A Young Jim Henson Teaches You How to Make Puppets with Socks, Tennis Balls & Other Household Goods (1969)

By the time he filmed this video archived on Iowa’s Pub­lic Tele­vi­sion’s YouTube chan­nel, Jim Hen­son was just about to strike gold with a new children’s show called Sesame Street. The year was 1969, and he already had 15 years of pup­petry expe­ri­ence under his belt, from children’s shows to com­mer­cials and exper­i­men­tal films.

On the cusp of suc­cess, Hen­son, along with fel­low pup­peteer Don Sahlin (the cre­ator and voice of Rowlf) ven­ture to teach kids how to make a pup­pet out of pret­ty much any­thing you’ll find around the house. Such vision appears easy, but it real­ly shows the genius of Hen­son, as he and Sahlin make char­ac­ters from a ten­nis ball, a mop, a wood­en spoon, a cup, socks, an enve­lope, even pota­toes and pears. (There a lot to be said for the inher­ent com­e­dy of goo­gly eyes, and the impor­tance of fake fur.)

An unknown assis­tant takes some of these pup­pets and brings them to life while Hen­son and part­ner cre­ate more–funny voic­es, per­son­al­i­ties, even a bit of anar­chy are in play. Sur­pris­ing­ly, Ker­mit does not make an appear­ance, although his sock ances­tor does.

The man who saw poten­tial pup­pets in every­thing is in his ele­ment and relaxed. Check it out, smile, and then raid your kitchen for sup­plies for your own pup­pet show. And although Hen­son promis­es a fur­ther episode, it has yet to be found on YouTube, or else­where.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Watch Twin Beaks, Sesame Street’s Par­o­dy of David Lynch’s Icon­ic TV Show (1990)

Jim Henson’s Ani­mat­ed Film, Lim­bo, the Orga­nized Mind, Pre­sent­ed by John­ny Car­son (1974)

Watch The Sur­re­al 1960s Films and Com­mer­cials of Jim Hen­son

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the artist inter­view-based FunkZone Pod­cast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills, read his oth­er arts writ­ing at tedmills.com and/or watch his films here.

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