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What is the average salary of a Muppeteer?

Discussion in 'Henson People' started by jeffkjoe, Nov 16, 2004.

  1. jeffkjoe

    jeffkjoe Well-Known Member

    I was reading Carroll Spinney's autobio the other day, and he mentioned that when he joined the Muppets in 1969, he really wasn't making enough to make ends meet, especially living in New York City. It was more for the love of the craft - the trade - rather than the money.

    And I agree. Who wouldn't have loved to have a chance to work with Jim Henson, the greatest of all time?

    Which gets me thinking - I wonder what the salary is for your average Muppeteer nowadays....

    Like your average SESAME Muppeteer - I mean, they only tape like 20 shows per season nowadays. And then you have your first string guys, your second and third string.

    What would your guess be?
  2. Rugby

    Rugby Well-Known Member

    I've wondered the same thing, wondering if it would be worth giving up my job and pursuing any 'foot in the door' job with the company. Kinda tough having a family of 5 though. I don't suspect we will know the answer to this though unless an industry insider gives us the scoop.
  3. Muppetsdownunder

    Muppetsdownunder Well-Known Member

    I've heard that most muppeteers have other jobs also and just do the muppet thing as an on the side job, who would do it for the money! if its money you're after why not get a high paying job. I'd do it for free and im sure many people would also do it!
  4. I bet that Steve makes more than the others because he does alot of extra things with kermit. but at the same time Kevin probubly gets a lot because he does alot of stuff with Elmo. but i would think you would have to have a second job because even sesame street only films like 4 months of the year or something rediculuse.
  5. Muppetsdownunder

    Muppetsdownunder Well-Known Member

    Those puppeteers are regulars who work full time I think. Kevin Clash also works at auditioning and training new puppeteers so maybe thats classed as a seperate job. I guess he aswell as Steve are classed as having a few jobs as sesame street and the muppets are 2 different companies.
  6. MelissaY1

    MelissaY1 Well-Known Member

    RE: Muppeteer salaries..

    I think what everyone's forgetting is that the Muppeteers are freelance performers. They are not regular employees of Henson. They are paid by the job like any freelancer is. So yes, I would guess some of those who are doing more work than others are getting paid more, but from what I understand, none of the puppeteers have set salaries. They have contracts they negotiate, etc. I used to work for Henson as an intern, so I know many people who have worked there or still do and from my understanding, this how it's done. Plus if you keep in mind many of the Muppeteers have worked on other non-Henson related projects, particularly the folks who have worked on Sesame Street. Best example, is those currently in Avenue Q, Noel MacNeal used to be on Eureka's Castle, Marty Robinson used to be on Allegra's Window, other Muppet folks used to be on Between the Lions, Kevin Clash was involved with the Puzzle Place, etc.
  7. D'Snowth

    D'Snowth Well-Known Member

    So this means my dream job doesn't pay?! Crap...now I'll HAVE to become an animator just to make a living.
  8. Beauregard

    Beauregard Well-Known Member

    Oh, don't give up on a dream, Snowth. Never give up on a dream.
  9. D'Snowth

    D'Snowth Well-Known Member

    I was sure muppeteers would get payed HUGE bucks, since Muppets are so popular, like I said, if Jim Henson hadn't invented the muppets, puppets probably wouldn't even be popular. Than again...Sesame Workshop IS non-profit, but still I was sure they got paid huge salaries.
  10. Vic Romano

    Vic Romano Well-Known Member

    Not speaking for the salaries of those on Sesame Street, but I'm a graphic designer/illustrator for a huge non-profit organization, and I do pretty well, enough to support my wife and I as the sole bread winner, so there's always hope.
  11. Beauregard

    Beauregard Well-Known Member

    I would have thought that Muppeteers would be paid about the same amount as actors...maybe not, though.
  12. Sesame Street

    Sesame Street may be nonprofit but they make huge amounts of money not just of of pbs but also the toys they sell. Non profit does not mean that they make no money because trust me they do!
  13. ravagefrackle

    ravagefrackle Well-Known Member

    it all depends, on what you are doing with the company,

    puppeteers are SAG, or AFTRA mebers, so if they are only day players(or background puppeteers )they are generally making scale, which is like 300 dollars or so for the day, sometmes more sometimes less,

    the main performers are making considerably more, they have long standing contracts, as well as getting residueles for there work, and getting cuts of toys that use there voice, video sales, music sales, ect. ect.

    the people who really get screwed are the behind the scenes folks working in the shops, or on set as wranglers,

    i never pity puppeteers when they complain about being uncomfortable, its what they get paid for, lol
  14. dwayne1115

    dwayne1115 Well-Known Member

    Ok think about this. Brian and John Henson are also preformers. Now we all must know that being the head of JHC you must make a little bit more money then the other performers. so i wonder how that works out as well. i would also wonder if now that they are with Disny if they work for Disny or JHC.
  15. OverUnderAround

    OverUnderAround Well-Known Member


    Professional actors and puppeteers are member of SAG (Screen Actors Guild) or AFTRA (American Federation of Television and Radio Artist).
    Each union is something like $1,200 to join in USA money.

    Those who perform on Sesame Street are members of AFTRA. If Sesame Street had been a brand new union show, the minimum pay varies greatly based on if it's a local show, regional show or national show and/or if it's a primetime or daytime show and if it's network or syndicated or on cable...and so on.

    Also worth mentioning are the performers that are working for that day. Are they an over five or under five contract employee? That means if you have more than five lines of dialog, you are offered a different contract and better payscale for that day than someone who has less than five lines of dialog to perform that day. So many, many variables go into what kind of contract the unions offers.

    Oh and cable pays more too.

    But if Sesame Street had been a new show, it would pay performers about (rough guess) $385-$400 a day. Not much when you consider prime-time salaries.

    However, Sesame Street has been on so long that, it's contracts continue to include periodic raises to the cast. The last time I heard, (early this year) the daily pay on Sesame Street was about $700 a day.

    If someone was to just hold a Muppet in the background of a scene with no dialog, your an extra and that would be about $100 a day.

    Of course residual payments (repeat airings), is were a performer who appears in a lot of scenes with dialog can make a good sum of money over time so I have heard.

  16. dwayne1115

    dwayne1115 Well-Known Member

    Wow Very interesting i like it yea i really like it.

    FISH'N'WOLFE Well-Known Member

    Yes really, what's not to like about $700 a day? :)
  18. Buck-Beaver

    Buck-Beaver Well-Known Member

    Not sure about all the various loopholes there are, but my understanding is that scale for union puppeteers under SAG is $580 for eight hours, any more hours than that in a day and you are paid 1.5x the regular hourly rate. There are also residuals, but they often are not very much except in the case of commercials.

    Before anyone gets too excited you have to remember that (as others have pointed out) you work freelance and might only have a few weeks or days of work per year.
  19. OverUnderAround

    OverUnderAround Well-Known Member

    There are so many union contracts that each TV show (and movie project) has their own pay scale. Example...I think if someone appeared on a primetime comedy show the minimum would be in the thousands.

    SAG represents the film industry and has their own pay scales.
    AFTRA, which represents video, TV and radio industry, has separate pay scales as well.

    So yes, many, many pay scales exist in countless contracts.
  20. Uncle deadly

    Uncle deadly Well-Known Member

    if i was a muppeteer id probably have another job.

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