Old School Lane’s Nickelodeon Tribute: Interview with Marc Weiner
A tad bit late, I know. But still, better late than never. Our next interview is comedian/puppeteer Marc Weiner. Around the 70â€™s and 80â€™s, Weiner performed his kooky and creative puppets onÂ Saturday Night Live, The Bizarre Show, The Jim Henson Hour, Laughs, The Joey Delux Show,Â and many more. For kids who grew up in the 90â€™s, heâ€™s mostly known for his 1993 variety showÂ Weinerville.
For kids who grew up in the 2000â€™s, heâ€™s mostly known as the voice of Swiper and Map from the Nick Jr. programÂ Dora the Explorer.Â Today he still does his standup show worldwide, heâ€™s the founder and developer of The Empathy Labyrinth Center, and heâ€™s currently working on putting newÂ WeinervilleÂ videos on YouTube alongside his son Max.
Kevin and I had the chance to interview Marc, so I hope you enjoy it.
Patricia- What were your favorite cartoons/programs growing up?
Marc-Â Little Rascals, Three Stooges, Abbott and Costello, Red Skelton Show, andÂ Laugh-in.
Patricia- Who are your comedic influences?
Marc- Red Skelton, Stooges, Abbott and Costello, Jerry Lewis, Jonathan Winters, Lucille Ball, Robin Williams, Ray Abruzzo and Marvin Silbermintz.
Kevin- What was it like doing your puppet show onÂ The Bizarre Show?
Marc-Â Â AMAZING! The producer of that show, Bob Einstein was and still is one of the funniest and nicest person I have ever met in show business. As well as John Byner, the host. Both John and Bob were very supportive of my work and gave me room to be funny. I will always be grateful to them.
Patricia- What funny stories can you tell us about your experiences beingÂ onÂ Saturday Night Live?
Marc- It was after my first appearance onÂ SNLÂ that Joe Piscopo took me into the producer’s office and made them hiring me for the following week. My head writer and dear friend Ray Abruzzo, wrote a rap song for my Afro-American puppet Weindulah to perform. We played it for Eddie Murphy and he said, “You white boys don’t know how to write rap music” and re-wrote the song on the spot. It went over very well.
You can see theseÂ SNLÂ shows on Netflix (Feb 1980)
Patricia-What made you decide to create half-human half-puppets?
Marc- I worked with a street puppeteer in Boston and then when I came to NYC, I joined the Bond Street Theater group. They asked me to make puppets for them and I just did it. I developed theÂ WeinervilleÂ style puppet for my nightclub act because I wanted to be able to do many different puppets on stage without having to make the audience wait as I took off one and put on another. So I lined a series of puppets up each behind little closed door on my puppet set and I would put my head on one and open the door, do my routine close the door and move to the next one. It was quick and funny.
Kevin- How did you come up with the idea ofÂ Weinerville?
Marc- I was coming up with all these head puppet ideas and getting them on many different TV shows and a producer suggested that I could actually have my own show, I’ll called itÂ Weinerville.
Patricia- What were your inspirations to become a puppeteer?
Marc- When I first came to NY, I watch a street mime use his fingers to do a tight rope walking routine. I didn’t just see his fingers but I saw a little man. So I sewed a little puppet outfit for my hand and asked a mask maker to help me make my first mask to fit around my wrist.Â Â That’s how I made my first hand Weinerette style puppet (Rocko and Socko).
Patricia- How did you come up with the ideas of your puppets such as Dottie, Boney, Socko, and Cocktail Frank?
Marc- Dottie, well, I think I put on a wig and just went with it and out she came. The idea for Boney came from a very funny man named Marvin Silbermintz, who was one of my writers onÂ Weinerville. Marvin told me his idea, I came up with the voice, and puppet master David Jordon made the puppet. Socko is a younger version of my puppet Rocko fromÂ SNL. Cocktail Frank is living my dream of being a rock n roll star.
Patricia- What would be the process of getting an episode ofÂ WeinervilleÂ done?
Marc- Someone would pitch the premise for the episode, then I would ask them to add twice as much shtick and gags to it and then we would shoot it.
Kevin- If you could’ve had any guest onÂ Weinerville, who would it be and why?
Marc- I never thought I could have guests on my show. The only reason a few guests appeared on the show was because they happened to be visiting Nickelodeon at Universal Studios in Florida. A PA would come running in and say so-and-so is on the Nick Tour, do you want me to ask them if they would appear on the show? Yes!!!!! Grab them and quickly get the writers.
Patricia- WhenÂ WeinervilleÂ first came out, it had gotten many praises from viewers because there was nothing like it on TV. Even still to this day, there’s no other show likeÂ Weinerville. What, in your opinion, makesÂ WeinervilleÂ still a very unique show that still holds up today? Why do you think no one tried to replicate it?
Marc- I thinkÂ WeinervilleÂ was kind of in the genre ofÂ The Soupy Sales ShowÂ andÂ Pee-weeâ€™s Playhouse: silly funny shtick for kids and adults.
Patricia- What was the audition process for voicing Swiper and Map onÂ Dora the Explorer?
Marc- I knew the producers from working down in Florida and they just hired me.
Patricia- On January 2011, you made an announcement that you and your son Max were going to release new episodes ofÂ WeinervilleÂ on YouTube. How’s the process coming along? When can we expect to see new episodes?
Marc- Max is very busy with his musical career and we hope to release a few short Boney shorts each year. We really appreciate all our YouTube fans.
Kevin- What was the nicest feedback you had ever received from a fan?
Marc- I think it was when a fan wrote to us saying that they had been watchingÂ WeinervilleÂ on TV in their family play room instead of playing in the front room of his house. All of a sudden, a car crashed into that front room of his house. If he hadn’t been watchingÂ Weinerville, he would have been in that front room and would have been killed. Now that’s great fan mail!
Patricia- Whenever you’re out and about, do people stop and say “Oh my god, you’re Marc Weiner. I was a huge fan ofÂ WeinervilleÂ when I was a kid. You’re awesome!”
Marc- Back in the day.Â Â Now it’s just when I look in the mirror.
Patricia- What are your upcoming projects?
Marc- FinishingÂ up our 8th season ofÂ Dora, teaching children and adults how communicate more compassionately with each other via my Empathy Labyrinth, touring with my stand up show, and trying to be the most empathic and loving father I can be to my children.
Patricia- Thatâ€™s all the questions. Marc, thank you so much for taking the time to interview us. It has been an honor.
Marc- Thank you very much for this interview. Happy holidays.
To learn more about Empathy Labyrinth, you can check out the website atÂ www.el4peace.com. For more information aboutÂ Weinerville,Â check it out at weinerville.com. Also follow him on Facebook and Twitter at facebook.com/Weinerville and @WeinervilleTV.
Thatâ€™s all for now. Hope to see you around Old School Lane soon. Thanks for reading.
-Patricia and Kevin