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Eric-NewSesame

Jacobson with his current, inherited Sesame Street characters

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EricJacobson1
EricJacobsonGroverBert
TribecaPiggyEric

Eric Jacobson performing Miss Piggy at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2005.

Eric Sam

Performing Sam the Eagle in 2008.

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D23 2015 Eric Jacobson Animal
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Eric Jacobson (b. January 15, 1971)[1] started working with the Muppets in 1992 as an intern for the Jim Henson Company, dubbing tapes in the archival library.[2][3] By 1994, he started to work as a puppeteer on Sesame Street and rose through the ranks of puppeteers, eventually taking on the roles of Bert, Grover, and Oscar the Grouch.

Since 2001, Jacobson has been a part of the core performers working with the classic Muppet Show characters— performing Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Animal, and Sam Eagle (all roles he inherited from Frank Oz).

Other puppeteer credits include roles on Bear in the Big Blue House, The Puzzle Place, Jack's Big Music Show, and The Book of Pooh.

I grew up watching the Muppets, and was a rabid fan myself and to carry on this legacy is really important.
—Eric Jacobson[4]

Sesame Street[]

Jacobson's first puppeteering job for Sesame Street was the song "L is for Low" with Samuel Ramey.[5]

By the late 1990s, as Frank Oz became increasingly unavailable to perform, Jacobson began filling in as Grover and Bert. His first public performances as Grover were in Season 30 appearing in episodes 3822, 3824 and 3840 (in "I'm Talkin' Love"). He began performing Bert around the same time, appearing as the character in Episode 3807 and in the Sesame Street Goes to the Doctor home video and a commercial for the Magic Talking Kermit the Frog that were released the same year.

Jacobson commented on the enormous weight of taking on these characters saying:

I remember the first time doing Grover and I remember the first time doing Bert for sure. It was really scary. It was really scary. Nobody had done this before, you know, to take over or double or understudy for a performer who's still living, still with us, still quite capable—and he still is and he's still brilliant—but I just remember being really scared. But everybody was really supportive.[6]

He continued to transition into being the primary performer of these characters, playing them exclusively for the series Play with Me Sesame in 2002 and making more appearances as the characters throughout the early 2000s. Oz would continue to make a few return performances up until season 43 in 2012.

Jacobson also understudied for Caroll Spinney as Oscar the Grouch. In 2015 he started with minor appearances as Oscar on The Sunny Side Up Show, Last Week Tonight and in several online promos before transitioning into the role and fully taking over the character upon Spinney's retirement in 2018. Jacobson stated that the recasting was "was real definitive. I think part of that had to do with Caroll being still around and he and Debi were just very, very sure that they wanted me to do it." Muppet performer and Muppet captain Matt Vogel confirmed that Spinney "was the decider."[7]

Since 2005, Jacobson has also taken over performing Guy Smiley and he has been the performer of the horns-down head of the Two-Headed Monster since 2016. His other Sesame characters have included Mr. Tiger, Hammy the Dwarf, Dusty, Cap-ten Kirk, Pita, and one of the Three Little Pigs.

Jacobson has received two Daytime Emmy nominations for his work on Sesame Street in 2011 and 2021, including for his vocal performance as Grover in the special The Monster at the End of This Story.

In 2021, Jacobson directed the online music video "Better with You."[8]

The Muppets[]

Jacobson is the principal performer of Fozzie Bear, Miss Piggy, Animal and Sam the Eagle – as Frank Oz stepped away from performing in 2000.

In 2001, Jacobson made his Muppet debut, voicing Miss Piggy for a Virgin Atlantic commercial and performing her for an international TV appearance and a video message welcoming the fans "live via satellite" to the MuppetFest fan convention. He continued to perform Piggy throughout 2002 in commercials for UPS, NASCAR, Denny's and MasterCard. In addition to Piggy, Jacobson also took on the roles of Fozzie Bear and Animal starting in the music video for Weezer's "Keep Fishin'" and featured roles in It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie.

Jacobson talked about the nerve-wracking experience of his performance in It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie stating:

I just go back and think of how the producers must have felt—how Brian Henson must have felt—just, you know, handing these roles over to this new guy that they really didn't have much experience with. I'd been on Sesame Street but the Muppets, you know, they're a separate entity. They had a lot of faith in me, but I'm sure it was nerve-wracking for them. But I also knew that this is something I could do, and I think at one time they were thinking 'well maybe he'll just do some looping for some of the characters and we'll have one of the other performers manipulate the character' but I said 'no, I can do this. Give me a shot, if it's not working out you can pull me, that's fine, but I'm not going to disappoint you.' You have to have confidence as a performer.[9]

He later took over the role of Sam the Eagle, starting in 2005 with The Muppets' Wizard of Oz. He also inherited the roles of Marvin Suggs starting with The Muppets in 2011 and The Newsman starting with The Muppets Take the Bowl in 2017.

Assuming Frank Oz's characters[]

With the notable exception of Cookie Monster who was recast to David Rudman, Jacobson has inherited most of the other major characters originated by Frank Oz.

Jacobson talked about his relationship with Frank Oz stating "He may play Yoda in the movies, but I'm not his Luke Skywalker."[10] Due to the circumstances of the character transitions, Jacobson didn't get much direct mentoring from Oz prior to taking over the characters.

We have talked, but the nature of the relationship is that he wasn't there and that's why I was brought in. So if he was there he wouldn't be spending that precious time coaching me, telling me how I should do the characters, he would just do it. But we've talked about the characters and I've had the chance to watch him in action both with the Muppet characters as well as on Sesame Street, and it was an invaluable experience working alongside him, getting to watch his process in action.[11]

In a 2018 interview Frank Oz stated that he felt Jacobson is "very talented" but sympathized with the difficult task of keeping the characters consistent with his original performances while also evolving and moving the characters forwards.[12] Jacobson discussed the task of staying true to Frank Oz's characters in a 2011 interview, stating:

I'm very diligent about getting the voice to sound as close as I can. But I'm also aware that people aren't just reacting to the voices; they're also responding to how these characters move. I've spent a lot of time working with Frank Oz, and studying with him and learning his unique approach to puppeteering. But I'm also realistic. I know that I will never be Frank Oz, and there will always be audience members who will compare us and be disappointed in my interpretations. My goal ultimately is to entertain, and make these characters as recognizable to audiences who grew up with them as possible.[13]

Jacobson has also stated that "Frank has a parking spot reserved any time he wants to come back. He is welcome to, he's the originator of these characters."[14] Since handing off his Muppet Show characters, Oz has only made one return performance—appearing as Piggy on NBC's Today in January 2002. He also puppeteered Piggy to Jacobson's vocals for the "We Are Family" music video due to Jacobson being unavailable for a short-notice shoot with Diana Ross. Oz had discussed the idea of returning to his characters for the unproduced The Cheapest Muppet Movie Ever Made! It was an idea Jacobson welcomed, saying "I would have loved to have seen it happen. I was looking forward to having this journey with Frank—with these characters—possibly assisting him and just having this real quality time with him on the same production with these characters. But it wasn't meant to be."[15]

In 2011, Dave Goelz commented on Jacobson carrying on Oz's characters;

When Steve was able to do Kermit, I thought, "Wow, we got off lucky there, but if something happens to Frank or he leaves, we'll just be dead." Lo and behold, Eric Jacobson, who like Steve had been around for a long time in the Sesame Street performing group, was able to do very credible versions of Frank's characters. He's incredible with Miss Piggy. The first time I was at a read-through with Eric, I hadn't noticed his arrival, and we started reading the script. I heard Frank and looked around the room. And Frank wasn't there. So it was really an interesting thing.[16]

Oz reflected the changes behind the characters that he originated in 2009, stating:

Eric Jacobson and those guys have been very respectful. They've done a great job, and I'm just pleased that they're there.[17]

Other Works[]

On Bear in the Big Blue House, Jacobson was initially doubling for other performers' characters[18] before eventually being given his own recurring character, Harry the Duck.

Outside of Henson, Jacobson has worked on The Puzzle Place, Jack's Big Music Show, and Disney's The Book of Pooh, as well as the TV series Once Upon a Tree (performing Billy Bob the Bobcat). He also has performed on stage performing live puppet theater in New York City with The Puppet Company, The Cosmic Bicycle Theater, and The Swedish Cottage Marionette Theater in Central Park.

Jacobson has been honored for his work on several occasions and holds the distinction of being the first puppeteer to work on multiple film and television productions cited for excellence by UNIMA in the same year.[19]

In 2013, Jacobson served as puppeteer for Shaggy Rogers (with Matthew Lillard serving as Shaggy's voice) for the DVD movie, Scooby-Doo! Adventures: The Mystery Map.

Puppeteer Credits[]

for a complete character gallery, see Eric Jacobson characters

Notes[]

  • Jacobson's wife Mary was a production assistant on Sesame Street; they met on the program. Matt and Kelly Vogel are the godparents to one of his two daughters.[20][21]

Sources[]

  1. Tweet from Matt Vogel
  2. The Barretta Brothers: Two Of Us Episode #15 (25:12)
  3. Sesame Street: A Celebration - 40 Years of Life on the Street, page 140
  4. TV Land Awards interview
  5. "EP#18: Eric Jacobson/'Good Eye Focus'/Not Puppets (Ryan Dillon)", Below The Frame with Matt Vogel, December 2, 2020. (00:31:08)
  6. The Barretta Brothers Episode #15 (0:12:24)
  7. "EP#18: Eric Jacobson/'Good Eye Focus'/Not Puppets (Ryan Dillon)", Below The Frame with Matt Vogel, December 2, 2020. (01:07:21)
  8. Andrew Moriarty on Twitter August 23, 2021
  9. "EP#18: Eric Jacobson/'Good Eye Focus'/Not Puppets (Ryan Dillon)", Below The Frame with Matt Vogel, December 2, 2020. (01:04:11)
  10. Puppet Tears Episode #62 (0:56:37)
  11. Puppet Tears Episode #62 (0:53:52)
  12. Tough Pigs An Interview with Frank Oz by Ryan Roe (March 12, 2018)
  13. Vanity Fair Sesame Street Puppeteer Eric Jacobson Reveals Shocking News That Sesame Street Is Not a Real Place by Eric Spitznagel (September 30, 2011)
  14. Puppet Tears Episode #62 (0:52:05)
  15. "EP#18: Eric Jacobson/'Good Eye Focus'/Not Puppets (Ryan Dillon)", Below The Frame with Matt Vogel, December 2, 2020. (01:07:57)
  16. Disney twenty-three, Winter 2011 issue, page 52
  17. Oz, Frank Sesame Street: A Celebration - 40 Years of Life on the Street Page 130
  18. The Barretta Brothers Ep #15 Eric Jacobson. Muppet Trivia 2. 08/30/20
  19. Sesame Workshop Press Kit Bio. 2007
  20. Vanity Fair interview
  21. "EP#18: Eric Jacobson/'Good Eye Focus'/Not Puppets (Ryan Dillon)", Below The Frame with Matt Vogel, December 2, 2020. (01:40:20)

External links[]

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