I just logged in online learned that Jerry Nelson has died. What terrible, awful, horrible news.
I never had the chance meet Jerry, but I know many puppeteers and Muppet fans who did and they all universally adored him. As a puppeteer you can’t help but be in awe of the performer who brought to life such diverse characters as Count Von Count, Floyd Pepper, Lew Zealand, Robin the Frog, Gobo Fraggle, Marjory the Trash Heap, the wonderful Emmet Otter and so many, many more but personally, I’d like to remember him as the man who made it so much fun to learn to count when I was a little boy:
Although Jerry was most famous for his puppetry work, he was also a talented singer and actor as well. He fell in to puppetry almost by accident when he fibbed his way to in a job performing marionettes for the legendary Bil Baird as a struggling actor in the 1960s. That in turn eventually led him to the Muppets and the rest, as they say, is history.
Jim Henson and Frank Oz are the most famous of the Muppet Performers, but it was Jerry who played the most characters. He had a remarkable gift for making one-shot characters memorable and helping to elevate whatever he was was performing in to the next level. Here’s a rare clip of Jerry fittingly performing as a (human) Muppet Expert alongside Kermit and Fozzie in the 1978 HBO special The Vent Event:
Unsurprisingly, Twitter has lit up with condolences and expressions of grief and tribute. Here are some of the comments so far:
I’m sure we’ll see many, many more tributes as the news of Jerry’s passing spreads in the morning. Rather than try to write more here I’m going to simply link to someone of the tributes that have already gone up and I’ll continue updating this post throughout the weekend:
- Muppet Central Forum: Remembering Jerry Nelson discussion thread
- Stephanie D’Abruzzo: Jerry
- MuleyTheMule.com: Jerry Nelson – In Remembrance
- Danny Horn: Jerry and Floyd
- Tough Pigs: Jerry Nelson 1934-2012
- The Muppet Mindset: Passion and Purpose – The Characters of Jerry Nelson
Rest in peace Jerry…and thank you so very much.