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.


Original Kermit Muppet Donated to Smithsonian

08.26.2010

For Immediate Release

Kermit the Frog Comes Home to Washington

Sam and Friends Characters Donated to the National Museum of American History

August 25, 2010

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History accepted 10 characters from Sam and Friends from Jane Henson, on behalf of the Jim Henson family, in a special donation ceremony.

Sam and Friends debuted on local Washington, D.C., station WRC-TV in 1955 launching what would become a global phenomenon—the Muppets. The show featured a host of unique characters, including the original Kermit the Frog, who was more of a lizard-like creature, constructed with ping pong ball eyes and green felt from a coat discarded by Jim Henson’s mother. This version of Kermit does not have his signature collar, and his feet are rounded.

“Jim Henson embodied the innovation and ingenuity that is inherent in American culture,” said Brent D. Glass, director of the museum. “Beyond the entertainment value Henson’s creations provided, his work helped educate and inform his audiences, an influence that continues today.”

'Sam and Friends' Smithsonian archive collection (image courtesy newsdesk.si.edu)

Joining Kermit on display at the museum this fall are other characters from Sam and Friends, including Pierre the French Rat, Henson’s oldest surviving puppet, first drawn in 1954 as part of a comic strip for his high school yearbook; Yorick, a purple skull who was a precursor to hungry monsters like Cookie Monster, made of papier-mâché; Mushmellon, whose wide face and grouchy eyes bear a distinct resemblance to Oscar the Grouch; and Sam, the main character who never spoke but lip-synced to popular music and comedy records of the time.

Henson saw enormous potential for puppets on TV and he came up with the word Muppet in the mid-1950s. Seemingly a combination of puppet and marionette, Henson insisted that he chose the term simply because he liked the way it sounded. Central to the design of a Muppet is the construction of the face—creating a pattern with the eyes, nose and mouth called “the magic triangle”—which establishes a point of focus that helps to bring the puppet to life in the eye of a video camera and to the viewers watching at home.

“It is wonderful that Sam and Friends should find themselves back here in Washington, D.C., where they first appeared,” said Jane Henson, Henson’s wife. “And now they get to greet old friends and meet new ones at the newly renovated and exciting National Museum of American History.”

[Associated Press video]

From the early beginnings of Sam and Friends—of which only a few episodes survive—the Muppets went on to evolve and achieve worldwide popularity. The Muppet Show was introduced in 1976 and reached 235 million viewers in more than 100 countries. The series won three Emmys during its five-year run as well as spawning feature-films like The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper and The Muppets take Manhattan. Muppets is a registered trademark of The Muppets Studio LLC Ltd.

The Kermit the Frog that is already in the museum’s collection was first loaned in 1979, in celebration of Sesame Street’s 10th anniversary. In 1994, Jim Henson Productions designated Kermit as a gift, making him a permanent fixture in the museum’s performance collections.

The National Museum of American History collects, preserves and displays American heritage in the areas of social, political, cultural, scientific and military history. To learn more about the museum, check http://americanhistory.si.edu. For Smithsonian information, the public may call (202) 633-1000, (202) 633-5285 (TTY).

For more information about the life and work of Jim Henson, visit The Jim Henson Legacy website: www.jimhensonlegacy.org

CNN.com also has a feature article (with photo) from this event.


Daytime Emmy Nominations Announced

05.13.2010

The National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences has announced the nominees for the 37th Annual Daytime Entertainment Emmy® Awards.

Voice acting-related nominees for “Outstanding Performer in a Children’s Series”:

Kevin Clash as Elmo, Sesame Street
Caroll Spinney as Big Bird, Sesame Street
Joey Mazzarino as Stinky, Myrry & Blogg, Sesame Street
David Rudman as Baby Bear, Sesame Street

Nominees for “Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program”:

Ed Asner as Kid Potato, WordGirl (PBS)
Eartha Kitt as Cool Cat, The Wonder Pets! (Nick)
Amy Poehler as Bessie Higgenbottom, The Mighty B! (Nick)
Phillip Seymour Hoffman as William Fillmore Toffman, Arthur (PBS)

Voice acting-related mentions for “Outstanding Directing in an Animated Program”:

Cynthia True, voice director: The Mighty B! (Nick)
Andrea Romano, voice director: SpongeBob SquarePants (Nick)
Lisa Schaffer, voice director: The Penguins of Madagascar (Nick)
Ginny McSwain, voice director: Fanboy and Chum Chum (Nick)

Some of Seasame Street‘s Muppet performers were also included in nominations for “Outstanding Directing in a Children’s Series”: Kevin Clash, Matt Vogel and Joey Mazzarino, and Mazzarino was also included in a nomination for “Outstanding Writing in a Children’s Series” (he serves as the head writer for Sesame Street).

Nominees for the category for “Outstanding Childrens’ Animated Program”:

– WordGirl (PBS)
– The Backyardigans (Nick)
– Curious George (PBS)
– Sid The Science Kid (PBS)

Also related to animation, PBS’ Fetch! With Ruff Ruffman was nominated for “Outstanding Children’s Series.”

Nominees of note in “Outstanding Achievement in Music Direction and Composition”:

– The Wonder Pets! (Nick)
– Hot Wheels Battle Force 5 (CN)
– Phineas & Ferb (Disney Channel)
– The Penguins of Madagascar (Nick)

Nominees of note in “Outstanding Original Song – Children’s and Animation”:

– “Nochebuena Song,” Dora The Explorer (Nick)
– “It’s a P-H!,” Between the Lions (PBS)
– “A Fiddler Crab Am I,” The Wonder Pets! (Nick)
– “Come Home Perry,” Phineas & Ferb (Disney Channel)
– “Song About Elmo,” Sesame Street (PBS)

And the main title theme for Disney Channel’s Special Agent Oso was nominated for “Outstanding Original Song.”

Also wanted to point out that a couple of the voice cast for WordGirl were included in nominations for “Outstanding Writing in Animation”: Jack Ferraiolo and Ryan Raddatz. And on a related note, Ryan Raddatz says of the three WordGirl Emmy nominations via his official site — RyanRaddatz.com: “I’m thrilled to be a part of the WordGirl team, and doubly thrilled to be recognized for our work.” Raddatz added that a PBS series he helped write, Fizzy’s Lunch Lab, “is nominated in the curiously named ‘New Approaches’ category.”

And just for kicks, here’s a breakdown of the total Emmy noms for networks and shows of interest (as they relate to this blog):

PBS 53
Nickelodeon 25
Disney Channel 5

And shows receiving “multiple nominations”:

Sesame Street 14
Disney Phineas and Ferb 4
Fanboy and Chum Chum 4
The Penguins of Madagascar 4
The Wonder Pets! 4
The Fairly OddParents 3
Fetch! With Ruff Ruffman 3
Hot Wheels Battle Force 5 3
WordGirl 3
Between the Lions 2
The Mighty B! 2
Sid The Science Kid 2
Spongebob Squarepants 2

“The Daytime Entertainment Emmy® Awards” are scheduled to air on CBS June 27th, 2010. You can view the full list of nominees via EmmyOnline.org.


Muppets Bunny Feast

04.02.2010

The latest video from Muppets Studio features Big Mean Carl…and bunnies:

It’s so weird and edgy that I can’t help but like it. It reminds me of the more bizarre sketches from The Muppet Show. I think Jim Henson would’ve loved this.

The voices are performed (as near as I’m able to ID them) by Bill Barretta (Big Mean Carl), Steve Whitmire (singing Bunny, Statler), and Dave Goelz (Waldorf).

Via MuppetCentral.com

Related post: 2.09.2010 — Beaker vs teh interwebz


Event: Paul Williams Honored

02.13.2010

For Immediate Release

OSCAR, GRAMMY, AND GOLDEN GLOBE-WINNING HALL OF FAME SONGWRITER PAUL WILLIAMS TO BE HONORED BY GOODSPEED

Beloved Composer/Lyricist will be honored with The Goodspeed Award for Outstanding Contribution to Musical Theatre

Paul Williams image courtesy Media.Marketwire.com


East Haddam, Conn., February 10, 2010: Goodspeed Musicals will proudly honor Composer/Lyricist Paul Williams at a Gala evening on Saturday, June 12, 2010 when he will receive “The Goodspeed Award for Outstanding Contribution to Musical Theatre” in recognition of his extraordinary career. Previous award recipients include Julie Andrews, Ira Gershwin, Jerry Herman, William Ivey Long, Michael P. Price, Stephen Schwartz, Tommy Tune, Susan Stroman and Gerald Schoenfeld. Proceeds from the Gala will support Goodspeed Musicals’ Education Programs.

The Co-Chairs for this Gala event will be writer/director/producer Garry Marshall and his wife Barbara; Academy Award-winning puppeteer, director/producer Brian Henson; Tony Award nominee and Oscar, Grammy Award-winning composer/lyricist Stephen Schwartz; and Steve Sauer. The evening’s festivities, to be held at the elegant Riverhouse at Goodspeed Station in Haddam, Conn., will include a cocktail hour and an exquisite dinner followed by a live auction led by celebrity auctioneer and longtime Goodspeed supporter Ann Nyberg and entertainment by some of Broadway’s finest performers.

Individual tickets start at $500, while tables of ten can be purchased for $5,000 and up. For Gala ticket information, please telephone Caitlin Quinn at 860.873.8664, extension 367. Also see the website for more details: www.goodspeed.org.

Paul Williams in rehearsal for 'Happy Days' at Goodspeed. (Photo by Diane Sobolewski, courtesy Goodspeed Musicals)

This year, Goodspeed is delighted to honor Oscar, Grammy, and Golden Globe-winning Hall of Fame songwriter Paul Williams (Chairman and President of ASCAP). “Evergreen,” “We’ve Only Just Begun,” “Rainy Days and Mondays,” and “The Rainbow Connection” are among his timeless standards. His film scores include the Oscar nominated Bugsy Malone and the classic The Muppet Christmas Carol. His contribution to musical theatre includes penning the music and lyrics for Jim Henson’s Emmet Otter, which had its world premiere at the Goodspeed in 2008, and Garry Marshall’s Happy Days: A New Musical, which was developed at Goodspeed’s Norma Terris Theatre followed by a full scale production at the Goodspeed Opera House. Happy Days went on to play at the Paper Mill Playhouse and a successful National Tour.

Paul is recognized as one of America’s most prolific and gifted lyricists and composers. His standards have been recorded by such diverse musical icons as Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, David Bowie, Tony Bennett, Sarah Vaughn, Johnny Mathis, The Carpenters, Luther Vandross, REM, Mel Torme, Anne Murray, Diana Krall, Gladys Knight and Diana Ross.

Paul Williams during first day 'Happy Days' rehearsals at Goodspeed 2009. (Photo by Diane Sobolewski, courtesy Goodspeed Muscials)

Publicly lauded for his work as a songwriter, performer, actor and humanitarian, Mr. Williams became a member of the Goodspeed Musicals family in 2007 when it produced Happy Days at The Norma Terris Theatre. His association with Goodspeed in creating new works continues today.

Dedicated to the preservation and advancement of musical theatre, Goodspeed Musicals produces three musicals each season at the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, Conn., and additional productions at The Norma Terris Theatre in Chester, Conn., which was opened in 1984 for the development of new musicals. The only regional theatre to receive two Tony Awards (for outstanding achievement), Goodspeed also maintains The Scherer Library of Musical Theatre and The Max Showalter Center for Education in the Musical Theater.

* Williams has also voiced characters for a number of animated productions, most notably as the voice of Oswald Cobblepot/The Penguin on Batman: The Animated Series, Professor Williams on Dexter’s Laboratory, Kujo on Captain Planet and the Planeteers, Mother of Invention on The Tick, Mr. Cairo on Phantom 2040, Izzith on Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, and Garen on The Pirates of Dark Water.

Learn more about Williams’ life and career on his official site: PaulWilliamsConnection.org.

Thanks to Elisa Hale of Goodspeed Musicals for the press release.

Related post: 4.20.2009 — Paul Williams Elected ASCAP President/Chairman