Of all the Muppets that got a load of shit out of Sesame Street, I always felt the worst about the Yippers. You know, the “Aliens”? We were never certain ourselves. Jim would take these trips now and then, just bum around the world for a month or two between seasons. He’d meet different Muppet or Monster populations, talk with then, learn about them, and maybe have a few back. That’s how there got to be so many Sesame Street variants; he did his PR, and set it all up. Not like franchises, more like making the entertainment and message local and native.
So anyways, one year he comes back and he’s got these guys with him. Never said where they were from. Of course theories abounded. Actual aliens was the most popular, although the possibility of a tribe of forgotten and de – socialized mutant Muppets from outside Chernobyl was compelling. Centralia in PA or some deep jungle got credit too. Jim just never said, and would sort of smile and dodge any questions. He loved that sort of game. Like any good teacher, he wanted to see us figure it out ourselves.
The Yippers (Mike, who ran the boom mic dubbed them), were odd, but really great once you got used to them. They were true “Antropologists from Mars”. Everything was new and different to them. They were innocent, well meaning, boundlessly curious, but never quite naïve. They loved Jim too, and would follow him around whenever he was on site. Otherwise they’d just mill about. We never saw them sleep, and never got a good idea for how many there were, even. Jim would take a stroll about an hour before any scene they were going to do, and would gather two or three, bring them to the set, show them an object, and let them do their thing. They’d go over it, talk about it back and forth, have some fun and go on. Never did any harms to it, just studied, inquisitive as children, but harmless as Buddhist monks.
They did hit some bumps though. Jim (no one else could really get through to them), had to designate a few areas off limits. Like the bathrooms. They floated in on a gaffer whacking off once. It was “Yip yip yip yipy FAPFAPFAP, WWWAAAAAAHHH! Uh-huh, uh-huh” for a week. They got on some people’s nerves. Otherwise, most of us loved them. Not like you love a pet cat or a child, since neither have a cold alien intellect (possibly far surpassing your own) behind their behavior. If you had the time for them, and would take a minute or two to interact, play or share some food, it was like you got to share their joy and interest in discovering anything, and the fascination of everything being new. It really made you see things for what they were. They had great fun doing this, you could tell. They’d be a bit more animated and lean against you a bit like a cat before floating on.
After Jim’s death, the new producers had a world of trouble with them. Jim had no contracts for a lot of the Muppets. He’d just fudged them all in on the books, but always did right by them. Like Cookie, the Yippers all had trusts set up, continually being reinvested and contributed to. The producers expected them to sign proper papers, fill out schedules, follow scripts, and none of that worked for them. Honoring a paper or a clock was outside their way of doing things. The producers, predictably enough, had lawyers throw papers at them (Literally, a sad fact of Muppet / Monster inequality is that anyone without hands CAN be served papers by throwing.), and they stopped the trust fund contributions. They tried to herd them off the lot, but that was fruitless. Trying to touch one of the Yippers against their will is like trying to grab a towel with a black belt in Aikido.
Jim’s lawyer, who was executing his will, came down to the studio once he got official documentation of the trust fund cutoff. I stopped and talked with him quickly, but he had a package. Wouldn’t say much, except to say he couldn’t say much, it was one of Jim’s instructions, but I could come along and watch. He walked around a bit, and in the same way Jim did, found a few of the Yippers. He just mentioned Jim’s name and motioned them on. Once he had three of them, he put down the package for them and took out a book. It was a compilation about Gandhi and his methods on nonviolent resistance. There was a quick note in the front, to the Yippers from Jim too. They all read it, gave a sort of exaggerated mournful “AAAwwwwwwww…”, and floated off, the book levitating cleanly between them. The lawyer and I went for coffee, and he seemed rather satisfied with how things went.
The next few days on the lot were chaos. The Yippers, for the first time, had taken up action against something. They floated in front of cameras, trucks, and any moving equipment. They blocked doorways, occupied sinks, and unplugged power cables. They never did anything harm, or hurt anyone (no safety equipment was EVER compromised, as much as they could have.). Overnight they had become a cross between the perfect pranksters, and peace guerillas (as weird as that sounds). A letter had been sent to the producers too, and they got so hot under the collar about it everyone knew. Jim was holding them hostage from beyond the grave they said, and got their own lawyers on it. There was no evidence though, (the book and Jim’s note was gone, never to resurface). Jim’s lawyer never said anything direct, and refused to reveal any details from the will, but suggested strongly that Jim’s wishes about the Yippers be honored. The producers had nothing to say to it.
“Yip yip yip yip Gaaaaaddhi Gaaaaaadhi. Uh huh- uh –huh. NONviolent Uh huh.”
Two night later they closed the lot. Just being able to close the lot was a small miracle, things go on their all day, and lots of the Muppets nearly live there. You can never really empty it, but they came close. It was sealed off at 5PM, under the excuse of sewer work. Harry Monster and I were going home after stopping at a bar when we cut past the studio lot to save time. It was really late, but we were both half curious about things. I was about to turn out of a side road onto the road in front when Harry Just about screamed “STOP” at me and turned off my headlights in a flash of movement. I was about to ask him what his big problem was, and just saw him pointing.
A black van, no plates, pulled up to one side of the lot, and about 10 people, all wearing black piled out. A few entered the building, and a few started doing a low jog down the outside perimeter. They’d pause, every so often, and poke around. Once, a figure, like a dangling towel approached them. We just saw a dull pop of light, and could almost hear the “Thwip Thwip” of a silenced pistol in our heads. It was a text book “cleaning” service, and another unmarked black van collected them all at the opposite side of the lot.
The Yippers just weren’t there the next day. I tried asking around quietly, but only got stony silence and sad looks. Veggie monster was having a really bad day, he could hardly speak and was only howling sobs when he could. Pretty apparent that asking was not a long term survival move.
Harry and I let Jim’s lawyer know. He just got shook his head and poured us all scotch. What the hell were we going to do? Not much to be sure. Harry had one upside to it though. Might have been the beers he said, but he did see something floating off towards the sky that night. Maybe just a trash bag, but flying trash don’t move against the prevailing wind, or carry a book with it.