There are many ways that I find contributors for My Cool Job. Sometimes a cool job just occurs to me and I search around for someone to tell us about it (like Bakery Owner Jamaica Vawter), some Cool Jobsters are friends and family (like my sister the Marine Biologist), sometimes they are volunteers who are kind enough to share (like Museum Webmaster and loyal reader Khyri), and sometimes I meet someone socially whose job is so interesting that I rush right home and send them an email requesting an interview (like Rina Valan, Romance Specialist).
Today for the first time I’m featuring an interview with someone whose cool job I discovered by accident. A few clicks after reading his comment on a link at BoingBoing, I was at Rob Mills blog and discovered that not only is he a fellow with many interests and an entertaining (if slightly curmudgeonly) outlook on life, but has also had a long career as a writer, director, producer and professional Puppeteer, including work on television classics like Fraggle Rock and The Big Comfy Couch.
I couldn’t let anyone who has had such a varied and interesting career (and his hand up a Muppet or two) get away without asking him to tell us about it here at My Cool Job. And so, to quote Kermit the Frog: “It really makes me happy to introduce to you…our special guest star, Cool Jobster Rob Mills!”
When people ask you “what do you do?” how do you describe your job?
I used to say: “I’m a puppeteer.” and then enjoyed watching their
faces as they tried hard not to blurt out: “Yes, but how do you make
a living?” These days I’m more inclined to simply describe myself as
a writer – although that is truly just a portion of my activities;
I’m a writer, blogger, code-monkey, director, producer, internet
entrepreneur – and puppeteer.
What are the things about your job that you love?
The pure joy of following one’s imagination, the constant state of
learning and – when the stars align – the bliss of working alongside
like-minded people who share the enthusiasm and passion for the tasks
What are the things about your job that you hate?
Business bullshit and ignorant controlling retards who always insist
on fucking things up just because they can. It’s what drove me away
from broadcast television and it is, unfortunately, all too prevalent
in most of the entertainment “industry”.
What education, training, vocation or just plain luck would someone have to have in order to get a job like yours?
My background is an odd one to hold up as any sort of example for others to follow. I originally wanted to be an aeronautical engineer but decided to go into theatre instead because there were pretty young women in tights. Theatre studies lead to playing with film and video but my formal studies in film lasted only one year and I found myself, inexplicably, studying and working as a mime. A mime! Those years weren’t wasted because I was able to get a job with the Muppets and finally find out “Yes, I CAN make a living doing this.” My time with the Muppets was better than any formal education I could have ever dreamed of pursuing. The pursuits of writing, directing and producing came upon me partly from a desire of self-expression and
self-determination but also because I had the opportunity to watch others in the field and found myself saying: “Hell, I can do that.” And after 20 years of that kind of stumbling through things I looked back and said: “Holy crap, I’m a writer, director, puppeteer, producer!” But to be honest, I still feel like I’m just a mime who’s very good at pretending to be all those things.
I guess, although I’m largely self taught, I have benefited greatly
from the limited training in theatre I did acquire, because it
certainly provided a strong foundation for everything else – and I
most certainly benefitted from the mentors I encountered along the
way – finding people whose work you admire and learning as much from
them as you can is the best education anyone can ever get. I can’t
say getting a degree is the right or wrong way to go. I can’t say
that practical hands-on experience in the myriad of disciplines
required in my area of “expertise” is also necessary. I’ve met far
too many people who prove and disprove those notions. Just learn as
much as you can about what interests you and you’ll find a way to
apply it, never stop learning, be kind to everyone and act like a
human being (the world has enough assholes, thank you very much) –
and don’t expect any favours, you’re always going to have to work
your ass off because it’s never a nine-to-five job … it’s more like
a five-to-nine job.
What is the funniest story you can think of that involves your professional training or your job?
The funniest story? There’s a lot to choose from. Here’s one: My
partner on The Big Comfy Couch, Cheryl Wagner, and I were working on
a show and we decided it would be fun to do stuff with toilet paper –
because young kids are fascinated by such things – and we embarked on
a little “research” to see how many different things could be done
with T.P. By the time my wife got back home she found us on the
floor, crying from laughing so hard, dressed from head to toe in
toilet paper, surrounded by a sea of toilet paper, in a room
festooned with toilet paper streamers, flowers, birds and hats – and,
quite naturally, she asked: “What the hell are you doing?!” – and we
answered, quite correctly: “We’re writing!”