Pop goes the evil weasel in alum’s puppet show


Richard Downes III hopes to air his puppet show, Wish Weasel, in stations around New York. Photo courtesy of Richard Downes III.

By Owen Murray

From a purple, faraway planet to the urban landscape of Queens, New York, Richard the Wish Weasel, along with his gang of puppets and aliens, grants wishes and fights battles against evil extraterrestrial demons.

Richard Downes III ‘15 is the puppeteer and main voice actor behind the comedic puppet show Wish Weasel. The show is about a puppet named Richard, a Wish-O-Mite—a species that gains energy from bringing misery to the human race—who is trying to change his ways.

Wish Weasel was written, produced, directed, and created by Dan McNamara, who graduated from School of Visual Arts in Manhattan. The Wish Weasel team hopes to air the show on local stations in New York, and to submit it to film and television festivals.

“We filmed three episodes that make up a pilot, so that’s the way we want to send it out. The big one we want to send it to is the New York Television Festival where a lot of network representatives go to look for pilots. Hopefully [we will] gain some notoriety and make it a full-fledged series,” Downes said.

McNamara says he thinks the show would fit in well on Adult Swim or late night TV and appeals to a wide audience.

“The tone right now, it’s got a bit of an edge, but it’s really funny and silly, and I don’t see how it could be offensive to a younger audience,” McNamara said.

At first, McNamara funded Wish Weasel himself. Though the show is almost finished taping, its Indiegogo page remains open. So far, they’ve raised about $1,600 of their $5,000 goal.

Downes said old school cartoons and Jim Henson films influenced Wish Weasel.

“It’s in the vein of 80s cartoons and movies like The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, and, of course, The Muppets,” Downes said.

McNamara described the show as a unique blend of genres.

“It’s an ironic take on over-commercialized kids shows from the ‘80s and ‘90s … It’s kind of like if John Carpenter did Fraggle Rock,” McNamara said.

Downes said he first pursued puppetry and performing at Emerson. He performed with the comedy sketch troupe Police Geese and wrote jokes for the Emerson Channel show Breaking News.

“I was really blessed to be a part of these projects and organizations,” Downes said. “It was really the right time when these shows were trying to find their voice, and a lot of that collided with my unique comedy and wackiness.”

While at Emerson, Downes used puppets in his parodic, one-man adaptation of The Lion King called The Loony King, which eventually helped him land the position of puppeteer and main voice actor on Wish Weasel. He got the job through a post on the Emerson Mafia Facebook page.

“At first it was kind of difficult, because he’s not a puppet like Kermit the Frog where you move your hand as if it was a mouth. His mouth is moved by a pulley system,” Downes said. “It’s a lot more elaborate than puppets I have made, so it was a very difficult process.”

In addition to puppeteering and voice acting, Downes does a monthly standup show in New York City called the Duck Show which has a similar tone to Wish Weasel and also features puppets.

McNamara said that he hopes to start submitting Wish Weasel to festivals by the end of the summer.

“When it’s finally finished I’m going to be very happy, and I think everyone who sees it will be happy too,” McNamara said. “It brings joy and the whole point of wish weasel is to make people smile.”