Stamford community member Marc Weiner created and hosted the ’90s children’s television series “Weinerville.” It premiered in July 1993 and ended production a year later, but continued to be shown in reruns until June 1997. The show was set around a giant puppet stage of a mythical city called Weinerville.
“As a kid, I always enjoyed making people laugh,” reminisced Weiner. “In 1973, while I was crewing on a Hudson River Sloop named Clearwater, I would juggle fruit from the lunches of kids who were visiting the boat and I enjoyed making them laugh. I then took a ‘clowning and mime’ course and started street performing in Boston and then NYC.”
As a street performer, he worked side-by-side with future star Robin Williams, an improv comic at the time. In 1981, Weiner was a writer for and an occasional actor on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” series. From there, he also appeared on other networks, including HBO, Showtime and Comedy Central, as well as other TV series including “Ned’s Declassified School Survival Guide” and “Space Ghost Coast-to-Coast.” In 1994, Weiner co-hosted the East Coast portion of that year’s Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Awards. As he became more religiously observant, he developed his Jewish stand-up routines.
“I had created so many puppets and they needed a town to live in,” explains Weiner on what inspired him to create his eponymous fictional town, Weinerville. “I made a pilot for Comedy Channel, but it tested too young for their target audience. However, my manager, Lee Kernis, took it to Nickelodeon, they loved it and we created the Weinerville series. Weinerville is a fun town filled with my puppets and my many characters. People come to get ‘weinerized’ or turned into 1/2 human-1/2 puppet characters, to help solve a situation in each episode by playing a fun carnival game.”
Weiner said the message of the show was “to have fun, save the environment and be nice to each other.” Since the cancellation of the show, the Weinerville concept had some TV movie specials on Chanukah, New Year’s Eve and the 1996 elections. Weiner’s characters and episodes can still been seen on YouTube.
Since working on Weinerville, Weiner’s career has continued to grow. “I am also a Nonviolent Communication trainer,” described Weiner. “I teach people of all ages empathy skills in order to learn how to get along better with themselves and others. I am part of a team of Jews who go into the Riker’s Island prison on the Jewish holidays to entertain and visit prisoners. I do some comedy and teach them nonviolent communication with my Empathy Labyrinth. Those interested can check my website, www.theempathylabyrinth.com.” Proud to be part of the Stamford Jewish community, Weiner enjoys teaching puppetry and empathy skills for preschool and elementary students of Stamford’s Jewish schools.
Many fans of children’s television do not realize how well they know Weiner. “I have been working for Nick Jr. on Dora the Explorer for over 19 years. I am the voice of ‘The Map,’ ‘Swiper the Fox’ and many other characters on the show.” Weiner added, “I am blessed to be in the upcoming Dora the Explorer action movie this summer. I am The Map!”
By Judy Berger