A Tribute to Steve Whitmire (My Kermit)

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Hello all! I’m Karsten. The few people reading this probably already know me, but for those of you that don’t (or maybe you just love hearing my amaaazing life story over and over again), i’ve been a Muppet fan my entire life. Probably before I could even say “Elmo” or “poop”. I was a very dim-witted baby. Anyway, I have Sesame Street tapes that I watched so much that they broke, I’ve had an unhealthy obsession with Big Bird since forever. And my Muppet obsession has led me to other passions as well, such as, writing, drawing, acting, and puppeteering. I’ve wanted to start a blog for a couple years now, but I wasn’t quite sure what to write about. But with the news of Steve Whitmire’s departure from the Muppets, I thought this was a good place to start.

So let’s go back to the beginning…

After years of being a Sesame Street fanboy, he gets discovered by legendary Sesame performer Caroll Spinney at the Southeastern Regional Puppetry Festival. He informed Whitmire that Jane Henson was holding auditions for Muppeteers. They met in New York in November, and she recommended him to Jim Henson. Steve began performing on The Muppet Show in March 1978, and the rest is history.

Since then, Steve has become a critical member the the Muppet family. Not only making stars out of Rizzo the Rat very early in his career, but soon going on to play Wembley Fraggle and Sprocket the Dog on Fraggle Rock. When Jim Henson died in 1990, the Henson family asked Whitmire to take on his most iconic role – Kermit the Frog. Soon after he would take on Richard Hunt’s Beaker the year he died. The following year he joined the cast of Sesame Street as Ernie, who had become a background character for three years after Jim Henson’s death.

Aside from the original Muppeteers like Jim, Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, and Richard Hunt, Steve really became the most well known and recognizable person in the group if for no other reason than the fact that he was Kermit. He’s been there for almost four decades, and that’s what makes his departure so shocking to me. The fact that he was so dedicated to his job, and at the top of his game. And just a few years after the big revival of 2011, another movie, and a TV show that ended in 2016, he just up and leaves.  And now, all of a sudden, when we’ve barely had time to process the fact that Kermit will be played be another man after 27 years, we find out that Matt Vogel will make his debut as the character just one week later. It’s hard. But still, I can’t help but be excited for what Matt will add to the role.

I don’t have much else to add. I’m just very sad right now and really needed to get all my thoughts out. All there is to say is, than you. Thank you Steve for creating some of my favorite characters like Rizzo, Lips, Bean Bunny, Wembley, and Sprocket. Their innocence and humor never cease to put a smile on my face. Thank you for your amazing techniques that have helped me become a better puppeteer. Thank you for being the Ernie and Kermit that I grew up with. Thanks for contorting your hand in strange and painful ways just so that frog could smile. Just, thank you for bringing your talent to millions of people. I honestly don’t think the Henson family could’ve picked a better guy when they picked you, and I hope you continue make the world smile with whatever you choose to do next.

Now, if you’ll excuse me. I’m going to read this article about Steve’s amazing hair.

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Further reading: I definitely recommend this in depth article about Steve’s life and career

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