Monday, August 3, 2009

Weinerville


Sure, to children of the 70s and 80s, the Talking Heads may be a new wave rock band responsible for Burning Down the House, but to children of the 90s the phrase conjures up a far puppetier image. Namely that of Marc Weiner's Weinerville, a 90s Nickelodeon show featuring the children's entertainment stylings of Herr puppetmeister himself, Marc Weiner. Weinerville's trademark human head/tiny puppet body combo was both moderately frightening to small children and infinitely entertaining to those old enough to get a kick out of it. I still have an unrealized ambition to be Weinerized (e.g. for my full-size head to appear on a tiny puppet body), but I may just have to write that one off. Damn.

Marc Weiner was nothing if not imaginative. Weinerville and its innumerable puppet citizens were the sum of the no doubt many fragments of creativity floating around in Marc Weiner's head. The whole thing has a feel of every time you ever said, "You know, I have this crazy idea...", only in this case it translated into following through with that zany impulse rather than burying it deep into your repressive creative subconscious.

I don't know what it takes to become a pupeteer, but I do certainly find it admirable as a career goal. To think, while the rest of us are morphing more and more daily into The Man with our corporate suits and attache cases, there are actual adults who earn a sizable living off of controlling the marionetted limbs of fanciful puppets. Indeed, it's a pretty enviable career path. I'm not talking about those struggling pupeteers a la John Cusack in Being John Malkovich. I'm talking being paid to create a full-scale imaginary universe of puppets for which you get to add the suffix "ville" to your own last name. Just imagine, you, a ville. We can only dream.



Like many Nickelodeon shows of its time, Weinerville featured a live-action audience participation element, leaving those of us at home immeasurably covetous of the lucky so-and-sos who got to interact with the puppets themselves. Despite the incessant begging, my parents never caved to let me be a veritable member of the live studio audience at Nickelodeon Studios in Universal Studios, Florida. I even learned to recite that phrase via constant exposure to the informative ending of every live-action Nickelodeon show, but to no avail. I was going to have to settle for being part of a live at-home television audience, and that was that.

Weinerville was home to many, many puppet pals, most of whom were played by Marc Weiner himself. Played by his head, that is. In the above intro, you can see Marc as Baby Jeffery, an infant famous for creating outrageous messes. Two of the other more familiar characters were Dottie and Zip, the trusty mayor of Weinerville and her injury-prone assistant Zip. Marc played Dottie, donning makeup, a curly blonde wig, and falsetto with conviction. Zip was pure puppet through and through, allowing him to be more easily placed in dangerous and potentially painful situations. Observe, a montage of Zip and Dottie introducing the show:



Another favorite puppet was Boney, a dinosaur skeleton and a sort of anti-Barney. He's pretty much awesome because he hates everything and everyone, as evidenced in his trademark song, "I'm Boney, I'm Boney, leave me alone-y!" I don't know what it says about me as a child that I found this Boney fellow so hilarious, but I'm guessing it's in some way correlated to my angsty 90s cynicism.



The show also featured a slew of animated shorts, generally unrelated to the puppet action onstage. The cartoons featured the likes of such animated personalities as Batfink, Mighty Mouse, and Mr. Magoo. Cartoon stars from decades past were once again entertaining children, albeit only in short inter-sketch segments. Regardless of value, the cartoon shorts kept the show moving and maintained its quick pace during scene changes.

The interactive element of the show allowed for Weinerizing, the puppetization of real live audience members. Weinerized children often got to participate in all sorts of fun on-camera shenanigans, vying for gold and silver hot dog statuettes. In some cases, they were even lucky enough to experience the tour de fource of Nickelodeon audience participatory experiences: the sliming:



Admittedly, the show wasn't for everyone. To say the acting and execution was over-the-top would be a pretty forgiving understatement. Regardless, the show certainly had its charms in a whimsical-puppet-world type of way. As Daria's trusty sidekick Jane once said, everything is funnier with puppets*. I suppose I'll let you be the judge:




*The many, many Daria references recently peppering these posts are largely contingent on my finishing all 5 seasons while going stir-crazy in my current state of apartment-bound ankle breakage. Consider it a gift.

22 comments:

Sunshinemeg said...

Fantastic way to start a Monday! Bravo 90's!

LiLu said...

Weinerville creeped me out then, and it still does.

Daria, on the other hand? Prob in my top 5 of all time.

Court said...

OMG! Totally forgot about this one! LOL You're really good at this stuff!

Nic said...

We never had that! Damn!

Little Ms Blogger said...

Weinerville seems to be a cross between Pee Wee's Playhouse (until he was literally caught with his hand down his pants) and Mister Rogers...

Katie said...

still creepy..

Brunch at Saks said...

I would have never ever remembered this show!!! SO funny!

Sadako said...

I actually saw Marc Weiner at a comedy club years later. He was doing prop comedy and it was kind of embarrassing for him...

Lauren Jo said...

Oh my god.. I loved this show!

Mrs EyeCanSee said...

yep. still creepy.

Kristin said...

Sucks about the ankle! Might I suggest a SATC marathon? Always cheers me up. : )

Hanako66 said...

lol do NOT remember this one lol

Tracy-Girl said...

LOL... oh my gosh... I don't remember this!

Kris said...

HAHA! This was the BEST!

Lindsay said...

OMG! Weinerville! Amazing! Thanks for taking me back!

lovelila said...

I still go through moments of sadness from missing this show! Ahhhh! Boney was NOT my favorite character (I didn't hate him or anything), though...everyone else seemed to love him. I liked Zip, lol

Just Playing Pretend said...

I completely, 100% forgot about Weinerville. Even when I saw the name of this post I thought, Weiner-WHAT?. However then it all came flooding back.

I don't know if I should thank you for the memory or curse you for reminding me. :)

Lil' Woman said...

I totally fogot about this show...you really are a child of the 90's!

MsJess said...

I think I used to have nightmares about being weinerized. even now it gives me the jibblies.

Janna said...

Ohh I totally forgot about that show! I didn't watch it much, though... didn't like it. Too creepy, I guess.

SummerBreeze said...

THANK YOU! I have been trying to remember the name of this show forever, and no one I asked even remotely remembered what I was talking about!

Toni said...

I was in the audience when I was about 7. It was one of the best days of my young life. :)

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