Monday, June 15, 1970

Musical Artist - Oz, Frank

Frank Oz is an American Muppeteer, director, and actor. Despite not really having a love for puppetry, Oz joined Jim Henson and Muppets, Inc. in 1963 at the age of 19, and stayed with the Muppets until 2001. Oz's actual surname is Oznowicz, and his stage name is the result of a mumbled pronunciation given by Jimmy Dean in an appearance on Dean's variety show. Over the years, Oz appeared on both Sesame Street and The Muppet Show performing several of the most prominent Muppet characters including Animal, Bert, Cookie Monster, Fozzie Bear, Grover, Miss Piggy, and Sam the Eagle.

In addition to his work on Sesame Street and The Muppet Show, Oz has performed in several other Muppet-related productions including The Dark Crystal, Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas, and Labyrinth. His most notable role outside the Muppets was performing and providing the voice for Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith, and The Last Jedi.

In addition to his screen work as a puppeteer, Oz has appeared on screen in person in a handful of films including American Werewolf in London, Blues Brothers, Spies Like Us, and Trading Places. Oz also directed several movies, including Bowfinger, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, In & Out, Little Shop of Horrors, and What About Bob? among others.

Oz was one of the earliest Muppeteers hired by Henson (he may have been the first), and was one of Henson's closest collaborators. Many of Oz's central character were paired closely with Henson's, most notably Oz's Bert and Henson's Ernie, but also Oz' Fozzie Bear and Miss Piggy to Henson's Kermit. At Henson's memorial service Oz recounted a story in which Henson made him a gift involving a naked picture of Oz, a bust of Bert and a collection of little Berts. I have come to regard this story to be the gold standard of friendship. The trust Oz had in Henson when Henson came and asked him to pose for a picture. The care, imagination, and love that henson put into crafting the gift. We can all only hope to have a friendship as good as those two men did.

Oz has a page devoted to him on the Muppet Wiki as well as one on the Internet Movie Database. He can also be found on Twitter.

Musical Monday Selections:

02/19/18: Just One Person with Kevin Clash, Dave Goelz, Richard Hunt, Jerry Nelson, and Steve Whitmire

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