To celebrate our 20th anniversary, we asked our ToughPigs’ staff to pick some of their favorite articles and moments from each other, and just be super nice all round. Everyone was randomly allocated another writer, and had their entire wealth of content to choose from…
Evan Goldaper on Joe Hennes
It’s really tough to choose one favorite Joe Hennes article or project, because he’s such a key part of the site as a whole. I mean, we’re talking about someone who has 121 pages of articles linked on his part of our About Us page, and all of them are interesting. That’s not even counting how a lot of Joe’s greatest hits are more organizational, helping coordinate us all for great things like our April Fools pranks each year and our Tough Talk videos. He’s also an amazing interviewer. I’m going to cite his video interviews with one of the best new Muppets, Chef Gonger. Obviously Gonger is hilarious, but these videos also highlight Joe’s strengths as a performer. Check them out.
Joe Hennes on Matt Wilkie
One of my favorite recurring themes on ToughPigs is when someone takes a seemingly innocuous moment from a Muppet production that had gone unnoticed for literally decades, and then not only puts a spotlight onto it, but also rips it to shreds. A prime example of this is Matt Wilkie’s “What the Heck is Manhattan Melodies??“, which expertly dissects the climactic finale of Muppets Take Manhattan and shatters both the film and the musical-with-a-film merely by pointing out its existence. I’d probably watched Muppets Take Manhattan dozens of times in my life, and never once did I question the plot of “Manhattan Melodies”, or what the Biltmore Theater audience might be seeing while we watch dogs and bears and chickens get excited over the marriage of two strangers, followed by a wedding featuring a fourth wall and the inexplicable cast of Sesame Street. Thank goodness Matt Wilkie put pen to paper to point out this insane flaw, which (thankfully) doesn’t ruin the movie at all, but makes it better for adding a sense of wonder and classic Muppet silliness.
Matt Wilkie on Julia Gaskill
Julia Gaskill is a top-tier writer, a thoughtful, poetic soul who looks at the Muppets from an angle that feels genuine and personal and yet universal at the same time. The way she articulates how the world of the Muppets works, or needs improvements, comes from a place of love and hope for representation and understanding the world as it could be. That’s why I often think of this piece by Julia as one of the best ToughPigs has ever done. It doesn’t degrade or talk down, but simply offers some options for one of the best franchises in the world to be a little better and show more of the world on screen (and in fleece). Yay, Julia!
Julia Gaskill on Jarrod Fairclough
I’ve gotta give Jarrod not one, but two article shout outs – how can I not when he not only writes for ToughPigs, but also wrote for The Muppet Mindset (before the two sites merged earlier this year) for over ten years? The first article of Jarrod’s I want to praise is one of his very first ones at The Muppet Mindset, Edward Cullen – A Twihard Count? I love a good taking of two not-even-slightly-related pieces of pop culture and then mashing them together until comedy gold is struck. In this 2009 piece, Jarrod wonders, with the phenomena that was the Twilight franchise, why was our beloved Count von Count overlooked in the fanfare? Jarrod lists all the ladies the Count has wooed over the years, insisting he’s just as much of a sex icon as Edward Cullen. Couldn’t agree more! The second article I want to give praise to is Jarrod’s recent piece about those eternally loathsome cupcakes. As Muppet fans, we are all doomed to be shown that dreaded picture until the end of our days. Jarrod took it upon himself to craft a letter – which really shines with some comical [Insert ___ Here] bits – that we can send along to our loved ones letting them know we’re grateful for them thinking of us, but please, just please, no more cupcakes, okay? This piece really speaks to my Muppet-loving soul, as I’m sure it does for so many others.
Jarrod Fairclough on Kynan Barker
The first time I became aware of Kynan Barker was in 2003, when I got a DVD called ‘Rove 99’, the first season of a talk show that had aired in, surprisingly, 1999. There was a young dude who would occasionally pop up in sketches, and he continued to make me laugh. According to the commentary, that was writer Kynan Barker. What surprised me was that there was this OTHER guy on ToughPigs, a site I sometimes read, who ALSO was named Kynan Barker! Surely not!? How could that dude on my TV screen make me laugh as a fresh faced prisoner in a sketch called ‘Rough Love’ (there’s a deep cut for you, KB!) but also make me laugh as he talked about some show called Animal Jam? Sure enough, they were one and the same, and since the day I figured that out, Kynan has been held in high regard in my mind. An amazing comedy writer, AND a Muppet nerd? His resume is impeccable, a true list of some of the great Aussie comedies of the past 20 years, and yet when I think Kynan Barker, I think first of his My Week With Muppet Christmas Carol, with complaints that I plagiarised as my own for 10 years until I finally fell in love with that movie. I also think about that time he and I went and got dumplings, that was a good meal. We should do it again, KB! (I’ll text you)
Kynan Barker on Matthew Soberman
50 Years of Tough Pigs: The Sesame Street reviews of Matthew Soberman, remembered
by Kynan Barker, 19 August 2050
It’s hard to believe that Tough Pigs is 50. And the fiftieth anniversary is an even bigger milestone with the news that it’s now officially the last website on the internet, thanks to Tropical Sharknado Jeremy destroying the last of Russia’s Amazon server farms.
It’s true that Tough Pigs’ mission has gradually morphed from reporting on and reviewing Muppet content to documenting humanity’s destruction by a combination of climate change and kaiju. But we here in the bunker still think it’s worth acknowledging that fifty years of continuous operation is a pretty nifty achievement – surviving not just the Great Winter of 2028-2035, but also repeated attacks by giant nuclear-powered lizards. (Don’t forget to vote in our poll to have your say on which MegaLizard looked most like Kermit!)
As those of you whose designated Low-Radiation Population Zones still have both electricity and a town web terminal will know, we’ve been celebrating Tough Pigs’ fiftieth anniversary in two ways: By looking back nostalgically at our coverage of Sesame Street’s fiftieth anniversary back in 2019, and of course by continuing to broadcast the Emergency Help Message into the void of space.
The 50 in 50 series was a noble effort to give the ageing kids’ show a much-needed publicity boost, in which Tough Pigs ran a whole year’s worth of articles, each reviewing a single Sesame season. It was a quintessential Tough Pigs project: Massive in scope, delightfully nerdy in approach, and incredibly niche in terms of audience appeal.
This enormous undertaking required contributions from a vast number of Tough Pigs regulars and guest writers, all of whom have long since perished in fire blizzards or been disintegrated by reptilian eye laser blasts. But it was Matthew Soberman (1990 – ??*) whose reviews bookended the series. On January 4, 2019, Soberman set the tone, with his ground-breaking look back at Season 1 (the now-classic “Sesame Street: 50 in 50 – Season 1”), and then, fifty long weeks later, on December 13, 2019, he summed it all up, with his much-anticipated Season 50 recap (“Sesame Street: 50 in 50 – Season 50”).
In between, Soberman covered Season 5, Season 20, Season 30, Season 33, and Season 40, approaching every review with joy, wit, and insight. Even after the 50 in 50 series was done, he covered both the Sesame Street 50th Anniversary Celebration special and the 50 Years of Sunny Days documentary, devoting even more time to Sesame Street’s fiftieth anniversary than Sesame Street itself did.
Of course, looking back now, it’s frustrating to know that humans in the early twenty-first century wasted so many hours making puppet-based web content rather than, say, preparing for the Kaiju Wars by building vast armies of mecha suits, but hey, you live and learn.
And without Matthew Soberman’s in-depth reviews, you’d never know that in the 1973-1974 season of Sesame Street, a witch cast a spell to give Oscar a nose! Which is exactly the kind of cute detail that can keep you entertained as you toil in the underground cricket farms that produce our only remaining food source.
Matthew Soberman on Louie Pearlman
The thing I love about Louie is how he’s able to find the intersection of Muppets and his many other interests. His love of The Monkees and bubblegum pop music gave us a moving tribute to The Muppet Movie‘s director, James Frawley. And with his knowledge of all things 1970’s punk and new wave, he was the perfect person to review the Debbie Harry episode of The Muppet Show. But perhaps my favorite piece of Louie’s has to be his definitive ranking of all the songs from Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas by Christmassyness. It’s a masterpiece of silliness and satire aimed squarely at the listicles that dominate the internet pop culture landscape, with the perfect amount of energy and excessive use of the letter Z. And once you think the frenetic work has reached its denouement, he does the wildest thing possible: he pulls back the curtain and reveals how, growing up, the holidays were a stressful time in his family, and that “Where the River Meets the Sea” reaches past all that tension and reconnects him with life and the wonder of the universe. It’s a genuine moment, and moments like those really reach out to the soul. And that’s ToughPigs at its absolute best.
Louie Pearlman on Staci Rosen
Staci wears a lot of hats in the Tough Pigs family, but what she’s probably most known for is writing a bunch of theme songs for various Tough Pigs podcasts! Cheers, Staci! Without you, all those podcasts would be a lot more… silent at the beginning and the end, and you definitely don’t want that for your podcast! Staci has also written many wonderful articles for Tough Pigs over the years, but my absolute favorite is her piece about Sesame Street composer Cheryl Hardwick: the writer of such hits as “The Middle of the Night Whisper Song,” “Cereal Girl,” and not one but TWO parodies of Cyndi Lauper “Kids Just Love to Brush,” and “Grouch Girls Don’t Wanna Have Fun.” What I admire about Staci’s article is that it’s clearly game recognizing game. Staci, an accomplished musician in her own right, is finding inspiration in Cheryl Hardwick’s work and getting us excited about it too. A lot of important women behind the scenes of the Muppets’ success have gotten lost to history, and Staci does such a good job shining a light on one that has meaning to her and we should all admire. Kudos to Staci, and I can’t wait to see what she writes for the site next!
Staci Rosen on Anthony Strand
If you’ve ever listened to Movin’ Right Along: A Muppet Movie Podcast you know that Anthony is a pretty joyful guy; it doesn’t take much to get a giggle out of him, and he can find delight in the smallest things. He once wrote a fantastic article about a very small thing: a Doozer named Cotterpin. Anthony made sure we didn’t forget about the significance of this young female character with agency who isn’t afraid to go against the grain. I am overdue for a Fraggle Rock rewatch, and while I don’t remember too much about the Doozers from my childhood viewing in the ’80s, I have no doubt that Cotterpin helped empower me at a time when writers were realizing they needed a greater variety of female characters onscreen. It’s really refreshing knowing that Anthony’s thoughtful and critical eye are at work as he curates the viewing experiences of two small humans. If that won’t make the future a better place, I don’t know what will.
Anthony Strand on Ryan Roe
Since 2007, we at ToughPigs have published 34 articles with the tag “complaining.” A whopping 23 of them were written by our resident Enemy of Misinformation, Mr. Ryan Roe. In his time as co-owner of Tough Pigs, Ryan has made it his mission to correct everything people get wrong about Muppets. He’s cracked down on fake Jim Henson quotes, lies about what constitutes a Muppet, and online obsession with making “A Muppet version” of everything. In his masterpiece, he tackled the biggest problem of our age: People who think Wilkins is Kermit. He clearly and decisively explained the difference, and no one ever made that mistake again. Best of all, he does it with a sense of humor and self-awareness rare in the genre. Personally, I sleep better at night knowing Ryan is out there correcting strangers for all of us.
Ryan Roe on Shane Keating
When Shane started writing for Tough Pigs, he single-handedly ensured our reputation as a legitimate Muppet news website. Somehow he seems to know about it the exact second a Muppet news story breaks, and within minutes he’s posted about it on the site. One of my favorite Shane news articles is the recent “Elmo Gets a New Puppy and Animated Special,” which includes lots of information with a few hints of snark, in the great Tough Pigs tradition. And I know I’m only supposed to talk about one article, but I also want to mention “One Second from Every Muppet Show Episode,” a feature that contains a video delivering exactly what the title promises. It’s an amazing achievement, and a ridiculous one.
Shane Keating on Evan Goldaper
My favorite of Evan’s articles is “Muppet Christmas Carol: The Fraggle Rock Connection.” Not only is it a perfectly nerdy subject to write about, but Evan goes the extra mile by making their own artwork of the characters rather than using screenshots from the film. And they’re all really great! Where else are you going to find fan art of the Inkspots? Probably not on AskJeeves.com that’s for sure (mostly because that’s no longer a thing anymore).
Click here to deny the Muppets need a Great Gatsby on the ToughPigs forum!