16-year-old Jake Thompson has fast become one of Newfoundland’s finest entertainers, heading to NTV with his puppet-hosted talk show NL Now!
16-year-old Jake Thompson has done more in five years than most media types could hope to achieve in a lifetime. Thompson, a fast-rising puppeteer turned talk show host, has rubbed shoulders with a who’s who of Newfoundland and Labrador’s art and cultural community – from television icon Rick Mercer, to the viral Dr. John Haggie and everyone in between.
PUPPET HOSTED TALKSHOW
Now Thompson, who began the NL Now puppet-hosted talk show in the winter of 2016, is making the move to Canada’s Superstation NTV!
“I knew that I wanted to continue to grow not only my own career, but I wanted to continue to grow NL Now and see where I could go with that, which eventually led to, of course, getting picked up for a season NTV,” shared Thompson in a one-on-one with The Herald.
“Rogers, it was a really big opportunity and it just feels like I’m moving forward in my career so fast,” Thompson adds of the move to NTV after several years with local affiliate Rogers. “I’m still so young. It’s just a really great feeling.”
Thompson, admittedly, has been fascinated with all things puppetry since he was young enough to recollect.
The seeds of his life’s passion would be planted through the iconic staple of the puppet world: The Muppets.
RELATED: ARTS & CULTURE The Wild & Wacky Cartoon World of Wallace Ryan Dawn of Captain Newfoundland Local Podcast Aims to Normalize Stuttering
THE MUPPET SHOW!
“It goes back as far as when I was two,” Thompson said of his earliest exposure to puppetry. “For whatever reason (his parents) put The Muppet Show on TV for me. And this was season one of the original Muppet Show from back in the 70s. And I just ended up watching it so much. They say that they used to remember seeing me standing in front of the TV trying to move my hand to the beat of the puppet’s mouths when they were moving, talking and singing. It just sort of grew from there and wanting to have my own puppets and getting puppets from my other family members – Christmas gifts, birthday gifts, that sort of thing. I started doing puppet shows for family and friends, and that’s where we are now.”
Thompson is quick to admit that the skill and artistry of puppetry isn’t for everyone. Practice makes perfect, like most things in life, and becoming a master at his given craft has taken years of trial and error.
“It’s a really unique sort of interest. It’s not like sports or video games like most people my age would be into,” he admits.
MR. GARY WHEESELTIN
“Doing the actual puppetry for anyone who wanted to try and start it is challenging at first to get it right. I mean, there’s a lot of people who don’t realize when they’re watching say Sesame Street or The Muppet Show, they don’t really pay attention to how much work the puppeteer is actually having to put into making sure the puppets look so lifelike. And that’s really the biggest key to puppetry. Making sure your puppets are always believable, making sure they’re always moving and not just stood there sort of still.”
Beginning as a YouTube channel, Thompson’s NL Now, complete with the incomparable puppet host himself, Gary Wheeseltin, launched with its first-ever guest, NTV’s own Chief Meteorologist Eddie Sheerr.
Flash forward to March of 2021, and the series is coming full circle for Thompson with NTV’s involvement once again.
“In March of 2016, we started with the YouTube series. It was in the middle of March. The first interview guest was NTVs Eddie Sheer and the musical guest was Damian Follett,” Thompson shares reflectively.
“Thinking back to March 2016 when we first started and I remember that me and my dad sat down at our desktop computer here in our basement, starting to write the emails to some of these local arts and entertainment people. I remember going to school and coming home the next day and being surprised that the first ten people that we had wrote that night before had all responded wanting to come on the show without even seeing any of my work. I hadn’t done anything at that point. Over the years, it’s been really surprising. Even now when I go to new people to come on the show they say they’d love to come on because they’ve seen their friends and their colleagues on the show.”
NL NOW PRODUCTIONS
The growing success of NL Now notwithstanding, and Thompson is becoming a jack-of-all-trades in the world of puppetry.
NL Now has morphed into NL Now Productions, a one-stop-shop for all things puppets, with Thompson designing and building custom puppets, offering puppetry performance for tv, film, commercials, music videos and much more. “It was only I’d say three years ago when I was 12 or 13 that I really started wanting to start building my own puppets and knowing how that whole process worked,” Thompson says.
“I mean, I’d made sock puppets and stuff like that before that point, but nothing of a real Muppet style puppet. I did a lot of research online and there’s a lot of great resources for anyone who’s interested in sort of getting into trying to make your own puppets and stuff. But a lot of the inspiration came from just being interested in the puppetry as a whole from a really young age.”
NL NOW ON NTV
With NL Now on NTV, the run of episodes boasting a who’s who of the entertainment world including Tim Baker, Fred Penner and Darrell Power, Thompson takes pride in the fact that he has, and will continue, to produce a product that promotes his puppet passion, while informing and entertaining kids of all ages along the way.
“You mentioned lightheartedness and also being informed on things and the information part of the show. A lot of people, they don’t think about it like that when they first hear that I do a puppet hosted talk show,” Thompson says.
“A lot of people actually think first that it’s a kids show and it would be for kids because they hear puppets and they think kids show kind of, but they don’t realize until they actually watch an episode or two what the whole show really is.”