totally honest (and that would be refreshing, wouldn’t it?), I don’t actually know all the calculations that went into that decision. I do know Steve didn’t say “nah”. Steve had done a bunch of performances with Kermit, but it was still early on. Perhaps that played a role. I know the writers would have been happy with Kermit, and being writers played no role in actual decision making. But I do think part of it was an effort on everyone’s part to introduce some new—or newer—characters. (e.g. Clifford, Pepe, Seymour, Johnny Fiama, Sal and the great Mr. Poodlepants.) It was that “Star Trek: The Next Generation” vibe. We wanted to go where no Muppet had gone before. And, while it would have been nice to have seen more of Kermit, I think the journey was still pretty amazing. (Ah, if only we were in our 16th season now).





    2. From Frogboy: I'm not certain you'd know the answer to this, but the Muppet puppets have greatly changed over the years in style and fabrics. Do the performers, writers or producers have any say or input into how the puppets are designed or styled? I guess many fans are still longing for the Miss Piggy of the very early 80's that Disney seems to be using a lot in print form, but the puppet seems to be the same. Any inside info on that?

    Also, once the cameras are rolling - on average how much of a final script is improvised and how much is a direct read?



    Puppet builders and designers are the unsung heroes of the Muppet world. Even writers get more respect than them. (Okay, that may be stretching the truth, but it’s close.) The materials are really their call – with input from performers. The artists who create these characters in physical form are taking into account flexibility, durability, performability and cost. The aim is always to create a character who, when performed, has that spark that is the character. It’s a delicate work they take very seriously. Sure, the characters looks have evolved over the years, but the heart remains the same. (And if you want to tell Miss Piggy she’s had too much work done, be my guest. Just let me put on protective gear.)

    As for the script question: While the writers joke about being merely “sugg-jesters” of what the characters will say, I’d say that about 80% of a script is what’s written, but with much room for embellishment, ad lib, physicality and character course correction. The joy of the Muppet performers is that they are not merely performing, they are the characters. So it becomes a true collaboration, with both writers and performers taking credit for the funny stuff.


    3. From Beauregard: Dear Jim,

    Have you seen my left sock? It features Kermit sporting a Christmas hat and holding a Christmas gift and I've been looking for it everywhere...I still have both Animal as Santa ones, but my left Kermit one is most definately missing. Any ideas where to look?



    Oh, so that’s YOUR sock! Actually, I have the same picture of Kermit on a necktie. If you want to wear my tie on your foot, it’s a deal.

    PS: Check the lint trap. Even if the sock isn’t there, you’ll probably meet some entertaining lint.



    4. From Minor Mupptz: On The Muppet Show, with a few exceptions each episode would only have one guest star, and no other non-Muppet human characters besides the featured guest star. But on Muppets Tonight many episodes featured cameos by other celebrities besides the featured guests, some of whom (Gilbert Godfried, one of the Star Trek actors, etc.) had their own subplots (usually outside of the KMUP Studio), and some scenes had human extras. Was there any reason for Muppets Tonight to have more humans in each show besides the guest star (and yes, I know that The Jim Henson Hour had other humans besides the guest stars as well, though not celebrities)?

    And considering that, the only episode of Muppets Tonight to have two announced guest stars was the one with Coolio and Don Rickles, while it might as well have just been Coolio as the guest. Don Rickles didn't really do much (probably just as much as Gilbert Godfried or Jay Leno when they were on the show), the episode had other celebrities in cameos, and the promos for the episode only acknowledged Coolio. Was there any reason to have had Kermit announced both Coolio and Don Rickles as the guest stars?



    We were using one guest star. But, since the Muppets Tonight was shot in Hollywood (and not England, like the Muppet Show) we had access to so many more stars. And there were times when the plot—such as it was—suggested the use of cameos. So we used them. Gilbert Gottfried was the perfect dinner companion for Kermit….Don Rickles (who signed hockey pucks for the writers) was brilliant as an ersatz Kermit….etc. My all time favorite day was when we had Don Rickles, Bob Keeshan (Captain Kangaroo) and George Takei in the studio at the same time. A Mt. Rushmore of entertainment. I was agape in awe, which happens less frequently than you might imagine.

    As for Kermit announcing Coolio and Don Rickles as guest star: not sure if that was contractual or just more agape awesomeness.


    5. From Duke Rimington: I know you may not be able to answer this one, but do you think you can tell us why it has been taking so long for the Muppet Show Season 4 DVD set (which was officially announced at the 2009 D23 Expo) to be released?



    You are absolutely correct that I cannot answer this. I honestly don’t know. Those decisions are made on a different plane of reality, one on which I ride standby
  19. dwayne1115

    dwayne1115 Well-Known Member

    My question for Jim!

    Did you have a hand (no pun intended) in the creating of Angelo on the new Cooking with Cat show? Better yet are you involved at all? If so have you learned how to cook?
  20. ZeppoAndFriends

    ZeppoAndFriends Well-Known Member

    Um...err...is this thread still going?

    'Cause I have a question that's been nagging me for a while now.


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