Jerry Nelson

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Jerry Nelson
Jerry Nelson.jpg
Nelson with the Count in a Sesame Street publicity photograph from June 2012, two months before his death.
Born
Jerry L. Nelson

(1934-07-10)July 10, 1934
DiedAugust 23, 2012(2012-08-23) (aged 78)
Cape Cod, Massachusetts, U.S.
OccupationPuppeteer
Years active1965–2012
Spouse(s)Jacqueline Gordon (divorced)
Jan Nelson
(m. 1984)
Children1

Jerry L. Nelson (July 10, 1934 – August 23, 2012) was an American puppeteer, best known for his work with The Muppets. Renowned for his wide range of characters and singing abilities, he performed Muppet characters on Sesame Street, The Muppet Show, Fraggle Rock, and various Muppet movies and specials.

Career[edit]

On Sesame Street, Nelson's longest-running character was Count von Count, the counting vampire who takes delight in counting anything (and everything) he can. Nelson did the voice and puppetry for the Count from 1972 until 2004 and continued to provide the Count's voice until his death in 2012. His other Muppet roles on that program were Herbert Birdsfoot, The Amazing Mumford, Herry Monster, Biff, Mr. Johnson, Simon Soundman, Mr. Chatterly, Frazzle, Little Jerry, and Sherlock Hemlock. He has also made a total of nine onscreen appearances on the show.

Nelson was the first puppeteer to perform Mr. Snuffleupagus, keeping the role from 1971 to 1978. Most sources (including Sesame Street Unpaved and Sesame Street: A Celebration - 40 Years of Life on the Street) state that back problems caused by the physical stress of the performance forced him to bow out, but in a 2009 interview Nelson gave a different explanation for giving up the role: "I was not loath to give that character up. But the reasons for giving it up were because at that time we were doing The Muppet Show and he was a real part of the show, and they needed his presence. So they asked if I'd mind giving it up."[1]

Nelson also performed many characters on The Muppet Show, including Sgt. Floyd Pepper (the bassist of the Electric Mayhem band), Pigs in Space star Dr. Julius Strangepork, the boomerang fish-throwing Lew Zealand, Kermit the Frog's nephew Robin the Frog, Gonzo's girlfriend Camilla the Chicken, the mad pyrotechnist Crazy Harry, and "the Phantom of the Muppet Show", Uncle Deadly. He performed Statler in the pilot episode but was replaced by Richard Hunt when he could not perform full-time in the first season. He was a full-time performer for the rest of the show's run. Nelson was also selected to play Statler after Hunt's death, after the end of the show.

Less prominent characters on the show include sportscaster Louis Kazagger, Pops the doorman, giant blue monster Thog, gossip columnist Fleet Scribbler, and Scooter's uncle, J.P. Grosse, who owned the theater. He originated the role of Fozzie Bear's mother in season 2 of The Muppet Show and reprised the role in the TV specials A Muppet Family Christmas, The Muppets at Walt Disney World, and the film The Muppet Christmas Carol.

Nelson performed the puppet and voice of Emmet in Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas, a one-hour special that originally aired on HBO. He later performed the signature song from that show, "When the River Meets the Sea," as Robin, in a duet with John Denver for a Muppet Christmas special. That version of the song gets frequent radio airplay during the Christmas season (although the song is not seasonal). He and Louise Gold performed the song at Jim Henson’s Memorial Service.

On Fraggle Rock, he performed Gobo Fraggle, Pa Gorg, and Marjory the Trash Heap. Frank Oz did not perform on Fraggle Rock, and Jim Henson and Hunt limited their time on the show, so they performed supporting characters. For this reason, Nelson was asked to perform Gobo, the central role on the show.

Nelson's characters were often singers or musicians. He performed the lead vocals for many songs as Floyd of the Electric Mayhem, Little Jerry of Little Jerry and the Monotones, Slim Wilson of Lubbock Lou and his Jughuggers, and a number of Anything Muppet bands. Most of his main characters in all three shows sang songs at one time or another.

He reprised the role of the announcer in The Muppets. His final performance as the announcer was part of the Jim Henson's Musical World concert at Carnegie Hall.[2] Archive audio of his announcer role was reused in Muppets Most Wanted, which was dedicated to both Nelson and Jane Henson, wife of Muppets' creator Jim Henson.

In 2001, Nelson also performed the character voice of General Public in the Cartoon Network animated series Sheep in the Big City in the episode "Daddy Shearest".

In December 2009, Nelson, who summered in Truro, Massachusetts on Cape Cod, released Truro Daydreams, an album of original songs.[3]

Personal life[edit]

Nelson had a daughter named Christine from his first marriage to Jacqueline Nelson Gordon. Christine had cystic fibrosis and died from the disease in 1982,[4] after attending Rye Country Day School. Caring for her limited Nelson's involvement in The Muppet Show's first season. She made a cameo appearance with him in the second Muppet movie, The Great Muppet Caper. He then married his second wife Jan Nelson in 1984, and they remained married until his death in 2012.[5][6]

In 2004, Nelson announced that he would no longer be puppeteering his Muppet characters, citing health reasons. However, he continued to voice his characters on Sesame Street until his death on August 23, 2012. Matt Vogel currently performs most of Nelson's Muppet characters.[7]

Illness and death[edit]

Nelson suffered from prostate cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and emphysema.[8][9] For the last six years of his life, he required an oxygen tank to assist his breathing.[10] On August 23, 2012, Jerry Nelson died at his Cape Cod home from complications of his illnesses, at the age of 78.[11] The film Muppets Most Wanted was dedicated to him and Jane Henson (who also died aged 78).

Filmography[edit]

Year Title Roles Notes
1970–2012 Sesame Street Count von Count (1972–2012), Herry Monster (1970–2003), Biff, Two-Headed Monster (left head, 1979–2000), Sherlock Hemlock, Snuffy (1971–1978), Frazzle, The Amazing Mumford (1971–2011), Mr. Johnson (1971–2012), Fred the Wonder Horse, Old MacDonald, Farley, Herbert Birdsfoot, SAM the Robot (1972–1976), The Big Bad Wolf (1973–2011), Additional Muppets
1976–1981 The Muppet Show Floyd Pepper, Robin the Frog, Lew Zealand, Crazy Harry, Pops, Louis Kazagger, Camilla the Chicken, Uncle Deadly, Dr. Julius Strangepork, Slim Wilson, Bruno, Fleet Scribbler, Additional Muppets
1977 Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas Emmet Otter, Weasel, Doc Bullfrog, Melissa Rabbit, Yancy Woodchuck
1979 The Muppet Movie Floyd Pepper, Robin the Frog, Crazy Harry, Camilla the Chicken, Lew Zealand, Count von Count, Herry Monster, Biff, Mr. Johnson, Herbert Birdsfoot, Additional Muppets
1981 The Great Muppet Caper Pops, Floyd Pepper, Lew Zealand, Louis Kazagger, Slim Wilson, Additional Muppets Puppeteer/voice; Nelson also made a cameo as a man walking in a park alongside his daughter, Christine
1982 The Dark Crystal Ritual Master skekZok and the Dying Emperor
1983–1987 Fraggle Rock Gobo Fraggle, Pa Gorg, Marjory the Trash Heap, Architect Doozer, Feenie Fraggle, Uncle Gobo, Additional Muppets
1984 The Muppets Take Manhattan Floyd Pepper, Camilla the Chicken, Lew Zealand, Count von Count, Herry Monster, Biff, Additional Muppets
1985 Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird Count von Count, Herry Monster, Biff
1986 The Christmas Toy Balthazar
1987 A Muppet Family Christmas Emily Bear, Robin the Frog, Floyd Pepper, Count von Count, Herry Monster, Gobo Fraggle, Camilla, Two-Headed Monster (Left-Head), Additional Muppets
1989 The Jim Henson Hour Beard, Orange Extreme, Evil McBad, Additional Muppets Nelson also made various cameos on the show
1990 The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson Robin the Frog, Lew Zealand, Floyd Pepper, Gobo Fraggle, Additional Muppets
1992 The Muppet Christmas Carol Tiny Tim Cratchet (Robin the Frog), Jacob Marley (Statler), Lew Zealand, Ghost of Christmas Present, Ma Fozziwig, Additional Muppets
1993 Billy Bunny's Animal Songs Cecil Bear, Frog, Raccoon, Turtle
1996 Muppet Treasure Island Mad Monty, Blind Pew, Statler, Lew Zealand, Floyd Pepper, Calico, Additional Muppets Nelson also makes a credited cameo as a butler
1996–1998 Muppets Tonight Statler, Lew Zealand, Mama Fiama, Dr. Watson, Clarissa, The Mad Bomber, Phil, The Head of The Network, Additional Muppets
1998 Elmo's World Count Von Count, Herry Monster, The Big Bad Wolf, The Two Headed Monster (left-head), Mr. Johnson, Announcer
1999 Muppets from Space Ubergonzo, Statler, Robin the Frog, Lew Zealand, Floyd Pepper, Additional Muppets
The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland Count von Count, Mr. Johnson, Grouch Mayor, Grouch Cop, Pestie, Additional Muppets
2002 Kermit's Swamp Years Statler
It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie Robin the Frog, Statler, Floyd Pepper, Announcer Voice
2008 Abby in Wonderland Counter-pillar (Count von Count) Voice
2011 The Muppets Telethon Announcer Uncredited; Final performance.

Video games[edit]

Year Title Roles Notes
1988 Sesame Street: Magic on Sesame Street Count von Count
Muppets Studios Presents: You're the Director Dr. Julius Strangepork, Lew Zealand, Robin the Frog
Muppet Madness Dr. Julius Strangepork, Lew Zealand, Chicken
1991 Sesame Street Letters Count von Count Voice[12]
Sesame Street: Countdown
1994 Sesame Street: Counting Cafe Mr. Johnson
1995 Sesame Street: Let's Make a Word! Two-Headed Monster (left head)
1996 Sesame Street: Get Set to Learn! Count von Count, Martians
The Muppet CD-ROM: Muppets Inside Statler, Lew Zealand, Crazy Harry, The Muppet Newsman
Muppet Treasure Island Statler, Lew Zealand, Pops, Blind Pew, Mad Monty, Mr. Plageman
1997 Sesame Street: Search and Learn Adventures Sherlock Hemlock, The Amazing Mumford, Count von Count, Mr. Johnson Voice[12]
1998 Sesame Street: Elmo Through the Looking-Glass Two-Headed Monster (left head)
Elmo's Reading Basics Sherlock Hemlock, One Martian
1999 Elmo's Number Journey Count von Count
Elmo's Letter Adventure
2000 Sesame Street: Ernie's Adventures in Space Count von Count, Martians, The Customer
Muppet RaceMania Statler, Floyd Pepper, Sweetums, Robin the Frog
Muppet Monster Adventure Robin the Frog
2001 Elmo's Word: Shoes, Bugs & Farms! Sherlock Hemlock, Old MacDonald (Mr. Johnson)
2003 Muppets Party Cruise Statler, Lew Zealand, Floyd Pepper, Crazy Harry, Dr. Julius Strangepork, Camilla
2012 Sesame Street: Elmo's Musical Monsterpiece Count von Count

References[edit]

  1. ^ Nelson, Jerry Tough Pigs interview with Jerry Nelson
  2. ^ "Fraggles, Monsters, Squirrels, and Frogs Play Carnegie Hall « Muppet Fans Who Grew Up – ToughPigs". Toughpigs.com. Retrieved 2013-12-29.
  3. ^ "Truro Daydreams - Jerry Nelson". DigStation.com. Archived from the original on 29 March 2010.
  4. ^ "List of people diagnosed with cystic fibrosis". enotes.com. Retrieved 25 August 2012.
  5. ^ "Muppet puppeteer Jerry Nelson dies at 78". Washington Post.
  6. ^ "Jerry Nelson, Count of 'Sesame Street,' dies at 78". 26 March 2015.
  7. ^ "Jerry Nelson, Voice of The Count on Sesame Street, Dies at 78".
  8. ^ Day, Patrick Kevin (24 August 2012). "'Sesame Street' puppeteer Jerry Nelson dies". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 25 August 2012.
  9. ^ "Jerry Nelson Dead: Muppet Performer Dies At 78". moviefone. 24 August 2012. Archived from the original on 27 September 2012. Retrieved 18 September 2012.
  10. ^ Corcoran, Sean (12 September 2012). "Remembering Muppeteer Jerry Nelson". Archived from the original on 24 October 2012. Retrieved 18 September 2012.
  11. ^ "Jerry Nelson 1934-2012 « ToughPigs — Muppet Fans Who Grew Up". Toughpigs.com. Retrieved 2012-08-24.
  12. ^ a b "Jerry Nelson (visual voices guide)". Behind The Voice Actors. Retrieved 2021-06-26.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
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Performer of Count von Count
1972 – 2012
Succeeded by
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Performer of Mr. Johnson
1972 – 2012
Succeeded by
Preceded by Performer of Two-Headed Monster (left head)
1979 – 2000
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Performer of Mommy Snuffleupagus
1970s
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Performer of Sal Minella
1996
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Preceded by Performer of The Muppet Newsman
1996
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Performer of Mulch
1980s
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Performer of Robin the Frog
1971 – 2003
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Performer of The Amazing Mumford
1971 – 2011
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Performer of Floyd Pepper
1975 – 2003, 2008
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Performer of Herry Monster
1970 – 2003
Succeeded by
Preceded by Performer of Crazy Harry
1976; 1977 – 2003
Succeeded by
Rickey Boyd
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Performer of Camilla the Chicken
1978 – 2003
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Performer of Lew Zealand
1978 – 2003
Succeeded by
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None
Performer of Uncle Deadly
1976 – 1979
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None
Performer of Pops
1980 – 2002
Succeeded by
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None
Performer of Miss Piggy
1974
Succeeded by
Preceded by Performer of Statler
1975, 1992 – 2003
Succeeded by
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Performer of Dr. Julius Strangepork
1977 – 2003
Succeeded by
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Performer of Mr. Snuffleupagus
1971 – 1978
Succeeded by
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Performer of Gobo Fraggle
1983 – 1987
Succeeded by