Last night on The Daily Show, Jon Stewart, Wyatt Cenac, and John Oliver became Muppets for a segment. They were discussing Mitt Romney’s surprise announcement that he would talk about one way in which he would cut the federal budget: defund PBS. (It’s funny how concerned conservatives get about the smallest budget items when they just happen to be things they want to kill anyway.)
It was very funny. However, there was a problem.
Go ahead; I want to know if you see it:
Pretty obvious, right?
Okay, it’s not! I’m a pedant and a puppeteer. And the one thing that drives me crazy is getting my puppets to speak like regular people. And the critical element to this is moving the puppet’s jaw down rather than its head up. Give it a try with your own head: try to talk by moving your head back rather than moving your jaw down. It doesn’t work, does it?
Once you notice this, watching bad puppetry will drive you crazy! Well, maybe not. But go back and look at the video. Two of those puppets are not like the other. Can you spot it? It’s John Oliver.
Why is this? It probably isn’t that Stewart and Cenac are gifted puppeteers. More likely, it is that the John Oliver puppet isn’t well made. This is one of the most annoying aspects of being an amateur puppeteer: I can’t afford good puppets and I can’t make any puppets. But that doesn’t mean I don’t love George, who is pictured above.