OPHIRA EISENBERG, HOST:
While Cole and Frea get ready for the final round, it's time for us to play a game. This is Mystery Guest. A stranger is about to come on stage. Jonathan and I have no idea who this person is or what makes them special. But our puzzle guru Art Chung does.
ART CHUNG: That's right, Ophira. You and Jonathan will work together as a team to figure out our mystery guest's secret by asking yes or no questions. Mystery guest, please introduce yourself.
STACEY GORDON: Hi, my name is Stacey Gordon, and I have an interesting job.
CHUNG: That's all you get.
CHUNG: Ophira, you ask the first question.
EISENBERG: OK, does your job involve dealing with people that are alive? I say this because I've dealt with a lot of mystery guests at this point.
JONATHAN COULTON: Does your job involve you performing in some way?
EISENBERG: Does your job involve you singing?
COULTON: Are you a singer?
EISENBERG: That's, like, record time for us.
COULTON: Seems like an obvious question.
EISENBERG: That is record time.
COULTON: That's not entirely the...
GORDON: No (laughter).
COULTON: No, no.
EISENBERG: It involves more than singing, I take it.
EISENBERG: OK, does it also involve dancing?
EISENBERG: Why not?
COULTON: You should think about it. A lot of people love dancing.
GORDON: I would fall down (laughter).
CHUNG: Her job requires a lot of use of her hands.
COULTON: Oh, are you a professional jazz hands artist?
CHUNG: That's my side job (laughter).
COULTON: Are you a conductor?
EISENBERG: Are you using your hands in sign language?
EISENBERG: Are your hands manipulating puppets?
COULTON: Are you a puppeteer?
EISENBERG: OK, then you must work on a show. Do you work on a television show?
COULTON: Do you work on "Sesame Street?"
COULTON: Yes, she's a puppeteer.
CHUNG: So Stacey is the puppeteer behind the newest "Sesame Street" Muppet, Julia. Julia is the first new Muppet on "Sesame Street" in 10 years, and she's a 4-year-old girl with autism.
EISENBERG: Wow. Did you grow up on "Sesame Street?"
GORDON: No. I mean, I grew up watching "Sesame Street." I didn't grow up physically on "Sesame Street."
EISENBERG: Sure, sure, no.
GORDON: I just want to make that very clear.
COULTON: Well, it's not a real street. It's an imaginary...
GORDON: No, it's a real street.
COULTON: Well, I mean, it's a...
GORDON: It's in Tempe.
COULTON: Oh, OK.
EISENBERG: But you watched the show as a kid.
GORDON: Absolutely, yeah.
EISENBERG: Was it always your dream?
GORDON: Oh, yeah. When I was a little kid, I wanted to be a Twiddlebug. And then I was like, you know what? I'm not a Twiddlebug. So then I wanted to be a kid on "Sesame Street." And then when I realized they were puppets and I could manipulate them, I wanted to be a butterfly.
GORDON: I wanted to work one of those butterflies in the background of a Bert and Ernie.
EISENBERG: Can you tell us what that entails, being a Jim Henson-schooled puppeteer?
GORDON: So a Muppeteer is what we're called. You're trained in a very specific way. We use monitors so we can see what the camera sees. You see the opposite of what you're doing. So if I turn my hand to the left, on the screen, it will turn to the right. So it messes with your brain a little bit.
CHUNG: One interesting fact is that Julia, the character, existed first online. And then "Sesame Street" producers wanted to bring Julia to the program. So can you talk about how a Phoenix puppeteer got the job?
GORDON: Right (laughter)? So I was actually friends with a couple of the Muppeteers who work on "Sesame Street." And when "Sesame Street" was looking for a puppeteer for Julia, they specifically wanted a puppeteer with a strong connection to autism to bring authenticity to the character. And Leslie Carrara-Rudolph and Pam Arciero both knew me and knew that I have a son on the autism spectrum.
And they recommended me for the job.
EISENBERG: And what was the first day on the job like?
GORDON: I had strep throat.
GORDON: So that was exciting. It was pure magic, really. I couldn't have asked for a more supportive cast, a more supportive crew. I felt loved. And I felt accepted just like every - just like you would imagine if you walk on "Sesame Street" how you would feel (laughter).
GORDON: And, like, walking into Hooper's Store and being able to pick things up. And then, you know, our prop guy saying, don't pick that up.
EISENBERG: And have you just grabbed a butterfly here and there and...
GORDON: I did get to do a butterfly.
GORDON: Marty Robinson plays Snuffleupagus and Telly Monster and Slimy the Worm and he made sure that I got to be a butterfly.
EISENBERG: Thank you for bringing your great puppeteering skills to, like, the most beloved children's show of my past and people's present and I'm sure the future and for coming on our show. Everyone, give it up for our mystery guest, Stacey Gordon.
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