The Magic Of The Muppets Is That This Guy Doesn't Exist

I'd never seen a muppet operated in person until Friday at Hasbro's San Diego Comic-Con booth. In my heart and in my mind I still have never seen a muppet operated in person — I just saw Super Grover.

Thanks to the two tiny additions made to my household last year, I've been watching a fair amount of Sesame Street lately. I remember watching Jim Henson's long-running edutainment spectacular religiously as a child, but three decades have changed the way I view the cuddly felt creations I once believed in without question.

These days I find myself watching the children interacting with the googly-eyed monsters more than the monsters themselves. I watch them to see if their eyes ever stray below the screen, where a man or woman is operating the mechanisms and speaking the words that make them come to life. In a traditional puppet theatre the operators are hidden behind curtains or conveniently-placed scenery, but when you're face-to-face with Elmo, how can you not stare at the man crouching beneath him?

These children, I thought, are amazing actors. If I were in their position I'd be staring into the eyes of the muppeteer, attempting to crack him up, lose his cool, or say something out of character.

Or so I thought.

Grover was at the Hasbro booth on Friday at San Diego Comic-Con. Super Grover, to be exact. Not a man operating a puppet. Grover.

Oh the man was there. He was crouched down on the floor as plain as day. You can even see him in the photo above, if you look closely. It's just that when he's only a few feet away, you do not see him. He might as well be invisible. Your attention is riveted to that magnificent helmeted figure. Your ears know that warbly voice isn't coming from his mouth, but your brain shifts it upwards, placing it where your heart knows it should be.

I don't know who was operating Super Grover at the Hasbro booth at San Diego Comic-Con. I couldn't describe him to you if I tried. Was it Eric Jacobson? I have no clue.

In any other profession that would be insulting. To a Muppet operator I can only imagine it's an honour, helping maintain a dream that started in front of my mother's television set some 30+ years ago.


Comments

    I was questioning the same thing recently when Cookie Monster and Elmo were on Triple J. But when I asked around the office and friends I found that at least 3 people who'd met one or more their old pals and none of them could tell me anything about the man behind the muppet/puppet.

    To anyone who wants to see more 'behind the curtain', I highly recommend "Being Elmo" - it's a documentary about Kevin Clash and the evolution of Elmo as a character.

    A Stormtrooper hugging Super Grover... now there's an awesome scene you don't see everyday!

    This article wins.

    As a puppeteer who has met almost every core Muppet performer and talked to them about puppetry, I too find it astounding to see these characters being performed. These incredibly nice and talented people put on the puppets and disappear. When I met Bert, another character played by Eric Jacobson, Eric disappeared and this fantastic character came alive. The same goes for Oscar the Grouch, Elmo, and Ernie. Plus, as a puppeteer, I have an even greater appreciation for what they do. It's not easy to bring what is essentially foam and fabric to life, and it takes an even greater level of skill to perform a character so incredibly well that the person behind it disappears completely.

    Hahah when I saw "Censor fish" in the pic I thought you were trying to censor the fact that the guy with the red shirt had a boner while watching Grover hug a storm trooper....

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