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Inside 'Alligator Boots,' Kanye West's Failed Puppet Comedy Show

If there is one thing Kanye West knows, it's how to get people's attention. West's rapid-fire tweets and bizarre encounters with other celebrities have spawned a slew of think pieces, and chances are his failed puppet comedy show, Alligator Boots, could have done the same.

Alligator Boots is more than just West's stab at comedy - it was an integral part of one of the world’s most famous love stories, as West met his future bride Kim Kardashian on the flopped show’s set. 

That failed pilot aimed to be updated version of The Muppet Show, Yeezy style. The name comes from West’s childhood, where owning alligator footwear was a status symbol: if you could get your hands on a pair of alligator boots, you basically made it.

Ultimately, after five intense days working with the Jim Henson Company, Comedy Central decided not to go ahead with the series, leaving Alligator Boots on pop culture’s cutting room floor.

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  • It Was Going To Be A "Hip Hop Muppet Show"

     

    There are several disparate puzzle pieces that came together in the '00s to bring this puppet-based fever dream of Kanye West's to life. The puppet element was definitely inspired by the Comedy Central show Crank Yankers, which had a proven following in the hip hop community; it was likely also influenced by the success of Team America: World Police.

    In WIRED's oral history of Alligator Boots, animator and video director Konee Rok added that the creation of characters like Pork Troy happened organically. While recording West's Graduation, a musician and childhood friend of West's, Rhymefest, spontaneously beaome the character to entertain everyone. "Alligator Boots is, in one sentence, sort of a hip-hop Muppets Show," producer Daniel Kellison summarized.

     

  • The Pilot Cost $1 Million And The Puppets Were Made By The Jim Henson Company

    Alligator Boots was filmed over five days at Charlie Chaplin Studios, home to the Jim Henson Company. Fittingly, it also followed The Muppet Show format quite closely, including behind-the-scenes skits as well as ones in front of a live audience of Henson-made puppets.

    Each episode was set to feature a famous human host - West being the first for the pilot - as well as a mix of musical and sketch comedy scenes with a diverse cast of larger-than-life puppet characters.

  • Jordan Peele Was One Of The Writers

    Before becoming a household name due to the success of Key & Peele and Get Out, Jordan Peele was just a humble ex-MADtv comedy writer who majored in puppetry at Sarah Lawrence College.

    This specific skill set earned him a writer spot on Alligator Boots, where he was responsible for penning what many on set consider the funniest sketch of the pilot. Peele describes the sketch as "basically a puppet version of Martin Luther King," parodying his well-known "I Have a Dream" speech.

    Puppeteer Victor Yerrid explains, "It starts out as this powerful speech, and then it devolves into this weird surreal dream." Peele tries to remember the details: "I don't remember any of the specifics - but it was one of those things where it's like, 'And in the future, my mother's there, but she has the head of a Smurf. And all the little children are actually horse-sized ducklings running around.'"

  • It Was Kimye's Meet Cute

    Following the formula of The Muppet Show, Alligator Boots was envisioned as having one human celebrity guest star each week alongside a cast of puppets. But in true Kanye West fashion, the rule was thrown out of the window. He wanted both himself and Kim Kardashian featured in the pilot since he was already such a big fan of her work - one infamous work in particular.

    Daniel Kellison, co-creator of Crank Yankers, explains:

    When I first met Kanye, he was recording that song "Flashing Lights" - I walked into the studio and he was behind the control board, and this woman was singing one of the sections of the song. She goes, "How about that take?" And he was like, "I'm sorry, I missed it. Can you do it again?" He was watching the Kim Kardashian tape on his computer; it had come out that day, and that's why he was distracted.

    Producer Naomi Scott told Bustle the sparks between Kimye were there from the start. "[West] was enamored with her from the very second he said [Kardashian's] name."

  • A Puppeteer Had To Hit West In The Face With A Baby's Rattle

    Alice Dinnean, an experienced puppeteer, was paid to smack Kanye West in the face with a rattle during the five-day shoot. Fellow puppeteer Victor Yerrid details the bizarre experience:

     

    We did this music video called "Baby in the Club," about people who bring their babies to the club, and Alice had to hit Kanye in the face with this little hard plastic rattle. We would do one or two takes of everything, but for whatever reason, this one scene they did like 20 times. And he clearly was not happy about it.

     

    Yerrid even remembers West complaining about how much it hurt.

  • Kim Kardashian Still Has Fond Memories Of Filming It

     

    In 2015, Kim Kardashian tweeted about her experiences on the set of Alligator Boots. She said this is when she and Kanye West "first really connected," but they were both in relationships, so the timing was not right. They kept in touch after shooting the pilot, and West even helped her with her only foray into music with her song "Jam."