August 2020 Vol 2 Issue 8
Tell Your Story Newsletter (TYSN):
Specializing in Entrepreneurial and Organizational Storytelling
Let me tell your story!
Welcome Mid-August 2020!
After passing an extremely windy past weekend, with cool air, but little rain, some of us felt like autumn had nearly begun. During this Covid year, the changes in seasons feel especially uncertain, as we closely watch the statistics of contraction, recovery, and tragically, deaths.
Since February, many of us in our various fields have learned Zoom, Web-Ex and/or Skype, conducting most of our meetings online, from home. Zoom use has brought with it plenty of jokes, such as the observation that participants in its meetings often look like Jim Henson’s famous puppets, in the stage gallery that opened “The Muppet Show.” I visit the puppets’ entrepreneurial nature in a lighthearted first article, in this issue.
In “Storytellers’ Corner,” I visit the word “fogy” or “fogey,” a derogatory term that often can be heard when people speak unempathetically of the aging.
The appreciable shortening of our days, as summer ends, makes me feel sentimental. If you have not had time for a staycation this summer, I hope you’ll take one very soon. Next week’s weather includes temperatures in the 30s–welcome weather for a last camping trip or visit to a beach.
As we face another fall and winter, please remember to give your loved ones and friends a phone call, or, if possible, a hug! And notice the warmth of such connections, which we must not take for granted, in these challenging times.
Happy last few weeks of summer!
Principal, Storytelling Communications
Article One: On entrepreneurship and storytelling: The case of Jim Henson’s Muppets
During the recent pandemic, many house-bound folks have had time to watch movies and videos for entertainment (or distraction). In some cases, this practice has included, arguably, the greatest puppet show of all time, “The Muppet Show” (and perhaps the several full-length films it spawned). The program was created, of course, by American Jim Henson (1936-1990).
As Mark Yarema commented on Twitter on May 17, 2020, “the Gallery View” of Zoom (where so many of us have held our meetings, during the pandemic), “looks like the screenshot from ‘The Muppet Show’ opening theme song.”
Do you remember the panoply image, like a huge calendar, with a Muppet appearing in each lit-up square? (The image can be seen here, near the bottom of the page at https://muppet.fandom.com/
Yarema’s insight reminded me of how Henson’s fanciful characters, in their weekly variety show, brought together both entrepreneurs and storytelling, in a format that anticipated 21st century “reality TV shows.” What were the Muppets, if not a rag-tag collection of struggling (or failing) entrepreneurs, trying to tell their stories!
Recall that iconic character, Kermit the Frog, often interviewed other Muppets or people, as a frustrated, (freelance?) TV journalist. He had limited range as a singer, as well. The Swedish Chef wreaked total havoc in the kitchen, apparently trying to offer culinary instructions to his viewers. Dr. Bunsen and Beaker attempted to offer science tips from their chaotic, often combusting, laboratory. Animal was a self-taught percussionist gone wild. And don’t forget Miss Piggy who was a multiple (not just serial) entrepreneur across many industries (beauty pageants, entertainment, etc.)
The beloved, curmudgeonly Statler and Waldorf, who criticized the mayhem from their seats in the balcony, were both “reality TV show” judges (anticipating Simon Cowell) and the disapproving chairs of the local Chamber of Commerce!
Remember, too, the cane that was used to force the Muppets off-stage, when no one could impose an ending on the chaos of their show? The holder of the cane may have ultimately been an auditor from the IRS (in Canada, the CRA) . . . I leave you to explore the analogy further, with whichever muppet was your favourite.
The career foibles of the Muppet characters suggest that Henson knew the struggles of creative entrepreneurship, himself. He started to make puppets in early childhood, encouraged by his highly creative and artistic grandmother. Henson performed a puppet show on local television, labouring for over 20 years, with limited success.
He officially founded “Muppets Inc” in 1958, in collaboration with his colleague and wife. For years in the 60s and 70s, Henson created commercials, variety show appearances and a few “meeting films” for various companies. He frequently tried to sell different shows to the major television networks but was often (and repeatedly) turned down.
Perhaps because of this, Henson’s stories about entrepreneurship, as experienced by his muppets, acknowledged struggle and failure. Muppet fan and pop culture writer, Evan Carmichael, has suggested that Henson’s career itself demonstrates three perennial lessons for entrepreneurial success (paraphrased below):
(1) Remain Faithful to Yourself: Don’t give up on your goals, or you will lose your life’s purpose. Keep going, amidst failure, to keep your business moving forward. Don’t be afraid to “blaze your [own] trail.”
(2) Remain Positive about your Goals, despite how slow progress may be. It takes time for goals to be fulfilled. You mustn’t give up.
(3) Take the Road Less Travelled: Don’t be afraid to be different, even if your ideas are unpopular. Remember that the Muppets took years to catch on. The underdog Kermit-the-frog, did not initially become popular, due to the dominance of Rowlf the Dog. Yet it’s Kermit who is commonly seen now as the “icon” of the Muppet franchise. He refused to live on a lily pad in a pond!
What Carmichael does not address enough is the reality that entrepreneurs (like Henson and his puppets) have specific experience and wisdom that shape the stories and creative work they produce. These stories overflow with creativity, humour and insight that warrant our remembering, some 70 years after their invention.
And now it’s your turn: What entrepreneurial truths do you find in the stories told in “The Muppet Show?” Which of Henson’s stories (whether on television, in film, etc. ) do you best remember?
|STORYTELLER’s CORNER . . . .|
Word nerd alert! The case of “fogey/fogy”
Word Nerd Alert: “fogy” and “fogey.” These terms are “dysphemisms” for elderly people who are said to possess hidebound ideas.
Dysphemisms are “derogatory or unpleasant terms, used instead of pleasant or neutral ones” (OED).
“Fogy” is the US spelling; “fogey” is the British spelling.
Most of the time when the tern is used, it appears with the adjective “old”: “Statler and Waldorf were two old fogies, seated in the balcony at ‘The Muppet Show.’ ”
Curiously, as American etymologist Bryan Garner writes, the etymology of the word is unknown.
As the last full month of summer flies by, here are some “bits n’ bobs” of news that may interest you:
After recently losing a beloved family member, my mentor (and friend), and Director of the SK Chamber of Commerce, Monica Kreuger is hosting outdoor estate sales on every weekend this month.
If you are in need of quality books and other materials, please visit (on Saturday and Sunday) 703 Preston Ave (on the East side of Preston, between Main and 14th Streets). Immaculate men’s clothing, high quality books and other belongings are available, at very reasonable prices. Drop by to learn more.
I’m delighted to thank portrait photographer Debra Marshall for her excellent photography, this past month. Debra is a true expert, who puts her subjects fully at ease. In upcoming days, you’ll see a professional photo replacing my years-old smartphone pic, on my website and social profiles.
Visit her website if your photo needs updating!
I’m very pleased to report that I have completed four alumni interviews and related articles for the GlobalPraxis 30th Anniversary webpage. I am finalizing revisions on articles on Joscelyn Armstrong, Ebtsam Elsheikh, Richard Jelsma and Cheri McPhillamey. These entrepreneurs’ success stories will be presented online, alongside the work of the podcaster, Christina Cherneskey, and of videography project manager, Megan Kent.
Christina, Megan and I are ourselves alumni of Praxis’ program and we are excited to see stories of fellow alumni appear on the anniversary webpage!
I’ll announce more details of the launch date when they become available. Please stay tuned.
For 30 years, the Praxis School of Entrepreneurship has offered the startSMARTprogram, a nine month entrepreneurial training program to Saskatchewan business owners and developers. Intake for theAugust cohort is well underway: Contact Elaine Mantyka for more details. But do so, soon! (306) 664-0500.
Between 2011 and December 2018, Elizabeth Shih Communications chronicled the stories of B2B marketing and communications on the Prairies and across the country.
On January 1 2019, my company rebranded as “Storytelling Communications.” I help professional service providers (in particular, professional speakers) improve their sales by communicating more effectively.
After I receive your message, I’ll be pleased to discuss projects with you!
Please visit my website for more information(www.