RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) — In a time of so much loss, it is rare for an individual death to move a country. And it is extraordinary that national grief is triggered by the death of a puppet.
But the same was true in Brazil on Monday, as an outpouring of emotion followed news of the death of the puppeteer behind Louro José – a 2ft-tall parrot who is part of the most popular morning show from the country.
Puppeteer Tom Veiga suffered a stroke caused by an aneurysm at his home in Rio de Janeiro, aged 47. co-host of Ana Maria Braga. The program was a welcome source of levity in a country accustomed to news of violence, inequality, and political and economic turmoil.
“I woke up today and kept thinking how I was going to manage to get here and say ‘hello’ to you, because it hurts a lot,” Braga, 71, told viewers. barely standing in front of a drawing by Louro José with a halo. “It’s really like a mom who loses a son, a companion.”
His tribute partly reflects why “Mais Voce” has become so popular. According to Mauricio Stycer, eminent TV critic and columnist, while offering standard morning shows – an upbeat mix of recipes, celebrities, etc. – Braga hasn’t been shy about disclosing his personal struggles. And Louro José completed it with his carefree mockery and sarcastic jokes.
“The commotion it causes is because it’s a doll that, with one person, has come into your home Monday through Friday for two decades,” Stycer said. “As strange as it may seem, it became natural. The character has become a part of people’s lives.
Louro José often wore costumes and even travelled. Veiga had previously described his character as “troublemaker, grumpy, flirty, charmer”.
The show drew 13 million daily viewers on average in 2020, the most in Brazil for its timeslot, according to Globo, the channel that airs it. Brazilians wrote messages of condolence on social media; some even posted fan art. Celebrities such as singers Ivete Sangalo and Luan Santana, as well as YouTube influencer Felipe Neto, have 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 young audiences — and he did — but his jokes were hardly childish, according to Lígia Mesquita, a former television-focused newspaper columnist and now producer herself. same. The parrot’s wit and double senses went over the children’s heads, she said.
“This puppet character was the representation on television … of that Brazilian characteristic of laughing at oneself even in the worst moments,” Mesquita added.
The way the adults interacted with the puppet as if it were sentient was also unique about Lauro José. It reflects the “genius and creativity of Tom Veiga,” said JB Oliveira, who previously ran “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, as a real person,” Oliveira said.
On Monday’s show, “Mais Voce” shared tear-filled tributes to Veiga from about two dozen of his network friends and colleagues. The people on set were dressed all in black, with pictures of Veiga on their chests. Globo said the day’s ratings were the highest in 20 years.
Globo did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether it plans 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 after receiving a kiss from model Gisele Bünchen. In another, he dressed as Michael Jackson, dancing on the counter as Braga jumped beside him.
“Thank you for everything Louro José, Tom Veiga,” said a Twitter user identifying himself as Lia Carioca. “Your work was joyful, inspiring, cute and brightened the mornings of many depressed Brazilians.”