With Strings Attached: How Puppeteer Liam Geraghty Remained A Real Boy

If you had of asked my ten year old self what I wanted to be when I grow up, I would have answered ‘puppeteer’. Not astronaut, not President and not aeronautical engineer (as one of my childhood pals wanted to be). My bedroom chest of drawers would frequently be the stage for impromptu puppet shows. The sets drawn onto cornflakes boxes turned inside out. The star of all my shows was a pink rabbit hand puppet named Pinky – obviously. I never really stopped to think where Pinky had come from, but years later I found out he was actually one of 40,000 ‘Nippers’ – a glove puppet that you had to collect stamps for before redeeming them at your local Maxol station. Brendan Grace did all the radio and TV ads for them. For me, though, Pinky was one of a kind. He was the face of Snail Productions (the production company I ran from my bedroom as a ten year old.)  Pinky was the Kermit to my Jim Henson – so you won’t be surprised then to hear that I was obsessed with the Muppets.

Liam Geraghty Muppets - HeadStuff.org
The incredibly cute and Muppet-obsessed Liam as a wee nipper

In our house growing up, my folks used to always say that everything I learned in life I learned from the Muppets. That was certainly true in my education of entertainers. A song might come on the radio and I’d say, “Oh that’s Rita Coolidge!” or an old clip of a TV cowboy might appear and I’d shout “I love Roy Rogers!” How do you know who they are, my parents would cry. The answer always being – “They were on The Muppet Show!” In the early nineties my parents took me to a travelling museum exhibit – ‘Muppets Monsters and Magic’ in Kilmainham Gaol. I came face to face with puppets from The Muppet Show, Fraggle Rock and Labyrinth. It was incredible. They were all in large glass cases, which I was convinced would shatter if you took a photograph of them because of a sign warning “NO PHOTOS”.

For some reason though, as I finished secondary school, I never pursued a career in puppeteering. I opted to study journalism. But the Muppets never left me. I devoured every film, TV series and appearance they made. Anything connected to Jim Henson in fact. I remember being in college when I found out Bear in the Big Blue House (a Henson produced children’s TV programme) was bringing a live show to the Olympia Theatre. I immediately went about trying to secure an interview with Bear much to the bemusement of the Olympia staff.

Panti Bliss and Liam Geraghty - HeadStuff.org
Panti and Liam mid-“dousing” at The Panti Show

It wasn’t until I heard about a cabaret open mic night in Pantibar that I picked up a puppet again. My act was me and ‘My Bit of Fluff’ lip syncing to musical numbers from Avenue Q and Hairspray. After a while of doing the show in the basement, the Queen of Ireland, Panti, asked me to start guesting upstairs at The Panti Show – a raucous, booze-soaked drag show. She’d duet with My Bit of Fluff for Baptise Me – a song from The Book of Mormon musical where a nervous young American missionary baptizes a young Ugandan woman. The entire song is like one big double entendre for them losing their virginity and involves me dressing as a Mormon and dousing Panti in Holy Water – something I’m sure a small number of people are green with envy over…


It was during the time I was guesting every so often at The Panti Show that a friend of a friend, who knew I was obsessed with puppets, had seen a tweet from Colm Tobin looking to find a puppeteer for Brain Freeze – a new children’s TV show he was producing. I contacted Colm with a certain feeling of trepidation. I mean – was I even a puppeteer!? I didn’t even have training! I slowly began to realise that the years spent during my childhood mucking about with sock puppets in my bedroom was my training and that watching and trying to figure out the technique of the Muppet performers like Frank Oz probably didn’t hurt either. So I sent Colm a video of me and My Bit of Fluff lip syncing to a few musical numbers and much to my amazement he gave me the job.

Brain Freeze - HeadStuff.org

A science-based show, Brain Freeze sees Dr Sorcha Knowles and Professor Mike McCork help answer all sorts of questions puzzling child viewers – ‘What Is The Oldest Living Thing?’, ‘Why Do We Dream?’ and ‘Do Aliens Exist?’ Backstage Knowles and McCork contend with Colin the floor manager and the new boss Ms. Hucklebuck.

Liam Geraghty Brain Freeze - HeadStuff.org
Liam lying about on the job

Brain Freeze is everything I always imagined what The Muppet Show must have been like to work on in the seventies. It’s endless bonkers fun. Filmed in a small studio in Monkstown, Dublin – the crew for filming consists of a very talented bunch – Ian Kenny (director), Paul Madden (production pipeline), Brian Moore (lighting cameraman) and Cathryn Gamble (production assistant). I spend most of the day on my back on one of those creepers that mechanics use to roll under cars with. It’s surprisingly comfortable! There’s also a little TV monitor beside me so I can see what the camera sees. I puppeteer all of the characters on the show while their voices are provided by a group of deadly actors – Maura Foley, Aidan O’Donovan, John Colleary and Susan Wokoma. This is where all the practise lip syncing to musical numbers in Pantibar comes in handy!

Puppeteering Brain Freeze - HeadStuff.org
Paul Madden, Ian Kenny & Liam Geraghty

It gives me a giddy thrill seeing finished episodes. During filming there’s a lot of using your imagination but the final product has CGI robots, a 3D set, 2D animation and loads of special effects not to mention the music and foley! We’ve just completed filming series 2 and not for a second does it ever feel like work to me. I still just feel like a kid playing with puppets in my bedroom.

You can also listen to this article, because this is the future and technology rules all! But mainly because Liam is super-nice and did us up a recording featuring sound clips from Brain Freeze and more.

Brain Freeze series 2, launched recently by Dara O Briain, airs on RTE 2 every Wednesday as part of Swipe TV and will air on CBBC in early 2016. 

Featured Images:
Behind the scenes photos credit is: Brian Moore
Dara O Briain photos credit is: Jason Clarke/SFI