Talking Puppets

George the PuppetLast 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.

0 thoughts on “Talking Puppets

  1. Are you really an amateur puppeteer? I don’t ask out of judgement, it’s just that you don’t meet many people who are into puppets.

    And did you see the documentary about Kevin Clash, the creator of Elmo? I think it was called [i]Being Elmo[/i].

  2. @Mack – Yeah. I’ve got some videos with puppets, but I’m still working on them. Hopefully in the next few months. Also, I’ve written a series of short puppet plays about the Nixon administration.

    I’ve heard about the film, but I haven’t seen it. Should I?

  3. I’d love to see those videos when you finish them. Do you do them and all the voice-acting by yourself, or do you have anyone who helps out? How’s your Nixon impression?

    Should you see [i]Being Elmo[/i]? I think you would enjoy it. It was certainly an uplifting departure from the documentaries I usually watch, which tend to make me want to kill myself. This one was a biographical documentary focused on Kevin Clash’s life and how he got into puppeteering, which eventually led to his work on Sesame Street and ultimately fame via his creation of Elmo. He seems like a genuinely good person.

  4. @Mack – I do [i]everything[/i]. My Nixon is okay, but I am not working on those. I’m rather fond of my Kissinger. I do Liddy like a rat character. Those were the days.

    I will promote them here. I want to have 6 done–like a season. The first one is not bad. The second one is edited but needs work. The rest are written, but that’s the easy part for me.

    I’ll let you know about the documentary.

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