Jerry Nelson, one of the most prominent Muppeteers and the voice of your childhood, passed away last night at the age of 78. Nelson may not be as well known as, say, Jim Henson or Frank Oz, but it’s impossible to not be familiar with dozens of his characters, including Count von Count, Mr. Snuffleupagus, Sgt. Floyd Pepper, Dr. Julius Strangepork, the underrated Lew Zealand, Robin the Frog, Uncle Deadly, Gobo Fraggle, the Trash Heap, Emmet of Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas fame, the Ghost of Christmas Present from The Muppet Christmas Carol…and on and on, through movies, TV shows, and specials.
Muppet fansite Tough Pigs broke the news early this morning:
On the night of August 23, friends and colleagues of beloved veteran Muppeteer Jerry Nelson posted the news on Facebook that Jerry had passed away. The news is not a complete surprise, as Jerry’s health had been declining in recent years. But when a man whose work has meant so much to so many people passes on, it’s impossible not to feel shock.
After starting his puppetry career with Bil Baird in the early 60s, Jerry was hired by Jim Henson to fill in for Frank Oz in the Muppet troupe when Frank got drafted. Jerry’s association with the Muppets lasted right up to the most recent seasons of Sesame Street, which means Jerry performed Muppets in six different decades. Even when he was unable to continue puppeteering, and he had stepped away from the Disney-owned Muppet franchise, he continued providing voices for an assortment of Sesame Muppets. It’s actually really difficult to think about new Sesame Street seasons being produced without him.
I don’t know how much coverage Jerry’s passing will warrant in the mainstream news, as he was never a household name like Jim or Frank. But everyone who has ever watched anything Muppets has enjoyed his work. If it were possible to add up the total screen time logged by every Muppet performer, I have a feeling Jerry would have the record. Not every performer can work on every project, for various reasons, but it sure seems like Jerry participated in everything, from The Muppet Show to Fraggle Rock to The Secret Life of Toys, plus tons of movies and specials and records and DVDs, and even an iPhone app. (Via)
R.I.P. Jerry. Thanks for making childhood awesome.