Muppet Performers Blast Larry David For Endangering Their Hands

The Muppet community still hasn’t forgiven Larry David
Muppet Performers Blast Larry David For Endangering Their Hands

It’s only been two months, but it feels like an entire lifetime has passed since Larry David randomly assaulted Sesame Street’s Elmo on live television, horrifying Hoda Kotb, Al Roker and the rest of the Today crew, and sparking one of the oddest online discourse explosions in recent memory. 

David was eventually pressured into apologizing for his violent actions in a later Today interview segment. But it wasn’t long before he walked back that apology during an appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers, telling the host, “I would do it again.”

Since he hasn’t subsequently harassed Big Bird, or slapped Cookie Monster, or curb stomped Guy Smiley, pretty much everyone has since moved on with their lives, confident in the belief that Larry David isn’t currently wrestling with an insatiable thirst for Muppet blood.

But one specific group is still pretty preeeettty mad at Larry David. I am, of course, talking about Muppeteers. 

During a press event for the new series Fraggle Rock: Back to the Rock, Muppet performers John Tartaglia and Dan Garza were asked by reporters about David’s Gorg-like behavior. “Obviously I was very upset, I was like ‘Larry,’” said Tartaglia. “Also, there was a person’s hand inside of there. And that wasn’t a pre-planned thing. The puppeteer in me was like, ‘Oh my God that’s super-dangerous.’ Like, you just grabbed someone’s hand and twisted it.”

While he noted that the puppeteer operating Elmo was thankfully uninjured, Tartaglia underscored that the real problem is that people often don’t think about the human beings working the Muppets: “People forget all the time that there’s somebody inside of these characters, when you don’t see us. And so it’s a risk that we take.”

Being attacked by a bespectacled 76-year-old TV star on the set of a network morning show may seem like an extremely specific risk, but you can understand his concern to some extent. Even though David didn’t seem like he was all that rough with Elmo’s face, these people’s hands are their livelihoods. And injuries aren’t uncommon amongst the Muppet performers; puppeteer Dave Goelz, who played Gonzo as well as several other iconic characters, had to undergo “nine surgeries” as a result of the “acrobatics” involved in making your childhood magical.  

Puppeteer Dan Garza tried to turn this Larry David incident into a positive, noting, “That’s the magic in our job, is that we bring these critters to life and you forget that there’s a person attached. if I’m doing my job right, and I’m wearing a sparkling neon suit, and I’m puppeteering live in front of you, and you’re still making eye contact with the puppet? Then I’m doing my job.”

There is a long history of people treating the Muppets as if they were genuine living, breathing entities. The Muppets star Jason Segel even claimed to have burst into tears the first time he “met” Kermit the Frog. Of course, it seems less likely that Larry David genuinely bought into the fantasy that he was attacking a three-year-old monster-child, and more like the product of his general indifference to humanity as a whole, up to and including puppeteers.

You (yes, you) should follow JM on Twitter (if it still exists by the time you’re reading this). 


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