Charlie Mechem sits down with Bill Barretta, American puppeteer and producer for the Muppets. Bill reflects on anecdotes from “Total Anecdotal: A Fun Guide to Help You Become a Better Speaker and Writer.” You can learn more about the book at charliemechem.com/book, or find it available through Amazon or Barnes & Noble, and perhaps your local bookstore.
Sunrise or Sunset Person
Some people prefer sunrise, where others prefer sunset—however, Bill finds himself to be somewhere in-between as a “noon person.” In the morning, the day feels new, you dont know whats coming. However, in the evening there is time to relax more, it is the end of a possibly hard day. So what better place to be than noon, in the middle of it all.
It is only appropriate that Bill be a “noon person,” in that that is the point of day when the sun is brightest and highest in the sky—attesting to Bill’s role as someone who uses his work to spread brightness, happiness, and laughter.
The Importance of Humility & Anonymity
Humility has always been very important to Bill because of the collaborative nature of the Muppets. Relying on each other is a key factor, as some characters take two or three people to perform. It’s not about one person shining, Bill says, but creating something collectively.
This kind of collaboration and shared effort takes a certain degree of humility. Bill recalls a story about one of the famed former Muppet performers, Jerry Nelson. On a plane ride to New York, Jerry sat next to Al Pacino. Together they discussed the fact that Jerry did not seek the recognition and fame that he could from his career. As they arrived at their destination, leaving the plane, Al was stopped by a mob of people while Jerry was able to move smoothly through the crowd—due to his lack of face recognition. This story itself is proof that humility and anonymity can be great assets.
Passion Drives Everything
Bill finds he is more passionate about projects that are closer to him as a person than something that may have been written by someone else that he must interpret.
Passion is everything, Bill says, it is what drives the talent within you. Not just in success, but being around friends and family, passion is a key factor in life. Always seek passion, it can be found even in the little things—whether you are performing for an illustrious group such as the Muppets, or simply eating a sandwich or riding a bike.
Bill grew up in a family with a good sense of humor, there was always time for play, teasing, cleverness, and silliness as they all strived to make each other laugh. It is important to see people smiling and happy, to encourage laughter. In his career he followed this same philosophy, which can easily be recognized in the fun loving characters in the Muppets.
In this day and age with the internet, there is a certain lack of personal connection. Because of this lack of connection, it is very common for humor to couple with insensitivity. This is wrong, intentions must be good in humor, otherwise it will become malicious.
If you’d like to listen to more episodes of “15 Minutes With Charlie,” please visit the podcast page or search for “15 Minutes With Charlie” in your podcasting app. If you are enjoying the show you should check out “Total Anecdotal: A Fun Guide to Help You Become a Better Speaker and Writer.” Learn more on our book page, or find it available through Amazon or Barnes & Noble, and perhaps your local bookstore.