Cheat Sheet: James Bobin
Place of birth:
Writing, Muppet directing, co-creating
Da Ali G Show Flight Of The Conchords, The Muppets
What you probably already know:
Erm, little to nothing, we’re guessing. If you’ve had your finger on the furry Muppet pulse you’ve probably seen his name leap about in the shadows occasionally, trying to divert snippets of attention away from Jason Segel and Kermit The Frog, to very little avail. Nice try, Bobin. But not even a totally awesome surname can detract from The Frog. The point is, though, that Mr Bobin here directed the Muppet film, and has had his hilarious fingers in the comedy pot for a goodly while now. He’s been nominated for eight Emmy awards for directing and writing work on both Flight Of The Conchords and Da Ali G Show for HBO and the best part is he’s not even a bloomin Yank! He first made a name for himself in his (and our, if we’re being honest) native England, writing sketches for Channel 4’s The 11 O’Clock Show – yeah, we don’t really remember it either, but apparently it launched the career of Ricky Gervais and Charlie Brooker. Yep.
So if any of you were wondering why it was that Bret McKenzie climbed aboard the Muppet train, this is the man who made it happen. Having worked with him and Jermaine Clement for both series of Flight Of The Conchords (he directed most of them), after being approached to direct The Muppets it seemed only natural for him to get his favourite boys in to provide the music. Apparently they used to watch episodes of The Muppet Show on breaks from Conchord filming, and often used the pesky puppets as inspiration for their glorious musical numbers. It’s like it was meant to be, eh?
What you probably don’t know
Apart from all the above, you mean? Well, the way he was approached for the job is pretty unique – he got an email from his agent one day that consisted of five words: “Do you like The Muppets?” As a fervent fan ever since he was a nipper (seeing the Muppet comedy as more British in style than traditionally American, a theory that is bolstered by the fact that England was the first country who agreed to air The Muppet Show back in the 70s), he simply typed back “yes.” And thus it began. Upon asking why it was that he was so drawn to our puppet pals back in the day, he’s quoted as saying ” I think it’s because they are all fundamentally flawed. Fozzy can’t tell jokes, Miss Piggy can’t really act or sing, but they all try their best and I think that’s a very authentic idea. It doesn’t matter if you’re good at anything, just try your best. Then there’s the idea that individually they’re flawed but together they can do amazing things.” What? We’ve… we’ve just got a bit of fluff in our eyes…
You’ve got to give him so kudos for pure bravery – The Muppets is the first feature film he’s ever directed, never mind the first one where more than half the cast don’t actually have bottom halves. Traversing the potential pitfalls of comedy, family fare, Muppet tradition, musicals and Jack Black – it’s no easy ride, and considering the universal acclaim the film has received, he is undoubtedly a comedy talent on the up. Four for you James Bobin, you go James Bobin.
James Bobin quote
“I am a great believe that your humour is developed at a very early age and it doesn’t ever change. You’re basically the same person forever so you find the same stuff funny forever. The Muppet Show spoke to me at 5 and it speaks to me in my late 30s in the same way.”
What to say at a dinner party
“It’s peculiar, isn’t it, how there seems to be something characteristically British about the desire to maintain lo-fi principles – of all the potential directors in the world, Disney chooses a man who has never directed a feature film to bring to life the extremely complex – yet CGI free – world of The Muppets. ”
What not to say at a dinner party
Where does one go from here? Here’s hoping that his kinship with the Conchord brothers continues to bring us supremely exciting Muppet/Man collaborations, but that he doesn’t abandon his first love: television. Could this mean bringing The Muppet Show back to our small screens? Dare to dream…