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In Brazil, A Parrot Puppeteer’s Death Stirs The Nation

In this photo released on Nov. 2, 2020 by Globo, Globo TV presenter Ana Maria Braga smiles next to the parrot puppet Louro Jose, played by Tom Veiga, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. An outpouring of emotion in Brazil has followed news that the puppeteer behind Louro Jos, a two-foot-tall parrot thats a fixture on the countrys most popular morning show, had passed away. (Globo via AP)

In this photo released on Nov. 2, 2020 by Globo, Globo TV presenter Ana Maria Braga smiles next to the parrot puppet Louro Jose, played by Tom Veiga, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. An outpouring of emotion in Brazil has followed news that the puppeteer behind Louro Jos, a two-foot-tall parrot thats a fixture on the countrys most popular morning show, had passed away. (Globo via AP)

In a time of so much loss, it is rare for an individual death to stir a country. And it is extraordinary for national grief to be triggered by the passing of a puppet.

RIO DE JANEIRO: In a time of so much loss, it is rare for an individual death to stir a country. And it is extraordinary for national grief to be triggered by the passing of a puppet.

But so it was in Brazil on Monday, as an outpouring of emotion followed news that the puppeteer behind Louro Jos a 2-foot tall parrot that is a fixture on the countrys most popular morning show had died.

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

I woke up today and kept thinking how I was going to manage to get here and say Good morning to you, because it hurts a lot, Braga, 71, told viewers, barely holding herself together while standing in front of a drawing of Louro Jos with a halo. Its really like a mom who loses a son, a companion.

Her homage reflects in part why Mais Voce became so popular. While featuring standard morning show fare an upbeat mix of recipes, celebrities and the like Braga didnt shy from disclosing personal struggles, according to Mauricio Stycer, a prominent television critic and columnist. And Louro Jos complemented her with his carefree mocking and sarcastic jokes.

The commotion its causing is because its a doll that, together with a person, came into your home Monday to Friday for two decades, Stycer said. As strange as it may seem, it became natural. The character became part of peoples lives. Its perhaps the only show in the world hosted by a woman and a parrot.

Louro Jos often wore costumes, and even traveled for reports. Veiga had previously described his character as a troublemaker, grumpy, a flirt, a charmer, but very funny, intelligent, and also as a big kid.

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

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

Louro Jos was initially conceived of to entertain a young audience and that he did but his jokes were hardly infantile, according to Lgia Mesquita, a former newspaper columnist focused on television production and now a producer herself. The parrot’s wit and double entendres went right over kids’ heads, she said.

That puppet-character was the representation on TV, in a program primarily directed toward housewives, of that Brazilian characteristic to laugh at oneself even in the worst moments, Mesquita added. They transmitted a message of optimism and inspiration even after laughing at themselves. And that brought to the program a male audience, which wasn’t interested in the culinary arts.

Also unique about Lauro Jos was how adults interacted with the puppet as though it were sentient. That reflects the genius and creativity of Tom Veiga,” J.B. Oliveira, who previously directed Mais Voce at Globo, said in a statement to The Associated Press.

The colorful little animal gained humanity and was seen by all, viewers and guests, as a real person,” Oliveira said.

On Monday’s broadcast, Mais Voce shared tear-filled tributes to Veiga from about two dozen of his friends and colleagues at the network. People on set dressed all in black, with photos of Veiga upon their chests. Globo said the day’s ratings were the highest in 20 years.

Veiga’s funeral will be held on Tuesday, with a burial the following day.

Globo didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment about whether it plans to find a new actor to bring Louro Jos to life.

The network shared a video with some of Louro Jos’s many appearances, including one in which he fainted upon receiving a kiss from model Gisele Bnchen. In another, he dressed up like Michael Jackson, dancing on the countertop to the King of Pops song Bad as Braga bopped along beside him.

Thank you for everything Louro Jos, Tom Veiga, one Twitter user identifying as Lia Carioca said. Your work was happy, inspiring, cute and cheered the mornings of many Brazilians who were down.

Disclaimer: This post has been auto-published from an agency feed without any modifications to the text and has not been reviewed by an editor


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