Not all puppets are created equal – just ask Jason Jacoby, of Avenue Q fame. ICYMI, Avenue Q is an edgy musical which features adorable puppets in… umm… adult situations that debuted on Broadway in 2003. It was nominated for six Tony Awards and took home three – including Best Musical, Best Book of a Musical, and Best Original Score; has run in Las Vegas, the West End, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Hong Kong, Portugal, Germany, South Africa; and toured across both Canada the United States. It is now housed at the New World Stages in New York.
Broadway Spin caught up with Jacoby, who plays both Nicky and Trekkie Monster, to hear his thoughts on the puppet hierarchy, making his family uncomfortable as a child, and his deep desire to remain employed.
Broadway Spin: As a puppet expert, who is your favorite famous puppet?
Jason Jacoby: I was obsessed with anything Jim Henson growing up, but that’s so hard because I feel like there are categories. Gonzo is my favorite of the true Muppets, but then I would consider Grover to be my favorite Sesame Street character. Pretty sure only a true nut job would subcategorize things like this. (Laughs)
BS: You’re an expert – it’s only natural.
JJ: Thank you.
BS: Who is the most underrated Sesame Street puppet?
JJ: You know who is interesting? There is a character in Sesame Street called Grundgetta and she is a female grouch. I don’t know if she’s related to Oscar or they’re friends – but she’s another grouch. She’s a female grouch and I feel like she is underrated. Oscar gets all the buzz for being grouchy and Grundgetta gets pushed to the side.
BS: You mentioned you were obsessed with Jim Henson. Did you play with puppets as a kid?
JJ: I remember being really little and going around with a tape recorder that is modeled after the Home Alone tape recorder that [Kevin] had and going around at Thanksgiving and having my family members record certain lines of dialogue. Then, between Thanksgiving and Christmas I set up a camcorder and recorded stories with stuffed animals and puppets lip syncing to the lines my family members had said.
BS: That’s pretty advanced. What did your family think?
JJ: Well it started with concern like, “What is this weird kid doing?” but then when I showed them, “I made this video with you all voicing puppets!” — then I think they loved it.
BS: Avenue Q is such a hilarious show, but doing it night after night, do you ever just want to say something that’s not on script? Do you ever just think of something even more hilarious and brilliant you need to share with the world?
JJ: (Laughs) For sure you get urges to say things that are not on script. You’ll have moments on stage where you think, “I could do whatever I wanted right now and these people would be watching.” It’s sort of a power trip. But then you think, “But then I’d get fired.”
BS: You don’t want that.
JJ: Correct. (Laughs) But there’s something about the energy of this show and the nature of this show – and I don’t know if it speaks to me specifically in my sort of upbringing – but I don’t get bored or unhappy doing this show. It’s something I can do over and over because it’s so well constructed and so well written. Just the subject matter and the characters — it really rings true for me. There are some shows that I could never do for six years.
BS: Like what?
JJ: Oh, umm… do I have to name one?
JJ: I don’t know that I could do Les Miserables for six years. It’s just so heavy.
BS: No shade to Les Mis.
JJ: Definitely no shade!