What do you call a woman who uses puppets to entertain children? A puppeteer, obviously. But Nina Keogh is so much more than that. Keogh is an artist.
As a young child, I had no idea who Nina even was. Who I did know was Muffy Mouse, the lovable, mischievous blond-haired mouse who lived inside Simpson's department store on the '80s children's television show Today's Special
. Muffy, whose most memorable trait was that she spoke in rhyme, had three best friends at the store: Jodie, the display artist; Sam, the night watchman; and Jeff, a mannequin who wore a magic hat which, after someone said the magic words, could bring Jeff to life. It was Muffy herself who popped up from behind the counter at the beginning of each episode and eagerly chanted "Hocus pocus alimagocus," allowing Jeff to come alive.
As a little kid, it never occurred to me that Muffy was a puppet. She was just...Muffy!
Of course as I grew up, I realized that Muffy was, indeed, a puppet - and I also discovered that the person responsible for giving my favorite rhyming rodent her personality was Nina Keogh. After befriending Nina on Facebook, I found that she is a woman of many talents. Sure, puppets seem to occupy her time, but she is also busy with other artistic endeavors. This past week, Nina was kind enough to take the time out of her busy schedule to chat with me about Muffy and Today's Special
, as well as other television projects she's done - and what sort of things are keeping her busy in 2010.Q: What made you decide to become a puppeteer?
I was born in Toronto to artist parents, so I was surrounded by hundreds of puppets! In 1958, I apprenticed on the CBC [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation] TV show The Friendly Giant
along with my parents. I was really following in their footsteps - but then, how could I escape it? =)Q: Do you have children? Are they puppeteers as well?
I have a son named Matt. Obviously he also grew up with tons of puppets (that I had made), so his childhood was similar to mine in that way. But [being a puppeteer] wasn't something he wanted to do - although he sure has the talent! He currently writes for The Sports Network (www.tsn.ca) here in Canada.Q: Do you have a favorite out of all the TV shows you've been involved with?
I LOVED doing Today's Special
, of course! I got to sing, and I got to work with some great people on the show. After Today's Special
I did a series called Bookmice
; I created the characters and was also one of them, which was fun too!Q: Aside from The Friendly Giant, Bookmice, and Today's Special, what other TV work have you done?
I did a lot of series, commercials, and feature film, as well as educational and industrial videos. I was an on-camera host and interviewer for a show called Drop In
, and from '71-'72 I was the first host on a show for TVOntario called The Polkadot Door.
I must say that I really loved the interviewing and hosting!
Now, about Today's Special
...Q: How did Muffy come into existence?
Creator Clive Vanderburgh came up with Muffy's character. He hired me because already he knew of my work.