What do you get when you cross Sesame Street with the Old Spice commercials that made mansmells part of Summer 2010 pop culture? For one, you get a YouTube viral video sensation. But more importantly, you get to see the talent of one of our very own Volleyball players, Paul McGinnis! He was one of the puppeteers of an Old Spice spoof video that has received more than 4.7 million video plays since its upload on October 7th!

Neighborhood: Wiliamsburg, Brooklyn
Day job: Puppeteer
NYC Social Sports Club Teams: Iceaholics (Broomball, 2007), Balls of Fury (Dodgeball, 2007), Set To Win (Volleyball, 2010)

Action Weekly: So Paul, we’re going to share a little video clip with our Action Weekly readers — tell us what you’ve done here!

This is me and Steve Whitmire taking a break from performing Ernie. I'm performing Ernie's right hand, Steve is performing Ernie's head and left hand. Steve also does the voice. Normally, we wouldn't be wearing green sleeves, but it looks like we were shooting against green screen that day. We also had headphones on because we must have needed to hear some sort of pre-recorded track, probably music that Steve was laying a live vocal track over. Bonus for Muppet fans: you can see the Two-Headed Monster on a stand behind us.

Paul: The intention was to create a viral video that would promote the 41st season of Sesame Street.  We shot it in a tiny, one-room studio at the corporate offices of Sesame Workshop.  There were four puppeteers: Eric Jacobson performed Grover, Stephanie D’Abruzzo performed the cow, Heather Asch dropped the sweater, and I performed the clam.  The original Old Spice commercial was shot in one pass, and we were determined to do the same.  It took us over thirty takes to get it right.  This was nothing compared to the original commercial, which we were told took three days.

AW: Which characters do you normally operate on set?

Paul: I don’t have any main characters.  I’m more of a utility puppeteer, assisting the main puppeteers, as well as performing background characters and occasional speaking roles.

AW: What is the culture among Sesame Street puppeteers like, compared to between your NYCSSC teammates?

Both are incredibly supportive and fun.  It would be nice if Sesame Street had an on-set Volleyball and Dodgeball court for pick-up games between scenes.  We have a basketball hoop, but it’s just a set piece.

AW: Why did you gravitate towards puppets as opposed to a career as a stage actor or film actor? What is the appeal of puppets that draws you in?

Paul: As a kid, I was obsessed with the Muppets. That grew into a passion for puppetry in general.  There’s something about imbuing life and character into an inanimate object that is powerfully compelling and almost magical.

This is me as a kid with my Grover puppet. Apparently, I was also a cowboy.

AW: You’re not just about Sesame Street…you do puppeteering for a NYC production very relevant to us, Positively 5th Street. Tell NYCSSC players why they should check this out on their lunch break!

Paul: Carla Rhodes is a talented and hilarious ventriloquist who performs regularly in New York.  Definitely see one of her shows if you get the chance.  Carla brought me and Ron Binion on board to help her perform her Keith Richards and Mick Jagger puppets for Positively 5th Street, a TV pilot that revolves around Carla’s life living with those two grizzled rockers in the East Village.

AW: You’ve tried a few NYCSSC sports, the latest being our newest sport, Volleyball. How is Volleyball going for you this season?

Paul: I love it!  I’ve never played Volleyball before, but our team captain Liz is super-encouraging and our team is having a blast! I have a pretty solid serve, I just need to work on setting.  Might need another season of this…

Me, Fran Brill, Stephanie D'Abruzzo, Joey Mazzarino, Kevin Clash, and Jim Martin performing a monster song. Rosita, performed by an unseen Carmen Osbahr, is in the middle.

AW: You already have such a fun job, it seems; so what is the spice that NYCSSC adds to your life?

Paul: I just wanted to play a sport. I never did so as a kid unless you count playing trombone, but that may be a bit of a stretch.  The culture of the NYCSSC is respectful and inviting to those of us who may not have been athletic rock stars.

Paul's Volleyball team!