Friday, October 20, 2006

Neither fish nor foul: An interview with Jeff Wiggle

The following pertains neither to video games nor comics, but I'm posting it anyway because I think it's a pretty decent interview andr, heck, I just like the Wiggles. My daughter's a little old for them now, but I have fond memories of watching the show with her, so when they came to the area (actually State College) I jumped at the chance to do an interview. Especially with Jeff. I can relate to being perpetually sleepy.

Oh, I apologize in advance for the introduction by the way. What can I say, I was under deadline.

When you pass by a bowl of fruit salad, do you immediately think, “Yummy, yummy?”

Do you get a hankering for “Crunchy, Munchy Honey Cakes?”

Can you point your fingers and do the twist?

If so, chances are you — or more likely your children — have been exposed to The Wiggles.

The Wiggles consist of Aussies — Greg, Anthony, Murray and Jeff — who sing catchy songs about food and dance along with their friends Dorothy the Dinosaur and Captain Feathersword.

The group has become one of Australia’s biggest exports. In 2005, it grossed more than AC/DC and Nicole Kidman combined.

The Wiggles, who are celebrating their 15th year, will be performing Friday at Bryce Jordan Center in State College. Jeff “Wiggle” Fatt (the sleepy one) recently spoke from his home in Australia about the upcoming tour:

Q: How do you manage to keep the live shows fresh?

A: When you’re in front of all these people you pick up a lot of energy from the audience. If you’re not feeling well that day there’s something about the audience that does pick you up. There’s an excitement there.

Plus, performing for children, it’s something you can’t resist doing. Once a Wiggle always a Wiggle. As soon as the camera’s pointed in your face you automatically go into Wiggle mode and your fingers go up.

Q: When did the four of you actually sit around and say hey, we could actually turn this into a career?

A: Well, we never really thought that we could. It was more of a “let’s cut this album and then see what happens.” ... We didn’t have any master plan to go from then to now. It’s just been little steps along the way.

Q: Because you were the one person in the group who didn’t have a background in preschool education, was it daunting for you at first to have to perform for children?

A: Absolutely. I had absolutely no idea what you did in front of children. I can remember going to our very first public appearance at a shopping center. That was the most nervous I’ve ever been.

And that’s how the whole “Wake Up Jeff” thing came about, because it was a way of getting me involved onstage without actually having to actually do anything. At the same time it’s a very empowering thing for the children.

Q: What are some of your favorite songs to perform in concert?

A: “Rockabye Your Bear” has to be the quintessential Wiggles song. It’s so appropriate for preschoolers. It’s got all the actions and the simplicity and the gentleness of it all, it’s great for kids. We all love “Rockabye Your Bear.”

One of the later ones I’ve become enamored with is “Here Come the Chicken.” It’s just a little bit inane. [laughs]

Q: Why do you think The Wiggles have such a huge appeal, not just for kids but for adults as well?

A: I think possibly [the parents are] relating to the style of music that we’re presenting. It’s very catchy and poppy I’d like to think.

Plus, we have the educational background, and everything we do is based around children and what is the child going to get out of this. ... So parents basically see what their children are getting out of it, I think, and they also get into the whole spirit of it.

Q: You and Anthony were in a pop band called The Cockroaches before you joined The Wiggles. What were you able to take from that and bring to The Wiggles?

A: We learned quite a bit about being in a pop band and your interaction with record companies and how they can bend and twist you into certain directions you don’t want to go in. Having the experience of being through that, we used that to our advantage in all the decision-making processes of what The Wiggles do. We’re basically maintaining our own creative control.

Q: What’s the best part of being a Wiggle?

A: The fact that you can make a difference in children’s lives. When we do concert tours we always arrange to meet children with disabilities or who are sick before the show, and that’s a really heartening thing to be able do that and to see that you can make a difference for families of children with autism and things like that.

We’ve found that we’ve made such a connection there through our videos. There are parents who say that their child has never spoken until they saw a Wiggles video. It sounds like snake oil, but these are the sort of things that we hear, and it’s just fantastic. We didn’t set out to do that; that’s a great spin-off from what we’ve been doing.

Copyright The Patriot-News, 2006


At 9:51 AM, Anonymous rzklkng said...

Was this a fresh interview? It appears that there are rumors on the internet that Greg may be gravely ill, and hasn't performed live in quite some time...

At 9:11 AM, Blogger mcewen said...

New blogger - I thought my children would love this programme [and give them a work out too] but they hate it. That's just the hit / miss nature of the autistic child.
Best wishes


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