Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Oscar the Grouch Does Crowd Work

On Sunday, May 25, we took a field trip to Seattle's Egyptian Theater to see the West Coast premiere of the documentary film I Am Big Bird.

The movie tracks the rise and rise of puppeteer Caroll Spinney, the man inside the Big Bird costume/puppet on Sesame Street. He's also the performer behind Oscar the Grouch. It's standard fare as far as documentaries like this go, but entertaining and particularly moving if you're a fan of the Muppets. There are even a few revelations that pack a punch, and not just because of the contrast between the child-like innocence of an 8-foot tall yellow bird puppet versus the adult man who inhabits the suit.
Caroll Spinney, Oscar and various puppets.
[Photo courtesy of the I Am Big Bird website.]

Spinney and his wife attended the screening and during the Q and A session after the movie, Spinney brought out Oscar the Grouch. That is, the actual Muppet he uses when filming for Sesame Street.

A room mostly full of adults suspended disbelief and engaged with Oscar as if we were a bunch of preschoolers. Oscar became real. Oscar is real. Some patrons even asked questions directly to Oscar, and the Grouch never skipped a beat, saying things to fans that Spinney himself cannot. Though, to be fair, Spinney is saying those things to fans, but in a way he can't.

A fuzzy green puppet ran that room for ten minutes, and he was like Don Rickles on a cruise ship. See I Am Big Bird when you can. It's worth the time and attention even if you're not a major Muppet geek. The documentary shows how the right performer, in the right role, can make a major impact around the globe. And in Spinney's case, it's all for the positive.