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Aug 16, 2014

Interview with a Monkey

Five years ago I was planning on going back to university to study for a Master's degree in Professional Writing. As part of the application process potential students were asked to write a profile of someone who was famous or that they admired, based on an interview. I ended up scoring an email interview with the hands behind a knitted hero of mine – Nigel Plaskitt aka Monkey of ITV Digital and PG Tips fame.



It turned out the university never asked to see the carefully crafted profile I created, and I never ended up doing the course. The profile and interview remained covered in digital dust until a recent conversation that involved Muppets and Master's degrees jogged my memory, leading to a surprisingly fruitful Outlook search which yielded the original emails and their attachments. I felt the interview was worth sharing so here it is five years later with Monkey still going strong:


When did you decide you wanted to be a puppeteer, what inspired you?
I started out as an actor. I had done some puppeteering at The Little Angel Theatre in Islington at weekends and school holidays and a contact made then approached me after I'd been working as an actor for about 18 months. She was making puppets for a new pre school programme - Pipkins - could I do character voices. No actor says 'no' so I said yes and then they asked me if I'd puppeteer as well. So I did. That show ran nine years. Voices then became my 'thing'.


What's your favourite puppet you've had to operate?
Monkey has got to be a favourite. Simple character. Like Kermit. In fact originally designed and built by The Jim Henson Co for ITV Digital. The current PG Tips version is made by ex-Henson builder Paul Jomain


You worked for Jim Henson's workshop, do you have a favourite memory or favourite story from working with him?
Only worked twice with Jim - once on Labyrinth and second on Bunny Picnic though I had the chance to watch them often shoot The Muppet Show as they were working on the next stage to Pipkins at Elstree. Can't give you an anecdote. Suffice it to say that in the following years I worked closely with Jerry Nelson, Dave Goelz and Louise Gold. They all loved him.


Does Monkey's kind of uniqueness come by accident or by design?
I like to think by design. It takes many years to develop a character like him. Sue Beattie (the right hand and sometimes both) Ben Miller (the voice) and I have been together on it since the beginning. Nine years now I think.


Are you still in touch with your inner child, I'd imagine this must be an important part of working on children's television?
In touch with it? I'm still living it. Where else could I spend my life playing characters such as a crazy Hare, a Monkey and Bad Lil Bunny. Seem to be a lot of animals!!!


Is working for children's television a rewarding experience?
Greatly. Though I didn't really appreciate this until recently when I started getting emails from twenty/thirtysomethings who had been in my original audience back in the 1970's.


Has the puppeteering business changed much in recent years, is there more technology involved now?
Going back the other way - look at Monkey - couldn't be more simple.


Is there still as much of a demand for traditional puppets, or are computer generated alternatives more popular?
See above and look at Hitchhiker's Guide. Garth Jennings wanted it to look real. He directed the latest Monkey ad


Monkey man and Muppeteer Nigel I thank you, I still get excited every time I see a new PG tips ad on the TV and am still disappointed that the Monkey chat show never got made. For more information about Nigel's work check out his website and his IMDb profile.



Mark is a freelancer who specialises in creative copywriting and content creation. Starting out as a freelance blogger he's experienced at putting his copywriting skills to work on a variety of subjects and can easily turn his hand to different styles. In his years as a freelance writer he's always brought a creative edge to everything he's written. 

In addition to being a freelance copywriter and a hard-working wordsmith Mark has also forged other forms of content for the web and print working as a photographer, video editor and a general content creator on a freelance basis. 

Some Like it Sloth
Riding the Dartington Donkey
High Cross Piano

Based in Devon Mark lives within questing distance of the UK's Middle Earth aka Dartmoor. He likes his detectives hard-boiled, his eggs runny, and his time travel non-paradoxical.

These are the freelance content creation services available from Mark:

  • Freelance copywriting
  • Freelance blog creation
  • Freelance writing
  • Freelance photography
  • Freelance video editing

If you need a freelance writer, photographer, or video editor get in touch with Mark to find out how he can help:

Royal Albert Memorial Museum - Cloning Collections
Exeter City Council - Armed Forces Day
National Trust - South West Christmas Card 2013

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