Whether they’ve watched “Sesame Street” as a kid or seen Kermit the Frog across their social media feeds, almost everyone knows the Muppets. They’ve been around for more than fifty years and made their lasting impact on TV and movies known. The entire cultural phenomenon can be traced back to one man: Jim Henson. He was gentle, soft-spoken and preferred to stay out of the spotlight, but through the years his legacy continues to shine and many want to tell others about him.
One such person bringing the works of Henson back into the cultural forefront is Joshua Gillespie, owner and admin of Muppet History (@HistoryMuppet). Gillespie started the Twitter account as a way to document the history of Jim Henson’s work and bring that knowledge to a new generation. I recently had a chance to talk to Gillespie about his account, the Muppets, and his love for everything Jim Henson created.
Today, the Muppets and friends have found a resurgence on social media. Kermit the Frog is subject to countless memes on Twitter and songs like “Movin’ Right Along” from “The Muppet Movie” is finding new life on Tik Tok. Muppet History helps with this revitalization, posting daily with clips from one of Henson’s shows or behind-the-scenes photos of how they were made.
James Frawley’s camera test for The Muppet Movie is some of the funniest muppet material, showing the true comedic genius between Jim Henson and @TheFrankOzJam
I’m so glad we’re able to watch this pic.twitter.com/wnPHv7ci8H
— Muppet History (@HistoryMuppet) January 24, 2019
“I noticed over the years that anytime I ever mentioned the workings of the Muppets and how things were done, it would always fascinate people,” Gillespie said. “People are familiar with the Muppets, whether it be ‘The Muppet Show’ or ‘Sesame Street’ but it’s one of those things where people really don’t think about all the work that goes into it.
“Honestly, it has been so heartwarming to see just how much people still love and care for these characters and worlds.”
Since starting the account in October 2018, Gillespie has found massive success, gaining over 14,000 followers in a little over six months. He fostered a community of Muppet enthusiasts surrounding him, regularly interacting with followers answering questions and sharing Henson’s message of love with others.
If any of these silly clips I post have made you laugh, or brightened up your day, then I have succeeded with what I hoped for.
All my life, the Muppets have brought me so much happiness, even during the toughest times, and I wanted to share that joy with all of you.
— Muppet History (@HistoryMuppet) April 9, 2019
“It has been a weird experience, but also a very heartwarming one,” Gillespie said. “It makes me so happy to see so many sharing an interest in these characters.”
Jim Henson was more than just a magnate of puppetry. He was a friend to everyone around him. When Henson’s agent Bernie Brillstein was in the midst of a bitter divorce, he casually mentioned his woes to his longtime friend. Without even being asked, Henson loaned him $100,000 with a note saying there was no rush to pay him back.
“It’s stories like that one that makes you see the love and care that went into everything he did,” Gillespie said. “The thing I’ve enjoyed the most is learning about how kindhearted and genuine of a person Jim Henson was. He wasn’t a businessman, just someone who wanted to make people happy.”
Jim’s benevolent soul leaked into everything he did. Sesame Street broke boundaries as one of the first shows dedicated to educating young children. “Fraggle Rock” always carried a message of peacefulness and responsibility. “The Muppets” celebrated diversity in everyone. When creating “Fraggle Rock,” Henson told his writers “The ultimate goal is we want to create a show that will stop war.”
Henson and the love he shared with the world was a safe haven for many. His Muppets celebrated the spark of creativity in everyone. He treated every child as important and made them feel special and loved. The Muppets always championed the idea that everyone has something that makes them unique.
This behind the scenes photo of the Rainbow Connection finale from The Muppet Movie is so cool!
Definitely makes it easier to spot certain characters. pic.twitter.com/elrgerYyhH
— Muppet History (@HistoryMuppet) March 31, 2019
“I was a weird kid,” Gillespie said. “That probably won’t come as a shock. And I got made fun of for it, but whenever I saw the Great Gonzo, I didn’t feel so weird. I felt understood and that’s what has always brought me back to the Muppets. These are characters you can relate to. They’re family.”