When it was announced that Creation would be putting together a Muppet convention, some crabby Muppet fans worried that Muppetfest would just be a shorter, greener Star Trek convention. Well, I know Star Trek conventions. I’ve been to Star Trek conventions. And Senator, this was no Star Trek convention.
This is how Star Trek conventions work: Approximately nothing happens for the first forty-five minutes. The emcee is someone who works for Creation. Finally, a performer comes out and stands on stage for about twenty minutes, either talking about the space program (Nichelle Nichols) or taking questions from the audience (everyone else). Then the performer leaves and sits at an autograph table. They screen an old episode that everybody’s already seen. Then another performer comes on for twenty minutes. Then they do a costume contest for about an hour. Then they do nothing at all for about two hours so you have plenty of time to stand on line for autographs and buy stuff in the dealer’s room.
This is how conventions AREN’T supposed to work: The emcees are all Henson writers. The performers come out on stage for an hour. They take a little break, then come back for another hour. They show old clips that have never been seen before. The guy who performs the main character stays on stage for about three hours. When a panel is over, the guests are reluctant to leave the stage. The schedule is so packed with cool stuff that audience members actually complain about not having enough time to take a break and see the exhibit room.
Apparently, nobody briefed the Henson folks on how conventions work. Ssssh! Nobody tell them the truth. Act all cool about it. Let them think that this is how conventions always go. Let’s see if we can make them do this again next year.
Honestly, though, this is fantastic. Regularly during the second day, people on stage mention that we already know all about the Muppets. They know that we’ve read the books and seen the documentaries, so they rack their brains thinking of new stories we’ve never heard before. They throw presents at us from the stage. And the coolest part is that they really care about putting on a good show for us. And y’know what? They already have our money. In fact, they could have put on half as much, and we all would have walked out satisfied — but they’re absolutely determined to show us a good time.
I’ve never been at a convention where there’s so much respect and love, both from the fans and from the guests. And frankly, I’ve never been so proud to be a Muppet fan. These people really are as cool, as funny, and as nice as we’d always hoped they would be.
Plus, they’re ganging up on each other. Check this out:
Elmo: What’s your name?
Pepe: It’s Pepe, okay.
Elmo: Hello, Pepe okay!
Pepe: No — just Pepe.
Elmo: Hello, just Pepe okay.
Sal: NO! He’s just PEPE! OKAY?
Bean: That monkey scares me.
Sal: You are such a little wussy.
Then Elmo tries to make a deal with Bean: “Bean… these are more adult characters. We’re more daytime characters. We need to stick together.”
I’m sitting with Bill, who works for Disney, and the whole time he keeps murmuring to me, “This would never happen with Disney people…” At Disney, they have a whole book full of the Official Answers to questions like, “How long have Mickey and Minnie been dating?” And woe betide the Disney employee who doesn’t give the Official Answer. But these guys are just messing around.
Brian: The idea of Bean is that he’s the anti-Muppet. He’s sort of cute and sweet and sappy.
Gonzo: He’s so cute, he’s evil!
Bean: Thank you!
Sal: You are so disgusting.
Elmo: What does that make Elmo? If Bean is so cute that he’s evil.
Floyd: You don’t want to know.
And when an audience member asks about Pepe selling seafood for Long John Silver’s:
Pepe: They pay me a lot of money, okay.
Sal: [to audience member] Yeah, what’s your point?
Pepe: It’s very simple. Money money money makes the world go round.
Kermit: I haven’t done any frog legs commercials, actually.
Pepe: Oh, you should — you make a lot of money, okay.
One more time from Bill: “This would never happen with Disney people…”
And an audience member asks why there aren’t more female Muppets…
Gonzo: I’m a female character. A lot of people don’t know that.
Sal: I didn’t know that!
Gonzo: Yeah. But I play a male part, which is very liberating.
They’re up there doing this for a whole hour. And then Craig Shemin, the emcee for the day, has to actually cut them off and get them off stage so they can do the next panel.
So please, please, please — Nobody tell the Henson folks that this isn’t how conventions are supposed to run. If you tell them, I will spank you. I will spank you like a bad, bad donkey.
by Danny Horn