5 questions with…The Wiggles’ Jeff Fatt (the purple one)

If you’ve got a preschooler, chances are you’re familiar with The Wiggles. If you’re not, think the color-coding of the Teletubbies, plus Australian accents, minus the generally creepy undertones.

For almost 20 years, Jeff Fatt, Anthony Field, Murray Cook and Sam Moran (respectively, the purple,blue, red and yellow Wiggles) have been entertaining kids with their high-energy shows and sing-along lyrics like “Fruit salad, yummy yummy!” With their friends Dorothy the dinosaur, Henry the octopus, Captain Feathersword and Wags the dog, the Wiggles have become an international sensation.

And they’re heading stateside for a five-week U.S. tour that includes 26 cities coast to coast. They’ll be playing two shows at the Rosemont on Aug. 28.

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I snagged a few minutes with Fatt, who called the Chicago Parent offices from the Wiggles’ tour bus after a show in Belfast, Ireland. We talked about details of their U.S. tour, the group’s musical influences, and Fatt’s newfound gymnastics skills.

  • I’m going to go ahead and call you The Beatles of children’s entertainment — four guys, funny accents, instant success. Do you buy the metaphor?

    The Beatles of the young crowd, eh? Well, we never set out to be anything like that, but it is a great honor. I grew up listening to and playing the Beatles, so while I’m not sure it’s totally true, I’ll take it.

  • Talk about your musical influences. You make music that kids love, but also that parents don’t hate. First, on behalf of parents, thank you. Second, how do you do it?

    We’ve been told that, and it’s always great to hear because, while we’re there for the kids, the parents are sitting through the show, too. I think part of it is that the four of us, before The Wiggles, were in rock bands playing pop music. So we have have that same musical influence as the older crowd, that 60s pop genre, and it seems to strike a chord with parents.

  • What’s your favorite part of performing for the pre-K crowd?

    Just seeing the enthusiasm of the children. That’s why we get up and do it, and you never get tired of watching them react to what you’re doing. i enjoy the physicality of the show, and we absolutely have a hoot when we perform.

  • Your schtick on the show is falling asleep. Are you actually a narcoleptic?

    I wasn’t a preschool teacher the way the other guys were [Field, Cook and Moran have backgrounds in early childhood education], so that was a way of getting me involved without me having to actually say or do much of anything. And it’s an extension of my personality in that I’m very laid back and kind of silly. Also, it’s very empowering for little kids to be able to wake up a grownup.

  • Any surprises in store for the U.S. tour?

    The show has changed quite a bit since we were [in Chicago] last. We were heading in direction of a “Wiggly Circus,” and you’ll see even more of that. There are more things going on acrobatically and gymnastically on stage, including a huge trapeze. Anthony and myself do a little gymnastics, though they had to hire an Olympic gymnastics coach [Dmitri Zorin] special for us.

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