In Brazil, the death of a parrot puppeteer moves the nation

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In a time of so much loss, it is rare for an individual death to move a country. And it is extraordinary that national mourning is triggered by the passage of a puppet.

But that was the case in Brazil on Monday, as a wave of emotion followed news of the death of the puppeteer behind Louro José – a 2-foot-tall parrot that is part of the most popular morning show. of the country – had died.

Puppeteer Tom Veiga suffered a stroke caused by an aneurysm at his home in Rio de Janeiro at the age of 47. For more than two decades, her green and yellow bird has been a comedic relief on the show “Mais Voce”, somewhere between sidekick and co-host of Ana Maria Braga. The program was a welcome source of levity in a country accustomed to news of violence, inequality, as well as political and economic turmoil.

“I woke up today and I kept thinking about how I was going to manage to get here and say ‘hello’ to you, because it hurts so bad,” Braga, 71, told viewers. , barely standing in front of a drawing of Louro José with a halo. “It’s really like a mother who loses a son, a companion.”

His tribute reflects in part why “Mais Voce” has become so popular. While offering standard morning dishes – an upbeat mix of recipes, celebrities and more – Braga has not shied away from disclosing his personal struggles, according to Mauricio Stycer, a prominent television critic and columnist. And Louro José completed it with his carefree mocking and sarcastic jokes.

“The fuss this causes is because it’s a doll that, along with one person, has entered your home Monday through Friday for two decades,” Stycer said. “Strange as it sounds, it just became natural. The character has become a part of people’s lives.

Louro José often wore costumes and even traveled. Veiga had previously described his character as “a troublemaker, cranky, flirtatious, charmer”.

The program attracted an average of 13 million daily viewers in 2020, the most in Brazil for its time slot, according to Globo, the channel that broadcasts it. The Brazilians wrote messages of condolence on social networks; some even posted fan art. Celebrities including singers Ivete Sangalo and Luan Santana, as well as YouTube influencer Felipe Neto, shared their grief with their tens of millions of followers.

“Louro José was one of the greatest creations in the history of Brazilian television,” wrote Neto, who TIME magazine recently named one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

Louro José was originally designed to entertain a young audience – and he did – but his jokes were hardly childish, according to Lígia Mesquita, a former TV-focused newspaper columnist and now a producer herself. . The parrot’s mind and double senses have gone over the heads of the children, she said.

“This puppet character was the representation on television (…) of this Brazilian characteristic of laughing at oneself even in the worst moments,” added Mesquita.

The way the adults interacted with the puppet as if she was sensitive was also unique about Lauro José. This reflects the “genius and creativity of Tom Veiga,” said JB Oliveira, who previously directed “Mais Voce” at Globo, in a statement to The Associated Press.

“The colorful little animal gained in humanity and was seen by everyone, viewers and guests alike, like a real person,” Oliveira said.

On Monday’s show, “Mais Voce” shared tearful tributes to Veiga from about two dozen of his network friends and colleagues. People on the set dressed all in black, with pictures of Veiga on their chests. Globo said today’s odds were the highest in 20 years.

Globo did not immediately respond to a request for comment about his intention to find a new actor to bring Louro José to life.

The network shared a video with some of Louro José’s many appearances, including one in which he passed out while receiving a kiss from model Gisele Bünchen. In another, he dressed like Michael Jackson, dancing on the counter as Braga jumped up beside him.

“Thanks for everything Louro José, Tom Veiga,” said a Twitter user who identified himself as Lia Carioca. “Your work was cheerful, inspiring, cute and cheered up the mornings of many Brazilians who were down. “


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