The Muppets Take Manhattan: A Cameo Guide

Published: July 8, 2024
Categories: Feature, Fun Stuff

This Saturday The Muppets Take Manhattan turns 40 years old! To celebrate, we’re dedicating the week to our favorite Manhattan-theft based Muppet movie!

Long before it was a website that celebrities used to wish you a happy graduation day or to tell you you’re getting a dog or whatever, the word “cameo” meant an actor popping up in a television show or film for a brief scene. Sometimes the they even called it out for exactly what it was!

Muppet movies are notorious for cameos, even earning a line sung by Lady Gaga in the opening song of Muppets Most Wanted. And we love them! Like Carol Kane in The Muppet Movie who’s only line is ‘Yeth?’. Or Dave Grohl as an Animal knock off in The Muppets. Or that bird whose name I forgot who is traveling to New York City to break in to public television.

In watching The Muppets Take Manhattan 40 years after its debut, it’s easy to forget who most of the cameos even are. These people were products of their time! Sure, now they might make you go ‘huh?’ but back in 1984 they’d be making the audience shout ‘I love that guy!’. So today I’m going to run you through some of the cameos featured in the film, telling you who they are and where you might know them from these days. Let’s go alphabetical by last name, shall we?

Frances Bergen as Leonard Winesop’s Secretary

While not a household name, Frances Bergen still gets the ‘cameo’ status for her last name. She was the mother to Muppet Show guest star Candice Bergen, and the wife of Muppet Show and Muppet Movie guest star Edgar Bergen. The Muppets love those Bergens! She also made an earlier cameo in The Muppets Go Hollywood, attending the big party with her children Candice and Kris.

Art Carney as Bernard Crawford

An actual sitcom legend, Art Carney starred as Ralph Kramden’s best buddy Ed Norton on The Honeymooners, which is widely regarded as one of the best classic sitcoms of all time. Muppet fans may know him best as the double-role of Santa Claus and Cosmo Scam from the early Muppet special The Great Santa Claus Switch. But in The Muppets Take Manhattan, he plays an important role in getting ‘Manhattan Melodies’ on Broadway, despite the fact that he’s allergic to singing amphibians.

James Coco as Mr Skeffington

James Coco was a profilic Emmy Award winning comedic actor of stage and screen, who had almost 60 credits to his name when he passed away in 1987, having starred alongside famous names like James Cromwell, Madeline Kahn and Racquel Welch. He was also the guest star of a season 3 episode of The Muppet Show, an episode which gave us the famous Kermit/Robin song ‘Octopus’ Garden’. He sure does love his Schnookums. Write it down.

Dabney Coleman as Martin Price

Ever heard the Dolly Parton song ‘9 to 5’? You know that bossman she sings about? That’s Martin Price! Well, kind of. You see, Dabney had already had a fairly consistent career until he exploded in the 1980 film 9 to 5 as the slimy boss of Dolly, Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin. Already known as a famous (on screen) bucket of scum, his scammer Martin Price is a fun nod to the famous film! Passing away only a couple of months ago, Dabney appeared in films like Stuart Little and You’ve Got Mail, television shows like Yellowstone and Boardwalk Empire, and voiced Principal Prickley in the beloved Disney cartoon Recess.

Elliott Gould as Cop

Possibly one of the most recognizable faces in this film was that of Elliott Gould, who by 1984 was already a giant star, having been in some of the biggest films of the 70’s, earning a nomination for an Academy Award, and marrying superstar Barbra Streisand (they divorced long before this movie, though). Elliott played Trapper John McIntyre in the film M*A*S*H, which later went on to be one of the most successful television shows in the world (he didn’t appear in the show, but still, big flex). Over the years Elliott has starred in the Ocean’s films, starred alongside John Mulaney in his short lived sitcom, and he once took a weirdly sexy photo with Grover. But of course, you probably know him best as Monica and Ross’ dad Jack Geller in 20 episodes of Friends.

Gregory Hines as Roller Skater

Looking great in shorts is Gregory Hines, tap dancer and Broadway star extraordinaire! By 1984 Gregory had already been nominated for 3 Tony Awards, and had starred in Mel Brooks’ History of the World, Part 1. He had guested on Sesame Street a few times, showcasing the concepts of Near and Far with his brother (not Grover) and later became a mentor to Savion Glover, who played Savion on the show for 5 years. Over the remainder of his career before his untimely passing in 2003, he guest starred in shows like Will & Grace and Blues Clues.

Ed Koch as The Mayor of New York City

From 1978 to 1989, Ed Koch served as the Mayor of New York. I guess that’s enough to consider him a celebrity, even though everyone in the world knows him best for talking to a hook-nosed weirdo about potentially hiring a frog who can balance his budget.

John Landis as Leonard “Lenny” Winesop

That big time Broadway producer, what’s his name? Right, Lenny – we go way back, I mean WAY back. The guy who so carelessly tosses his ‘Manhattan Melodies’ script in the trash can isn’t a big time Broadway guy, he’s the big time movie director John Landis, who returned the favor of getting this cameo (and his job as a puppeteer in the big Muppet Movie finale) by putting Frank Oz in his films An American Werewolf in London, Trading Places, and The Blues Brothers; Richard Hunt in Trading Places; and Jim Henson in Into the Night.

Linda Lavin as Doctor

Linda Lavin shot to stardom in the early 1970’s as a Tony Award nominee, before going on to star as the titular Alice in the award winning sitcom. Linda earned three Golden Globes nominations for her work on the show, winning two, and was nominated for Lead Actress in a Comedy Series at the 1979 Emmy Awards. Linda was also the guest star in a season 4 episode of The Muppet Show, an episode famous for it’s song ‘Frog Kissin’. Linda continues to work now even at 87, and has starred in shows like Bob’s Burgers, Santa Clarita Diet and The Good Wife, as well as films like Wanderlust and The Back Up Plan.

Gates McFadden as Mr. Price’s Secretary

Years before she was ‘Gates McFadden,’ she was ‘Cheryl McFadden,’ star of The Muppets Take Manhattan. After changing her name, she found work as a choreographer on Labyrinth and in the Jim Henson Creature Shop film Dreamchild. But you probably know her best as Dr. Beverly Crusher from Star Trek: The Next Generation. It’s a good thing her former boss Martin Price got picked up by the cops or else she never would’ve gotten her future medical degree.

Liza Minnelli as Herself

I mean, who doesn’t know who Liza Minnelli is? The daughter of Judy Garland, Liza became a household name in her own right, winning an Academy Award in 1972 for her role as Sally Bowles in Cabaret. She starred in a large number of stage shows, including playing Roxie in Chicago. Liza was also the guest star on a well known season 4 episode of The Muppet Show, set entirely as a detective mystery. Over the years Liza has continued to be a Hollywood mainstay and famously appeared in 21 episodes of Arrested Development as Lucille Austero, aka Lucille 2.

Joan Rivers as Eileen

Can we talk? We sure can, as long as it’s about Joan Rivers. In The Muppets Take Manhattan, she sells French perfume at Bergdorf Goodman’s, and then ruins a perfectly good Miss Piggy puppet by covering it with makeup. A longtime comedian, she became the first woman to headline her own late-night talk show, and later became a staple at award shows to interview (and often mock) celebrities on the red carpet. She also reignited her feud with Miss Piggy in 2014 after getting pushed into a cake. It was a whole thing.

Vincent Sardi, Jr. as The Guy Who Owns Sardi’s

Since a whole sequence of The Muppets Take Manhattan takes place at the famous Sardi’s Restaurant, it makes sense that the owner would make an appearance to give Kermit and the rats the old heave-ho. The restaurant was originally opened by Vincent Sardi, Sr., but the Vincent who appears in this movie was the owner and manager by the time this film was made, so he gets the cheese.

Brooke Shields as Customer

Only 18 at the time of The Muppets Take Manhattan, Brooke Shields had already been in the public eye since she was a kid. Appearing in films like Pretty Baby and Blue Lagoon, Brooke was also known as a world famous model. She had also been the guest for the ‘Alice in Wonderland’ episode of The Muppet Show at age 14, in one of only two episodes not currently available for streaming on Disney+, due to music licensing issues. Since the movie, Brooke has continued to work in television, starring in Suddenly Susan and a memorable guest starring role in Friends. She also worked with The Muppets at Muppetpalooza in 2001, replacing an absent Miss Piggy. There’s also a wonderful documentary about her life currently available on Hulu and Disney+ entitled Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields, which includes a clip of her talking with Kermit in an unknown Christmas special.

The Sesame Street Gang as Themselves

Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch, Bert and Ernie, Guy Smiley, a few Honkers, Biff, Deena, Simon Soundman… the whole gang is there! Attending the wedding at the end of ‘Manhattan Melodies,’ the Sesame Street cast is sitting on the bride’s side, indicating that in this universe they’re guests of Miss Piggy and not their longtime neighbor Kermit the Frog. Anyway, you probably recognize them from that show that’s been on the air since 1969 and taught you how to read. You know the one.

Uncle Travelling Matt as ???

We can only assume that Travelling Matt from Fraggle Rock is also attending Kermit and Piggy’s wedding as himself, but what if he’s not? What if he’s supposed to be, I don’t know, the King of Broadway? Or Miss Piggy’s ex-suitor who plans on contesting the wedding? Or he could even be… YOU!

Happy 40th, The Muppets Take Manhattan! Now, where the heck do we stream you?

By Jarrod Fairclough –

Click here to give Jenny the huggies on the ToughPigs Discord!

You May Also Like…

Written by Jarrod Fairclough

Read More by Jarrod Fairclough

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This