When I learned that Jim Henson died, I felt as if I had lost a friend. An odd reaction, because I am not of the Sesame Street generation. The Street was something I wrote papers about in college, while studying the principles of educational television. The Muppets were an intellectual exercise, not an emotional one.
I was reminded of my response to Henson’s passing, when I watched Being Elmo, a documentary about puppeteer Kevin Clash, the man who makes Elmo come alive. Being Elmo pulls back the curtain and immerses the viewer in the act of puppeteering. If we accept that Kevin Clash is like any other puppeteer than an emotional response is a natural byproduct, if not the raison d’etre of the craft.
The documentary spans Kevin’s entire career that began as a young boy of 8. By his senior year in High School, he was performing on television on the weekends. He moved from High School to New York and the world of national network television. His mentor was Kermit Love, the man who built puppets for Henson. Inevitably, the paths of Jim Henson and Kevin Clash crossed and joined.
Kevin Clash continues the work begun by Henson, honoring his hero. As his mentor did, he mentors other youngsters dreaming of becoming a puppeteer. This film is infused with joy – the joy of watching, creating, teaching, and living a dream.