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‘Fraggle Rock’ Puppeteers Weigh In on Larry David’s Attack on Elmo

Puppeteers working to bring Jim Henson’s Fraggle Rock to life are speaking out about that moment when, on the Today show in February, comic actor Larry David physically attacked beloved Sesame Street favorite Elmo live on-air.

At a press event for the release of Apple TV’s Fraggle Rock: Back to the Rock this week, The Hollywood Reporter caught up with puppeteers John Tartaglia (puppeteer for Gobo Fraggle) and Dan Garza (puppeteer for Junior Gorg), who said they were taken aback by David’s unplanned attack on the puppet, which they said could be potentially dangerous for puppeteers.

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“You know, there was a person’s hand inside of there and that wasn’t a pretty planned thing. And so the puppeteer in me was like, ‘Oh my god, that’s super dangerous. Like, you just grabbed someone’s hand and twisted it,’” Tartaglia said, confirming that ultimately the puppeteer was OK. “People forget all the time, all the time that there is somebody inside of these characters when you don’t see us. And so, it’s a risk that we take.”

The unscripted moment between the 76-year-old Curb Your Enthusiasm and Seinfeld creator with the popular Muppet on Feb. 1 came as Elmo was touting well-being resources offered by Sesame Street and David watched on as the next Today show guest, preparing to promote the final season of his Emmy-winning HBO improv series.

But suddenly, in a jarring moment where the camera cut away and hosts Craig Melvin, Savannah Guthrie and Hoda Kotb seem genuinely surprised at the impromptu attack, the high-pitched, 3 1/2-year-old Muppet’s segment was interrupted by David, who had had enough of Elmo’s disquisition.

Just after the incident, Kotb, Guthrie and David appeared in another part of the studio, where the comic was asked to speak to Elmo “from your heart.” A smirking David replied, “From where? What organ are you talking about?” But the star of the 12-season running HBO show then apologized to Elmo; the Muppet quickly accepted his seemingly sincere expression of regret.

Then a walk-back of his apology came later that day in an appearance on Late Night With Seth Myers, where David told the host he’d “do it again” if given the chance.

While David may only see what’s before his eyes while working with a Muppet, puppeteer, cartoonist and writer Garz tells THR people can lose their sense of what they are interacting with while dialoguing with Muppets.

“That’s the magic in our job, is that we bring these critters to life and you forget that there’s a person attached,” he said of watching people connect with the puppets. “And, if I’m doing my job, right, and I’m wearing a sparkling neon suit, and I’m puppeteering live in front of you, and you’re still making eye contact with the puppet? Then I’m doing my job. I’ve seen big-time executives turn into 8-year-old children and tear up when they all of a sudden [connect through this puppet.]”

Ryan Fish contributed to this story.

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