Thursday, January 5, 2012

Performer ofRizzo the Rat, Wembley Fraggle, Lips, Bean Bunny, Kermit (1990-present), Beaker (1992-present), Ernie (1993-present), Statler (2002-present),Link Hogtrob (2011-present)

One of the core Muppeteers of this generation, Steve is  now most famously know for his permances as Kermit and Ernie but to only credit him for these two performances would not do his talent any justice.

Steve's love for puppeteering started when he was in high school, boldly claiming that one day he would be Kermit the Frog. He first appeared on tv with Otis, his alter ego puppet, on a local network in Atlanta. His first encounter with a member of the Muppet family happened when he met Carroll Spinney (The Muppeteer of Oscar the Grouch and Big Bird) at a local puppet festival. Spinney later informed Steve that auditions for Sesame Street were being held. When Steve called the Henson offices he learned that Jane Henson would be in Atlanta the next week. After seeing Steve perform she recommended him to Jim Henson. Using his last money to travel to New York he met and auditioned before Jim who asked him to perform on the Muppet Show. 

Steve and Rizzo
On the Muppet show Steve started out as the performer of Rizzo and later took on the part of Lips, the trumpet player of the Electric Mayhem band. Besides these original characters he also played a lot of supporting roles like Rowlf's second hand (Rowlf is a Muppet which needs 2 performers since his mouth needs to be operated by hand too) when playing the piano. He also puppeteered characters in scenes where two characters who are normally operated by a specific Muppeteer interact like Fozzie and Ms Piggy, who were normally both operated by Frank Oz.
Following the intimely death of Jim Henson  he began to perform as some of Jim's main characters, starting with Kermit in the 1990 tv special The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson. On Sesame Street Steve started taking over the role of Ernie and has been Ernie's key performer since 1993. Steve's Rizzo also became more of a foreground character in the nineties, often paired up with Gonzo.

After Jerry Nelson's retirement of his Muppet characters Steve took over the role of balcony heckler Statler, a role originated by the late Richard Hunt whose Beaker also found a new Muppeteer in Steve. In The Muppets (2011) Steve started puppeteering Link Hogtrob marking the first time the pompous leader of the Swine Trek's voice was heard in a Muppet movie, although Whitmire did perform Link's voice for the Muppets Party Cruise and Muppets RaceMania games.

Since then, he has been involved in all big Muppet productions while also working on other non-Muppet Henson projects like the 90's 
Henson sitcom Dinosaurs.
There are numerous examples of Steve's mastery of his craft but one of the more recent ones is his performance as Ernie, singing I wonder, a song that was nominated for a 2011 Daytime Emmy. Enjoy:

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