Transcription provided by Katilyn Miller.
The Muppets Mayhem: Backstage Pass – Episode 1: “Can You Picture That”
[Intro music plays]
JOE HENNES: Hello, and welcome to the Muppets Mayhem: Backstage Pass, the unofficial companion podcast to The Muppets Mayhem, presented by Toughpigs.com. This is the podcast where we tour through every episode of The Muppets Mayhem to uncover behind the scenes stories, Easter eggs and more with the talented cast and crew, who helped put the series together. I’m your host, dedicated Mayhead, Joe Hennes.
JOE: Today we’re kicking things off with Track One: Can You Picture That, in which the Electric Mayhem is contractually obligated to produce an album, so they throw a couple of legendary ragers. For this debut episode, we’re excited to welcome three special guests to the podcast, all of whom were vital in bringing The Muppets Mayhem to the screen.
Our first guest is a writer and producer, best known for his hit sitcom, The Goldbergs and he’s one of the co-creators and executive producers of The Muppets Mayhem. Please welcome Adam Goldberg to the podcast. Hi, Adam.
ADAM GOLDBERG: Hey, I’m now known for Muppets Mayhem, not The Goldbergs.
JOE: That’s true. Yeah.
JOE: Do you want me to redo your intro there?
ADAM: No. Not at all. [laughs]
ADAM Totally fine. I’m very, very excited to be here and excited about this show.
JOE: Wonderful. Our next guest is a writer, film editor, and former Jim Henson company intern who has definitely risen up in the world, because he is yet another co-creator and executive producer of The Muppets Mayhem. Please welcome Jeff Yorkes to the podcast. Hey, Jeff.
JEFF YORKES: What’s up? I was terrified to hear how I was going to be introduced after Adam’s long intro of all his accolades and credits. And we have Jeff Yorkes.
JOE: [laughs] Well, isn’t it nice that I mentioned your internship?
JEFF: It’s amazing. It is. I’ve come a long way.
ADAM: And the next person has nothing to do with Muppets at all though. I know that.
JOE: No, nothing. No, he’s a newbie to this world. Our final guest is, yes, another co-creator and executive producer of The Muppets Mayhem, but he’s also the man responsible for bringing those golden teeth and golden tones to life as Dr. Teeth. Please welcome Bill Barretta to the podcast. Hey, Bill.
BILL BARRETTA: [in gruff voice] Oh, hey, what’s happening, what’s happening? Hey, how you doin’?
JEFF: I honestly thought you were going to introduce Frank Langella. I was confused.
BILL [in normal voice] I worked with Frank Langella. He’s a lovely man.
JOE: Yes, he was in Muppets Most Wanted.
BILL: Yes sir. We put him in a hole. He was so tall that I said, “Miss Piggy and Kermit are going to look so tiny in front of you,” that I asked him if he wouldn’t mind being in a one-foot-deep hole with his robe going to the floor. [laughs]
JEFF: As long as it’s not six feet.
BILL: And he did it. He did it. It was amazing.
JEFF: We’ve already derailed this thing, by the way.
JOE: Yeah, you weren’t nearly as kind when you asked me to stand in a hole.
BILL: Well yeah. I was, like Jeff just said, that was the six-foot-deep one.
JOE: Yeah, fair, fair. I had it coming. So gentlemen, let’s start with where did the idea for an Electric Mayhem series come from?
ADAM: Bill, you start.
BILL: [sigh] Okay.
JEFF: Two different places. We’ll start with Bill.
BILL: All right. Well, so yeah, after we did Outside Lands and the reception that we got… it was just so much fun to do and we hadn’t done anything like that with the band, you know, to that degree. And it was amazing and I just started thinking about how much fun it would be to take them on tour. Right? Why don’t we just take the band on tour kind of thing? And then as I started thinking about it more, I thought, well, maybe it’s like a series about them going on tour and so I had pitched to the Muppet studios back then.
And then the changing of the guard happened and there were some new folks now running it. And I pitched the idea to them and everybody was kind of, they loved the idea. And so, little did I know while we were talking about, you know, should we go pitch it to Disney Plus, then I can just pass it right off. Go ahead you guys go from there.
ADAM: Simultaneously, the stars aligned because Jeff and I had been working on a Muppets Mayhem series for quite a long time, just for fun, on spec. I was, at the time, at Sony so I couldn’t even pitch it. And when I finally got a deal with Disney it was one of the reasons, probably if not the main reason I went to Disney.
And Jeff sold me on the idea because before his life, as a creator of television series, he was a trailer editor and he loved this idea so much, he cut a trailer for the Mayhem.
JEFF: I made a living cutting trailers to help people sell their shows. And I was like, “Well, I have an idea,” and this was for a movie and I pitched it to Adam. I’m like, “Here’s the trailer for the movie, using clips of the Mayhem and all this stuff.” And he’s like, “It’s great. I think it’s a television show. And also, I have this deal, so I can’t do anything with it.” So that was sort of the end.
ADAM: Yeah. So we waited patiently. And then when we finally approached Disney, they’re like, “Oh, Bill Barretta has this exact same idea.”
JEFF: Muppets did, right?
BILL: Muppets, yeah.
ADAM: Muppets Studios.
JEFF: Why don’t you guys talk?
ADAM: Yeah, talk. And basically that was a terrifying zoom because Jeff and I love Bill and his work and we’re now pitching Bill. Like, “Here’s what we think Dr teeth… Here’s his back story.” So we’re pitching Dr. Teeth what happened when Dr. Teeth was a child. And then Bill was so on board right away and we just started riffing and we were like okay this is working.
JEFF: So it was just so easy and just like, we just clicked and we all got very excited. More excited than we already had been.
BILL: I think also they have the…I think the smarter approach to the series which was that it was about the band creating their first album.
JEFF: Yeah. I always wanted do that.
BILL: Versus my idea of yeah, versus my idea of the tour, right? So that could be another season but this was so much smarter, you know, to do the album thing.
JEFF: Yeah. I’d always just wanted an album and when it sort of clicked that that’s what this could be, we had what called the engine to the show, you know. It’s not just day and then the misadventures…
BILL: Is that a writer’s term? Is that a writer’s term?
JEFF: I don’t know. I’m only a reader.
BILL: Engine to the show…
ADAM: Jeff wanted his Mayhem album, which never existed and now, this album is number one on Billboard.
BILL: That is crazy.
JOE: How about that?
JEFF: And remember, we kept fighting, I kept fighting for him. It has to come out. It has to be a vinyl. I mean, it’s like number three, on vinyl.
BILL: Yeah. It’s just amazing.
JOE: Well, first of all, I love the idea of creating an entire television series just so that you could have a piece of merchandise. I very much relate to that.
JEFF: Yeah, my next one’s about a t-shirt.
JOE: [laughs] Is there any chance that we’ll ever get to see that trailer that you cut because I’m very curious to see what your pitch looked like.
JEFF: Well, what’s really interesting about it is that that trailer actually became the first sizzle…
BILL: The first teaser.
ADAM: The first teaser that was released.
JEFF: The first third of my trailer was what became the teaser where it’s just like, you know, for the past 45 years one band, then you know the misdirect, the rope pull and then I wound up, just recutting it with the footage from our show.
JOE: Great. Yeah.
JEFF: So whereas before I was using all these random movies, like Rock Star, Almost Famous, and things like that now, I could swap it out with The Muppets Mayhem. Just a tight shot of the mixing board, Moog, you know, Floyd on bass, that kind of stuff.
JOE: Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely. Well it obviously worked because when we saw the actual teaser, I mean, the Internet blew up. The Muppet fan community went nuts.
JOE: You delivered on the promise which is also always satisfying.
ADAM: Thank you.
JOE: Can you talk a little bit about the research that you guys had to do? Probably more for you Adam and Jeff to learn more about the Mayhem so that you could write in their voices.
JEFF: I don’t think I did much. You know, I grew up with the Muppets. I love the Muppets. I love the Electric Mayhem. That was something. I felt like you know, for me it was The Muppet Show. It’s The Muppet Movie. Great Muppet Caper. I mean, all of it and I sort of knew that and I don’t, I mean, I watched the recent series, but…
ADAM: I think for Jeff, I would like that he would have done less research because his brain is a giant Muppet encyclopedia which is helpful sometimes, and sometimes Jeff would be like, “Oh, but wait, in The Muppet Show they said this.” So Jeff is definitely familiar with the canon. It’s I think awesome for Jeff. He’s doing a Tough Pig’s podcast where this is one of his favorite websites so…
JOE: Oh! Get out of here.
ADAM: You know…
JEFF: I’ll tell you, I mean it was great sitting in the room, you have Bill, who is a Muppet, you know. I mean, he’s real person but he performed Muppets. And as we were just like screwing around with dialogue, we would just improvise with the voices of these characters. And yeah.
ADAM: That was the most helpful was that we would joke that like, because Bill is Dr. Teeth. We would propose a line and then Bill would just pitch it as Dr. Teeth. And of course, all of that goes in the script because it’s so funny. We’re like Dr. Teeth is right in front of you saying it, but Bill also has a handle on all the other voices, too. So, I think, Bill, I mean, we would in the writers’ room or in the writers’ Zoom unfortunately would basically propose dialogue and then it would have to be filtered through Bill who has just, you know, 30 plus years of experience, with these characters.
BILL: Yeah, I think, I mean, obviously, you know, these two guys are big fans of the Muppets, right? And just like what they just said about knowing the history of them. But I think even with the band that there’s, you know, there’s what people know based on what they’ve seen, right? But there’s all kinds of things that when we’re performing there’s things we’re doing, you know, with each other that don’t make it to the screen and when we have our own ideas of backstories and things and so it was fun to throw those out there and get the Muppet performers to make some suggestions about character and throw them into the pot so we could discuss them in the writers’ Zoom, you know, and see what would bubble up and then.
Or take an idea that Jeff or Adam or one of the other writers would come up with and I would kind of, you know, occasionally go to the guys and one of the guys would say what do you think about, you know, Janice having a twin sister you know. And Dave would be like, “That’s pretty cool. What is she like?” And we didn’t know yet but we would then start to talk about it and find ways of developing the characters more. So that was the fun part. We, as the performers, I think had an idea of who these characters are obviously by learning from the originators and things that we play around with for years.
But this gave us even more of a chance to get deeper and find more stuff with them, you know.
JEFF: And I think that was one of our early meetings too where we did meet with Bill. This would seem like this was a thing. This was going to, you know, we were going to work on this and then we met with the performers because it just felt like such hubris to be like, “No, we’ve got this.” Like, why would we not work with these people, you know, who have developed these characters? As Bill was saying, you know, these are extensions of them at this point.
BILL: We’ve had situations in the past where people assume that they do know these characters and don’t really reach out or have that connection and what was great is that, you know, these guys were open to hearing out everybody.
JEFF: It’d be foolish not to.
BILL: Making everybody, a part of the group, which is what we always hope for, you know.
JOE: That’s great. Yeah. That’s, I mean, that’s exactly what we want as well. You know, we’ve always said that the puppeteers have known the characters best and you know, like you said, Jeff, it would be stupid for someone to come in and not take advantage of that.
JEFF: The greatest resource.
BILL: And it’s good to have one of us in the room, you know, all the time.
BILL: Being part of the creation because that doesn’t happen very often, you know.
ADAM: Yeah. That was one of the things was that I was really insistent with Disney was that Bill be a co-creator as opposed to just an executive producer. I thought, you know, looking back, since the Jason Segel movie, all the various projects never had there been one of the core group as a creator. And I think if you are familiar with the way that Jim Henson did it back in the day, it’s like, it was one giant hippie kind of like love-fest collaboration, right? Like, that was the most important part and, you know, Bill would say as we were writing, you know, “You think it’s good now just scriptwise wait until we get on the floor. That’s when the magic happens when we’re just riffing.”
So, you know, I think Jeff and I wanted to make this a group effort as opposed to just, like Jeff said, who are we to come in and be like, “We got this. We know the Muppets.” So it was really important that Bill who, you know, is Dr. Teeth, had already been thinking of the show, really be in the DNA and the creation of the show with Jeff and I because Jeff and I are just guests. We now feel like we’re maybe not, now, not guests because we have our name on a show, but at the time we were just facilitators, trying to get it going because…
JEFF: Allow us in.
ADAM: Yeah, I think it’s really important that all future Muppet projects, you know, really have the creators in sync with the performers in the way that we did it because you know, obviously it worked. So I think we wanted to be that moving forward.
JOE: You know, we talked a bit about Bill, you being Dr. Teeth, you having 30 years of experience doing this character. But you’re also upkeeping this legacy and carrying this torch, you know, of this character that was originally performed and created by Jim Henson.
BILL: Sorry. Who?
JOE: Oh, Jim Henson. I got a book about… I’ll send it to you.
BILL: Oh yeah, yeah. I remember.
JOE: How comfortable do you feel putting your own spin on Dr. Teeth, especially with things like creating new characteristics or backstory for this character?
BILL: Well, actually, I was recently talking to Dave Goelz about this idea of taking on somebody else’s characters and we both don’t really enjoy it. [laughs] Even though we love it, it’s hard. Because, you know, for me, I’ll speak for myself. At best, it’s an impersonation, right? A fair impersonation. But for me, it’s, you know, the person that creates it, that character is driven by that person. What’s in them? That comes from a place… Dr. Teeth comes from a place in Jim that he drew from something, whatever that was that helped him create this character.
And so at first, you know, you’re doing like the best impersonation you can and you’re trying to find…For me it’s the essence of the character. Or you’re trying to find the energy of the character. I was saying to Dave, Jim had so much energy in Dr. Teeth. I don’t think I could last through an entire scene that we’ve done in this show with that energy, right? So I had to find a way of using that energy but in not constant, right? Otherwise it’s just kind of one note. So for me it was about finding those peaks and valleys with Dr. Teeth. When is that energy there and when is he a little more chill? And that for me was kind of how I think I’m making it mine, in a way, if you want to say that.
But it’s just hard. It’s hard because everybody has their Dr. Teeth, right? They love what Jim did. And so I don’t know. I don’t know if I answered the question. I guess it’s just about, over time you try and find ways to put a little bit of yourself in there so you’re more comfortable doing it instead of just pretending you’re doing somebody else’s character.
JOE: Sure. Yeah.
ADAM: I will pipe in and say as we were preparing to do the show, I had a Zoom with Brian Henson.
BILL: I’m sorry. Who?
ADAM: Uh, Brian Henson.
BILL: Oh yes, yes right.
ADAM: Jim’s son.
BILL: Yes. Yes.
ADAM: He’s done some Muppet stuff.
ADAM: But no, we were, we were talking about, you know, the process and I just wanted to pick his brain and any kind of pointers and Brian said, of all of the characters of people who’ve taken over characters, he said at this point when he thinks of Dr, teeth, he thinks Bill. He doesn’t think Jim.
ADAM: And that Bill has made it his own and, you know, it’s not an impersonation at this point. It’s like Bill is bringing Dr. Teeth to life with his own essence, which I thought was really cool to hear.
BILL: He’s lying.
JEFF: And I think, you know, he’s become so much more dimensionalized, you know, with Bill and certainly with the show. And what Bill brings is his heart and that’s why you feel and you care. It’s, I mean, that’s what he’s brought to it and it’s in every line that he says. And Dr. Teeth was never given a chance to be that and Bill has given him that chance.
JOE: And just like pure quantity. This series specifically has giving Dr. Teeth and the rest of the band so much more of a spotlight than they’ve ever had before. You know, before they come in, they do a joke. They get off stage. They come and they do one song. They get off the stage. Like maybe you could say, you know, Outside Lands something like that, where they could sing a bunch of songs. But that’s not character. That’s just, you’re doing a performance.
JOE: But this, I think a lot of fans are going to come out of watching Muppets Mayhem feeling like this is Dr. Teeth. This is the way he sounds. This is what we’ll kind of continue moving forward with the characterization.
JEFF: I think it was the advantage we had also in writing it that people sort of knew these characters. You certainly recognize them but you didn’t know that much about them. So it gave us freedom to really flesh them out or foam them out. I don’t know or felt them out. So I just thought, you know, you could just go and kind of do what you want. Starting with the basic things that you know, people knew.
ADAM: I’m a glutton for punishment, and Jeff and Bill have really discovered this that I really read all of the online comments. The Facebook pages, Twitter especially, not so much on Instagram. And I’ll even do “Muppets Mayhem sucks” and do that as a search.
JEFF: How do you spell sucks?
ADAM: Who out there is not liking the show. So one thing I have never seen is like a fan saying this is not the character that I knew. Like if there’s Gonzo or Kermit or Fozzie, like anytime you do with those characters, like, “That’s not Kermit. That’s not my Kermit.” Right?
Because that character is so fleshed out. No one is saying this is not the Lips that I grew up with.
ADAM: You know, Lips maybe had one line. So that was a huge relief for Jeff and I in terms of like, we’re standing on the shoulders of giants, but we’re like the smaller giants, right? Like so we can kind of make it…
JEFF: A little less pressure.
ADAM: Yeah a little less pressure for us. It was a great way to dip our toe into this world for sure.
JOE: What was the first thing that you filmed for the series?
JEFF: I think we cut it.
JEFF: The first thing we shot in episode 1 when Nora shows up to the shack. She just found out that they’re performing at the shack, right? And she runs into the house to find… I think there’s a crowd outside and they’re upset because people are, you know, Animal’s banging on the drums.
And so the shot was Nora entering the house. “What’s going on here?” Animal’s on the drums, just pounding and rage. Remember the camera swivel, turned around, pulled back. There’s Dr. Teeth building a house of cards. Floyd is, you know, just reading a magazine. Janice is there doing like a tarot reading or something like that.
And that was the day where Adam and I were in the writers’ room and someone hurried in, and they’re just like, “Okay, we are two hours in. You are four days behind. As we set up this shot and I think we even saw it on a monitor and Adam’s like “Yeah, we’re not going to use that shot.”
ADAM: Yeah, we ended up cutting the entire scene. Yeah, it just goes straight from, “What do you mean the shack? Let’s hope the police don’t come,” or whatever the line is and it cuts to the police at the pool. You know, that was the first thing we shot and cut.
JOE: Fantastic. Well, I’m glad you got back on schedule.
ADAM: Right on the last day. On the last day we almost made it back on schedule.
JOE: Well, speaking of getting back on schedule, let’s talk about this episode. This pilot episode here. We start the episode at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles.
BILL: Which was not in the script.
JEFF: Right. Reshoot.
JOE: Oh, really? Was it supposed to be a different theater?
JEFF: Yeah. It was basically in episode something or other, when they’re on the side of the road and they’re performing “It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It). That was our open. And we cut it and it’s cool and the powers that be at Disney Plus saw it, and they’re just like, “We just want bigger.”
JOE: Oh, alright.
JEFF: “This is great. But we just want to get into this. We want to blast the audience with Electric Mayhem.”
BILL: Great suggestion.
JOE: Yeah. It was a good suggestion. It was a great way to start the show, to remind us, you know, we’re not creating a new continuity for the Electric Mayhem, where they’re this little band who are going to grow. Like they’re already famous. They already have a following that’s really important to what the story you guys were telling.
JEFF: Not a comeback story.
ADAM: Yeah, it was mainly important and we, like it’s funny because when we’re writing you’re like, “Okay we want them in a theater. We wanted the crowd going crazy. We want like huge lights and crane shots and then you are told, “Okay well, it’s not a movie, you can’t afford that.” So then we end up with. Okay. They’re now on the side of a road; their van broke down; and they’re just kind of jamming out and a cop comes up and he’s like, “You guys got to move it but the cop loves the Mayhem so much that they play another song. So that’s what we ended up shooting.
BILL: It’s fun.
ADAM: And Disney Plus was like, “What happened to the thing with the giant crowd?”
JEFF: You tell us.
ADAM: We were like, “If you give us the money, we’ll do it.” So, they were like, “We’ll give you the money, It’s really important.” So that’s kind of how that happened. So our side of the road with Cedric [Yarbrough] scene, that ended up becoming a cold opening and another episode where the van broke down. It’s a really fun way to start an episode but not the pilot, right?
And then on top of it when we decided, you know, I want to rock and roll all night and party every day, we were like, okay, they’re rock and rolling at night, what does the band do all day? So we got to go to the beach also, for a little fun reshoot and we shot so much great stuff that’s not in…
BILL: Lot of great stuff.
ADAM: Like, oh my god. Dave did this Zoot thing where Zoot was walking down a line of two people, it’s like, beachgoers that are just look like MTV spring break.
JEFF: Or like Soul Train, you know.
ADAM: Yeah. Like Soul Train line and his hands were just kind of waving back and forth. Really lovely but just totally out of it.
BILL: Teeth and Lips were buried up to their necks in the sand.
BILL: It was all kinds of fun stuff we shot.
JEFF: I’ll tell you, it also got us to Nora in a very cool way. That was, just on point for character, you know. Her not knowing the lyrics. Her being a poser.
JEFF: But I will tell you just from a personal note, going to the reshoot showing up to the El Rey, driving down Wilshire and coming up and seeing the El Rey all lit up at night and the Electric Mayhem, their name on the billboard. Like I got the chills. I’m like I cannot believe. This was a pinch yourself moment for me. I was just like I can’t believe I, in some way, contributed to the Electric Mayhem’s name being on the El Rey Theatre.
JOE: I wondered if that was a real marquee or if that was done in post.
JEFF: Totally a real marquee.
JOE: That’s cool. I can’t imagine being a Muppet fan and just like driving down the road, no big deal and then you see that and well, number one, you freak out. And number two, you freak out again because you think wait, are they doing a show? And I didn’t know about it.
JEFF: Yeah. Right.
JOE: And I’m not there? That would be slightly upsetting. I do have to mention because you were talking about this beach scene. There’s one shot of Floyd and Animal and they’re crowd surfing and I paused it just to make sure.
BILL: They were there.
JOE: Yeah, you could see Eric and Matt.
BILL: They had their beach shirts on.
JOE: Yeah. And they’re keeping their heads down.
JEFF: It was so simple.
BILL: Actually they’re really not, it’s just the angle, but they were one of the crowd, you know, that’s what we made them. Kind of like when we did Muppets Most Wanted when they were carrying Kermit through the crowd of the prisoners.
JOE: At the gulag. Yeah.
BILL: Yeah. Steve was there but he didn’t really hide, you know.
JOE: Yeah. Yeah. How did you land on “Rock and Roll All Nite” for this song?
ADAM: I think just because of that bit that I’ve wanted to put in a show for the last 15 years which is like, my son, I played it for him in the car and he thought the lyrics were rock and roll all night and part of every day because no one could conceivably rock all night. And then it would be part of every day. So that whole bit with Nora, that was something that I’d wanted to get in the show.
JEFF: And we did. We scripted it. We had like four pages of this back and forth and we’re like this is great and they’re like, “Yeah, it’s you know, four days of shooting.”
JOE: Right. Yeah.
JEFF: I would never fit in an episode.
ADAM: Yeah. So it was like, it was great. I mean, we have this like comedic bit that just kind of took on a life of its own, and it’s also such a great song for the band.
JEFF: Yeah, totally.
ADAM: That’s how they live.
JEFF: Just the anticipation of those drums at the top. I mean, it is really perfect. Yeah. And then the fact that it has a comic viewpoint, you know, like it has that turn there that just gets us to our character.
JOE: If only, we could have also gotten them and Kiss makeup, that would have been the kicker. But yes, as you said We see Nora. We meet her played by Lilly Singh, she’s wonderful on the show.
JOE: And she’s getting these lyrics incorrect and she is corrected by her barista at the drive-through coffee place played by Colton Dunn, who you may know from Superstore and I assume he was cool. He seems like a cool guy to work with.
BILL: Yeah. Well, honestly, that was one of our reshoot days and we were shooting several things at once. So actually I unfortunately couldn’t be there. I was shooting something else. So I missed that scene. I didn’t really get to watch that. I was everything else pretty much, but that one I unfortunately wasn’t able to be there.
ADAM: Yeah. Once we changed the our opening away from the road, then, it starts to domino other things.
ADAM: So now we’re like, it gave us the opportunity to give Nora a fun intro. I think initially she was giving like a powerpoint presentation to her sister about her plans for the band, which the essence of that is still in the show but you know, this way she could.
BILL: Well, we shot that too.
JEFF: We did shoot it and we also…
BILL: That got cut. Yeah.
ADAM: Oh, you’re peeking behind the curtain! Like in a pilot for sure? You know. There’s so many eyes and it’s under a microscope. So you do have that opportunity to perfect it once it’s finished. So we hit a couple crucial things.
BILL: All good choices too. I mean, in the end, all really great.
JEFF: We’ll get to another one in a second that absolutely improved our show. I’d say.
JOE: All right. We’re gonna hear about that in a second, I guess.
BILL: Oh, can I just say one thing? Sorry.
JOE: Go. You can say two things.
BILL: Just in the El Rey Theatre. Just a moment. I think that maybe fans out there would really appreciate. So we’re in the El Rey Theatre and you can see it’s a full body situation for these characters, right? So there’s 14 puppeteers total trying to make this scene happen all in green, right? So the amazing work that the VFX people did at soapbox, getting rid of everybody but there was a moment there. I’m just gonna… I’m sorry, you can cut this if you want. I had to tell you, but there was a moment where we had to wait, because we had a problem with the crane. So we’re waiting and I was sitting there and I remember and there’s an audience, right?
There’s a big crowd there waiting as well. And I’m like, what can we do? What could we do? And I thought of Leslie Carrara[-Rudolph] did an audition the first time she ever, when she came to join the Muppets. She did this amazing audition. It’s a two minute version of the entire movie, The Wizard of Oz.
It’s the most incredible thing you’ve ever seen. She does every character and just goes through the whole movie. The best Judy Garland I’ve ever heard. The witches… She does everything. Toto. And then at the end what wraps up her piece is everybody singing the song “Over the Rainbow.” And everybody started to sing and she got the whole room going, it was just her and her green doing this thing.
BILL: And the room just lit… It was so beautiful. And nobody really felt that, you know, the stress of oh the crane and how long is this taking but it was just a great moment. I just wanted to mention that because it was really memorable for people who were, you know, fortunately able to be there. It was just great. It was great.
JOE: Yeah. Wow that sounds really special. Yeah.
BILL: Yeah. It was, it was.
JOE: Well, speaking of Leslie, we are going to follow Nora to her job at Wax Town Records, which also I appreciate that Wax Town Records, is between a store called Pants and More and Pants for Less. I got a kick out of that.
ADAM: I love that you appreciate that because it was a nightmare.
JEFF: It wasn’t a nightmare.
ADAM: It was.
JEFF: It was a lot of just back and forth.
ADAM: Every week you have your Disney legal department and every store exists. So we had Boxes for more; Boxes for less. Both of those stores are real stores.
ADAM: So it got to the point where we just didn’t give them any other options, right?
JEFF: I mean, we couldn’t figure out…The one I really wanted was somehow related to a rock and a hard place. But what does a rock sell and what does a hard place sell, you know? But yeah we gave them this. That was it. We were like, “Well what if it’s a number? Four?” They were like “Okay.” We wore them down.
ADAM: But thank you for noticing that. A lot of effort went into it.
JOE: Of course. I mean look, this show is made to be paused a lot. I appreciate there’s stuff to see when you pause. At Wax Town records we meet Penny for the first time. New character performed by Leslie Carrara-Rudolph. And really, I have to give you guys kudos for creating number one, creating a new character because they’re so few new Muppet characters. Number two, creating a new female character, Again, so few of those. And number three, giving that female character, a female performer. So well done on all three counts there. And she’s a great character. She’s super fun and so interesting to look at. She’s so different from any other Muppet I’ve seen.
BILL: Great design. Paul Andrejco designed her. Puppet Heap, who you know basically takes care of the Muppets and makes sure they’re all in great shape and all the things they need. But yeah, it was a great design by Paul.
ADAM: The puppet is so huge, okay? And I don’t know that it fully comes across but like there’s one shot in this pilot where, Leslie is in the wheelchair with the puppet on top of her.
JEFF: That’s number two. That’s episode two.
ADAM: Oh, was that episode two? When she got the surgery and she’s all wrapped up?
ADAM: I can’t, I still don’t know where she is in there.
BILL: Like yeah she’s under there.
ADAM: She’s in there?
BILL: Yeah, we ripped out the inside of the chair and got her to sit crunched up in there.
JEFF: Yeah, you get a good idea of her size when she’s next to something. But so much of the pilot is her just sitting alone at a desk and it’s a big desk, you know?
BILL: Yeah. Yeah. She’s Bobo big. You know, she’s that kind of big.
JOE: Yeah, that’s how we measure Muppets. She’s Bobo big.
ADAM: Yeah exactly.
JOE: And I mean, I was told before the show premiere that she was designed to be a big surprise. And she is a surprise because she’s not in any of the trailers she was in none of the promotional stuff. Is that how you always kind of envisioned her? Like, okay, we can’t tell anybody, like don’t take any pictures because on release day, that’s when everyone’s going to see her for the first time.
BILL: I think it was that and the baby. Baby animal.
BILL: But yeah, I think more about, we just wanted to reveal, I think, in a great way.
JEFF: Yeah, that turn.
BILL: You know, the spin in her chair. Hopefully you don’t expect that if you don’t know it’s coming, you know?
BILL: I think it’s a great reveal.
JOE: Yeah, absolutely.
BILL: I think we always wanted that.
ADAM: Bill, when is the last time, besides Walter, there’s been a new original Muppet.
BILL: There’s the turkey on Muppets Now.
JOE: Yeah, Beverly Plume. Well yeah Constantine. Technically.
BILL: Constantine. Joe from Legal’s a great character that Peter [Linz] does.
ADAM: I just hope that…we really wanted to introduce a couple new Muppets. You know, Teeth’s parents. Just because you know, I think there just needs, in order for Muppets to continue forward we just need new characters.
BILL: Well you know and I think it’s also not an easy thing to do, right? I mean people come up with characters all the time but yeah the magic that happens is the performer makes it work ultimately with the writing to support it, right? So sometimes it just doesn’t happen. You know? All the hopes you have and it’s a funny bit and a funny character but sometimes that chemistry just doesn’t work.
And fortunately, when we were doing Penny and writing for Penny and creating her in the room, I would kind of do a version that I would imagine of like me doing a Penny, right? But I heard Leslie in my head because I’ve heard her do something similar before.
So in my mind, it was like, I think there’s somebody that’s going to be able to do this. We’ll see if everybody else agrees, ultimately. But you know, she just really nailed it. There wasn’t …right. It just was…
ADAM: She told me that the voice is modeled after I think her neighbor when she moved to this like weird, sketchy building. And her neighbor was this just old character. So she’s essentially channeling that and I realized like a lot of these characters come from, like Pepe the Prawn, that’s someone that Bill knows. You’re almost imitating a relative or your parent or, you know, a teacher and then it just gets kind of like, put into a fun puppet and hopefully that matches up perfectly.
BILL: We got lucky it worked. Very fortunate..
JEFF: I do want to say, I think Davis the Cactus is also really a highlight.
JEFF: So there’s a new Muppet.
BILL: That’s right. Davis will be back. We’re doing a spin-off with Davis.
JOE: We’re gonna do a whole bonus episode just about Davis.
JEFF: Cactus Among Us. Yeah.
JOE: So Nora is making the case to Penny that she wants to work with more bands to help produce some albums. But Penny says “Wax Town’s a ghost town. Time to close up shop.” Oh, I also want to mention this Wax Town record set is terrific. There’s so many little details. There’s so much going on.
BILL: Oh my gosh.
JOE: I want to say though, I visited the set once and I thought there’s got to be Easter eggs all over this thing and I spent so much time looking at like every album cover, every record. I didn’t see any Easter eggs. What’s up with that, guys?
JEFF: No they do in the shack, I know they have the cast album to Cabaret.
JEFF: Liza Minnelli was on a Muppet Show.
JOE: That’s true. Yes, there’s a connection. Yeah.
BILL: Lots of tickets stapled to the beams. Concert tickets.
JEFF: Well the shack definitely is full of Easter eggs.
ADAM: Shack has Easter eggs. You’re right, we probably didn’t…
BILL: Didn’t push it there.
ADAM: We didn’t push it there. Yeah
JOE: It’s okay. That’s all right. It’s not a real judgment.
ADAM: But you’re talking to Jeff, who’s the king of Easter eggs. So I’m sure that, you know, we’ll get them. We’ll get them season two. We’ll have to step up our if we go back to that set for sure.
BILL: But you know we should mention. I mean, we did have amazing production and set design team, you know. Denise Pizzini and David DiGiacomo and our set decorator, Don Diers, and then Jade Madden. But the colors and the palate of that space and trying to make it hip and cool but still retro, like it’s been there for way too long but there’s still these cool colors and textures in there. You know, I just loved her office. It was always great to walk in there and shoot in there. Yeah.
JOE: Nora is tasked with shredding all the papers and she finds the Mayhem’s standard famous rock star contract, which of course, is a reference to the standard rich and famous contract, from The Muppet Movie. I noticed that the contract is dated 1975, which is the same year as the Mayhem’s debut on The Muppet Show pilot Sex and Violence. Nice little Easter egg. I see you.
ADAM: That was all Jeff.
JEFF: I just want to say, the search engine is full of random Easter eggs.
JOE: I wrote this down, too, the search. She Googles them. And underneath it says, Who is the Electric Mayhem? Why is the Electric Mayhem? Has the Electric Mayhem ever been in jail? And, not really a question per se, but the Electric Mayhem stole my cat.
JEFF: Yeah, this was a fun afternoon. They’re like what, “What does this search engine look like?” And so I wrote up the whole page.
JOE: Yeah, I want to hear that story of how and why they stole a cat.
ADAM: I remember getting this email and I completely ignored it knowing Jeff would spend the day working on it.
JEFF: I love it. I laid it all out.
BILL: And that’s the thing. You know, Jeff really is the Easter egg man. Right. Or the Easter Bunny.
JEFF: There you go.
BILL: But I also, I think people got excited about that. When they would see him, you know, creating these things, they started to try and go off on their own and think of things they could do like the cups, right, Jeff?
JEFF: In seven?
BILL: Yeah. In episode seven, the documentary that Bethany Barton our props, property master, she created the cups that were from the Beatles documentary, the tea cups. So everybody started to get into this thing.
JEFF: I loved it. It was the best because I was all about the Mr. Bassman sticker, right.
JOE: Oh, that’s so good. That’s my favorite Easter egg in this whole series.
JEFF: I was just like and that’s when it clicked. I’m like, we have to do this. You know, it’s meant to be.
BILL: It was contagious.
JEFF: With every call we were on, I mentioned it. People were like, “We got it. We’re doing it.”
ADAM: I’m only doing the pilot podcast so I will say there’s two things that Jeff is responsible for: the baseball diamond.
ADAM: Which, you know, gets so much love on Twitter that was not surprising. I thought, well, you know, I don’t know, anyone’s gonna know the baseball diamond. And then, of course, Jeff, do you want to say the one? There was one joke that Jeff kept, I kept deleting out of the script because I thought it was so narrow and Jeff kept putting it back. And then, finally, he came to me and he was like, it would mean a lot to me if this joke was in the script.
And I thought, you know what, we’ll just cut it in editing.
JEFF: But I was in the editing room so I wouldn’t let it happen.
ADAM: Then in editing, Jeff sat next to me the whole time and refused to let it happen so you can say which one it is, Jeff.
JEFF: It’s the River Bottom Nightmare Band.
JOE: Oh, so good. You teased this to me.
JEFF: I’m a huge Emmet Otter fan.
JOE: Yeah, I met you at Comic Con, New York Comic Con this past year and I was telling you about, you know, getting excited about Easter eggs and you were like, “Get ready. There’s an Emmet Otter Easter egg.” And you left it at that.
JOE: You didn’t tell me anything else.
JEFF: I’m so proud of it. I only wanted to… you know, we were gonna have an episode where they’re beefing with another band and I just wanted it to be The River Bottom Nightmare Band.
ADAM: And I’m like, “Jeff, people know Emmet Otter because he’s in the title. No one knows the River Bottom Nightmare Band.
JOE: Adam, you’re so wrong. You’re so wrong. [laughs]
ADAM: So there was that. And then the one I’m most proud of is that we set the Muppets up in the same universe as the Feebles.
[All talking over each other]
JOE: Oh, yeah. We gotta break that whole thing open when we get to that episode. There’s so much to unpack there. So Nora finds a video featuring Ryan Seacrest. Of course you know him from American Idol.
BILL: Which was a great idea. I think that was Adam. I think, right? Didn’t you say we need to do some sort of like Entertainment Tonight so that there’s some real people talking about these guys.
ADAM: And Seacrest like, it was Covid. We had all these Covid restrictions when we were shooting, of course. And Ryan literally is such a pro. He had no preparation. He just got a thing on a teleprompter, and did it twice and that was it. Like, he is great. He is amazing, that guy.
BILL: And you know who else was great as one of our testimonies? Chris Stapleton. Cracks me up. He plays it so straight. I thought he was just so good. A beard? That’s your punchline? I grew a beard and it works, you know. It’’s so good the way he plays it.
JOE: Yeah. We see Chris Stapleton. We see Lil Nas X. We see Tommy Lee with his mayhem tattoo on his belly.
JEFF: I remember that one. Yeah.
JOE: That was super fun.
ADAM: And he has a mayhem tattoo! We have to use this!
JOE: Was that a real tattoo?
[Bill, Jeff and Adam all confirm]
JOE: He really has that? I didn’t know.
JEFF: What we didn’t use was, “They gave me my first video camera to shoot–”
JEFF: That was going too far.
ADAM: Yeah, no, he famously has a mayhem tattoo.
JEFF: Features in a certain video tape.
ADAM: Yeah. So that’s more of, I would say a joke that probably adults get more than your younger audience would. But that’s like the perfect joke to me because…
JEFF: It’s real.
ADAM: Kid’s know nothing. And adults go, “Oh yeah. Okay.”
JOE: Sure. Yeah.
ADAM: That’s the best part about it.
JEFF: And also with our cameos when we could write specifically to them, it just made all the difference in the world.
BILL: Yeah, once we knew who we had. Yep.
JOE: In that video clip, we also see clips from old Mayhem productions which was actually a really nice Easter egg, just kind of note that all these things really did happen in this world as well as our real world. We see the Mayhem on The Muppet Show. We see them at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. We see them doing Christmas at the Rockefeller Center and we see a clip from the Outside Lands show. Which also must have been so great that you already had that footage. You didn’t have to film the Mayhem performing at a bunch of different places. There are tapes.
BILL: There were some…
BILL: Not licensing challenges…what was it? Just you know, getting clearance from some things, but everybody ended up, you know, letting it happen. So yeah, it was great to see all that stuff too. Thinking, “Wow, that audience. Look at that audience.” Outside Lands just always blows me away that that many people were there.
JEFF: Yeah, that crane shot just like swooping over, sweeping over the audience.
BILL: Yeah, that’s crazy.
ADAM: Concept-wise also, I think just starting with the band being beloved is such a good vibe for the show.
ADAM: There’s this thing that’s happened, I don’t know why, but when you’re doing a Muppet project you have to get the band back together.
JEFF: It’s always a comeback.
ADAM: They’re all “it’s a comeback.” They’re all scattered across the country and we have to reunite everybody.
BILL: Yeah, we didn’t want to do that.
ADAM: That is one way you could have done the show. Right? The band had a former glory days back in the 70s and now they’re all doing their own thing but I think what we really enjoyed was just that they’re legends. Everyone knows them. They’re like the Forrest Gump of the music world. They were there when it happened and that this is really just about them because they’re just doing their own thing, making an album. As opposed to having them reclaim glory, right?
ADAM: They never left the glory. They never cared about the glory.
BILL: That’s it, they don’t care about the fame. They care about just making people so happy and making music fun.
JOE: And speaking of making music, this is where we get our first glimpse of the theme song. Which, by the way, is a bop. I have had it stuck in my head for weeks.
BILL: This is the only kind of fallout that Adam and I had, was over this song. He and I went at it for a little while. He loves this song. There was another song that was submitted that I thought should have been the title thing and we went back and forth a little bit but he was absolutely right. The song, it just sticks in your head. It’s a fun tune and I couldn’t. It was interesting because I couldn’t hear it with the band doing it. The demo, which was great, I just, I don’t know. I felt like there was something else. But when we then recorded it, it started to sound like it was working and I got used to it and then you could just feel people were just like, “This works.” This works. And it did. You were so right. I was completely wrong.
ADAM: A couple things as written by one of our writers Hannah Friedman.
ADAM: Incredibly talented. Her dad is a songwriter and had a few hits and very to incredibly multi-talented.
BILL: Daniel Pinnella?
ADAM: So they they went off in one day and wrote this theme song. But what I love is, I’ll give a shout out to Bill’s wife, who, when we were at Comic Con, she pulled me aside. And she said, “Just so you know, I told Bill.” She said, “Adam wouldn’t steer you wrong. It’s a good song.”
ADAM: So I believe Bill got some influence from his amazing wife.
BILL: No, no, no, no, no, no, no. Honestly, she didn’t say anything to me. She just let me go through it, you know, and you were completely so right.
ADAM: Thank you. I’m thrilled it’s there. We just got so much blowback from Disney Plus because they just want to get into the show, right. I mean you get it, it’s like streaming and they just have their metrics and I think these theme songs slow it down so they were like, “We don’t want a long theme song. We want you to just get into the Muppets and have fun.” So we really went back and forth with them and we were like it’s a song. It’s a show about a band. We have to have, we just want to start with a bunch of big burst of joy and that’s what I loved about the song.
JEFF: There’s also a long tradition of Muppet theme songs. And I just could not imagine there being a Muppet show that didn’t have a theme song.
JOE: Well, especially one about the Mayhem.
JEFF: Totally. It’s all about Adam’s point. Absolutely. You have to start this off with it Because we’re not going to necessarily get to them doing music for a little bit.
JEFF: So you just wanted to have this blast of music, this blast of color, of psychedelia, all that kind of stuff.
BILL: No matter what you’re coming into the episode about, you’re setting up the energy of the show, and it feels good, you know, and it was completely right on. And then the titles themselves just even make it look. It’s like a flower. It’s amazing.
JOE It’s beautiful. That whole intro is beautiful. Full of references to the show that you don’t know are references yet because it’s only episode one. So that’s exciting. But moving on with the episode. We now meet Moog for the first time, played by Tahj Mowry.
BILL: Oh my God. So good.
JOE: He’s terrific. He’s so good on the show. He’s a super fan who sometimes gets to hang out in the periphery of Muppets. Just like me. I felt very, I felt a huge identification to Moog throughout this whole show. So I appreciate that. It felt very real to me and he’s not, it’s never a joke too, which I appreciate.
JEFF: I always imagine like Moog was sort of this version of me. When we were writing it, just like his energy nervous, fanning out, all that kind of stuff. And every note we got was, can you just make Moog a little cooler?
JEFF: A little more attractive. A little less of a loser.
ADAM: We had an amazing, amazing writing staff. It was an all female writing staff and Bill, Jeff and I were the only males in the room.
BILL: Should we mention? Can we mention them?
ADAM: Yeah, sure.
BILL: Crystal Shaw [King], Donielle Maransky, Julie Bean.
JEFF: Hannah Friedman.
JEFF: Hannah Friedman.
BILL: Hans [Rodionoff] and Gabriela [Rodriguez].
ADAM: Yeah, so we had a small, you know, it was Zoom. So you don’t want too many people, right? But as we were doing Moog, Jeff would always get so sad because they’re like, “Moog just… it’s like we would not be romantically interested in Moog and Jeff is like, “I’m writing about me.”
JOE: Oh no.
ADAM: But the great thing about Tahj is like, he’s so lovable that I think, in hindsight, we could have given him anything we wanted. The most, you know, obsessive fan stuff.
JEFF: I want him to play me.
ADAM: Yeah, he would’ve made it lovable. So anyway we wrote it. I think that’s what…
BILL: And he’s a handsome guy. You know? I mean he’s a handsome guy. He’s lovable. You’re just drawn to him, you know.
JEFF: He was the best. I mean, he came in and auditioned and we were just like, “I think that’s Moog.”
BILL: Yeah, oh god, the energy was unbelievable, right? He was just “Hey!”
JEFF: And the likability and he didn’t play it like a stammering fool. Like me.
ADAM: To set up the band in, we wanted to show people that the band has diehard fans that aren’t like complete weirdos, you know. That it appeals to the, you know, every person.
BILL: Like with any fan groups right? There’s a real kind of, the the insane, diehard people and then there’s all types of fans. Right? But yeah.
JOE: I feel like you’re talking about me, Bill?
BILL: No… actually, no.
JOE: Noooooooo, Joe, you’re not insane.
BILL: I think you’re more of a Moog. I think you’re more of a Moog. As a fan. Yeah.
JOE: Thank you. That is a huge compliment. Thank you. Well Nora meets the band and Moog at this point. And I like that she calls Dr. Teeth, Mr. Teeth and he says Mr. Teeth is my father which we later learn is not true. His father is also a Dr. Teeth.
BILL: [gasps] No, he isn’t.
JEFF: He’s not.
JOE: Is he not a doctor?
BILL: His mother’s a doctor.
JEFF: He’s a dental assistant.
JOE: He’s the assistant? I thought they were both doctors. Well, I learned something today. That’s fantastic.
BILL: See that? See that? You never know.
JOE: Yeah, you got me. We also are introduced to Animal’s infatuation with Nora. This is the first time where he says her name. Get ready. You’re going to hear it a lot. He says Nora a lot.
JEFF: In so many different ways too. It’s amazing.
JOE: That’s true. I mean Eric does a terrific job with it. It does not actually get old but he does say it a lot. That’s all. They take a meeting in the van, the Mayhem’s van. And they note all of Zoot’s photos that are all over the ceiling. You guys want to talk a little bit about those Polaroids?
BILL: Oh gosh. Yeah, I mean, I can’t remember when exactly. we came up with the idea that they gave Zoot a Polaroid camera to help him remember things, but it became…Actually, I kind of do, not specific, but we were fortunate to have the opportunity of writing all of these episodes ahead except maybe two, right? So we had this chart that we could plan out arcs for the show for themes for each character, right? So we at some point found, maybe you guys remember more specifically, but we talked about this idea that Zoot. We’re talking about what they could do. What does every, what does everybody have? Or what are they bringing to the table? And we came up with this idea that the band gave him a Polaroid to help him remember things, right? And so then that became, he’s into photography and he’s taking pictures and he puts them up on the ceiling of the van or the bus to remember and all the people and all the fans and all the people. And then we realized, oh there’s a great vehicle for this if you guys want to talk about it. But you know that’s kind of a bookends to this whole thing.
JEFF: Yeah, I think we realized oh we could do this. It’s a treasure map, right, through his memory. We were going to do like a Usual Suspects ending where this, you know, we’ll flash through all these images and it’ll take us to where that money went. And I think at the same time, we came up with the idea that Nora’s working on the wrong album. And it’s a photo album and it’s the photo album of Polaroids. And so all of that, just sort of lined up in this perfect kind of way.
BILL: Right. Yeah.
JOE: Oh, that’s interesting. Yeah. I would love it if you release those pictures as an album. We’ll talk about this later but like when we actually get to see close-ups of a lot of these pictures, like they’re really gorgeous.
ADAM: They are. And again, I will say two things. Jeff and Bill worked on one of the Polaroids at the end of the credits. And that was Jeff definitely picking and choosing. But the other thing that Jeff nailed I thought, and it was kind of like a last minute thing, but Jeff was always like we should do like The Muppet Show, how Zoot always ended every Muppet Show with the sax. And that was something when I was a kid, and I send this email out at one point, my dad would come in and be like, “Go to bed!” and I’d be like, “No, no!” Because the credits were rolling. “There’s more! There’s more!” And then I would wait for Zoot. And then I would have to go to bed.
ADAM: So that’s that memory stuck out in my brain. And Jeff was like, we have the Polaroid camera. Let’s do these Zoot Polaroids.
JEFF: I think it was Steinbach who actually came up with it. But yeah.
ADAM: Oh yeah, it was!
JEFF: I was like, I think we should do the sax. We have to do a Zoot thing at the end and then Steinbach was just like, “What if it’s something with the Polaroid?” I was like, “It’s absolutely that.”
ADAM: And then a lot of that was just Dave riffing.
JEFF: Yeah, we wrote out I think about 10 and then I think we got like 15 or 20 back you know.
ADAM: And I also love on Twitter people like this is my favorite one and posting it. Like it’s just so cool because it was a little thing we did real fast. But I think like all of that little love in this, it goes a long way.
JEFF: And now we’re done with the episode. So that was cool. Thank you for having us.
BILL: I was just recalling something when we were writing the scene of them for the first time in the van with Nora and the idea of what happened to this money, we were trying to figure out, well, what did they do with the money? And so we laid it on Zoot as he was the one who somehow received it. So nobody knows what he did with it. Right? It just, now it’s gone. It’s a given you’re not going to know what happened to that money. [laughs]
JOE: Yeah. I just assumed.
BILL: And then that started to feed this idea. Well, oh wow. Could this pay off in the end? Because he put it somewhere and then they find it ultimately, you know, so that was a fun thing.
JOE: Well, and the amount of money I noticed was 420,000 dollars which does not seem like a random number to me.
BILL: What d’you mean?
JEFF: It sort of was, I think.
JOE: Just random? Random?
BILL: Yeah, just threw it out there.
ADAM: Four hundred didn’t seem like enough.
JEFF: Just a little more.
BILL: It was, I think 416 and we just rounded up.
JEFF: Yeah, it just made sense. You know,
JOE: That’s fair. That’s fair. So we also, in the next couple scenes, we meet Hannah played by Saara Chaudry.
BILL: Right. Right.
JOE: The Mayhem just kind of show up at their house because they say they’re going to stay with a friend and Nora is their new friend. So they’re gonna crash here. I love that this whole scene, you know, Animal brings the bouquet of flowers that were obviously just pulled out of the front garden. Floyd’s ready to hang hammocks. Janice wants to do pants-free hot yoga.
JEFF: I want to throw in one thing before we get to that scene. I’m sorry. I know we gotta get moving but the scene that happens before that is in the record store and that was a reshoot. For a couple of reasons. I think we just as writers probably didn’t set it up as well, and so they wanted a little more set up and character investment with Nora.
And so the first time they shot that scene, I think it was in Hannah’s house and it’s good but it was shot like the first week and then when we reshot this and rewrote this and they shot this they were by that point, they were sisters.
ADAM: It was the last day I think. Maybe.
JEFF: What’s up?
ADAM: One of the last days.
JEFF: Yeah. It was like four or five weeks in and, by that point, just Saara and Lilly had become so close.
JEFF: That there was just this magic that was there, this sisterly love that was there, that wasn’t in that first scene. And we were fine with the first scene except for the writing. You know we had to just set this up a little better but that was the magic, the gift of that reshoot. Truly.
BILL: I think the most important thing though about that scene is that I come out of the store and go in.
BILL: In the establishing shot, which I didn’t realize was going to happen. These guys thought they were really funny. [laughs] And have me going in the first time we’re at the record store and then I’m leaving [laughs] a day later.
JEFF: On the return to the record store.
JEFF: That’s a long day.
JOE: Are you in that scene? Like you as yourself.
BILL: Yeah, walking.
JEFF: In the establishing shot.
ADAM: It’s the establishing shot. We’re in the editing room. And for some reason Bill walked into the shot. I don’t know why. And Jeff goes, “Is that Bill?”
BILL: I did.
ADAM: I’m like, “Oh please. I hope he walks out.”
ADAM: We found him walking out of the establishing shot. So we, of course, would put Bill going into the store and then exiting a day later.
BILL: I was always there.
JEFF: Yeah but isn’t it like a different time of day? Like, didn’t we color time it?
BILL: Yeah, we made it darker the next day.
JEFF: So Bill had been in there for hours.
ADAM: Bill was in there for hours and hours and days. We love that.
JOE: Hysterical. I will absolutely look for that on my next rewatch. Dr. Teeth saw a hot tub. And when he sees a hot tub, he has to go to the hot tub and then soak in the hot tub because hot tub.
JOE: And Dr. Teeth is completely nude except for his hat and glasses, of course. And a Mai Tai that’s come from nowhere. I thought that whole thing was hysterical. I’m guessing you didn’t actually submerge yourself into a tub of water for that scene.
BILL: I don’t know. Are we supposed to give that away? No.
JEFF: Bit of magic.
BILL: No, a lot of great special effects but definitely underneath. That was created by the set team and set design. That was some house that we found in Burbank or, where were we… I can’t remember. Anyway, they built that jacuzzi. And I was underneath, you know, sticking my arm through for a while. And the people on the outside in green suits doing his hands.
JEFF: That was the first on location day.
BILL: Was it?
JEFF: I think so. And I went to that and I was like, “Oh, we’re doing like a real Muppet thing. This is like, for real. They’re out in the real world and Bill is scrunched up, doing his performance.” And it was the coolest thing ever.
BILL: There was a…because we thought, maybe we could make the water work around him. So the top of the jacuzzi is kind of like a tray, about four inches deep, right? A lucite tray that has a little cut out of where Dr. Teeth’s body goes. And in that was water. We tried to have water flow but it just didn’t work. The lines were too strong to see his body. So fortunately we have a great VFX people who came in and made it just look amazing.
JOE: That’s great. Nora goes back inside the house and already in just a few minutes, the house is overflowing with partiers. We got Steve Aoki as he’s DJing the party. Alice Dinnean, the puppeteer, is looking at a photo album with Zoot.
JEFF: She gives my favorite background performance in the entire series.
JOE: Does she? I mean, does she do something specific that you loved?
JEFF: Nope. She just I think didn’t draw attention to herself in an awkward background actor kind of way. She was just great and she was just in it and you just believed her as this sort of hippie.
JOE: Yeah, I love that. And Janice is posing for an ice sculpture. I like that. That also was that a physical effect?
BILL: A real ice sculpture.
BILL: It was a real ice sculpture.
JEFF: Yes, it was.
JOE: It was actually ice?
BILL: Oh yeah.
JEFF: It was.
BILL: It was beautiful but it did not read well on camera.
JEFF: Here’s the quick story. The quick story is it is our Stonehenge from Spinal Tap where they asked us, we’re going to have an ice maker make this thing what pose should Janice be. So Adam and I pored through pictures of Janice. We’re like, “We like this pose.” Right? And so thinking it would be this dimensional, like one of those Muppet busts, you know, dimensional picture of Janice. And then the day of we see it and no, they etched that picture of Janice into this flat slab of ice.
JOE: Oh, oh no.
ADAM: It was almost like they were like, “Oh they sent us a photograph of Janice so they want it to look like a photograph.”
JEFF: Exactly, Stonehenge. You said six inches not feet.
ADAM: Right. Yeah. So they kind of give you literally what you gave them. But I will say Steve Aoki was great. We had a whole bit where, I guess one of his things is he throws cakes to his audience. And we had a whole thing with him throwing cake with Animal and that all had to go. Just for time. The pilot was already long. And then Billy Corgan, of course, really fun. He’s a big wrestling guy.
JEFF: Right. So that’s what I was saying before. We knew, there’re these strange things about these people, you know, that, like if you’re a fan, you know, and we thought he would dig it. So wrestling.
JOE: That’s super cool. Yeah.
ADAM: Yeah. What’s also interesting is you have a mega rock star, right? Like just the biggest and he comes now, and he’s just an actor. So this is not what he does. So it’s really interesting to see… I mean, he was like, “Tell me what you want me to do. Give me line readings.” It’s like on stage, as a musician, full confidence. Now, as an actor with Muppets, he just wants to do well. So it’s really fun to see these huge stars kind of come. They’re out of their comfort zone and just want to like have fun and do a good job. So he was super cool to work with.
JOE: That’s great. You love to hear that about about rock stars that you love.
ADAM: Oh yeah.
BILL: Oh yeah.
JEFF: I geeked out with him that whole morning. I lamented why can’t I get any of The Smashing Pumpkins records on LP? He’s like, “I know, I know.” And I’m like they’re so much money. I would’ve asked you to sign one. I can’t afford it.” And then that afternoon a whole new reissue of both Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie went on sale.
JOE: You made that happen.
JEFF: Yeah right. I was like Corgan knew.
BILL: And then Corgan came up to me and said, “Can you ask that Jeff guy not to get so close.”
JEFF: I was hanging over shoulders. I was like a cape.
BILL: I don’t mind talking to him but he’s really close.
JEFF: [In a sinister voice] Mr. Corgan.
BILL: He’s a close talker.
JOE: So Nora can’t have the Mayhem hanging out in her sister’s house. So she arranges for them to stay at the shack. It’s a house at the label owns in Laurel Canyon. Back in the day it was a magical Mecca of music’s most melodic minds where Janice made Meatloaf his first loaf of meat, where Pink Floyd built that wall. They hired the Carpenters. I love that string of jokes. I think that’s hysterical.
JOE: [laughs] We arrive at the shack, but it looks just like a suburban house. So they have to add some rave to this cave, and some rad to this pad and they sing “Can you Picture That?” Which I’m so grateful that the Mayhem’s most famous song made it into this show. And that also, you kind of got it in there, right in the first episode. You know, got us excited about the classics. And this whole sequence is so good. It’s such an homage to the sequence from The Muppet Movie. Dr. Teeth pouring the paints and everyone painting the house and the spinning screen and all that. I love it. I think you guys did a great job with that whole thing.
BILL: Oh, thanks.
JEFF: No, it was also important to have “Can You Picture That” because we reference it so many times throughout the show. It sort of becomes, yeah, a point, a story point. So even for people who didn’t know it as well, we just wanted to remind them.
ADAM: And what’s really crazy is like, in The Muppet Movie, I’m assuming they shot that Dr. Teeth segment in several days. We had like six hours.
JOE: Oh jeez.
ADAM: So, yeah, what they pulled off in that tiny amount of time that was a crew working at their best. And we got everything we wanted and it looks great but you know, it’s a TV show. We only had a day to do it. Less than. Half a day.
BILL: I can’t remember. Like we didn’t even have, we didn’t actually break out a music video type thing and I think I was working with our director Matt Sohn just trying to figure out. I was one night, I was just writing out, you know, different shots that maybe we could try and then I would send it to these guys to get approved like this for this little music video. But I always wanted to just start with Dr. Teeth pouring the paint because I figured once you do that, then people are in, you know. They go, “Okay, here we go.” The fans at least.
JOE: Oh my god. 100%. I literally, the first time I saw it, the second he pours that paint, I think I yelled. I went like, “Yeah!! Pour it on the camera!”
JOE: By myself in my apartment. Like that gave me such an emotional like nostalgic, you know. I don’t know a spike of of joy. Well, this is not the shack. Whose house did they psychedeliate? It’s Danny Trejo. Your friend and mind. One of the best friends of the Muppets in recent years.
BILL: Buddy. Yeah. Good to have him.
JOE: Such a good guy and it seems like…Yeah, it seems like from now on we’re just gonna have Danny Trejo in every Muppet thing.
ADAM: I love that everybody… that is like a thing that everyone again online is saying. It’s like, if there’s Muppets, there’s Danny Trejo which I think it’s hilarious that somehow over the years he’s just now, he’s the go-to. You know, is that you Bill? Is that you just…
BILL: Oh my god, every project I see if he’s available or if we can find a way to stick him in, you know.
ADAM: He’s so good.
JEFF: Yeah, we had him in a few spots in the show.
JEFF: At different points.
BILL: We cut the… we cut a scene.
JEFF: Don’t say it because it might show up.
BILL: I won’t. I’m just saying there’s a scene, unfortunately, that got cut with him. But yeah I just love him to death. Any chance we can put him I just want it to be that kind of forever thing.
ADAM: We gave him that little dog.
ADAM: Like so crazy. So good.
JOE: So Nora fires the band. She’s done. That’s the end of the series. But first the Mayhem have to throw another rager. This time here at the shack. The real shack. I didn’t even mention. The shack is across the street. It’s the building…It looks like a shack.
JOE: How could they not remember? They are playing the song “Jungle Boogie,” which was a viral hit for them, for the Electric Mayhem, back in 2015, in the Youtube video. Danny Trejo does return here. He’s a fan now. He loves the fact that they painted his house. Steve Aoki is back.
ADAM: They taught him how to spin records. They made Steve Aoki, Steve Aoki.
JOE: That’s right. And they play the song “Have a Little Faith in Me.” The Joe Cocker song which really was originally written and recorded by John Hiatt. I think I’m pronouncing his name, right. But I think the Joe Cocker version is much more well-known. And, of course Nora and Hannah have a personal connection to it, through their dad. And you guys got a whole gospel choir coming in and fireworks. And that’s just a really lovely scene, you know? And it’s a beautiful song too. A great vocal song for Dr. Teeth to take on.
ADAM: Yeah. The one song that I wish was in this series was Have a Little Help from My Friends which Bill performs so well. But I guess, you know, the thought is, well, they did it on one of the talk shows and they did it at the Hollywood Bowl. At Outside Lands. So, you know, it’s been seen before but maybe we’ll get it in if we get lucky enough to get a season two, I just think it’s such a great song for the band.
BILL: Well you love, that was your pitch right? Adam? You love that song. Didn’t you pitch that?
ADAM: Yeah. Have a Little Faith in Me. I love the song and I love the Joe Cocker version and like, I know that Bill…It’s just that anyone with a gruff, gravelly voice you know Dr. Teeth is going to do…That’s a Dr. Teeth sound. So yeah. I think that was one that I pitched but we went through a number of different songs as we were scripting. And that’s a real fun part of the show is like what song can the band do?
BILL: Oh my god and Jeff the library, the library of music that is Jeff Yorkes. Just, you know, endless ideas of songs that we could use that not only are great songs, but have the sentiment of scenes and of the theme of an episode. Really amazing.
JOE: Yeah, well done. Yeah, if nothing else, I’d love to hear some of these songs that the Mayhem has already recorded or performed live to be released on another album. I hope we don’t have to wait for another season of the show to get the next album but I’m getting ahead of myself a little bit.
So Nora changes her tune. She unfires the band. She’s letting them stay at the shack. She’s accepting Animal in his weird Animal crush on her. Nora gets the okay from Penny to get the band back to work. Because Penny has received a gift of compression socks from Dr. Teeth. Just the right amount of squeeze. So she calls the band, but they’ve decided to take an R&R road trip. They’re gonna be back in nine weeks. And well we can’t have that because we have a whole show to do here, guys. But they accidentally drive the van almost over a cliff. You get just hanging off that cliff edge with Animal hanging from the bumper. Dr. Teeth says, “Talk about a cliffhanger.” Just to put a little button on that. And Floyd says, “Disney Plus is going to love this,” which I feel like has to be something you guys put in when you thought this was going to be dropped week to week. Like we want you to come back next week.
JEFF: This was a mandate from the beginning really. They were just like, “We need cliffhangers. We need reasons for people to tune in week to week.” And we’re like, “Okay?” And so, we gave them a literal cliffhanger at the beginning. And yeah, I mean, we didn’t know how they were going to drop these. I think that still makes it very binge-worthy. You’re certainly going to watch the next episode.
JEFF: Whether it happens next week. Or if it was right there.
ADAM: They put that line in all the trailers. Every single one. I just think Disney Plus loves that the Muppets are saying Disney Plus.
JEFF: Totally. It’s meta. I mean it’s classic Muppets.
JEFF: To be meta like that, you know.
ADAM: Yeah. I mean, there’s a lot of back and forth conversations we’ve had or I’ve had with people. It’s like, “What is better for a half an hour comedy? Do you drop them all at once?” So everyone you know, can take in this giant you know, movie? Or do you do it week to week? I think they’re finding that for the comedies, people aren’t returning as much. Because it’s a comedy, there’s not like the giant stakes. That people are just… they’re enjoying laughing and getting that blast of joy all at once.
JEFF: I think it was also something about skewing to a younger audience. To little kids, you know, because that’s what they thought the audience was. That’s what they think the audience is. To, you know, younger audiences. Do they tune in week after week? You know, or is it easier for them to just continue.
JOE: Sure. Yeah. I don’t know. I mean, there’s pluses and minuses to both. And I don’t know what’s best. I’m just glad I have it.
JEFF: You know, of course, there’re pro and cons to each side. Is there a pro obviously to having 10 weeks of people having this conversation, you know, about the show?
JOE: Sure, absolutely sure. But also, you don’t have to spend 10 weeks promoting the show, which I think is probably easier for your time frame. So, yes, this is where our episode ends with the exception of our little tag here with Zoot taking our photo for the first time and that brings us to the end of this episode. Do you guys have any other reflections on this pilot before we say goodbye?
ADAM: I will say this. Charlie Andrews at Disney Plus is the one that when he watched it he was like, We want the reshoots, right?”
ADAM: They knew we wanted it big and we just, you know, it’s a television show so it’s tough, right? You just don’t have the money that you can do all of your ideas. There’s a lot of concessions you have to make. But Disney Plus reeeeally stepped forward for these reshoots on this. And then, because I’m not going to be here for the finale, Muppets Studio stepped up because we did these reshoots on the pilot, we really weren’t able to get all the scenes for the finale.
JEFF: So we did these reshoots while we were shooting the show.
ADAM: Yeah, reshoot’s happened.
JEFF: Which was an advantage and disadvantage, right?
ADAM: So the finale suffered quite a bit because we were missing some crucial information and Muppets Studio stepped up and was like, “We’re going to help you pay for these reshoots.”
BILL: They made it happen.
ADAM: They made it happen. So it was a giant labor of love from so many people and Jeff, Bill and I are really proud of it. We just love it.
BILL: Adam, tell them about your card at the end.
ADAM: Oh yeah, sure.
ADAM: It’s so great. It brings me… sometimes the littlest things bring you so much joy.
ADAM: So at the end of all of my television shows, I get an Adam F. Goldberg production card. It’s called a vanity card. And I always show a picture from my childhood that relates to the episode that I’m doing. So for this show I have so many pictures of me with Muppets when I’m a little kid. And of course, I go to Jeff. “Do you have any pictures of you with anything Jim Henson?” And Jeff sends me, like, about 100 pictures, right?
JOE: Yeah. I get it.
ADAM: So yeah. All right, Jeff and I will split the photo, right? I’m gonna hook up my college buddy. We’re each going to have our little vanity thing and then it bothered me. I’m like, “Well there’s no Bill.” And one day, we were in post and we were doing post in this giant maze.
BILL: Warner Brothers.
JEFF: It was a liminal space. It was like Severance. And it was being redone. So it’s just blank walls and blind turns.
BILL: Endless doors.
ADAM: Yeah, I’m already late and I’m frazzled. And the guard looks at me and goes, “Okay, I’m gonna have to tell you how to get to this room because you’ll never find it.” And I’m like, “Okay.” And I’m not listening at all. And I’m just nodding.
JEFF: Well it’s not going to make sense when it’s right. Left left. Right right, right left, left.
ADAM: But I didn’t listen at all. And he’s like, do you got it? And I’m like, “Yes.”
BILL: But you’re also texting with everybody. Right?
ADAM: I’m texting with everyone. I proceed to roam around for five minutes which was the longest five minutes of my life. I cannot find this room. People are out looking for me. And Bill goes, I’m gonna make bird sounds so you can find.
ADAM: And so I hear this very faint, “Caw.” So I text. I go, “Wait, Bill. I actually heard that. Do it again.” Then I hear “Caw.” So I start to go down the hall. I’m like, “Keep doing it.” And I followed the voice of his bird.
BILL: [makes cawing noises]
JEFF: You also have to understand, this is also a working office.
JEFF: They’re all trying to get jobs done.
ADAM: What began as a joke, actually worked and I followed his bird calls and then I found him. We just found it so funny that I’m like, “Will you do the caws as the voice over the card. So I love that the vanity card has a little bit of each of us on it. And I think that sums up our relationship perfectly which is, I’m lost. And everyone is trying to help me.
JOE: That’s perfect. And what a perfect way to end this episode. Adam, thank you so much for joining us. Jeff and Bill, we’re going to have you back sometime soon. So, looking forward to that. Everyone else, we will see you on the next episode of The Muppets Mayhem: Backstage Pass.
BILL: Thanks buddy.
JEFF: See ya.
[outro music plays]
JOE: The Muppets Mayhem: Backstage Pass is brought to you by Toughpigs.com. Produced, written and hosted by Joe Hennes. Logo art by Dave Hulteen Jr. The Muppets Mayhem mark and logo, characters and elements are trademarks of The Muppets Studio. All rights reserved. Transcriptions provided by Katilyn Miller. The Muppets Mayhem end credits, written by Mick Giacchino, is used with permission. Special thanks to The Muppets Studio, Disney Plus and the entire Muppets Mayhem family.
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Thanks for listening and until next time, rock on!