Saturday Night Live’s now-viral clip of Sean Spicer (played by the comedian Melissa McCarthy) ends with a shot of the angry White House press secretary plowing a motorized lectern into a crowd of reporters. The star of that bit, the moving lectern, was built by a Montgomery County duo calling themselves the Monkey Boys.
Marc Petrosino and Michael Latini founded Monkey Boys Productions in 2006. The company produces puppets and other related props for broadcasters and cable channels such as PBS, Comedy Central, ABC, and NBC. The duo also works closely with organizations such as the Metropolitan Opera and multiple productions on Broadway. Recently, the team partnered with Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to feature a puppet show in the hospital’s "Reach Out and Read" program.
“Usually people call us because they need something with a little quirk, something specialized,” Petrosino said.
The typical core team of two or three employees can grow to 15 or 20 for a busy engagement. “We hire a lot from art schools and apprentices,” Petrosino said. “We look for people with strong performance arts and sculpting backgrounds.”
How does a puppet and prop shop get new customers? Petrosino and Latini rely on referrals and word-of-mouth. The team stays in active contact with theaters and production companies to make sure they know of any available work.
The small team generates revenue of less than $200,000 per year. Petrosino hopes that the SNL engagement adds to the company’s growth as more clients see the quality of its work.
The company will be in Wyncote for the foreseeable future. “Our families and homes are here,” he said. “The rent is a lot less expensive here, too.”