Fan Week – The Great Muppet Survey: Josh Hankemeier


By Josh Hankemeier

Who are your three favorite characters from The Muppet Show, Muppets Tonight, The Jim Henson Hour, the Muppet movies, etc. and why?
From ‘The Muppet Show’:  Zoot.  d16dc-zootsaxHe’s been one of my favorites since I was little.  Zoot’s preference to speak with his music rather than words makes him a very unique character.  Also, he’s certainly the most mysterious of the “main group” of Muppets.  Dave Goelz has been playing Zoot for 40 years…and even he doesn’t know much about him.

From ‘The Jim Henson Hour’:  Digit.  Like Data on “Star Trek; the Next Generation”, an android can do things the rest of the ‘organic’ cast can’t (such as being plugged into the main video feed to transmit shows from other galaxies).  It gives something new for the writers to work with.  Digit doesn’t have that classic “Muppet look”, (he’s almost a creature to me), but I think he’s got an excellent design.  I’ve seen the real Digit puppet in person once and it’s too bad the little details don’t show up on those fuzzy, YouTube videos of the Jim Henson Hour.  The meticulous detail in Digit’s hair/wiring is especially impressive.
I’ll go for an obscure one here for my third choice:   Taminella Grinderfall from “Tales of the Tinkerdee”.  This is a rare time we actually see Jerry Juhl performing a character.  Besides that, Tammy steals the show!  Her scenes with Charlie the Ogre are classic!

Who are your three favorite characters from Sesame Street and why?
I couldn’t pick three all-time favorites, but here are three characters who are among my favorites:

Benny Rabbit:  Benny RabbitYou have to think of things from Benny’s position to really understand this character.  He’s a rabbit just trying to do his job in a place run by incompetents.  He put up with a lot of ridiculous problems (and guests) at The Furry Arms in addition to the grunt work of being a bellhop.  Add that everyone constantly got his name wrong and wanted to pet him, it’s no wonder Benny was grumpy, loved his breaks and wanted to go downtown so much.
He’s cute and adorable, my favorite superhero is Super Grover and he helped John-John count backwards.  What more can I say?
Abby Cadabby:  She was the first Muppet I ever met.  My wife Jeni and I visited the Sesame Street set in May, 2011.  Upon seeing me in my “I Was Raised On the Street” t-shirt, Abby asked me “Did you get your shirt at Tarjay?” (Target).  “I poofed in there one time, but the people in the store didn’t like that too much.”  She hugged my wife and I and she wanted us to have our picture taken with her.  It was a magical moment!  Thanks, Abby!
josh abby

Who are your three favorite characters from Fraggle Rock and why?
Junior Gorg:  He’s my favorite Richard Hunt character!  Also, “Doomsday Soup” is a favorite episode of mine because it reminded me of many spring cleanings at our old house.  My Mom and Dad acted exactly like Ma and Pa Gorg in this episode, while I was stuck in the middle…just like Junior!Cantus

Cantus:  He’s musical and mysterious (and he’s played by Jim Henson).  Do I really need another reason?
Traveling Matt:  My love of traveling was inspired by Uncle Matt’s postcards.  Whenever I go on vacation, my friends receive postcards from me (often with a drawing of Traveling Matt on them).

What is your favorite television program starring any of Jim Henson’s creations (e.g. The Muppet Show, Sesame Street,Fraggle Rock, Dinosaurs, etc.) and why?
So hard to choose.  I’ll say The Muppet Show, because it has so many classic songs, sketches and characters even casual Muppet fans love.

What is your favorite Muppet movie and why?
45f0a-muppet-movie-bv03I’ll go with the majority of fans and say “The Muppet Movie”.  The whole story is a lot of fun (“It’s a narrative of very heavy duty proportions!”)  “The Great Muppet Caper” comes in at a close second.

What is your favorite Muppet/Sesame/Fraggle song and why?
I can’t pick a favorite, so I’ll go with one song that means a lot to me:  “Music Box” by Phillip Balsam.  It’s from the Episode “The Lost Treasure of the Fraggles”.  I walked down the aisle to this song at my wedding.

caroll debIf you could have dinner with any living Muppet performer who would you choose and why?
Caroll Spinney and his wife Debi Spinney.  Mr. Spinney is a wonderful friend, a great storyteller and he reminds me a lot of Jim Henson.  Debi is lovely too!

If you could tell Jim Henson one thing, what would it be?
“Thanks…thanks for everything.

If the President called you and asked to discuss Muppet projects, what would you tell him was the “Greatest Muppet Moment of All Time”?
I would have to pick “Just One Person” as it was performed at Jim Henson’s memorial service.  If anything expresses just how much Jim Henson (and his legacy) was loved in one place in time…that would be it.

What’s the name of that song?
“Moon Over Me Cookie”

ee945-sesame_street_2_near_and_farIf a judge ruled that Grover had to be your personal assistant for a month, what jobs would you have him do?
He could help with the grocery shopping.  Those aisles would also be perfect for him to do his classic “Near and Far” bit.

In your opinion, what is the worst Muppet production ever made?
“Kermit’s Swamp Years”.  The blooper reel and the behind the scenes stuff is really all I want to see from that DVD.

Who is one celebrity you would love to see cameo in the next Muppet movie?
“Weird Al” Yankovic!  (We are LONG overdue for a Weird Al/Muppet production).

YorickeatsIf you could take a picture with any Muppet, who would you choose and how would you pose?
I’d pose with Yorick…and I would wisely be keeping my hands and feet away from his mouth.

What is your favorite piece of Muppet merchandise that you own? (Feel free to include a picture!)
My Wilkins and Wontkins vinyl puppets from 1958.  (I wish they still made Wilkins Coffee.  I’d love to try some…even if Wilkins didn’t threaten to blow me up).

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