What a Year! 2012 remembered

2012 was a remarkable year for Wump Mucket Puppets.

I performed the final show of the year last night for families staying at the Ronald McDonald House in Cincinnati.  It’s one of my favorite places to perform.  Why? Read on…

Wump Mucket Puppets Coleman the Sasquatch at Ronald McDonald House

I was about to bring all of my puppet gear into the children’s theatre when all of the guests and staff were exiting the building. The fire alarms had been set off inside due to smoke in the kitchen area,  luckily no one was hurt and the situation was under control quickly.  I am glad I was still wearing my Oscar the Grouch hoodie.

Wump Mucket Puppets stage in holiday show mode

When everyone was allowed back inside, I set up the puppet stage and prepared to perform the show.  Guests gradually entered the children’s theatre to see the show.  Then it was showtime!  Everything went well, the guests sang along to “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”, joined in for a few knock-knock jokes, and had some fun.  During our post-show meet & greet the puppets met a few of the children in the audience and passed out coloring sheets (with a few extras for later).

Wump Mucket Puppets with a young fan

I then began to pack up the puppets, sound equipment, and stage when a volunteer brought three children into the theatre.  She told me that they were with a sibling who had just been admitted to Children’s Hospital and had driven from Portsmouth, Ohio, about a two hour drive from Cincinnati.  The volunteer asked if I would bring the puppets back out for these children.  I didn’t miss a beat and brought out Cyril for some friendly chit-chat and a tune. Coleman then shared a couple of his knock-knock jokes and talked about the Bengals with the two boys and The Reds with the young lady.  Finally G’Wazzl barked “Jingle Bells” for the kids and wished them a good night and happy new year.  They left the theatre with some of our coloring sheets and smiles on their faces.

Wump Mucket Puppets Terrence Burke with Coleman the Sasquatch

Wump Mucket Puppets Terrence Burke with Coleman the Sasquatch at Ronald McDonald House Cincinnati

This is exactly why I am a puppeteer.  To bring a bit of happiness and joy to children through my puppet characters.

As I think about 2012, I have so many happy puppetry memories, here are a few:

  • The puppets performed to HUNDREDS of children and their families.
  • We brought the puppet show to the inner city and out to the country.
  • Two Cincinnati morning television shows and a radio program has us on the air as guests!
  • The first issue of Wump Mucket Puppets Comics was published and given away on Free Comic Book Day.
  • G’Wazzl and Coleman “launched” a U.F.O. from Fountain Square and Cyril sang a version of the WKRP in Cincinnati  theme during the same show.

Best of all, I had a fantastic time sharing my love of puppetry with so many happy people.  Thank you for an amazing year,  come see the  “puppets rock” again in 2013!

Wump Mucket Puppets puppeteer Terrence Burke with his puppets

 

Happy Birthday Caroll Spinney!

Happy Birthday Caroll Spinney from Wump Mucket Puppets!

Today is Caroll Spinney’s birthday.  He’s 79 years young!  Those of you not in the puppetry world may wonder who he is.  Perhaps you have heard of the puppets that he’s performed on Sesame Street since 1969.  I am sure you’ve heard of Oscar the Grouch and Big Bird.

Little did I know it, Caroll Spinney was entertaining me several years before I watched his puppetry on Sesame Street.  You see, we are both from New England.  He performed as Mister Lion on the “Bozo the Clown” show that aired on Boston TV station WHDH.  I watched it almost every morning.  I remember being upset when my older sister started kindergarten.  Not only was she my first playmate, she watched Bozo with me.   Now we had to walk her to the bus stop BEFORE Bozo was on the air.   Not fair!

Here’s a video of Bozo that I probably watched in 1966:

Then in November of 1969, I  discovered something so wonderful and unique it would capture my imagination for the rest of my life…  Sesame Street, especially Oscar the Grouch!

My father was the morning radio announcer on WCCM in Lawrence, Massachusetts around the time that Sesame Street started.  His show was the usual news updates, weather reports, sprinkled with pop music of the 60’s & 70’s.  My dad knew that we would often have his show tuned in at home and would play “I Love Trash” for me now and then.  It was a special feeling, being 5, to have your Dad play one of Oscar’s songs for you on the radio.

As an adult I have had the pleasure of meeting Caroll several times.  He has always offered very encouraging words to me about my puppetry.  In 2004 I met him at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.  I brought along my Cyril puppet to show him.  One of the university staff spotted the puppet as I brought it out of my bag to snap a picture with Caroll and Oscar.  She came up to us and firmly said “No outside puppets!” or something similar.  Caroll turned to her and calmly replied, “It’s okay, he’s another puppeteer with the puppet guild”.

Caroll Spinney and Oscar the Grouch with Terrence Burke

Caroll Spinney and Oscar the Grouch with Terrence Burke at Miami University 2004

Not only has Caroll helped educate and entertain millions of children through his puppetry, he has been the inspiration to many puppeteers, myself included.  Thank you Caroll, have a wonderful birthday.

Want more info about the life and career of Caroll Spinney?  Then you will want to check out the new film that is being made: http://www.iambigbird.com/

 

 

Happy! Happy! Jolly! Jolly!

With Christmas less then a week away, I find myself remembering when I was a boy growing up in New England.  Our family would often buy a live tree at a tree farm in New Hampshire.  In early to mid-November we would pile into my mother’s VW bus (without heat!), drive to the farm, and try to agree on a Christmas tree, and eventually tag it.  A few weeks later we would return to have the tree cut down and tied to the roof of the car.  Although my memory of what decorations we used is a bit foggy, I do remember that my parents had sets of Christmas lights that had large bulbs, possibly from the late 1950’s.  When the holidays were over we would drag the tree to the compost pile that sat at the edge of our yard to return to the soil.

My children have only known an artificial tree.  They have never complained about this. Years before we had children, my wife and I bought one because we just couldn’t justify buying a Christmas tree every year, to throw it away.  It seems wasteful.   Once we had a small potted Norfolk Pine tree -one of our cats peed on the tree and killed it!  The cats have since passed away, yet the plastic tree lives!

Puppeteer Terrence Burke of Wump Mucket Puppets

Whether you use a “paper or plastic” Christmas tree, I hope that you enjoy the fun times had around it with your family and friends.  Happy Holidays!

Here’s a fun holiday video I found that i hope you get a chuckle out of:

Watch Santa Claus’ Punch and Judy in Documentary | View More Free Videos Online at Veoh.com

The holidays are here!

As I rehearse our holiday show’s songs, I remember being a boy growing up in the late 60’s and watching the Christmas specials on TeeVee.  I love the Rankin/Bass produced shows the most, with “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” being my favorite.  The puppets were great, the music catchy, and the show has a Bumble in it!

Giving this a bit of thought, it seems to me that watching “Rudolph” in the late 60’s may have been the foundation for my interest in strange creatures, oh and puppets too!

Here’s a clip of Bumble to enjoy:

After watching that, I noticed that Bumble’s roar sounds a bit like this creature that I enjoyed quite a bit in my youth:

Who would have guessed that 40+ years later, that my puppet show’s lead characters would be a Sasquatch (or Abominable Snowman) and a Sea Serpent?

Hmmmm…  Interesting.

Wump Mucket Puppets with young fans at Taft Museum of Art Cincinnati

 

What have they done to my Muppets, Ma?

I knew that the day would come.  I had an idea what to expect.  I wish it was better, but it wasn’t.  What am I talking about?  Disney’s “The Muppets” (2011) of course.

“I’m not crazy about it.” – Frank Oz on “The Muppets” (2011) source

Wait!  Stop press!  I am a puppeteer.  I consider Jim Henson and fellow puppeteers some of the people  who inspired me to become a puppeteer.  Sadly most of those people have either passed away, or choose not to perform the puppet characters that they helped create.  Of course the puppet people who may read this know where I am leading with this, but for those of you new to The Muppets I’ll bring you up to speed.  I am referring to Frank Oz, the original puppeteer of Miss Piggy, Animal, and Fozzie Bear.  When I read that he felt that the script  didn’t respect the characters I was worried.  I am okay with new puppeteers performing The Muppets, it’s the only way to keep them alive for new audiences, what worried me the most is that the scriptwriter would not understand what makes The Muppets, “The Muppets”.  Sadly I was right about this.

Jason Segal says he is a HUGE fan of The Muppets.  He loved watching them as a child.  Yet does being a high profile fan qualify him to relaunch a beloved group of characters that have been most often considered family entertainment?  No! No! No!  Sure he has marquee value, but little else when it comes to The Muppets.  Two examples in the film, that he wrote and starred in, are the scene where The Muppets find Animal trying  to control his anger.

This scene really disturbed me.  I nearly stopped the DVD that we borrowed from our public library (sorry Disney).  If Mr. Segal considers this to be family entertainment, I pity his children -if he ever becomes a parent.  Which makes me wonder, how can someone write a film (that is marketed to families and children) who is not a parent himself?  I have given up on Disney as a producer of quality family entertainment, they haven’t produced any in decades (that includes “Lion King” which they stole from Tezuka Productions).  The other scene that stood out as an example of Segal’s lowest common denominator humor is the scene that Fozzie Bear stoops to wearing farting shoes to get a laugh.  Really?  The Muppets were smarter than that.  Even my five and a half year old son can come up with a funnier bit with very little effort.

As the DVD played in our living room, with an audience ranging in age from five and a half to almost fourty-eight, we began to let our selves become distracted from the film that we had been looking forward to watching as a family.  Tiernan looked at his train magazine, Eleanor and Lara continued to watch the movie… I think.  I am not certain of this because I fell asleep.  The Muppets new movie failed to keep my attention.

Perhaps I will watch this film again many years from now and find gold nuggets of Muppet-fun hidden in the Disney-sludge.  My wife gave me her opinion of the film as we put away the popcorn bowls, she felt that they looked like Muppets but lacked the soul that made them so appealing years ago.  Maybe the next Muppets film will capture the style of humor that made the characters so memorable.  I suggest that Disney hire Roger Langridge to write the script.  His Muppets comic books are excellent.  He understands Muppet-style humor.

I rate this film a D for Disney.

Autumn is here

After a very busy (and hot!) Summer for Wump Mucket Puppets, we have finally made it to my favorite time of the year, Autumn.

I was born in New England, and have many fond memories of this season. Some of them are apple picking, delivering newspapers around the village I grew up in while leaves crunch beneath my feet, and of course Halloween!
I wish that I had photos to share from that time in my life, the costumes were remarkable. You’ll have to remember that I grew up in the 70’s, decade before digital cameras and the internet. Let’s see, some of my favorite costumes that I made were:
– A silver robot made out of cardboard boxes
– Making a witch nose & chin from liquid latex that my mother bravely allowed me to make   a plaster cast of her face. She has a great witch cackle!
– Although I didn’t make the Frankenstein monster mask, I had fun pretending to be what may be the world’s shortest Frankenstein as a warmed-up the people waiting in line to enter a community center haunted house.

These days, I enjoy watching my two children have fun as they trick-or-treat around our neighborhood in Cincinnati. Here is a cute video from 2007, when our family dressed up as the Mystery Inc. gang from Scooby-Doo:

Sesame Street season 43 is here!

I was not sure what to expect from the season premiere of Sesame Street this past Monday morning. I knew that it would be on at 10 AM as usual, yet had not read anything about the new season.

My wife was not feeling well and stayed home from work. It’s rare that all four members of our little family are together, so I was happy that we would spend an hour watching the new episode of Sesame on the couch. It brought back happy memories from when Eleanor and Tiernan were much smaller.

Without giving too much away, I will say that I have not laughed as hard as I did watching Cookie Monster try to join the Cookie Connoisseurs Club. I consider this
“Must See Sesame”!  What a great show to start a new season, and on Jim Henson’s birthday too.

Now me go get COOOKIE!

Good Morning Cincinnati TV appearance

The Wump Mucket Puppets return to the Cincinnati television airwaves Thursday September 13th around 7:15am to appear as guests on Good Morning Cincinnati on Local 12.2.

Local 12 Good Morning Cincinnati

Cyril and Coleman will be chatting about our big show on Fountain Square this coming Saturday, September 15th at 3pm and 5pm as part of the Live It Up Downtown event. The event is family friendly & FREE and open to the public.  We hope you can join the fun!

Live It Up Downtown logo

If you are one of our many out of town fans, we hope to have a recording of our television appearance available for your viewing pleasure.

What is a U.F. Oh Oh Oh!

Unidentified floating oatmeal?

Undocumented ferocious octopus?

How about a new tune for Coleman and G’Wazzl to sing while “flying” around in the groovy new spacecraft that is being built for the puppet show!  Yes, dear puppet pals, you will believe that a Sasquatch and a big Orange alien can fly!

G'Wazzl eyes a toy U.F.O. at Wump Mucket Puppets HQ

Why a U.F.O.?  Why not!  G’Wazzl has been visiting Earth, and the puppet stage, for too long.  I felt it was time to give our orange friend from the stars a bit more stage time, and launching a spacecraft seemed like the logical thing to do.  Logical.  Get it?

Back to U.F.O.s…   I have been a fan of science fact and fiction for almost as long as I have been puppet crazy.   I grew up with men landing on the moon, watching Star Trek, Doctor Who, and Far Out Space Nuts on television.  My father was very interested in the possibility of life on other planets, and shared that interest with me.

G'Wazzl reads a book about U.F.O.s at Wump Mucket Puppets HQ

 

One of the many wonderful things about puppetry, it that you can take the puppets anywhere your imagination can go.  We hope that you (and your imagination) will join us when we launch our U.F.O. on Fountain Square next month.  To the stars!

Big Bird needs YOUR help!

I am a huge fan of puppeteer Caroll Spinney.  Why this particular puppeteer?  Why not Jim Henson?  Why not Gus Alligretti?  Oh, believe me, I love Jim’s and Gus’s work quite a bit.  Yet for some reason, in 1969, my almost 5 year old eyes watched Caroll perform Oscar the Grouch and Big Bird on Sesame Street and loved them ever since.Oscar the Grouch autograph sent to Terrence Burke from Caroll Spinney

It was at that point in my life that I can say that I was bit by the “puppet bug”.  I do remember that one of the things that made the Oscar puppet so appealing to me was that he was originally orange, and guess what?  Orange is my favorite color!  I also enjoyed his sarcasm, yet probably didn’t quite understand what that was back then.  Not too long after seeing the premier of Sesame Street, my father took me to a puppetry convention in Boston to meet the orange Oscar and his puppeteer.  I did not know it then, but it was a life changing moment.  Meeting my puppeteer hero and his superstar puppet character would plant the seed in my very young head that one day I too would be a puppeteer.

Now let’s jump ahead a few decades to 2004.  I learn through the puppet grapevine that Caroll will be in the Cincinnati area to promote his book The Wisdom of Big Bird (and the Dark Genius of Oscar the Grouch): Lessons from a Life in Feathers.  Of course I was in the audience to hear him read from the book.  I remember being so happy that I almost began to cry.  The early part of that decade was an emotional time for me.  My father had suddenly passed away in 2001, I was having a difficult time finding a job that I wanted to be at, and my wife Lara and I were expecting our first child.  During those years I was slowly laying the foundation of what would eventually become the Wump Mucket Puppets.  Caroll Spinney, Oscar the Grouch, Terrence Burke and a peeking Cyril the Sea Serpent.

Caroll’s reading was lots of fun, especially when he brought out Oscar and sang “I Love Trash” to the audience.  After the reading I hung around the reception area to get up enough nerve to say hello.  I am glad that I did, for Caroll was very kind and appreciated the fact that another member of the puppetry community had come to see him.

A couple of years passed, we were busy raising Eleanor, and expecting our son Tiernan’s birth.  I was still getting things together for the puppet show during my “free” time.  I mailed Caroll a letter with a photo or two to share my progress with him.  A while later he replied with a very kind note that included this message:  Note from Caroll Spinney to Terrence BurkeI was thrilled!  The puppeteer who’s work captivated me as a child and inspired me to become a puppeteer as an adult had just suggested that I “keep puppeteering!”.  Wow!  Now I really had to get my puppet show together and get my puppets out where children could see them, after all, Caroll Spinney had told me to!

I am very pleased that a documentary is being made about Caroll, his life, and his work as a puppeteer.  If any of our readers or audience members have the means to contribute to what I consider a very important film, please follow this link:

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/iambigbird/i-am-big-bird

I have made a contribution, and hope that some of you will too.  Thank you.