Sesame Street’s Joey Mazzarino Creates an Anthem

10.19.2010

This article was originally published 10.19.2010 and has since been updated with new content. Please scroll down for the most recent additions.

ABC World News has a story on a Sesame Street video promoting self-esteem and self-acceptance which has gone viral since its October 4th release. The video features an unnamed “Anything Muppet” character singing “I Love My Hair,” which is being hailed as “an anthem for black women.”

Joey Mazzarino photo courtesy SesameStreet.org

Sesame Street head writer Joey Mazzarino (who also performs recurring characters Papa Bear, Murray Monster, Stinky the Stinkweed, and Elephant) says he was inspired by his adopted daughter Segi to write the song:

“She’s like my little muse,” Mazzarino said.

As Mazzarino and his wife watched their daughter grow, he noticed a change when she started playing with Barbies. Segi started saying negative things about herself and her own hair.

“She was going through this phase where she really wanted like the long, blonde hair. … She would look at Barbies and really want the hair.”

Mazzarino [who also helped to design the Muppet character] decided to help his daughter and other young girls appreciate their beauty.

“I just want kids to know their hair is beautiful,” Mazzarino said. “I just hope little kids, little girls see this and really feel positive and great about themselves.”

ABC’s video interview with Mazzarino also reveals that Kevin Clash — performer for Elmo as well as a writer and producer for the show — had a hand in crafting the performance:

Chauncey Johnson photo courtesy stagedoordesigns.com

The singing voice belongs to Broadway star Chantylla “Chauncey” Johnson (The Color Purple, The Lion King).

Mazzarino adds that he has been “amazed” and “overwhelmed” by the public response to the video. But the most important reaction came from his daughter, who was “jumping up and down and dancing” when she saw it. “She really loved it,” says Mazzarino, “And she loves her hair now.”

The full video is available on SesameStreet.org, or you can watch it below via Sesame Street’s official Youtube channel:

Update: 10.19.2010, 7:00 PMThe Huffington Post has a related interview with Mazzarino. Here’s an excerpt:

Q: Where did the concept of the “I Love My Hair” sketch come from?

Mazzarino: I have a five year old and she’s African American. My wife and I are both white. When she was four we were going through stuff with her hair where she wanted have hair that was straight. I tried to say to her, “Your hair’s great. It’s so beautiful and you can do so many things with it.” I thought it was a problem unique to us because we were white parents and she saw us everyday. Then Chris Rock’s movie Good Hair came out and I realized it’s not just about being raised by white parents. It’s an issue for a lot of little girls.

Q: Are your surprised by the reactions of this sketch on the internet?

Mazzarino: I got a call from a state senator’s office the other day and the woman I spoke to was one of his deputy’s secretaries. She said, “I’m an older African American woman and I started to cry when I saw it.” You know you write this stuff in a dark room by yourself. I just wrote it hoping my kid would be happy with who she was. The fact that it touched not only kids but adults makes me feel great.

Q: Do you think people will be surprised that you’re white and wrote this song?

Mazzarino: I hope not because I really want the song to be about the message and not me. If they do, I hope it doesn’t affect their feelings of the song because it really comes from a place of love for my daughter.

Update: 10.20.2010 — Via The Muppet Mindset, CNN.com has posted a video interview with Mazzarino.

Update: 10.22.2010New York Magazine’s Vulture blog has an interview with Mazzarino discussing the popularity of Sesame Street’s videos, his “I Love My Hair” song, and the controversy over Katy Perry’s duet with Elmo.

Elsewhere, Mazzarino discusses the song on NPR’s All Things Considered.

Mazzarino also tells The Associated Press (via USAToday.com), “I really want to sit down with the writers and figure out what we can do with [the ‘Anything Muppet’ character] and give her a name, and really expand her out.”

Additional sources: Muppet Wiki; This Black Sistas Page; Stylist.com; StageDoorDesigns.com

~ Craig Crumpton
Publisher, Voice Actors in the News

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‘Sesame Street’ Katy Perry/Elmo Duet Video Deemed “Too Racy”

09.23.2010

The New York Daily News is reporting that a video of pop star Katy Perry singing a spoof of her hit “Hot N Cold” with Elmo (performed by Kevin Clash) has been deemed “too racy” and subsequently pulled from Sesame Street‘s official YouTube Channel.

Kevin Clash with Elmo. Image courtesy SesameStreet.org.

The video, released exclusively on the web September 20th, apparently received too many negative comments and complaints about Perry’s wardrobe, which consisted of “a low-cut yellow-green heart-shaped dress, a sheer piece of material covering her ample cleavage.”

The show’s producers have issued the following statement:

In light of the feedback we’ve received on the Katy Perry music video which was released on You Tube only, we have decided we will not air the segment on the television broadcast of Sesame Street, which is aimed at preschoolers. Katy Perry fans will still be able to view the video on You Tube.

We will not be linking directly to any video here on the blog (just to avoid potential broken links); however, dozens of YouTubers are (naturally) scrambling to get traffic off the controversy and publicity. Just do a YouTube.com search for: Katy Perry Elmo and you’re sure to find it.

In a bit of ironically related news, The Hollywood Reporter has an exclusive preview video from Sesame Street’s upcoming 41st season with a parody of the very adult, violent and graphic HBO series True Blood. Sesame Street (and Jim Henson productions in general) has never shied from spoofing pop culture even at the risk of alienating their core demographic from the joke. But like the subtle (and sometimes not-so-subtle) innuendo in classic Looney Tunes cartoons, there are some gags and references on Sesame Street that parents will laugh at but kids won’t understand until adulthood.

I don’t believe I can encode the video via WordPress, so here’s a direct link:

http://video.hollywoodreporter.com/services/player/bcpid6555681001?bctid=614605996001

Sesame Street has other preview segments for their 41st season on their official YouTube Channel, including celebrity guests Jason Bateman, Chris O’Donnell, Wanda Sykes and Colin Farrel, and two others which I must share here:

– Oprah Winfrey providing voiceover for an animated spoof of herself and her own show:

– Joseph “Run” Simmons (of famed hip-hop group Run-DMC) and Kevin Clash as Elmo as Steven Tyler performing a parody of “Walk This Way”:

And here’s a bonus video we linked to recently (for those who don’t follow us on Facebook or Twitter): Kevin Clash and Elmo visit Baltimore:

~ Craig Crumpton
Publisher, Voice Actors in the News

Additional source: Blastr.com


Sesame Street’s Leslie Carrara-Rudolph Live Show & Archive Interview

09.16.2010

Image courtesy Leslie Carrara-Rudolph and The Center for Puppetry Arts

Sesame Street performer Leslie Carrara-Rudolph (Abby-Cadabby) is performing “Wake Up Your Weird With Lolly & Leslie” at The Center for Puppetry Arts in downtown Atlanta, GA from September 16-26, 2010.

Here’s the show description from puppet.org:

WAKE UP YOUR WEIRD WITH LOLLY & LESLIE
By Leslie Carrara-Rudolph, Los Angeles, CA
2010-11 Family Series

Performances Thursday – Sunday through September 26

From the Emmy nominated performer of Sesame Street’s Abby Cadabby!

Discover your own unique creative gifts with Sesame Street Puppeteer Leslie Carrara-Rudolph and her friend Lolly! Together with her other puppet friends, Leslie will help the young and young at heart “wake up their weird” with this interactive performance-style workshop using puppets, storytelling, live music, improvisations, art, and movement. Explore the power of the voice, the body, and the imagination as the three main resources for “spreading joy.”

Tickets are available via PUPPET.ORG.

The Center for Puppetry Arts hosted the following Twitter interview @CtrPuppetryArts with Leslie on September 15th between 2 and 3 pm (EST).

Fans were asked in advance to submit their questions via Twitter by tagging them with #LeslieChat.

Thanks to @CtrPuppetryArts for permission to host the archive of the interview here on Voice Actors in the News.

Moderator @CtrPuppetryArts and fan-submitted questions are in italics, with Leslie’s answers in bold.

===============================

30 minutes until our Twitter Chat with Sesame Street performer, Leslie Carrara-Rudolph.

Hi Puppet Fans! Leslie will be joining us soon. Going to get started in just a few minutes!

For those you who might not know, Leslie is here in Atlanta to present her new puppet show, “Wake Up Your Weird!”

She is also the Emmy nominated performer of Sesame Street’s Abby Cadabby!!

Welcome, Leslie! Thank you so much for joining us today!

Before we get to questions– What else should our followers know about you?

They should know that I just ate a Varsity hamburger and slawdog and a homemade pumpkin chocolate cookie.

They should know that I’m from Northern California, and am mostly based in NY, but still have a place in Glendale (Southern CA).

My husband, Paul Rudolph, got a job on Sesame Street as the vocal director, so he lives in NY with me & our deaf & blind bishon.

Q#1 What is your routine to combat puppeteer shoulder?

A: Stretching, push-ups (to be physically even). My right arm is steel and left can turn to veal! And swimming!

Q#2 What was your career path before Sesame Street? Was performing on Sesame Street always a dream/goal of yours?

A: My dream was to be the ultimate entertainer for kids & to have my own kids show one day.

A: (con’t) I even designed my own major to do it!

A: I wanted to work with kids at risk. My goal was to be a special ed teacher and to perform!

Thanks, @katiecofield for that question!

Q#3 What kind candy does Lolly plan on sampling while in Atlanta? Did the Comedy Beaver join her on this trip?

A: Every kind of candy! She’s upset we skipped Cracker Barrel. Check out her [Facebook] fan page– Lolly Lardpop.

A: Yes to the Comedy Beaver!

Q#4: Leslie, what is your favorite part of your job?

A: My point of view. I have the best seat in the house when it comes to watching the children’s faces and how they react!

Q#5 As a performer for kids’ shows as well as grown-up fare, how do you define “adult entertainment? Can’t “adult” be clean too?

A: My puppets don’t swear or have to be sexual to be funny.

A: My adult entertainment is in respect to politics or social issues that aren’t aimed at children.

A: When I was in Stuffed and UnStrung, the Henson improv group, I often struggled with some of the content. The audience improv requests were too blue at times for my taste.

Thanks to @larabron, @ToasterBoy, @cpillsbury, @smittygirl for your questions! Keep ’em coming!

*Pause* Leslie just had to take a call from Elmo.

RT @ToasterBoy: Can you explain the significance of Karen (Red Fraggle) Prell’s shoes as they relate to your career?

A: Her boots were given to me on the very first day of shooting on the Muppet show, so I could be tall enough next to Frank Oz.

RT @lekogirl: @CtrPuppetryArts Do you construct any other puppets on the side for personal projects?

A: All of them at first! Then when I can afford it I have a real builder do it.

A: Except for Lolly– she’s complaining that she isn’t getting any upgrades

RT @mekidd5: @CtrPuppetryArts Leslie, what is your favorite part of what must be a VERY interesting workday?!

A: Too many favorites! At Sesame Street, the whole family, guests, and the children from Make A Wish.

Q: Can you tell us more about “Wake Up Your Weird”?

A: Wake Up Your Weird is an interactive performance style / workshop that focuses on the voice, the body, and the imagination!

Wow! So many questions! We have time for about 2 more!

RT @smittygirl: @CtrPuppetryArts Any particular performers who inspired you to be a puppeteer?

A: The Muppets, of course! And, Wayland Flowers was brilliant. If Madame and Lambchop had a baby, it would be Lolly!

@lekogirl Are you a builder or a performer?

RT @lekogirl: @CtrPuppetryArts Any words of wisdom for puppetry students?

A: Whatever aspect of puppetry you are doing, always make it about your heart or passion.

If you just say that it’s going to be part of your life, the rest will follow!

Well, that concludes our Twitter interview! Thank you, Leslie, for taking time out of your busy schedule to be with us today!

A big thanks to everyone who participated and listened in!

=================================

As a bonus, here are a series of videos recorded in Atlanta featuring the adventures of Lolly Lardpop (as performed by Leslie) courtesy of her official Facebook fan page:

UPDATE: 9.24.2010 — The Marquee Episode Continues…

AccessAtlanta also has a review of Leslie’s live show.

Visit Leslie’s official site at LeslieCarrara-Rudolph.com and be sure to bookmark PUPPET.ORG to keep up with The Center for Puppetry Arts’ recent and upcoming shows, screenings, museum exhibits and other events. They currently have three (THREE!) long-term museum displays related to the work of Jim Henson which are a heartily recommended must-see for all Muppets fans.


Voiceover Career Event in NYC on September 22nd

08.26.2010

For Immediate Release

That's Voiceover (banner coutesy Push Creative Entertainment)

THAT’S VOICEOVER – NATION’S TOP VOICEOVER ACTORS REVEAL CAREER SECRETS FOR CHARITY

In New York, NY on September 22, 2010, an expert panel of top voice-over actors, talent agents and ad executives will provide a crash course for those seeking careers in the exciting world of voiceover acting. And one lucky audience member will win a chance to become the voice of an on-air TV promo for a network station and win Hollywood representation with TGMD Talent Agency. Proceeds from the event benefit the Alzheimer’s Association.

Author of Secrets of Voice-Over Success, Joan Baker and Late Night with David Letterman announcer, Alan Kalter host an entertaining evening of information, an American Idol-styled audition (complete with industry executives as judges) and a chance for job seekers to meet the industry buyers who provide the jobs.

Attendees will also meet and hear from the talented voices behind TV and radio ads for THE E-TRADE BABY, THE SIMPSONS, LAW & ORDER, THE OSCARS and EMMYS, DEAL or NO DEAL, AMERICAN IDOL, the NBC OLYMPIC GAMES, HBO, SHOWTIME, VERIZON WIRELESS and many others. These consummate pros will separate the facts from the fictions about breaking into the voiceover biz. Even seasoned voiceover actors will find incredible guidance as the conversation will include best practices for enhancing careers in an industry of changing trends.

AFTRA, BACK STAGE Magazine, Neumann USA, Voicebank.Net, Dale Pro Audio, and TGMD Talent Agency are major sponsors in what has been a growing effort by Push Creative Advertising to expand employment opportunities in the exciting and often lucrative field of voiceover acting. And, as is the case with Joan Baker’s breakthrough book, Secrets of Voice-Over Success, proceeds from this event will benefit the Alzheimer’s Association.

Voiceover acting has long been the most intriguing, anonymous and off-the-radar crafts in the entertainment industry. But the surprisingly large interest among people from all walks of life has been slowly encouraging industry insiders like Emmy Award-winning producer and CEO of Push Creative Advertising, Rudy Gaskins to respond to the need. Says GASKINS, “It pretty much began with Joan Baker’s Secrets of Voice-over Success (foreword by David Hyde Pierce). This book is the first to provide a practical, step by step guide through the eyes of numerous successful voiceover actors, including the late great DON LA FONTAINE, Tony Award-winner, JIM DALE, Emmy Award-winner RICHARD THOMAS, radio personality VALERIE SMALDONE and JOE CIPRIANO who took home the first annual 2010 DON LAFONTAINE LEGACY AWARD sponsored by PROMAX BDA.”

That's Voiceover (Banner coutesy Push Creative Entertainment)

Other panelists include Bill Ratner (voices on G.I. Joe, Family Guy, Robot Chicken, Mass Effect), Tor Myhren, CCO of Grey Advertising, Miranda Patterson, Creative Director for NBC Universal, and Jeffrey Weinstock, SVP Creative Services for Disney. “In a historically challenging economy where jobs are scarce and people are seeking to diversify their options, we’re bringing together the industry insiders who know what it takes to succeed.” says Gaskins. Joan Baker adds, “THAT’S VOICEOVER is first and foremost a career event. The award of an actual job in this context is an industry first. It bolsters our mission to elevate the conversation and point people in the right direction.”

And this year, thanks to Lee Minard, director of creative services for KLAS CBS Las Vegas, one lucky attendee will win a chance to book an actual job voicing an on-air TV spot. “With top industry executives helming the judges table, attendees will get an unprecedented glimpse into how voices are selected and how to be ready when the call comes their way.” says Gaskins.

Complete event details are available at THATSVOICEOVER.COM and TheTimesCenter.com.

Thanks to Push Creative Entertainment for the press release and images. We previously mentioned this event 8.19.2010 via Twitter.

~ Craig “Voiceroy” Crumpton
Publisher: Voice Actors in the News


Guardian.co.uk Spotlights BBC VO Narrators

08.17.2010

Guardian.co.uk has a feature article with photos highlighting BBC VO narrators Tom Baker, Dave Lamb, Marcus Bentley, and Michael Buerk.

Here’s an excerpt:

There is no silencing the cacophony of show-stealing narrators on television at the moment. They didn’t use to draw attention to themselves – traditionally, narrators were sombre, quintessentially BBC voices that wouldn’t have sounded out of place commentating on a particularly dispiriting public information film. Now, they’re often the star of the show.

Click here to continue reading the article.


SAG Appoints Bob Bergen National Chair of Animation

07.27.2010

For Immediate Release:

SAG National Board of Directors Appoints Bob Bergen
National Chair of Television Animation and Basic Cable Animation

Negotiating Committee Receives Report on The Presidents’ Forum for One Union
Announces Fiscal-Year 2010 Surplus and Receipt of Unqualified Audit Opinion

Los Angeles, (July 24, 2010) – Screen Actors Guild National Board of Directors, meeting in a one-day video plenary in Los Angeles and New York, named Bob Bergen National Chair of the 2010 Television Animation and Basic Cable Animation Negotiating Committee. Pursuant to Screen Actors Guild policy, the members of negotiating committees are confidential and their names will not be released. Negotiations for a successor agreement to this contract are scheduled to begin September 27, 2010.

In other business, National President Ken Howard reported to the Board regarding the formation of The Presidents’ Forum for One Union – a joint platform with American Federation of Television and Radio Artists (AFTRA) to facilitate development of a process that can lead SAG and AFTRA to form one autonomous union.

Screen Actors Guild’s contingent to The Presidents’ Forum will consist of six SAG members including President Howard as Chair, Secretary-Treasurer Amy Aquino, and four additional members selected from the Guild’s SAG/AFTRA Relations Task Force. The Forum will include a similar group designated by AFTRA.

President Howard said, “This is a positive step toward uniting SAG and AFTRA and good news for our members. The creation of a single performers’ union is overdue, and I’m pleased to be working with Roberta Reardon, who’s been such a champion of that goal.”

Related post: 12.11.2009 – Smackdown: Union Voice Actors VS Video Game Companies


Voice Acting Instructional Book is an Award-Winner

07.17.2010

For Immediate Release:

AWARD-WINNING WRITERS WITH A WHOLE LOT OF GEEK APPEAL

Voice-Over Superstars Yuri Lowenthal and Tara Platt’s “How-To” Book Is A Winner

Husband/wife voice actors Tara Platt and Yuri Lowenthal (undated publicity photo courtesy bugbotpress.com)

 

07.16.2010 – Hollywood, CA — Actor-authors Yuri Lowenthal and Tara Platt have been landing prestigious awards with their new book Voice-Over Voice Actor: What It’s Like Behind the Mic, which was released earlier this year under indie publishing company Bug Bot Press. Since Voice-Over Voice Actor’s launch in March, it has won the 2010 Pinnacle Book Award and the National Indie Excellence Award as well as heading into a second print run to keep up with demand.

The book has taken the married celeb voice-acting couple on a world-tour this year with stops in Australia (Brisbane & Melbourne), the UK (London & Dublin), Canada (Montreal) as well as the US (Vegas, San Francisco, LA). Platt and Lowenthal’s huge fan base is actually one of the reasons that the duo credits the success of the book as well as the recent title of Nerdage’s “Fans’ Choice for Actor, Actress with Geek Appeal” by the on-line contest held by the Oklahoman NewsOK blog.

“It was fun to learn that we’d both won in our respective categories, beating out some really heavy hitters, but it’s entirely thanks to the fans,” Tara noted when asked about the recent nomination and win for Actress with Geek Appeal. Yuri added, “Yeah, we’re humbled by the fan response and kind of dumbfounded that we beat out names like Robert Downey Jr. and Megan Fox.” Lowenthal attributes it to fanbase crossover; his and Platt’s work includes roles in anime, videogames, animation, and genre webseries, TV, and film, including titles like Naruto, Afro Samurai, The Prince of Persia, Resident Evil, Ben 10: Alien Force, Legion of Superheroes, Absolution, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, and the recently completed The Arcadian with Lance Henriksen.

And just in time to fly their geek colors, the pair will be headed later this month to San Diego for the 41st annual International San Diego Comic Con, July 22-25, a celebration and gathering of geek culture, movies, videogames and more, with attendance looking to top 125K at the San Diego Convention Center. Platt and Lowenthal will be selling their book, speaking on panels and signing autographs at SDCC.

Book cover image courtesy Spotlight PR

The book is distributed nationally through Emerald Book Group and is available on-line and in brick and mortar shops like Borders, Barnes & Noble and specialty theatre bookstores like Samuel French. Voice-Over Voice Actor also recently became available as an eBook on lulu.com and will be available for the iPad soon.

For more information on the book check out: www.VoiceOverVoiceActor.com

Related post: 7.25.2009 – Voice Actors Platt, Lowenthall Announce Voice-Over ‘How To’ Book