Kieran Moore – So here it is – I can hardly believe it! Well actually I can hardly believe two things; first, this is my 50th chart! I know… I can hardly believe it! I really wanted to do something special to commemorate this auspicious occasion and I toyed with a few ideas, but in the end I decided to go old school and look back to how this series of charts first started – the Muppeteers.
Which leads me to the second thing I can hardly believe – that this week’s subject is Joey Mazzarino! I’ve labelled this chart “The One that Got Away” not just because Joey is sadly no longer with Sesame Street, but because every time during the course of my original 20 Muppeteer charts I tried to feature him I just couldn’t come up with enough songs. I had this problem not just with Joey, but also a couple of other notable names and this ultimately lead to my “Unsung Heroes” chart which you can read here.
Anyway, cut to a few months ago and I mention online that I’d tried to write a chart for Joey, but couldn’t complete it and quick as a flash a reader of this very website and an amazing Muppet fan by the name of Shane Keating got in touch with a great list of Joey songs – several of which I had never seen/heard before. Since then I’ve been waiting patiently for the chance to feature Joey and I’m deliriously happy that the 50th has provided the perfect opportunity.
NB – a few of these songs aren’t online so I can’t provide a video – you’ll have to take mine and Shane’s word for just how good they are!
10 – Nothing Could Be Better – Papa Bear & Baby Bear – Sesame Street
I’m afraid right off the bat I’m writing about a song that doesn’t seem to be online (at least not in my country) and “right off the bat” is the correct phrase to use as it’s all about how much fun Papa Bear and Baby Bear are going to have playing Wee-Tee ball. Having read a synopsis of the episode I’m not sure the fun turns out exactly as expected, but it all works out ok in the end! There’s a really neat Jerry Nelson-esque tint to Joey’s performance as Papa Bear that reminds me a little of Herry Monster so that’s cool. Joey is truly a Sesame Street god whose name deserves to be hallowed as much as those of Joan Ganz Cooney, Jim Henson, Jon Stone, Joe Raposo etc. His role on the show transcended “Muppeteer” and by the time of his departure in 2015 he was head writer. Joey won an incredible 21 Daytime Emmys as a writer, performer and director on Sesame Street and his contribution to the show can really not be overstated.
9 – Hungry Elephant – Horatio the Elephant – Elmo the Musical (Sesame Street)
This is another one I’ve struggled to find online. For some reason Elmo the Musical in general seems to be much underrepresented – even officially. Horatio’s speaking voice sounds a lot like Murray Monster, but his singing voice seems to change with each verse, showing off Joey’s versatility. This number has rock/blues edge and Joey gets to go from bluesy bass to rock n roll tenor making every single one a triumph along the way. Horatio is a fun looking puppet and Joey brings a lot of great energy to his performance. I do have to ask the question though: who is the most famous Muppet elephant elevator operator – Horatio or Seymour?
8 – No Me Gusta – Prince Pedro and Carlo – Sesame Street
Joey is more of a support player here as Prince Pedro, but that doesn’t diminish his contribution to the song. As this is the first time you’re able to watch a performance as well as listen I guess this is the perfect opportunity to talk about Joey’s physical puppetry skills. I mean obviously they’re brilliant (you don’t win awards for mediocrity), but in this sketch in particular I really enjoy the range of emotions that Joey gets to display. Looking at Joey’s roster of characters he often plays excitable souls like Murray or Horatio. You can definitely see that he excels in roles of that type in the latter part of this song, but he also does surly pretty well too! I want to give a quick “Hurrah!” to Carlo Alban for his excellent singing here. His more recent credits are somewhat grittier than this role – Sesame Street is a bit more ABC and a bit less CSI so I’m not sure if this will have been much of an apprenticeship!
7 – Hair, Hair, Hair, – Elwood the Jester – The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss
I have to apologise for the dodgy audio on this video, but it really is worth a listen, in fact the more I listen to it the more I like it! This song is a bit of an earworm and with a longer gestation period I could see it eventually climbing the ranks. A few songs ago for “Hungry Elephant” I was going to mention that Joey sounded a bit like Jake from “The Blues Brothers” and here he is as Elwood! Maybe it’s just me, but I found that quite amusing! Anyway… This is a cool guitar-led pop number that while it might not be a breakout hit could very well have been an album track for a boy band at some stage (although perhaps with different lyrics). It’s bright and breezy and just plain fun. As a quick side note I think this might be my first song from “Dr. Seuss” and I’m pleased to have been able to include it. I was never completely sold on the characters of this show; to me there were either great to look at or sort of ugly, but thankfully Elwood is most definitely in the former category!
6 – Old MacMurray Had a Farm – Murray Monster – Sesame Street
There really is no way to write a Joey Mazzarino chart without featuring Murray Monster (it’s just occurred to me, are all Monsters related since they have the same last name?) After all, Murray really is Joey’s signature character. I think it would be fair to say he’s one of the best loved characters on the show currently, and along with Abby Cadabby probably the biggest addition this century. And yet all that being said Murray has largely passed this 37-year-old Brit by. As I’ve said many times before, Sesame Street isn’t shown in the UK and hasn’t been for years so newer characters are pretty obscure. (Abby Cadabby has actually swerved this fate as “Abby’s Flying Fairy School” is shown over here in its own right.) Because we’ve never seen Murray on UK TV screens he is never featured on merchandise and you really would be forgiven for knowing nothing of his existence which is a shame as he’s a great guy. Joey obviously enjoys playing Murray as his performances are always full of joy. This song is a fun twist on “Old MacDonald Has a Farm” and those of you with a “Wubba Wubba” Spotters’ Guide should find it of particular interest!
5 – Zucchini – Tony – Sesame Street
This is the song that represented Joey in my previously mentioned “Unsung Heroes” chart where it reached a respectable third place. Bearing that fact in mind, I now feel a bit mean placing it in fifth here! As you might expect for a song from a sketch called “Veg Side Story” this song has a Broadway feel that really gives Joey the chance to show off his voice. Because of the characters he plays to me there’s often a roughness to Joey’s vocals, but here playing a young boy rather than a monster or bear things go down a softer route and it sounds fantastic. There’s a quiet stillness to this song that I really, really like. In my previous write up I mention that Tony sounds like Mike Wazowski and I stand by that. If someone played this to me and said it was Billy Crystal I would most definitely believe them.
4 – There’s an App for That – Mack – Sesame Street
There are two ways to score highly on my chart; 1, be brilliant musically 2, be clever and funny. This does both of those things with style and panache. The song itself is woefully short, but I guess that works considering it’s a parody of a commercial – I wonder which is longer, this or the source material? Much has been made of the fact that in future seasons Sesame Street will be paring down the parody quota. As much as I can understand their reasons often here in the UK the only time Sesame Street is mentioned in the media is when they put out something like “Game of Chairs” that goes viral. I realize that the show comes first, but considering how prominent the parodies are globally I hope they can find a way to still do them. Perhaps online only (as The Muppets have done so well) is the way to go. Mack is a fun puppet with a very clever name and Joey brings a great deal of energy to this whirlwind number.
3 – Papa Bear’s Hug – Papa Bear & Baby Bear – Sesame Street
Who knew Papa Bear was the Godfather of Soul? It’s just occurred to me that having just talked about parodies the last three songs could all be classified as such. With two of them being written as well as performed by Joey I guess it shows a synchronicity between his comedic style and that of the show. Joey’s departure coincides with Sesame Street’s change in direction so I guess now really was the time to go. It doesn’t make it any easier to take, but the end of an era sometimes really does have to be the end of an era. Everything about this song is right from the song itself to the production to the puppetry – it’s a feast for the senses. One thing I want to quickly mention as I don’t think it’s ever happened before is that there are only two points separating this song and “Hair…” at number seven. I always score the songs out of 100 and I found them all so close together that I had to resort to fractions to split them up!
2 – Oh, Look What Our Baby Can Do! – Ingrid, Humphrey and Baby Natasha – Sesame Street
This is another fantastic duet from Joey and David Rudman. It’s clear from this chart that they work well together. I guess in Sesame Street terms they are the same generation so it makes sense that they might share a similar sensibility. It’s kind of cool that Muppeteers seem to pair off in this way and it’s a tradition that goes right back to Jim Henson and Frank Oz. If I’m being completely honest, Ingrid and Humphrey are characters that I hadn’t really heard of until this song was pointed out to me. I sort of knew Baby Natasha. Again, you have to remember that Sesame Street hasn’t aired in the UK for decades. This song places so highly because it’s funny! In fact it’s better watched than listened to for Bob’s reactions if nothing else. I find it impossible not to laugh at this. Finally, having called this a duet between Joey and David it would be remiss of me not to mention Kevin Clash who is wonderfully expressive as Baby Natasha.
1 – Stinky’s Love Song – Stinky the Stinkweed – Sesame Street
The last song scored points for being funny and this one scores for being musically brilliant (and kinda funny too). Lyrically this is fantastic and as goofy as the words are I actually think they sum up the idea of love pretty well. “I love everything you say and do and are” is a great sentiment. I’d love to see a couple use this as the first dance at their wedding or maybe someone could sing it when they propose. I guarantee the video would be all over the internet! This song is a great example of the gruffer side of Joey’s voice, but it works incredibly well counterpointed with the soft sweetness of this song. It’s has a heartfelt delivery and earnestness that is captivating. Musically this reminds me of “Fraggle Rock” in places and in direct opposition to Stinky I could hear Mokey doing a fab version of it. It’s purely co-incidental, but I like that this song has allowed me to finish the chart with both Joey and Sonia Manzano (Maria). Each announced their departure from Sesame Street last year after years of dedicated service and I think this song stands as a fitting tribute to them both.
So there you have it – that was my 50th chart and as I said at the top I’m so pleased that I was able to feature Joey. Not just because I’ve wanted to for such a long time, but also because of the quality of the songs that thanks to Shane I’ve been able to feature. Finally, I’m over the moon that I’ve had the chance to say a fond farewell. Joey Mazzarino will be on our screens for a while yet, but he will be missed. However rather then mourn his loss lets’ celebrate the future of both Joey and Sesame Street. I can’t wait to see what they both come up with next. I think I got it right a few sentences ago – Joey has given years of dedicated service to Sesame Street and has helped teach several generations of kids. For that I can’t thank him enough, but hopefully this chart has at least made a dent. Thank You Joey! I can’t wait to see what you do next…