I wrote about this piece of remarkable TV history two years ago, and it remains one of my favorites. Back in my initial posting on this site about Kukla, Fran and Ollie, I wrote about how puppeteer Burr Tillstrom won an additional Emmy Award that was not involved with KF&O, but for his work on his own. It was for one of the "hand ballets" that he performed on occasion for the satirical news series, That Was the Week That Was.
That Was the Week That Was was a smart, pointed, very sharp British sketch-comedy show which was brought over to the U.S. in the early 1960s. Among other things, it introduced to American audiences one of the original British cast members, David Frost. It's also the show that introduced Tom Lehrer to most Americans. He wrote periodic songs for the series, and then recorded them for his now-classic hit album, That Was the Year That Was.
And it also brought Burr Tillstrom into the national spotlight in a way people hadn't seen or expected.
In 1963, two years after the Berlin Wall had been erected, a very brief concession was made. The Wall would open for the Christmas holiday and allow those in the West to travel into East Berlin and visit family and loved ones, needing to return a few days later.
This is what Burr Tillstrom did a hand ballet about shortly after. And --
-- I found the video of it. It is one of the favorite videos I've been able to find. I'm thrilled
The quality of the video is a little rough, especially at the beginning, but it's fine. And ultimately, as you watch -- one brilliant artist using only his hands -- the quality of the video won't matter one whit.
And if anyone ever wonders where the humanity of Kukla, Fran and Ollie came from, to bring such life into puppets, now you'll know.
When I posted this last year, I got a perturbed note from a reader who found nothing worthwhile about the video, and took me to task for wasting his time. In the spirit of the season, I will refrain from anything ad hominen. I will just say that I feel completely comfortable in recognizing the legend of this piece, and anything else is an understandable matter of personal taste. Wherever that may lie. I say this knowing that it's not just my opinion on this, but the members of the of the Television Academy who voted Tillstrom the Emmy Award.
But to be fair, I guess I should add a disclaimer. If anyone doesn't like old black-and-white video or just looking at hands for three minutes, or politics and history, or quiet, thoughtful, emotional storytelling with the sparsest of action or jokes, centered instead on pure artistry, by all means avoid this.
For everyone else, here it is.