The pursuit of happiness in all facets of life can often be a solitary one, but it can be so much better when you’ve got a friend (or friends) to help you get through the successes and disappointments that come with it. That is, unless you’ve come down with a bizarre new ‘disease’ called Puppetitis B, and you end up being stuck with an obnoxious talking puppet on your hand as a result.
That peculiar situation, and the even more unusual moments that arise because of it, comprise the hilarious comedy series CALLIE AND IZZY, created by and starring Nicola Rose, and now streaming its second season of 12 episodes on its official web site and Youtube pages (see additional links below).
A talented actress and puppeteer, Rose portrays both of the series’ title characters: Callie, a young woman whose rather ho-hum life is turned upside down and inside out after being afflicted by Puppetitis B, and Izzy, the devious and incredibly outspoken furry pink puppet outgrowth that she’s now forced to live with after being diagnosed with the disease by her quack doctor (played by Paul Boocock).
Despite this unexpected, and at times, unfortunate arrangement, Callie eventually learns to live with Izzy’s boorish behavior and big mouth. Along the way, Callie falls in love with Dr. Salverson (played by Nate Steinwachs), an experienced – and well chiseled – therapist who provides her and Izzy with much needed guidance on how they can peacefully co-exist.
Season 2 of CALLIE AND IZZY also features Brandon Ascari as the equally muscular wrestler Gary Groinpull, who could end up helping the hopelessly paired duo out of their current rut. In addition, Jennifer Dorr White and William Otterson star as Callie’s parents, who may both hold the key to why and how she got Puppetitis B in the first place. At the same time, Izzy is pursued by Max Rumphorst (Ian Boyd), who seeks to interview the puppet for his latest scandalous celebrity biography.
While her professional career as a puppeteer consists primarily of performing shows for children, Rose was initially hesitant to create what would become the decidedly adult oriented CALLIE AND IZZY. Although she was frequently asked to poke fun at her experiences through acting in and creating a web series based on her career, Rose eventually found the right mix of edgy humor and characters that would comprise CALLIE AND IZZY.
“I was dubious (to create the series) because a truthful account would mostly consist of me trying to get places on the New York City subway, carrying four heavy bags of puppets and muttering foul language at delayed trains,” she remembers. “Fortunately, it evolved into a bizarre fairytale about a girl who actually had a puppet growing out of her body; now that I felt I could write.”
Even though Rose hadn’t fully explored web series as a medium, it was her father’s experience writing and creating a more traditional, yet no less effective style of short form comedy that would lead her to embrace the creative potential provided by web series, and to fully develop the storytelling approach found in each episode of CALLIE AND IZZY.
“Up to this point, I had never written (or really even watched) a web series, but I felt at home writing short comic pieces, because I grew up with a father who is a daily strip cartoonist. (His name is Brooke McEldowney, and you can find his work here and here.) So, I thought of CALLIE AND IZZY as a comic strip, written one gag at a time,” Rose explains. “The episodes came easily once I had that mindset.”
Then, Rose decided to transform an otherwise unused puppet in her collection into the co-star of CALLIE AND IZZY. “My friend Karen Trask, a fantastic puppet maker, sold me the Izzy puppet some years ago for no express purpose,” Rose recalls. “When the web series came about, I gravitated to that puppet – I guess because, out of my puppet collection, she looked the most like something that might grow from your forearm.”
On the set of CALLIE AND IZZY, Rose’s team became equally accustomed to working with the show’s puppet protagonist on camera. At the same time, though, they became equally spooked by it when Rose assumed directing duties. “My cast and crew became so used to Izzy (the puppet) ‘living’ that when I took her off my hand to direct, they would become creeped out at seeing her ‘dead.’ So, I put her back on my hand. You have to accommodate,” she explains.
In the years that she’s performed with puppet characters, both in front of live audiences and during production of CALLIE AND IZZY, Rose has marveled at how well human actors tend to work with their decidedly stuffed counterparts. Of course, she adds, that’s also been a key to the success of various popular movies and TV shows throughout the past few decades.
“As a puppeteer, I’ve always found them (puppets working with human actors) to be enormously gratifying to watch,” Rose responds. “People’s guards drop in front of a puppet. I think, as a rule, actors find puppet scene partners more invigorating than human ones. You look at so many of the human guest stars on THE MUPPET SHOW; they interact with Kermit & Co. as if they are old friends.”
While Rose finds that the task of manipulating and voicing different puppet characters by herself during her live shows can be challenging enough, the way she works with those puppets is pretty much the same. That being said, doing a series that combines the otherwise cute and cuddly aspects of puppets with twisted personalities and risqué humor in CALLIE AND IZZY provides advantages all its own.
“I love doing puppet shows for adults. In the U.S., especially, puppets are (more or less unfairly) associated with children; the upside of this is that it makes doing ‘puppet shows for adults’ a subversive act, which I really enjoy,” says Rose. “Making puppets do inappropriate things is one of life’s great pleasures, if you ask me.”
Even if you don’t have to deal with an annoying, vicious talking puppet on your hand, CALLIE AND IZZY shows that life is far more interesting – and amusing – when you’ve got a friend to share it with. The same holds true if that “friend” happens to be a fuzzy little pink monster who decides to make you look ridiculous at every turn, while saying the most inappropriate and embarrassing things!
“We all have something nagging that follows us around, be it a neurosis, an anxiety, a question we can’t answer, or an evil, yet charismatic cat I personally never should have adopted,” Rose remarks. “The way I see it, the greater question (the one that provokes stories) is how we will learn to live with that thing, and in what ways it will change us. But honestly, I just thought it would be fun to romp around with a puppet.”
(NOTE: Regarding closed-captioning/subtitling of CALLIE AND IZZY, Rose says: “While I didn’t have specific plans for this, I would love to write subtitles for it. I wouldn’t mind if they were multilingual too!”)
ON THE WEB: http://callieandizzy.weebly.com/