How many Muppets characters do you know?
The Muppet Wiki currently includes the names of 2,593 Muppets, and if you click the “Random Muppet” button you’ll get a page for one of them chosen by the arbitrary whims of the wiki’s electronic brain. How many do you think you would recognize off the top of your nerdy head? Recently, Tough Pigs’ own Anthony Strand and I got together to test our Muppet geek knowledge with a little game we call The Random Muppet Challenge. Read on for the exciting result!
Ryan: Say, Tough Pigs’ own AnthonyStrand, the two of us sure know a lot of stuff about a lot of Muppets, don’t we?
Anthony: More than most humans on Earth, I imagine.
Ryan: That’s probably accurate. So I think it’ll be fun to put that knowledge to the test using the Muppet Wiki’s “Random Muppet” button.
Anthony: I agree! That would be fun!
Ryan: So here are the basic rules of this game, which we just made up: For each round of play, one of us clicks the Random Muppet button, and reads the name of the character that comes up. Then it’s up to the other player to provide a basic description of the character, the Muppeteer who performed the character, and what production the character comes from.
Also, we’re on the honor system. It would be really easy for us to cheat by looking up the characters we’re supposed to be identifying from memory, but we’re not going to do that because we’re Muppet fans and Muppet fans are honorable people.
Anthony: As honorable as Judge Reinhold.
Ryan: Okay, you won the coin toss, so you guess first. I’m clicking the button… and your first random Muppet is… Grouch Mayor.
Anthony: That must be from Elmo in Grouchland, right? It must be.
Ryan: You’re right so far.
Anthony: Man, I haven’t seen that movie since probably 2001 or so.
Ryan: It’s not one that begs to be re-watched, unless you’re four years old.
Anthony: I’m going to guess that the Grouch Mayor says something insulting about Mandy Patinkin… and is played by Martin P. Robinson.
Ryan: Well, the bad news is you’re wrong on both counts. The good news: The Grouch Mayor would be overjoyed by your wrongness. He sings the “Welcome to Grouchland” song, and he’s played by Jerry Nelson.
Anthony: Wow, Jerry Nelson. Awesome. Good for the Grouch Mayor.
Ryan: Absolutely. I’ve often wished I were performed by Jerry Nelson.
Anthony: I always imagined you as more of a Dave Goelz character.
Ryan: Somebody asked Joe and me which Muppeteer we thought we would be performed by in an Ask Tough Pigs video, and I think I said Dave Goelz. Maybe it’s because I see myself as a weirdo. Or a round-headed scientist.
Anthony: Or maybe it’s because you have a driver’s license but not an English accent.
Anthony: Okay, your random Muppet(s) are “Goslings“!
Ryan: The first goslings that come to mind are the ones from Mother Goose Stories.
Anthony: Those are the ones! One of your favorite Muppet productions, I know.
Ryan: They run around acting stupid, like children do, and listening to their mom tell them stories about ugly puppets.
Anthony: Correct! Jim Henson’s The BORE-yteller, I call it.
Ryan: Perfect. But hmmm, who played them? I’m going to guess they included Mike Quinn and Louise Gold.
Anthony: One of those is right!
Ryan: And… let me think. Did Ron Mueck play one of them?
Anthony: He did not play one of them.
Ryan: Awww. Okay, I give up.
Anthony: They were played by Mike Quinn, Karen Prell, and Mopatop himself, Mak Wilson.
Ryan: I wouldn’t have guessed Karen Prell. She’s not even British!
Anthony: Nope! She’s versatile! I bet she used her “Please sir, I want some cheese” voice.
Ryan: Ah, yes. So really, she’d been practicing to play that mouse her entire life!
Anthony: I would assume so, yes.
Ryan: Okay, your next random Muppet is… well. It’s Marvin Suggs!
Anthony: Frank Oz! The Muppet Show! Owner, abuser and performer of The Muppaphone! This game would be pretty pointless if I didn’t know that one.
Ryan: It really would. And yet, I’m sure there are people out there who would consider themselves “HUGE Muppet fans!!!!!” who wouldn’t be able to identify that character.
Anthony: Yeah, he’s definitely not one of Frank Oz’s better-known blue characters.
Ryan: I mean, I’m not criticizing them, just spotlighting our geekiness.
Anthony: Right. They’re the ones who have other things to think about. We’re the ones who own two copies of The Muppet Show Book just in case one gets a crease in it.
Ryan: You never know!
Anthony: Hey, I spilled mustard on my copy of Muppets from Space: The Making of Muppet Movie Magic once. These things happen, and it’s not pretty when they do. You need to be prepared.
Anthony: In any case, your random Muppet is . . . Whattaya know, it’s Waldo C. Graphic!
Ryan: Oh, good. I was afraid I was going to end up with “Pig with a Mustache” or something. Waldo was performed (via the magic of technology!) by Steve Whitmire on The Jim Henson Hour.
Anthony: Magic! Correct.
Ryan: I don’t know if he actually had a job title on the MuppeTelevision staff, but he tended to morph into dinosaurs and hats and things. Oh, and he jumps on people’s heads in Muppet-Vision 3D.
Anthony: Yeah, I think his job is “impress the audience”
Ryan: Yeah, and it works!
Anthony: Waldo’s such a great character He’s one of those things – a real-time CG character in 1989! – that makes me wonder what amazing things Jim Henson would have done if he hadn’t left us so soon.
Ryan: Well, we probably would have seen more of Waldo, for one thing. And then, who knows? Maybe Jim Henson would have directed Avatar instead of the other Jim.
Anthony: It probably would have been funnier!
Ryan: If Avatar had been funny, I would have stayed awake. Especially if it had included Sigourney Weaver jumping on people’s heads. Ready for your next Random Muppet?
Anthony: As ready as Stephen Lang was to strip the planet of Unobtanium!
Ryan: Your random Muppet is Harvey Beaver!
Anthony: Harvey Beaver – that’s one of the members of Emmet Otter’s Jugband, right? The Jim Henson one… He plays kazoo, I think.
Ryan: As a beaver might say, “You’re dam right!”
Anthony: Most beavers I know would just gnaw on my leg.
Ryan: Ah, those guys… Actually, Harvey plays washboard in addition to kazoo, which I think would be quite a challenge.
Anthony: He plays them at the same time? How do I have no memory of that?
Ryan: Because your attention was focused on Wendell Porcupine?
Anthony: That seems likely. You know how much I love any Dave Goelz character that doesn’t have any eyes.
Ryan: I do know. You never stop talking about it. In fact, you even started a poll about it on the Tough Pigs forum once!
Anthony: Anyway, here’s your next random Muppet: Pearl.
Ryan: Ah yes, Pearl. Pearl lived in a cave with Deena on Sesame Street for a brief time… In the early 80s, I believe. And she was the straight man to the more exuberant Deena?
Anthony: Correct! The wiki says season 12, by the way. But who played her?
Ryan: I’m going to say Brian Muehl.
Anthony: Correct! Noted Young Adult Author Brian Muehl.
Ryan: Yay! I wasn’t sure which performer was which character in the Deena/Pearl/Brian Muehl/Karen Prell combo, so I was guessing. I haven’t read his books… nor have I seen a full Deena and Pearl sketch that wasn’t dubbed in German.
Anthony: Right, me neither! That’s the only one on YouTube. Strange.
Ryan: I’m still hoping for an Old School Volume 3 DVD set.
Anthony: I’d be all for that, especially since that’s the era I missed entirely. It’s too late to be “classic”, and it’s too early for those of us born in 1984.
Ryan: Sure. As for me, I was born during season 12, so I was too young to be watching TV.
Anthony: Yeah. So the point is, Sesame Workshop should go ahead and put out Old School Volume 3 to appeal to the Anthony and Ryan demographic.
Ryan: I agree. And I bet other people with other names would buy it too!
Ryan: Your next Random Muppet is coming at you! The Gargoyle!
Anthony: And it’s not Angus McGonagle?
Ryan: Nope, just “The Gargoyle.” Good luck.
Anthony: The Gargoyle is a character from The Storyteller. He probably encased some girl in a giant glass chamber for 4000 years, until her childhood manservent rode in on a giant chicken to save her. He was voiced by Robbie Coltrane and performed by David Barclay.
Ryan: Wow, I feel like I should give you points for creativity, but you’re 100% wrong.
Ryan: The Gargoyle was played by Louise Gold on an episode of The Muppet Show in season five.
Ryan: Does that ring a bell? If you can tell me what she did I’ll give you partial credit.
Anthony: At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I’d know that if Disney would release the 5th season on DVD! No, I have no idea.
Ryan: It was the Debbie Harry episode, which was on the Time Life DVDs. But still.
Anthony: Ah. I don’t have most of those.
Ryan: The Gargoyle sang “For me and My ‘Goyle (For me and My Gal)” with Mulch.
Anthony: Wow, Mulch from Muppets Tonight?! Was he called that in the sketch?
Ryan: I don’t think he had a real name until Muppets Tonight.
Anthony: Sure. That’s what I would have thought.
Ryan: But I guess the Gargoyle never did anything else after that.
Anthony: Poor thing. All right. Ready for your Random Muppet?
Ryan: I am.
Anthony: It’s “Hugo“.
Ryan: Hmmm. Hugo… is… a French Whatnot Muppet… from… The Muppet Show, played by Jerry Nelson… seen… in… the “Why Can’t We Be Friends” musical number. Yes.
Anthony: I wish!
Ryan: Me too.
Anthony: Hugo is a “Canine Action Specialist” who is interviewed about his work in the Tim Allen Shaggy Dog movie in an episode of From the Balcony, played by Victor Yerrid. I’m so, so sorry that I had to remind you that From the Balcony existed.
Ryan: Would you believe my first thought was to guess that he was from From the Balcony?
Anthony: Wow! No! I mean, I believe you.
Ryan: Always go with your first instinct, even when it sucks.
Anthony: Indeed! Apparently he’s from episode 19… I think I watched about eight.
Ryan: Which episode was your favorite?
Anthony: The one that had a Muppet Superman in it, of course! What am I, not a DC Comics-obsessed nerd?!
Ryan: You are not not one of those. You know, From the Balcony was a pleasant diversion at first, but when Steve and Dave stopped playing the characters the whole thing just had a bad aftertaste.
Anthony: Yeah, I absolutely agree. The “Drew and Victor” era was a lot like French Stewart in Inspector Gadget 2, if you think about it.
Ryan: Not as good as the original, which was unnecessary in the first place?
Ryan: That’s a lot of x’s, thus ensuring that this article will draw a lot of web-surfers looking for porn. So, thanks!
Ryan: Okay, here’s your fifth and final Random Muppet.
Anthony: Hit me!
Ryan: Piper Piper!
Anthony: That must be from a Sesame Street Newsflash. Peter Piper’s sister or something… played by Frank Oz.
Ryan: You got two out of three! It is Peter Piper’s sister, so that’s a good guess, because the point of that sketch is that Peter Piper has a zillion relatives. But she was played by Jerry Nelson.
Anthony: Of course! I figured it was probably Frank, Jerry, or Richard Hunt.
Ryan: Sure. You know my favorite part of that sketch?
Anthony: What’s that?
Ryan: There’s a moment when the family dog comes up to Kermit, and he says, “Who’s this?” And Frank’s character says, “Oh, that’s PEPPER POPPER!”
And Kermit says, “You mean… Pepper Piper?” And Frank says, “Pepper Piper,” and Kermit says, “Yeah, I thought that’s what you meant.”
Anthony: HA! I love it when they leave in those flubs in old Sesame sketches
Ryan: Me too. I wish they would do that now… It’s endearing.
Anthony: Very much so. I think the difference is that they only have 26 episodes a season now, and maybe one of the advantages of that — from their point-of-view — is that they can spend more time on shooting and editing each segment.
Ryan: Right. When they were shooting hundreds of hours a season, sometimes “good enough” had to be good enough.
Anthony: Yep. And we still have all those hours of great old sketches!
Anthony: So anyway, here’s your final Random Muppet… and for the second time today, it’s actually multiple Muppets. It’s “Stalks“.
Anthony: Stalks. (This is the Aaron Sorkin/Brian Michael Bendis segment of the piece, apparently.)
Ryan: (Right. We’re either walking down a hallway or sitting in a dark room with dramatic shadows right now.) Okay. Let me work this one out.
Corn comes in stalks. But usually Muppet corn is seen on the cob.
Ryan: There were cornstalks onscreen in the “Muppet Hoo Haw Ha-Ha-Ha Hee-Ho-Ho” sketch on the episode of Muppets Tonight, but I can’t remember if they talked. But I got nothing else, so I’m going to say it’s talking cornstalks (corns-talks?) on Muppets Tonight, played by Bill Barretta and Brian Henson.
Anthony: Those are not the “Stalks” in question.
Ryan: Oh. Well, darn.
Anthony: “Stalks” are actually those awesome abstract crescent-moon shaped guys from The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence.
Anthony: The “Wuzzy wuz, melg?”/”Coo Vahdu?” couple.
Ryan: Oh, melg, melg, melg! Well, I wouldn’t have guessed that, but now I’ll never forget it.
Anthony: My reaction exactly. I never knew what they were called. For the record, they were played by Jerry Nelson and Fran Brill.They are “listed in the script as Pink Stalk and Gold Stalk.”
Ryan: Good to know! I don’t remember ever seeing them again after Sex & Violence. I guess they were hanging out with the Gargoyle.
Anthony: The wiki doesn’t list any additional appearances.
Ryan: I’d like to use one of those guys as a pillow.
Anthony: You should write Henson a letter. See if they’re still around and you could purchase one.
Ryan: Yeah! They’d have to cut me a deal, right? There can’t be much demand for those characters.
Anthony: Coo Vahdu?
Ryan: Woggy wogg, scooblish! Man, we are so cool.
Anthony: We are!
Anthony: Anyway, that was fun.
Ryan: Yes. And the wiki was pretty good to us… We got a good mix of semi-obscure and super-obscure Muppets.
Anthony: Yeah, and I liked how we seemed to get each kind in tandem.
Ryan: Yes. So basically, the wiki is alive, and it is benevolent.
Anthony: Yeah, absolutely. Also, I can’t stop clicking the Random Muppet button now.
Ryan: Neither can I! Just think, if we had gone one more round, you would have had to identify that obscure character “Big Bird.”
Anthony: Wow! You would have had to identify the equally-popular “Mr. MacTaggart.”
Ryan: He must be from Mother Goose Stories.
Anthony: Nope! Dog City the series, played by Martin P. Robinson.
Ryan: That’s what I said.
Anthony: Close enough.
Ryan: So the best thing about this game is everyone can play at home!
Anthony: Sure, if they like Muppets and clicking!
Ryan: If they’re reading this, they almost certainly do. Now, let’s see… How did we score? Well hey, if my math is right, we tied with umpty-two points each!
Anthony: Why not?
Ryan: Yay for us! Yay for the wiki! And yay for every Muppet character ever.
Click here to woggy wogg scooblish on the Tough Pigs forum!
by Ryan Roe – Ryan@ToughPigs.com