Okay, folks. I know it’s been kind of a long (long, long) time since the last installment of our self-retrospective. So are you ready for us to wrap up our indulgent trip down memory lane? Let’s go! (And if you haven’t, don’t forget to read parts one, two, and three!)
January 2009 was a month with lots of reasons for Muppet fans to be excited. Muppet comics were on the way from Boom! Studios, and Tough Pigs’ own Joe Hennes posted a Q&A with writer/artist Roger Langridge. The Sesame Street gang was on Scrubs, and I posted a review of the episode. The live theatrical production of Emmet Otter’s Jugband Christmas concluded its run, and guest reviewer Peter Papazoglou reviewed it for us. And we anticipated the release of the history of Sesame Street, Street Gang by Michael Davis, whom Joe interviewed about the book.
This is as good a time as any to mention fan art on Tough Pigs, which kicked into high gear in 2009. The site had always featured the terrific art of Chris “Smig” Smigliano, who even has his own tag on the site. He designed the old logo and the current logo, and he’s contributed a zillion great cartoons over the years. Then, in 2009, Joe had the wonderful idea of asking other fan artists to throw us some of their work. I don’t want to start listing names, because I’ll leave somebody out, but it’s worth mentioning the talented artist and Miss Piggy enthusiast Peter Savieri, whose work first appeared in a post called “Introducing Peter Savieri.” I have no idea where that title came from.
In February, there was a special panel discussion at William Paterson University to mark the occasion of Sesame Street‘s 40th anniversary, and I filed a report in two parts: “Sesame Street Comes to New Jersey: Part One“ and “Sesame Street Comes to New Jersey: Part Two.” I only wish my words could have done justice to the magnificent scarf Frank Oz was wearing that night. Later that month, Joe reviewed the Miss Piggy book The Diva Code. Did he like it? Suffice it to say they didn’t quote him on the paperback edition. Meanwhile, I explored the surreal world of Japanese Sesame Street toys in “Chara Hiroba Is Japanese for ‘Weeeird Toys.” Then, as the month wound down, we had the opportunity to interview Joey Mazzarino, Sesame Street performer and head writer. He’s a swell guy, even if he didn’t seem to pick up the hint when we said we were available if they ever needed some extras for a street scene.
In March, I introduced Wikitrivia, a Muppet trivia quiz for which all the answers could be found on Muppet Wiki. Follow That Bird was rereleased on DVD, and I asked you to design alternate covers. Joe reviewed early drafts of the Fraggle Rock movie and Jason Segel & Nick Stoller’s Muppet movie after presumably finding them in a Dumpster somewhere. How’s that Fraggle movie coming, anyway? Finally, we got the first issue of The Muppet Show Comic Book, and I wrote the first of many Muppet comic book reviews.
In April, I put together a list of some of Kermit the Frog’s greatest freakouts in “A Frazzed Frog Is a Funny Frog.” Then I shared “Muppets, Munchos and Me: An Epic Story” telling the tale of how a decades-old Henson commercial introduced me to one of my favorite snacks. And Joe led us in another Book Club, for the Bert classic “Just Like Ernie.”
In May, I asked the important question “What’s the Name of That Dog?” as I delved into the mystery of how to pronounce “Rowlf.” Later, I reviewed the Paul Rudd-starring, environmentally conscious Sesame Street DVD Being Green.
In June, our pal David Beukema produced a remarkable work of poetic geekery: “The Muppet Show Haiku Project,” a five-part series consisting of a haiku for every single episode of the show. That’s 120 haikus, or 2,040 syllables. David is very dedicated to his art.
In July, Joe gave us all a little pop culture history lesson when he told us “How Michael Jackson Saved Sesame Street” and wrote one of my favorite-ever Joe Hennes pieces, “Crater Haters,” in which he explored how the Muppets have given us all an anti-moon bias. And in “Christmas in July: Revisiting Letters to Santa,” I took a second look at the holiday special after the novelty had worn off.
In August, I complained about the letter “s” in Muppet branding in “Muppets vs. Muppet.” Then I pondered the mystery of “The Secret Proto-Gordon That TIME FORGOT!” (just a few months before Sesame Workshop did the same in their 40th anniversary book!) And in “265 Dollars Worth of Kermit,” I ranted about an overpriced Kermit doll.
The most notable thing to happen in the Muppet world in September was a baffling Muppet appearance on America’s Got Talent in which Kermit was performed by a puppeteer who was noticeably not Steve Whitmire. I tried to make sense of the situation in “What the Frog?!?“
In October, I took a look at a little-known TV special with a heavy Muppet presence in “Communist Pigs, Yankee Frogs and Marlo Thomas,” thus ensuring that Marlo Thomas would turn up in our Google Analytics referrals pretty much every month thereafter. Joe reviewed the Where the Wild Things Are movie, which featured costumes by the Henson Creature Shop, then he gave American Apparel a piece of his mind for their poor handling of the Sesame Street license in “American Apparel Ruins Sesame Street’s Birthday.” And in fact, we were counting down the days until Sesame‘s anniversary, which was made even more exciting with the release of “Sesame Street: A Celebration – 40 Years of Life on the Street,” which was written by Louise Gikow, whom we interviewed.
The first week of November, I marked the occasion of Sesame‘s milestone anniversary by watching all the show’s previous anniversary specials in “My Week with Sesame Anniversaries.” It was time well spent with James Earl Jones, Bill Cosby, Joe Pesci, Jon Stewart, and Elmo. And then — wow, a bunch of stuff happened. I reviewed the new episodes of Sesame Street! Joe pointed out how ridiculous FOX News looked for all riled up over a silly joke! Then he posted a new Halloween Parade! Oh, and a little video called “Bohemian Rhapsody” hit YouTube, and hit it hard.
December 2009 was a big month for Tough Pigs. For one thing, we got a completely new look. The black-on-white design was out, and lots of little icons by Chris “Smig” Smigliano were in. Also the lovely shade of purple you see here now. Thus Tough Pigs went from looking like this:
To looking like this:
We feel confident that Prince would approve.
Also in December, Joe scored an interview with Muppet legend Jerry Nelson, who has played so many characters that he had forgotten about Droop. In “The Muppets: Kings of Queen?“ I confessed to my inability to get too excited about the runaway success of the Bohemian Rhapsody video, and in “Dr. Doozer Is For Silly Creatures,” I shook my head at Henson’s attempt to make Fraggles trendy. (Seriously, Paris Hilton and Red Fraggle are not two celebrities who ever needed to meet.) In “Light the Lamp, Not the Rat!” 17 Years Later,” I examined The Muppet Christmas Carol‘s journey from tentative post-Jim project to holiday classic. And in “Makin’ Muppet New Year’s Resolutions,” Joe got various notable folks from the Muppet world and the Muppet fan world to share their goals for 2010.
Speaking of 2010! In January, Tough Pigs pal and Richard Hunt biographer Jessica Max Stein provided us with a lovely interview with Jane Hunt, Richard’s mother. And I asked TP readers for their ideas on things the Muppets should do in the near future, in a feature called “The Muppet Suggestion Box.” As it turns out, Muppet fans have a lot of opinions about Muppets.
In February, Michal Richardson told us why she hates it when Muppets get cold in “Don’t Eat That Frogsicle!“ I reviewed Jerry Nelson’s album Truro Daydreams (which you should own, if you don’t already). And Joe explored the Hidden Gems embedded for us fans in Sesame Street‘s 40th season.
In April, the Ugly Muppet Toy Pageant made a glorious return to Tough Pigs. Them was some ugly toys. And we celebrated the arrival of Archaia’s Fraggle Rock comic book, the first issue of which Joe reviewed favorably.
In May, I examined a phenomenon well-known to most Muppet fans, even if they didn’t know there was a name for it, in “What Is SIRE?“ Have you experienced SIRE today? May 16 marked the 20th anniversary of the death of Jim Henson, and we had some of our favorite artists pay tribute to the man in “Remembering Jim.” And we continued to buzz about news trickling in regarding the upcoming Muppet movie… Joe reacted to the latest with “Muppet Movie Table Reading: What Does It Mean?”
In June, we had the opportunity to interview the talented Muppeteer Leslie Carrara-Rudolph, which consisted of our asking her two questions and her telling us everything we wanted to know about her career. That was also the month we did our first-ever “Ask Tough Pigs“ video, in which we asked for your questions about anything and everything, and answered them by talking to a video camera.
In July, I did one of those funny-picture-caption-contest thingies, and the results were pretty amusing. I should do another one of those sometime. Also in July, we held our first Muppet Vault, which was such a rousing, nerdy success that we’re still doing it every month. Later in the month, I listed “7 Sesame Street Muppets I Never Thought I’d See Before There Was YouTube.” Dexter the Juggler in the house!
In August, I held a poll to determine fans’ favorite Sesame Street Muppet with a moustache. Five-eighths of the contenders were Jerry Nelson characters. Also, I managed to forget Forgetful Jones, but it seems so appropriate to the character that I have no regrets. Later that month, Joe and I answered more questions and acted charming and witty in the second Ask Tough Pigs video.
In September, I borrowed an idea from the MuppetCast’s Steve Swanson and put a question to TP readers: If you had to show a Muppet newbie just “Six Things” to impress upon them what the Muppets are all about, what would they be? That was also the month the “Katy Perry is showing too much cleavage on Sesame Street” scandal hit the news, and we responded with a nice pair of commentaries: In “Boobs and Phobes,” Scott Hanson asked whether Perry’s song was any worse for children than the show’s True Blood parody; and in “shes needs a sweater!!” I took a look at the reactions of the media and the internet community. Having content about Katy Perry’s boobs would prove to be one of the best things that ever happened to our web traffic.
In November, we posted our video interview with the great Caroll Spinney from New York Comic Con. Joe posted another amusing Halloween Parade. And I spent a lot of time scrutinizing the first promotional photo from the new Muppet movie in “Walter the Muppet Revealed!” Can you imagine there was a time when some fans weren’t sure they were going to like Walter? Later that month, I posted one of my best-received TP articles: “Stop Being Wrong,” in which I went down a list of basic Muppet facts that people are always screwing up. Yoda is not a Muppet, you guys.
In December, Joe shined a light on the Muppets’ relationship with Hanukkah in “Eight Muppety Nights.” Then Joe, Anthony Strand, and yours truly collaborated on “12 Days of Muppet Christmas,” spending a dozen consecutive days looking at various holiday-related Muppet things, from TV show episodes to books to ornaments. It was lots of fun. And at the end of the month, Joe rounded up another set of “Muppet New Year’s Resolutions” from familiar folks.
We’re up to January 2011! Let’s keep going! In January, TP readers sent me their own Muppet-ignorance pet peeves for “Stop Being Wrong: The Follow-up.” No, Brian Henson never played Kermit.
In February, we were pretty excited about the Kevin Clash documentary Being Elmo, and TP correspondent Chase Beecher gave us a great report from the film’s Sundance premiere. Also exciting: Our three-part interview with Noel MacNeal, the Muppeteer and author of Five-Minute Puppets. We’re talking about the dude who played Arnold Schnuffleupanegger here.
In March, Anthony and I used the Muppet wiki to test the extent of our obscure Muppet knowledge with “The Random Muppet Challenge.” Who is “Hugo,” anyway? That was also the month we joined forces with the MuppetCast and The Muppet Mindset for another Muppet Madness Tournament. Kermit still didn’t win. And then we did a Q&A with comedy writer David Misch, who worked on The Muppets Take Manhattan and the original pilot for The Jim Henson Hour.
In April, Joe sounded off on an unhelpful New York Times article on the state of the Muppets, in “Newsflash in the Pan.”
In May, I pondered the fact that, according to the internet, “Every Celebrity Looks Like Janice.” We answered more of your questions in “Ask Tough Pigs #3.” And that was about the time the floodgates started creaking open on the marketing for The Muppets. We used lots and lots of words talking about the teaser poster, the first teaser trailer, and the second teaser trailer.
June was jam-packed with excitement… We posted videos from our visit to the Sesame Street set in three parts: An interview with Roscoe Orman & Emilio Delgado and behind the scenes of a street story; interviews with Carmen Osbahr & Leslie Carrara-Rudolph and their friends Rosita & Abby; and a conversation with Steve Whitmire, Eric Jacobson, and Matt Vogel on a Couch.
Also in June, Tough Pigs founder Danny Horn returned to the site with an excellent piece advising us “How to Enjoy the Comeback.” And Matt Wilkie asked an important question: Do you say “Ernie and Bert” or “Bert and Ernie?
In July, Joe wrapped up “A Threadless Muppet Is a Pile of Felt,” his coverage of every single t-shirt submitted to Threadless.com’s Muppet t-shirt design contest. It must have been exhausting, which doesn’t mean he wasn’t crazy enough to do it again for the recent Sesame Street contest. Matt Wilkie tried to figure out what “Muppetationalism“ really means. We did a Q&A with Michael Earl, former Mr. Snuffleupagus and original Forgetful Jones.
And then we officially began the 10th anniversary celebration of ToughPigs.com. A bunch of talented artists made some amazing art to commemorate the event for “10 Years of Tough Pigs!“ Joe read every issue of TP’s fanzine predecessor for “My Week with MuppetZine.” I challenged you to match quotes taken from our ten years of reviews to the products we were reviewing in “What Were We Talking About?“
And that just about brings us to September of 2011, which is when I posted “A Brief(ish) History of Tough Pigs, Part 1,” which you are now (finally) reading the final installment of.
So that’s where we’ll leave off… Yeah, we’ve written a lot of stuff in the months since then, but I’ll save that for the 20th anniversary, when we’ll all be reading Tough Pigs on our Google Contact Lenses as we ride to work on our robot horses. Who knows what kind of exciting movies, TV projects, merchandise, and Halloween costumes we’ll be talking about over the next ten years? The future looks bright and delightfully fuzzy.
Thanks for reading, everyone! By which I mean, thanks for reading this “Brief(ish) History,” AND thanks for reading ToughPigs.com. Without our readers, we wouldn’t be much of a website. Yay for Muppet fans!
Click here to blah blah blah Katy Perry’s boobs blah blah on the Tough Pigs forum!
by Ryan Roe – Ryan@ToughPigs.com