Transcription by Katilyn Miller.
The Muppets Mayhem: Backstage Pass – Episode 2: “True Colors”
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. Today we are talking about Track Two: True Colors in which Janice is revealed as a human lie detector and Animal gets a pet goat. This week, we’re bringing back a couple return guests and one first-timer. First up, he’s co-creator and executive producer of Muppets Mayhem. Please welcome Jeff Yorkes back to the podcast. Hello, Jeff.
JEFF YORKES: Hello.
BILL BARRETTA: Bravo! Bravo! Bravo!
JEFF: Thank you for having me back.
JOE: You’re back. Next up, he’s another co-creator and executive producer as well as the talented performer for the one and only Dr. Teeth. Please welcome Bill Barretta back to the podcast. Hey, Bill.
BILL: Hello. Hi. How are you? Nice to see you. How are you? How are you?
JOE: Nice to see you as well. Looking great. Our final guest is an actor best known for his roles on Smart Guy, Full House, and Kim Possible. On Muppets Mayhem he performs the original Mayhead, Moog! Please welcome Tahj Mowry to the podcast. Hey, Tahj!
TAHJ MOWRY: Hello. Hello. Hello. Mayhead for life, baby. Mayhead for life.
JOE: Yeah, Oh my gosh, I have so much to ask you about Moog. But first of all, I have to tell you, please don’t tell the other human cast members, but Moog is my favorite. I love Moog. I love everything about Moog.
TAHJ: Your secret is safe with me. Your secret is safe with me.
JOE: [laughs] I mean they’re great. Don’t get me wrong but Moog is such a fan but like, not in a creepy or weird way which is what I hope that I am when it comes to Muppets.
JOE: No? Bill is shaking his head no?
JOE: No, I’m not? Okay, well…I tried. I try to live up to the example that is Moog.
BILL: [laughs] There’s nobody like Tahj.
TAHJ: I know.
BILL: I’m sorry. There’s nobody like Tahj.
JOE: Well, I very much appreciate what you bring to the table as a fanatic.
TAHJ: Thank you.
JOE: As a Mayhead. So let’s start at the beginning. Can you tell us what the audition process was like for you coming on to this show?
TAHJ: Yeah, the audition process, it was very fast. I put myself on tape and then I met with them shortly after that with the gang and we read it again. And everyone was just so delightful and awesome and that was it. It was really fast. And yeah, just from the beginning I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of. You know, Jeff and Bill and Michael, they were just so warm. It was one of the warmest sort of testing Zoom processes I’ve ever been a part of. It didn’t feel like it was a test. There were no nerves because it was just so calm and everyone was so delightful. So I enjoyed it. But yeah, it was pretty fast. And then we got into I think it was about a couple months of the table reads. So yeah, it was very, very quick.
JEFF: Yeah, we were delighted to meet you. Truly.
BILL: That’s what the tone was. It was his energy.
BILL: That made us feel good about being there and watching him do this audition. In the most absurd situation on a Zoom call, for that kind of energy to come through? I think when we, when he was off, we were all like, “Who else is there?” You know, I think we were really just… we kind of all felt it. Right, Jeff?
JEFF: Yeah, yeah. And I think, I don’t know if it comes across in the show but Tahj is just such bright energy.
BILL: Oh my god.
JEFF: I think it does come across in the show.
BILL: Yeah, you’re being sarcastic.
JEFF: Yeah. It’s just the best. I mean, we’re all sitting there. I think you maybe…I don’t remember if you did a read with Bill. You did your reading and our cameras are off but we’re on just the other side just smiling with and for you and like you.
JEFF: You know? You just make a room brighter, you know?
TAHJ: Thank you, Jeff.
BILL: It’s a shame we couldn’t use a lot of your stuff in the show.
TAHJ: Riiiiiight. I know. I know.
BILL: But the audition was great.
TAHJ: Thank you. Thank you.
JEFF: Yeah, that was fun. That was the fun part.
JOE: So, I know that normally if someone’s gonna audition to work on a Muppet project, you know, pre-covid, there would be some test to see how do you work with the puppets? Can you work with a puppet? Can you look at the puppet in the eye? And not look at the person who’s below them? But since I assume that most of this was done virtually over Zoom, what was it like being on set or being in the room? Whatever room it was with the puppets for the first time. Was there any kind of learning curve for you?
TAHJ: It’s funny because the episode “True Colors,” that first scene that you see me in was my first scene that I shot.
TAHJ: And I was so overwhelmed, because I didn’t have any chemistry read or anything. I didn’t, you know, meet the Muppets beforehand. I was just like, “Today’s first day at work. Here we go.” And I step on set and, you know, we’re four feet high. There’s Animal coming down from the ceiling and I’m just like, “Oh my god. What are my lines?” [laughs]
TAHJ: It was very overwhelming, but it quickly…You know, this is one of those roles that you know, I keep saying, “Of course I was acting. Like I’m not Moog.” But parts of Moog I felt like on being there with these iconic characters that I grew up watching. So it was easy to sort of step into that and I think I was able to use some of my overwhelmed energy to my advantage. I sort of put that into Moog so it helped me but I was overwhelmed. [laughs] I was overwhelmed.
JOE: I believe it. Yeah, absolutely.
TAHJ: But yeah, as far as learning curve goes, I’d say the hardest thing for me was to not look…to learn to not look where the voice is coming from, right? Because like, our Muppet performers are lower. So, you know, your eye tends to go where you hear the voice coming from. But I had to sort of remember, like, I need to look at the puppet here and so that was the only sort of learning curve.
And then also getting used to the monitors that you’re surrounded by. Because you don’t normally get to see yourself while you’re doing a scene. So you know, that was a little weird. I’m like, “Alright, is my shirt good?”
TAHJ: You know like but it was very… the joy on set and just… I was nerding out. Let’s be real. I quickly just jumped right in and was able to just go with the flow and enjoy the experience and it was just so fun.
JOE: That’s great. Yeah. You’ve talked before in interviews about being a big Muppet fan before starting up on the show, and your co-stars a little bit less so. Did you feel any responsibility to kind of bring them up to speed and like, get them as geeking out on the same level as you?
TAHJ: No, because it’s very easy to geek out over them. Like for someone like Lilly [Singh]she wasn’t really… I mean, she didn’t know, really. Lilly didn’t even know a lot of the songs. [laughs]
JEFF: Just the regular songs.
TAHJ: We had to be like, “Lilly! Don’t know who this guest star is?” Like, come on.
BILL: Which is so good for the character too.
TAHJ: Right. Which is really good.
BILL: It was perfect. Yeah.
TAHJ: No, you can’t help a fan out when you finally are on set and you just begin to love them instantly. So I didn’t have to do anything to tell her. She just fell in love on her own. But yeah, it was nice to see her growth and her love grow for the Muppets while we were shooting.
JOE: That’s lovely. I love that. You were really active throughout the 90s as a young actor, around the same time as a lot of big Muppet productions. Even at like the same networks as well. Did you ever cross paths with the Muppets in those years or at all with the Muppets before Muppets Mayhem?
TAHJ: Never and, you know, it’s funny because I’ve done a lot of Disney things in my day and I think it was just all leading up to this moment. And I think, again, for Moog, he has that energy of like anytime he’s around them, he’s like he’s still not used to it. Like he’s just so excited. And again, I was able to use that for the character and I’m kind of glad that I hadn’t met any of them before because it was just, it was that much cooler for me to experience it all, kind of in real time with Moog.
BILL: Only thing is we did a Kim Possible together.
TAHJ: Oh, that’s right. Yes. Yes. Yes. But that’s not Muppets.
BILL: That’s it. That’s not Muppets.
JEFF: What were you, Bill?
BILL: I was a bad guy, I was… [mumbles] What the hell was his name? [In regular voice] Jackie… I think Jackie the Jackal or something like that. Yeah, I was like the bad guy. It was a wrestling.
JEFF: Was it a voiceover?
BILL: Yeah, I did the voice for a character in Kim Possible. Yeah.
JOE: You’ve done work outside of the Muppets?
BILL: Here and there.
TAHJ: “Here and there.”
JOE: I also have to know, we’ve got to talk about these t-shirts because Moog gets the best shirts to wear. People can’t see right now but you are wearing a Dr. Teeth logo T-shirt at the moment. You got the best wardrobe. I was hoping would be available because I wanted to wear those shirts myself. You got to keep a few of them, I assume?
TAHJ: Oh yes, I made sure I kept a few of them. You best believe that my last day on set I was in that wardrobe trailer like, “I want that one. I want that one. I want that one.”
TAHJ: This is my favorite one that Moog wore because, you can’t see it, but it’s got this like old vintagey. And it’s so cool because they made all these for Moog, you know? And so I was like, “This is so dope.” And every day on set, you know, I’d walk into my trailer and I’m excited to see what shirt Moog is wearing that day. And in my phone, I have a Muppets folder of literally, I took a selfie of like every shirt that I wore. And it was so cool for me because there’s nothing quite like a band tee, you know, like just a vintage, comfortable, flowing band tee that you can wear with anything. And now I have multiple of them and it’s awesome.
JOE: That’s great and they fit you. Cause they have to fit you, they’re costumes.
TAHJ: They fit me.
JEFF: When we were going back and forth with our costume designer, she’d send samples of stuff and I’d always respond, “Yes, and I’m a size large.”
TAHJ: Yeah. [laughs]
JEFF: By the end, she just gave me a big stack of them and I was just like yeah.
TAHJ: On set there were many, many crew members every single day that would be like, “What’s the shirt today, Tahj? What’s the shirt today?” So it was cool. It was cool.
JOE: That’s great. This might be more of a question for Jeff, but where does the name Moog come from.
JEFF: It’s a great question. I mean we have…
BILL: Wasn’t it the amp?
JEFF: What? The synthesizer.
BILL: Synthesizer, I mean.
JEFF: Moog [pronounced M?g with a long o] synthesizer.
JOE: That’s what I was gonna ask.Yeah.
JEFF: Because it’s commonly referred to as a Moog, [pronounced with a long u sound, like in “zoo”] and this is how the name is pronounced throughout] which is apparently not the correct pronunciation. We liked the idea of it being something music related but it’s also hilarious that it’s constantly, you know, mispronounced. And not necessarily known and also kind of nerdy. But it just fit Moog.
JEFF: And, you know, then we have sort of further back from that where it truly comes from. Who knows? Maybe one day we’ll find out.
TAHJ: Yeah, maybe we can’t say it now.
JEFF: We can’t. We’re on strike.
BILL: Oh. Yeah.
JOE: Oh, this might be a season two thing.
TAHJ: We can’t say it now. But I know!
BILL: Yeah, yeah.
JOE: All right.
JEFF: I think I mentioned this once before, but you know, Moog was vaaaaguely based on me as just a fan and overzealous and stuff like that.
JEFF: Vaguely. Well, come on.
TAHJ: Come on, Jeff.
JEFF: It was almost disappointing because when we would read stuff in the room, like it was understood Bill would read the Muppets and I would read Moog. And then all of a sudden Tahj shows up.
JEFF: And I’m replaced.
JEFF: But it was always funny because they were just like writing it, “Can we make Moog a little cooler, a little more attractive, a little more…” And then Tahj shows up. We got it. You guys got it. We’re like [chuckles].
[Tahj and Joe laugh]
TAHJ: Thanks, Jeff.
JOE: All right, let’s jump into this episode. In the cold open, the band is in the van and we get our first Easter egg, right off the bat. They’re driving past a billboard for Doc Hopper’s Frog Legs.
JEFF: I made that.
JOE: That was digital, I assume.
JEFF: Yes. But I made it. I recreated it.
BILL: Yeah, we weren’t allowed to use the original or something, right? Wasn’t it something like that, Jeff? We couldn’t actually use the original one for some reason and then you created like a version.
JEFF: Yeah, yeah. So I made itin Photoshop and Illustrator and so it wasn’t…Yeah. Likeness and all that stuff but it’s behind trees. Basically what it was, when you went to where we had to remove the signage and I was like, “Okay, well if you have to remove it, you can replace it with anythin, right?
JEFF: And they were like, “I guess so.” So I was like, “Okay, here’s a pack of 16 different sign things we could use or not use and they’re throughout the show, but anyway.
JOE: Great. So now you’ve raised a lot of questions about, you know, Doc Hopper’s still being in business after all these years.
JEFF: Good point.
BILL: Well, yeah, it could be. We actually said, could it be like the grandson or the great grandson, right?
BILL: It’s a lineage thing. They’re still around.
JOE: Alright. Season two. We’ll meet that grandson. Not to give you ideas, but I’m giving you ideas.
Animal has made Nora a mixtape. The tape, of course, is completely unspooled. And, of course, also no one has a cassette player anymore. Although, I assume there’s probably one in the van.
JEFF: Oh yeah. Yes. It’s an old van.
BILL: I think Floyd puts a tape in for when they’re banging their heads.
JEFF: Yes. Mmhmm.
JOE: Oh, that’s a tape?
TAHJ: In the basement too. There’s definitely a cassette player in the basement.
JOE: Yeah. That’s fair. So Animal also offers Nora mayonnaise, a ladle, a pitchfork, a peacock, a flipper, a bib, the Baseball Diamond. That’s a great Easter egg. And surgery. And he’s dressed as a surgeon. He has scalpels in both hands. The most terrifying thing that is in this entire season.
BILL: I liked the idea for surgery. I think I did say surgery. Was that mean Jeff?
JEFF: I think so. I was Baseball Diamond.
BILL: Yeah, you were definitely baseball diamond.
JOE: We know you were Baseball Diamond, Jeff.
JOE: That’s great. I love that.
JOE: A lot of fun. Okay, so, we catch up with the band at the shack. We’ve left on a huge cliffhanger, a literal cliffhanger, in the previous episode. And we’ve gotten through it off screen. That feels like a bit of a cheat.
JEFF: Little bit.
JOE: But I think you just need to get the story to move on, right?
JEFF: But it’s a nice way to include Moog and sort of give a natural-ish way for him to be there in the opening.
BILL: He saves them.
JOE: That’s true.
JEFF: That’s why we did it and it explains a lot about his character.
TAHJ: It’s why I keep a winch and pulley system on my Jeep. It’s just for that reason.
JEFF: Totally and he’s respooling the cassette. So it’s perfect.
TAHJ: Yes, yes, yes.
JOE: Yeah, which is one of those things where like, you definitely can tell the age of someone if they know what he’s doing with the pencil and a cassette.
JOE: A little bit younger than me and maybe people would be like, [mumbles] What is he… like he’s got a pencil? I don’t understand.”
TAHJ: I think I’m right on the cutoff of that. I remember Banner [Agundez], our prop guy was like, “You know how to do this, right?” I’m like, “I got you. I got you.” [laughs]
BILL: Oh, Banner was great.
TAHJ: My first cassette tape ever was Vanilla Ice. I got you.
BILL: Yeah. And…oh shoot, what was I gonna say? Oh, that hold. That beat where he says [laughs] Where Moog says about his pulley system and we just hold on him.
JEFF: The pause. Yeah.
TAHJ: And Lilly’s reaction is, “Cool, love that.”
BILL: Yeah, so awkward.
JOE: I noted this as well because I wanted to praise you for this, Tahj, because your silences are hysterical on this show. Those little moments where you’re just like holding it and like keeping that straight eye contact.
TAHJ: Thank you.
JOE: “You get what I’m saying, right?”
TAHJ: Thank you.
JOE: “No? Okay. I’ll just let it go.” Yeah.
TAHJ: I think it’s so endearing because Moog, he really just wants to be heard and seen how he wants to be seen. So he’s always just like, “Right? You heard me right? Like okay, no. All right. Okay.” [laughs] So yeah, I definitely wanted to play those silent moments up.
BILL: I crave those moments to see him do those. That awkward guy who’s trying to, you know, fit in. [laughs] It’s my favorite thing to watch him do those. They’re so good. So sad but it’s like so entertaining.
TAHJ: Thanks, Bill. It’s so sad. It’s so sad.
BILL: It really is.
TAHJ: We’re not there yet, but at the party even, like she disappears, and he’s just, all right. Okay, get up.
JEFF: We wanted to hold on that even longer. It’s so good.
BILL: The best.
JEFF: So awkward. And we have all been there, right? All of us have been there?
JOE: Oh, 100%.
TAHJ: Oh, all of us!
BILL: Oh yeah.
JOE: I felt very seen.
TAHJ: All of us.
BILL: And so sorry I’m gonna just jump to another scene in another episode.
[Bill and Tahj laugh]
BILL: But when he thinks that Saara [Chaudry] is talking about JJ and Nora down in the basement. And he’s like, “Yeah, we were just talking about that. Oh, that’s not what you meant?”
TAHJ: That’s not. That’s not. Okay, never mind.
JEFF: Nah, because they all just. I mean it’s the same thing in 10 right? In 10 when they’re standing in front of the shack. The reshoot.
BILL: “Are they together? Do you guys live together?”
JEFF: “Has someone heard from him? Because he’s been calling me and I just… No?”
TAHJ: It’s not a big deal but like also it kinda of is.
JEFF: It kind of is a bit. There’s a cut in there because we had to cut it down because we’re like can we be on this for that long?
BILL: I wish it was in every episode.
TAHJ: Yeah. Yeah, I love that.
JOE: How dare you guys put me on screen like that, without my permission?All of that is so like, Man, that’s exactly what I would do in this situation.”
BILL: So good.
JOE: So anyway, Zoot is taking a nap on the couch. He has one shoe off. The shoe starts to levitate. No explanation. Little foreshadowing for something we’ll see much later on. Dr. Teeth and Floyd are playing Pong. Nice to see Pong again. And Janice is doing acupuncture on Lips. Sticking needles into that puppet. And as you said, Animal is hanging from the ceiling. He kind of jumps in from nowhere above the frame.
Can you guys explain how you managed that shot? Where exactly is Eric Jacobson?
BILL: Yeah, there’s two ladders on either side of the frame. And there’s a board that goes across the top. And they secured him safely with something above to one of the beams, but he’s laying on that plank. And he drops his arm down into frame and then pulls it back up. So basically, he’s just laying on his stomach and reaching over to get him into the shot upside down.
JOE: Yeah. It seems simple.
TAHJ: It’s one of my favorite things about this show is because a simple shot– Well, not simple. But a shot as quick as that so much goes into it. And it’s like, you know, it’s so seamlessly done, you wouldn’t even realize so much work went into it, but it’s just a testament to the crew. And that was super cool for me. And like I said, literally my first day on set and I’m just like, “Wow, like Eric’s, right there. Animal’s coming down. Yeah, this is crazy.”
BILL: Yeah, and you know what, maybe I’m wrong about the ladders that may be old school what we used to do. I’m trying to remember, maybe there was something that was actually a little bit more sturdy.
TAHJ: I remember he was on like a full bed.
BILL: It was a bed. Wasn’t it?
TAHJ: He was on like a steel bed. Yeah.
BILL: But I’m just wondering. I think it was supported on each side from the bottom. I don’t think we hung it from the top.
BILL: Right. So there was something. Anyway, our key grip, Bodie [Hyman] has worked with the Muppets for so many years. He comes up with these amazing rigs and things that are safe and strong and make sense and quick. Like his team is so amazing. But yeah, it’s that idea, anyway. Whether it was ladders or some sort of structure that held it up, it was still something like that.
JOE: Sure. Yeah. Nora is talking a big talk about what she’s doing for the band. She’s fielding calls from sponsors and producers and every time she spouts out one of these lies, Janice sneezes and she stabs Lips with the acupuncture needle. And he does a little jump. You see his little noodle arms flail a little bit. And Moog is the only one who recognizes that Nora is lying.
JOE: And you do such a good job of finding that balance between like still being really excited. Like, you want to produce this album and I want to make sure that happens but also like I gotta call you out on your BS.
TAHJ: Yes. For me, that was some of the coolest stuff to play with Moog is that he knows about Janice’s…he knows that she does that. You know what I mean? So you could see in the scene, he’s like, “Hold up. Something’s not right? She sneezing. I know all these producers you’re talking about and they’re not around. So how are you?” And yeah that balance of like “Hey one, this girl’s pretty right? She’s pretty. And she’s here helping my favorite band. But she’s maybe not here for the right reason. So I need to like figure this out. Because I don’t, even though you’re pretty, I don’t want you around if you’re not here for the right reason.”
JEFF: Right. Totally.
TAHJ: So that’s what that scene is all about. Him trying to find his way in to how he can help. And yeah, I know what you’re doing but I want to help you. And yeah, finding those little beats. Because Moog knows. He understands what Lips is talking about when he’s mumbling. He just knows. You can’t fool Moog. You cannot fool Moog.
JOE: That is true.
BILL: Joe, can ask Tahj a quick question.
JOE: Of course.
BILL: Was it really helpful to have a sense of where…Because we got to write the scripts ahead of time, right? That’s not always the case. Was that helpful to have those scripts to know where you’re kind of headed? So, for example, like because we shot out of order so much, right? So that you knew that, in your mind, that Janice was allergic. And so you could make that adjustment and have that part of your perspective on all of it.
BILL: Was it helpful to have all those?
JEFF: He was gonna, you know, know that something was going to happen with Nora.
TAHJ: Oh my gosh. Look. I had never been a part of a show where we were able to literally hash out all 10 episodes before even stepping foot onto the set. And even though they went through changes, just like every TV show does. It goes through changes as you’re going. It was still that main gist. And that helped tremendously because especially for Moog, he has such an arc of being sort of, you know, a super fan then sort of fighting to be heard and wanting this girl to see him as this leading man type thing. There was a journey to get to there and I remember when we were shooting the last three episodes I was constantly reminding myself and even when we were doing ADR, his tone switches cause he’s more comfortable speaking to her. I remember, Bill, we were doing ADR in the very last episode when they’re on the bus.
TAHJ: And I had done the line but it was kind of like Moog earlier. And so we had to shift it because it’s like, no, he’s comfortable now. So, yeah, that helped tremendously. And shooting out of order is very, very hard. But again, when you have the whole thing laid out and you know where the journey’s going, it’s easier to fit. Yeah. So yeah. Bill. That helped a lot.
BILL: Yeah, interesting. It’s like a big long movie, right?
BILL: In a way.
JOE: So we see the Mayhem on the roof of the shack. This is a new set so we had not been here before. And Zoot has a list of their song ideas. It’s toothpaste, Jordan Almonds, imitation crab meat. But that’s the shopping list and then he flips it around and a neat little puppetry trick. I don’t know if it’s just a rod that’s turning but it looks very natural that he turns that wrist.
BILL: [chuckles] Yeah, it’s just Dave.
JOE: That I’m sure most people don’t notice those things. And on the other side of the list is pizza bagels, nine volt batteries, meatless meatballs and Fritos, which all sound like great Mayhem songs. I would listen to any of those.
JOE: Jeff, can you please write those?
BILL: That exterior shot, before it goes up to the roof, that shot that pushes in and goes up to the roof? That wasn’t an actual shot that we did. The shot began at the roof’s edge, just below it and panned up and then found them. But we felt like we needed an establishing thing and Jeff was like, “How can we…? Is there a shot we can use or something we can push ?” I don’t know how much time do you think you spent, Jeff, kind of doing notes of trying to get that move? Because it was all digitally done.
JEFF: Yeah. I mean, we went back and forth a number of times what what wanted. Yeah. We knew we were also going to see that roof again. And originally, we were going to see it at the end of the episode. Yeah, we want to establish it up on the roof, so we had to start a little lower and how much time do you want to spend on the ground? You know. It’s also one of the first times we’re seeing the shack.
BILL: Right from that close.
BILL: Yeah. And it was great. That move they created in media effects was really great. Worked out great. Yeah.
TAHJ: So cool.
JOE: At the grocery store, Animal comes in with a cart full of Fritos, because it was on the list. And it’s a nice little bit of product placement. I presume. No? You just decided to put Fritos in there?
JEFF: I don’t even know. We just wrote it?
BILL: Yeah, I don’t remember if it was a thing with Fritos or not.
JOE: Well, I think the good people at Frito-Lay owe you a little bit of money.
TAHJ: Maybe a little bit. Yeah.
BILL: They must have cleared it.
JEFF: Are they owned by Utz? No, that’s a different–
JOE: Did you film in a real grocery store for that? Or is that a digital, green screen deal?
BILL: That was a smaller market kind of place… grocery.
JEFF: I want to point out one other thing in the episode. There’s sort of a running gag of beeping in the episode. And it’s Pong. It goes beep, beep, beep. So then they’re ringing up groceries. Beep, beep, beep. And then later, we find Janice in the hospital. Beep, beep, beep.
JOE: Wow. Did not pick up on that.
JEFF: And if you listen carefully, it’s a morse code and I’ll let listeners figure out what exactly it is.
BILL: The beep runner.
JOE: It’s just a letter e over and over again.
TAHJ: Over and over.
BILL: We should have had Zoot at the end go, “Beep.”
JEFF: That would have made it, “Oh, it’s so obvious. That’s what they were doing.”
JOE: They were beeping the whole time! Yeah.
JOE: Over at Wax Town records, Nora is frantically calling producers and getting nowhere. And she has this list of producers and she’s kind of knocking them out one by one, including Pharrell, Dr. Dre, Missy Elliott, Mark Ronson and more. I noticed one of those names is Linda Perry from 4 Non Blondes. And she’s also the executive music producer for Muppets Mayhem. And she wrote a few songs and is performing on a few songs as well. Nice little Easter egg there.
JOE: Did she know about that before you did it or was that supposed to be a little surprise for her?
JEFF: I think it was a surprise for her.
BILL: I think we told her.
JEFF: Maybe she knows. Maybe she still doesn’t. I don’t know if she’s watched it.
JEFF: I hope she has. I’m sure she’s delighted.
JOE: I hope so. Penny comes out of her office. She just finished a meeting with JJ. And this is the first time we’re seeing JJ, played by Anders Holm. And he’s on the tech-money side of the business. He’s got a new streaming music app and he wants to buy Wax Town Records.
TAHJ: Who just had a birthday. Happy birthday, Anders!
[All wish happy birthday]
BILL: He’s so good.
JOE: Or happy birthday coming up because it’s now a few weeks after his birthday when this thing gets released.
TAHJ: Right. Oh yeah.
JEFF: See you next year.
JOE: He also offers for Nora to run the company after he buys it and kind of whispers, “I love you,” under his breath. There’s a lot going on with this guy of what he wants. Is he good? Is he bad? How does he feel about her? Is it good intentions or weirdly toxic? And there’s a lot to come from JJ. I’m looking forward to unpacking that. Did you get along with him well, Tahj?
BILL: No, Tahj. You didn’t like him.
JOE: Cause you have a rivalry.
TAHJ: I was literally just with him the other day. Like, I love that dude. And I was a fan before. I was a huge Workaholics fan. So to be able to act alongside him and sort of be like an arch nemesis-type situation was really fun for me. But again, it’s the journey right? Because Moog, at his core, is a super fan. He knows all things music. So he sees this guy, he’s like, “Wait, this guy is cool.” Until he’s not anymore. [laughs]
TAHJ: But yeah, no, I love Anders. He’s amazing. Yeah.
JOE: Yeah, that’s great.
BILL: So great. So funny. Just so dry. His sense of humor is amazing.
TAHJ: Incredible. That “I love you” under his breath had me rolling.
JEFF: Oh my god. It’s so good.
JOE: That must have been in the script, right? It seems like an ad-lib. It seems like he just did it in the moment.
BILL: No, it was scripted. That’s how great he is. And then he does, “Nope.”
TAHJ: I think Anders did so well with that because you kind of see in his awkward moments, similarities between him and Moog, how they are both awkward at their core.
TAHJ: So that was kind of fun for me. Because you know, I wasn’t there in the scenes I’m not in with him obviously, so to be able to see him play his part and he’s just trying to be seen and heard just like Moog is. I thought that was pretty cool.
BILL: Yeah, Nora definitely has a type. Nora is on to them.
JOE: I was gonna say because we get a little bit of backstory here that he used to be the sweaty office bagel boy. And you know, later on in another episode, we’ll see you know, Nora and JJ together when he was that bagel boy. And Moog is also, not that he’s sweaty and not that he’s a bagel boy, but he’s that same kind of awkward and, you know, needs to kind of grow up a little bit. In the same industry. They’re all in the same music industry. So this seems like the kind of guy that Nora would want to be with and they can kind of grow together in season two. Right?
BILL: Maybe, maybe.
JOE: Maybe! I don’t know. I’m not putting ideas in your head but we’ll see.
Bill: An idea. Yeah
JOE: So the Mayhem is throwing another party. And this one is, as Janice says, there was a sale on orchids. So she weaves some flower necklaces. Next thing she knew it’s an all-inclusive Icelandic, Oceanic, Pan-Atlantic, coconut bra, Malibu beach party respectfully representing every continental and coral archipelago –that’s a hard word to say– in the world.
BILL: Written by Adam Goldberg.
JEFF: Oh yeah.
BILL: I don’t know but he wrote that.
JOE: As funny as that is, it only works because Dr. Teeth goes, “It’s a pool party.” Like very so matter-of-factly.
BILL: I dunno.
JEFF: Okay, so basically we were told, you know, a luau, you have to be culturally sensitive. There are all these different people who can get upset and then, if you’re going to mischaracterize it in some way, shape or form…And it’s Adam who was just, like “What are you talking about? Really? I’m gonna upset? So let’s upset no one by making it for everyone.”
JEFF: And he just sent this out. Yeah. And the notes back were, “Okay.”
BILL: And it’s funny.
JEFF: It’s great.
BILL: It’s so funny.
JOE: Yeah. I love when someone can take what seems like a limitation and turn it into an opportunity.
JOE: And this is a great example of that. Yeah, because it’s a really solid joke. We also see Animal fire breathing.
BILL: As he’s wont to do.
JOE: As Animal… I’m not surprised that Animal would fire breathe. What I want to know is how did Animal fire breathe? [laugh]
BILL: He does. He just does. You have to ask him.
TAHJ: He just does.
JOE: Fair. Yeah. All right,
BILL: I think it’s something he learned for the show. So I’m not sure exactly.
JEFF: But it did come naturally, that’s the weird thing.
BILL: Yeah, that wasn’t a big deal for him.
JOE: Probably had to graduate from fire eating which feels like a very Animal thing.
BILL: I don’t know.
JEFF: Fire eating. Fire belching.
BILL: You can’t get much out of him. Even if you ask, you don’t really get an answer.
JOE: Nora starts lying to everybody again. She says everyone’s doing great. All the producers are calling. They booked the Hollywood Bowl. What an exciting thing. Janice is sneezing and sneezing and sneezing. She passes out. The solid joke here that I love is Zoot saying she looks yellow.
BILL: Yeah, I love that too. He improvised that. We actually shot that. Actually didn’t we go back to shoot that?
JEFF: That’s a reshoot. Yeah.
JEFF: You’re talking about the looking up shot?
BILL: Yeah, looking down at her. Yeah, looking up at them. We actually shot it outside of the stages where we shot all of the desert. The virtual wall stages.
BILL: Yeah, we went outside to the parking lot, beneath the tree. And we just gathered around this camera that was pointing up. And we just did several versions of them leaning in. But then Dave threw the thing in about she’s yellow. [laughs]
JEFF: I think we flipped it.
TAHJ: I didn’t even know that was the reshoot.
BILL: Well, we did both ways. Yeah, because we had to have them in the right places.
BILL: So we did the version where it was them coming up from the bottom. And then coming in from the top to see which would work better, you know.
BILL: Yeah. It was outside.
TAHJ: I’m learning…this is great. I’m learning so much I didn’t even know.
JEFF: Tahj, did any of your scripts have Moog saying Mayhead fun fact.
TAHJ: Yes. Yeah, that was…I ended up not saying that ever, right?
JEFF: Yeah. That was another one of the things.
TAHJ: Yeah. That was like, Moog’s thing for a while.
JOE: Like a catchphrase.
TAHJ: Every episode, he would say that.
JEFF: Yeah. And you still do give things. I mean certainly in seven you’re there with all the facts but it was deemed unattractive. It was too geeky.
TAHJ: I just don’t announce every fact anymore.
JEFF: Right. Exactly. You have this information but to announce it as a Mayhem Fun Fact was too much.
JOE: Well, it turns out that Janice is allergic to all forms of fraudulent falsities and general ma-malarkey. Oh wow. That’s another hard thing to say. General malarkey. She’s saying “Lies. Lies.” But Zoot thinks that she’s saying lice. They all start itching. And they assume someone must be lying to them. Nora’s not coming clean. So Moog does. And you admit that you had not been to every Mayhem show. You got pink eye in 2014. You missed the show in New Jersey. The band is aghast.
BILL: Can’t believe it.
JOE: And I love this because you’re like, “I’m gonna do the right thing.” You jump in and there’s almost that moment where you’re like was that the right thing and you kind of look toward Nora. Be like, “I saved you. Now you save me.” She’s not biting. She’s actually doubling down.
TAHJ: Right. I think she was just trying. Yeah, he was trying to make… trying to give her a little nudge like, “Hey, I’m admitting something I’ve done. Why don’t…? It’s your turn now. This is really your fault.” But yeah, no she wasn’t. She didn’t want to do it.
JEFF: Et tu, Moog.
JOE: Another great example. Another great example of Moog, you’re able to say so much with just widening your eyes a little bit and making direct eye contact with somebody. It’s perfect.
TAHJ: Thank you. [laughs]
JOE: And then, out of nowhere, Animal shows up with another gift for Nora. It’s a goat. It’s Darren the goat.
BILL: Darren. Yeah.
JOE: What a choice to have a real life goat on set for this. Were there any issues with having a goat around the Muppets?
JOE: He didn’t try to eat the Muppets or anything like that?
BILL: No, actually Darren was a female.
TAHJ: What was her name again?
JEFF: [jokingly] Karen.
BILL: Karen…I can’t remember.
TAHJ: But she was so sweet.
BILL: So sweet.
TAHJ: I remember leaving work because, later in the episode, obviously, I’m walking Darren. But I remember going to work that day and I was kind of nervous because I had never worked with a goat before. And I was like, “What are goats like?” [laughs] I remember driving home from work that day, I was missing the goat. I was like, “Aww. I had a fun time with you.”
JOE: So you adopted the goat. Of course. That’s the end of that story.
TAHJ: Yeah. [laughs]
JOE: Now you own a goat.
TAHJ: And the goat’s actually here right now.
JEFF: baaa baaa
BILL: She was super sweet and she actually didn’t want to leave. It took Lilly a bit to get her to go.
JEFF: Had to tug it off.
BILL: Yeah. She had to kind of keep working. It took us a little while just to get Darren to leave But she wasn’t trouble with the puppets or anything like that. Or going potty.
JOE: Sure. Yeah.
BILL: That didn’t happen.
JEFF: Oh, it did not happen?
TAHJ: I never saw it.
JOE: That’s a professional goat.
JOE: Pretty good.
TAHJ: Her handler was spot on.
JOE: Nice. So Hannah has some advice for Nora. She says a lie is just an untruth waiting to be made real. So she’s just gotta, you know, make those lies real. So one of the lies that she told was that Zedd is going to produce the new album. So she goes looking for him in Runyon Canyon. Is this actually Runyon Canyon? I don’t know anything about Southern California geography.
BILL: Not the actual one. Not where we shot it but it looks similar.
JOE: Fair enough.
JEFF: By the way, here’s a Mayhem Fun Fact. We stopped production. We were writing, but we saw on the monitor the toilet seat. And it did not look enough like an airplane window. So, we halted production. Adam did one of his rare storming down to the set and said, “No, we can’t do this.” And they had to hurry out and find a different toilet seat that looked more like an airplane window.
TAHJ: It’s gotta be perfect.
JOE: Did you end up taking it from the restroom on set?
JEFF: They got one really quick. I didn’t want to pry.
JOE: Oh, that’s how you got a quick one.
JEFF: Tahj’s trailer.
BILL: They probably had a few of them and that’s the one they chose. They had that option.
JEFF: Yes. I think that’s what it was.
TAHJ: Moog’s trailer. That’s a whole other conversation.
JEFF: When I say he stormed down.
BILL: Oh my god.
JEFF: He was so polite and kind and does it in a, you know, in an urging kind of way. But yeah, it was just something that had to be remedied.
JOE: So, we meet Zedd, the producer. He seems very game for the show but he’s obviously not a professional actor. Did you have any– were you trying to push him a little bit, just to kind of fit the show a little bit more? Or were you just letting him do his own thing?
BILL: No. He just wanted to do whatever, you know. He wanted any help he could get, any advice. He was really a sweet guy. And very natural. I thought it was just himself, you know?
BILL: And kind of glad that he didn’t try and act. You know. He was pretty straightforward with everything and didn’t play it up to try and be something that wasn’t himself. So I appreciated that.
JEFF: Yeah, it was amazing. Because it’s a couple of episodes. He was there for quite a few days.
JEFF: And just from what I saw, just totally generous with his time and…
TAHJ: Oh my gosh.
JEFF: And nice.
TAHJ: Yeah, no. It’s crazy. Because I can call him by his name now. His name’s Anton. Because I know him now. You know?
JEFF: Right, right.
BILL: That’s right.
TAHJ: You know, like Jeff said he was probably, out of all the guest stars, was there the longest. So we got to hang out with him a lot. And, yeah, he’s just a nice dude. Like, he’s just game to play. Like, just ready to, like Bill was saying, he was, yeah, he was great.
BILL: Yeah, try anything. He was just great.
JOE: Yeah. Fantastic. Yeah, that’s what you want out of a celebrity guest star.
BILL: Can I just say, while Tahj is here, another favorite moment that I have?
BILL: It’s really close. It’s when Tahj is in the booth. It’s in a different episode.
JEFF: Oh my god.
BILL: Tahj is in the booth and Zedd turns back to him and to Moog and he says, “Hey, can you hit record?”
BILL: And the pause and the realization of what just happens to Moog and Moog goes, “…Yes.”
JEFF: It’s like a slight stammer, right?
BILL: Yeah. He’s just like, “Yeah, I can, I can do that.” He’s so nervous.
TAHJ: [laughs] It’s a big moment for him.
BILL: Oh my god. Such a great moment. Such a great moment.
JOE: Again, how dare you put me on screen like this?
BILL: It was so good.
JOE: Exactly true to form.
JEFF: Just so sweet.
JOE: Yeah. So Nora is desperately trying to get Zedd to participate, but Animal shows up. It turns out that Zedd and Animal go way back. And, you know, they say hello but then Zedd runs off one way. Darren the goat runs the other way and Penny, at the same time, is getting texts from. I’m sorry. Nora’s getting texts from Penny, at the same time, waiting for her to pick her up at the hospital. It’s a lot at once. It’s her own fault.
BILL: Right. Because earlier she has that moment with Penny.
JEFF: In the office.
BILL: When Penny says, you know, she’s getting her toes done or whatever.
JOE: She’s getting her face done.
BILL: No, no but I mean in that scene, she’s having her toes done.
JOE: Oh in the scene. She’s getting a pedicure.
BILL: After JJ, right. And she says, “I’m gonna go have this thing tomorrow.”
JEFF: Yeah, sure. Of course. Right.
JOE: So Nora runs to the hospital. And it turns out Janice has been admitted to the same hospital. Moog is waiting there for her at the reception. And we get a great audio Easter egg here. We hear someone saying, “Paging Dr. Oznowicz.”
BILL: Jeff threw that one in there.
JOE: That must have been Jeff. Yep.
JOE: As we all know, that’s Frank Oz’s last name. His original last name. And he’s a doctor now. Congratulations, Frank!
JOE: Passed med school.
TAHJ: He did it. He did it.
JOE: He did it!
BILL: Can I mention something?
BILL: Since this is, you know, Muppets and puppeteers listening, and people trying things and try to learn things about puppetry. There’s a shot that I think is really simple that you really don’t think about. And I think the way it’s designed, you don’t even notice. And it’s just a real simple little trick, which is when it cuts to the hospital and Nora and Animal approach, right? They’re running towards the desk. You have to think about, well, how do we hide Eric in this situation and not make him too low, right? So that he looks too small. And I just put a stack of hospital folders. But there’s also an opening between the hospital folders and whatever the receptionist is using, it’s like a computer or something.
It’s just a little gap and that’s where Eric found the hole for Animal’s body. But you don’t put together that there’s somebody down there, right? Because the folders are kind of hiding it but it feels like you’re seeing through. I just thought it worked really well. You just don’t think about it. It feels very natural. It’s one of those things that just feels like, “Oh well, he’s just coming in.”
JOE: Yeah, I love that stuff.
TAHJ: Yeah yeah that was a cool day for me to be on set because that was, you know, we shot on location sometimes, but a lot of the times we were on the studio where, you know, we’re able to build the sets up high, but this was an actual location where you can’t build the sets up high. So for me, I was able to like see how the Muppets work in a real life environment and like that blew my mind seeing David [Rudman] like in the hospital bed, like literally underneath the bed like for hours. I’m like, are you good, bro? Like this is crazy.
BILL: [laughs] Yeah.
TAHJ: But yeah, that day was so cool for me to see because I remember Eric was on the little rollie.
BILL: On the rollie. Yeah. I should have mentioned that.
BILL: That’s what he was on because we were in a real place. Yeah.
JEFF: And this was the first on location day.
BILL: Was it really?
JEFF: It was all day at the hospital and then the second scene, which is next, with Janice in the hospital room and then it was “It’s only rock and roll but I like it.” We shot in the park.
BILL: Oh, that’s right. That night.
JEFF: This was the first night. It was a Friday night.
TAHJ: That was a long night. I remember that. [laughs]
JEFF: A long one.
JOE: So in the hospital. The band seems to be passive-aggressively kind of blaming Moog for putting Janice in the hospital. And Nora finally comes clean. Admits she’s been lying the whole time. And the second she does that, Janice bolts up and she feels amazing. I wish I could feel that.
TAHJ: That’s my favorite Janice line. “You all look amazing. Wow, you’re amazing. This is amazing.”
JEFF: David’s so good, so so good.
BILL: And like you said, being stuck under there. He’s so good stuck through this bed that has no space underneath.
TAHJ: Blew my mind.
BILL: They had to build him a bed.
JEFF: I also love how Matt Sohn directed this scene with Moog just being so small in the background.
BILL: Right. Near the door.
JEFF: Just a status thing. He’s on the outs and it’s Nora that has to come forward and fess up. Smart direction.
JOE: Nora kind of runs off, but as she’s going off, we hear Floyd…This sounds all like it was not scripted but Floyd tells Janice that Lips thought that she had died. And this is the first in a running gag for Lips that he thinks that people have died which is hysterical. And if this was an ad lib then that’s you know, great.
BILL: It was.
JEFF: It was.
TAHJ: He either thinks that they’ve died or haven’t died yet.
BILL: Yeah, something about death. Lips goes right to death.
JEFF: And he just consistently and I mean we heard this, we were like, well that’s staying in. It’s hilarious, you know.
JOE: That was hysterical. Yeah. Nora finds Penny and her head is all wrapped up in gauze. Including her glasses, which is just a great visual.
JOE: And she’s in a wheelchair. So can you explain to me where Leslie is in that scene?
BILL: She’s underneath. We opened up the whole bottom of it. Got everything out of the way and created a little seat in there for her down below. So she’s just under it. Not the easiest place to be. She has to have a monitor in her lap and all that.
But I mean, it could be worse.
JOE: For sure, yeah.
BILL: But she had a seat and we tried to make her as comfortable as possible. But yes, she’s right under Penny.
JOE: It’s just one of those weird things like you were talking about with the hospital bed, where, you know, number one, we’re not supposed to think about where the puppeteers are. So I often forget to think about it. And number two, when you see the shot, when you see her, like wheeling the wheelchair and you think about there’s a whole human being in there, like how? It’s impressive.
BILL: [laughs] Well that’s how big Penny is.
JOE: That’s true.
TAHJ: Yeah, Penny, I remember the first time I saw I was like, “Oh!” And then Leslie explaining how she has to get it on. It’s almost like a backpack. I don’t know how she did that.
BILL: It’s a rod that goes up and supports her. And because she’s doing her left hand as well. She does her live left hand and she’s doing her body and her head. And, yeah, it was tricky in the wheelchair for sure but she managed to pull it off. It looks great.
JOE: Back at the shack, the band is still kind of shook over this revelation that show business is steeped in lies. But Zoot assures them “we’ll always have used car salesmen and politicians.”
JEFF: Before we get into this scene, this scene every once in a while, when you’re in production, you have to make compromises due to time and/or budget and those hurt. And this was the only one of the few compromises that I think made the show better. It was a time constraint. Right, Bill? We didn’t have access. This scene was supposed to take place on the roof.
BILL: Oh yeah, right.
JEFF: And we were… I don’t remember what the complication was. We didn’t have the roof. We were going to take down the roof set, which we later see.
BILL: Yeah, yeah.
BILL: I don’t think we had the roof yet. Because I think we shot this before we did the roof.
JEFF: That may be. And they’re like, “Really truly, do you guys need this? Can you think of this scene,” that again was supposed to take place on the roof. “Can you think of another way to do this?” And we’re like, well what’s easier? Like obviously anything in the shack is easy. And so that’s when we…and you know, they were gonna sing “True Colors” on the roof. Which is nice. But then we came up with, “Wait a second. What if during this whole scene they’re setting up lava lamps? Like seriously, get the most lava lamps you could possibly get and let’s set that up so that when she does sing “True Colors” then all of a sudden all those lava lamps light up and visually it’ll be gorgeous.”
TAHJ: That scene, I must admit that scene made me tear up. I’m not even lying.
BILL: Oh, me too.
JEFF: Oh my gosh.
TAHJ: I was like okay this is the [indistinguishable] I’m crying.
BILL: Yeah. Me too.
JEFF: Between Lilly’s performance, which is so genuine and real, and then David’s performance on the song.
JEFF: It’s just gorgeous.
TAHJ: And then the comedy beats within the heartfeltness like, “Oh, you’re still singing. Okay.” You know what I mean? It was just like…
TAHJ: It was so well done. And I’m just like “This show is so special.”
JEFF: It was another one of those late nights too. And I just remember going to the set and Lilly was just there just doing, I mean, it was all on the band and she was just there to feed her lines. It’s like 11:30, 12:30, Just so professional and so good, and not a complaint. Lilly didn’t have to be there, but she was, you know?
TAHJ: I have something to say about that, actually, that people because you guys, as the Muppet performers, you don’t really need our eye line. Like you’re not looking at us, you know what I mean?
BILL: If you’re not in the shot…
BILL: If you’re doing coverage of us looking at someone. Right.
TAHJ: But as an actor, we want to be there because we constantly are forgetting that Bill is under there or that David is under. We’re like, “No, I want to be in this scene fully with this Muppet.” And that was an example I’m sure with Lilly how she just loved being there while you guys were doing your coverage because it’s just so cool to watch.
BILL: Well, yeah, not everybody does. There’s certainly a lot of instances where people don’t feel that they need to be there and it’s really helpful for us because you never know what can happen too. You know, on your coverage somebody could do something that sparks something new that you didn’t do, right?
BILL: It applies to people as well as Muppets.
JEFF: It’s also very technical. So like, you know, in this scene for example, Zoot had to turn and take that picture. And the way we did the Polaroid was with like this remote app, right? That just caused it to go off. And sometimes that would not go off or sometimes the flash wouldn’t show up on the 24 frames per second recording. So you have to make sure that you get that flash at that moment. And again, just patience of everyone on the crew working, cast, Lilly, everyone, you know.
BILL: Oh yeah.
JEFF: Trying to get the best thing. I have a collection of all of Zoot’s Polaroids. So many. Just all the real ones that fell out of that camera.
JOE: Oh, that’s fun.
BILL: Talking about the roof. I don’t think we did shoot the roof yet because it was a one-off still. Until we did that they were going to play on the roof at the end of…
BILL: Seven. I think then we built the roof because we thought well we have two scenes now that we can shoot on that swing set, you know what I mean?
JEFF: Was it just like a time thing? Were they still building the roof?
BILL: Yeah, I don’t think we had the roof yet and so it was about well how can we? Because it’s not ready and we need to shoot out this episode. Is there something? Can you help us? Can we find a way to do this scene now?
JEFF: And truly, it honestly makes the episode better.
JEFF: “True Colors” and seeing all those colors. Those lava lamps and the lens flares.
JOE: It’s a beautiful scene and what I love about it is it’s a sweet song with the lava lamps. It feels like such an easy–I don’t know how easy it was for you–but like an easy practical effect. Like we’re just doing a little music video here without lots of cuts, special effects, weird puppetry tricks, whatever. Because we don’t need that with a great Mayhem song.
JOE: And I do want to talk a little bit about the song and about Cyndi Lauper, who originally recorded “True Colors.” She doesn’t have much of a Muppet connection. She appeared on the Sesame Street direct-to-video once. We found some photos of her with Rizzo the Rat, but we have no idea what they’re from.
JEFF: Muppet Magazine?
JOE: She wasn’t in Muppet Magazine, but Heather Henson is in Muppet Magazine dressed as Cyndi Lauper. So it’s not Cyndi Lauper herself.
JEFF: Well, that’s the connection. Clearly. That’s the connection right there.
JOE: That’s the big connection.
JEFF: That’s it.
JOE: And “True Colors” the song is featured on the 2015 Muppets sitcom. It’s revealed that Fozzie Bear cries every time he hears the song. And Riki Lindhome sings it at one point. And it also appears in the Sesame Street Live show called Elmo’s Coloring Book. I’m kind of curious to hear that.
JEFF: That’s the reference we were going for.
JOE: That’s what you were going for. You’re like, everyone’s gonna get this is from Elmo’s Coloring Book.
JEFF: And I believe it’s Sesame Street Live. [pronounced with a short i] Am I right?
JOE: Oh, yeah. Right. It’s pronounced live [pronounced with a short i] Right. So Nora takes the band on a hike. We’re back in the park. Moog is walking Darren. You get your Darren moment here. And Hannah points out that Nora might start…might be falling for the awkward guy. And she says, “He’s not my type.” And then we hear Janice sneeze. Planting some seeds here.
TAHJ: I love it. I love it. My favorite part of the whole show. I’m like, “Girl, you know you like Moog.
JEFF: So Moog– Moog? Tahj, were you walking with Darren the goat on the hill?
TAHJ: Yes. Not for the actual pool part.
TAHJ: But yeah. That’s why I was like I had anxiety that day. I’m like, “How do you walk a goat?” [laughs] How do you walk a goat?
JEFF: Seems like the goat walks you.
TAHJ: But yeah, the goat was great.
JEFF: Checklist. What other animals have you worked with?
TAHJ: I’ve worked with… Oh, I’ve worked with a chimp. I’ve worked with a goat, obviously dogs. Babies aren’t animals but I’ve worked with babies. There’s a joke on set of people say never work with babies or pets. [laughs] But I enjoyed all of my experiences working with babies. For six seasons of Baby Daddy, I was surrounded by babies.
BILL: Oh my gosh.
JEFF: Aye, aye, aye.
TAHJ: But yeah, not not too many… not too many animals though.
BILL: You’ve worked with Animal.
TAHJ: That is THE Animal. He’s the only one that matters.
JOE: That’s right. Well maybe season two will have another real life animal for you to check off your list.
TAHJ: There you go.
JOE: A bucket list animal.
JEFF: What animal would you not want to work with, out of curiosity?
TAHJ: I do not like snakes, so like I just cannot…No, Jeff. Don’t, Jeff. Jeff! Right when you asked me that, I’m like, “why am I answering this question?”
JOE: Why would you say that?
BILL: But we were just talking about…
BILL: In another episode.
JEFF: Later episode.
BILL: Different episode, when they go to the desert, we had that running thing with you and Animal and the snake. Right? But it got cut.
TAHJ: Yes, it’s sad that it got cut, but it was so fun to shoot like it’s totally fine.
BILL: That was great.
TAHJ: Like, you know what I mean? Those were my favorite moments and I realized, you know, when you’re doing a half hour show, not everything will be able to be used. But there were so many moments where we were doing things in the background. There’s one with the popcorn.
JEFF: Oh, yeah, the popcorn.
BILL: The popcorn was great.
TAHJ: Me and Animal. We kept a little bit of that.
JEFF: A little bit.
BILL: Oh, that’s great.
TAHJ: You can see him sort of eyeing the popcorn as I’m putting it in.
BILL: The snake thing is great because you’re like, “What do you got there, buddy? What is it? Oooh!”
TAHJ: Yeah, yeah!
BILL: That was great.
JOE: So, back to this episode. Everyone gets to the top of the hike. We get this beautiful view of Los Angeles. And, of course, it looks a little smoggy because that’s how Los Angeles looks all the time. Lips’s phone rings and his ringtone is the doo doo, doo doo doo part of Mahna Mahna. And he answers the phone and he says, “Mahna Mahna.” Was a great little Easter egg for the fans. I think most people probably got that one.
TAHJ: Oh yeah.
JOE: It’s for Nora. It’s karma calling. Who could it be? I don’t know. It’s a cliffhanger. Disney Plus is gonna love this. And that’s where we end our episode.
BILL: You know that shot of the city of LA?
BILL: It’s the line, Jeff, what’s the line with that Saara says?
JEFF: You couldn’t fake this… you couldn’t.
BILL: Yeah, you couldn’t make this up…
JEFF: It’s the green screen. It’s literally something about a green screen.
BILL: Yeah. And that is a green screen shot.
JOE: Of course it is.
TAHJ: Yes, I remember that. Remember, yes yes, at the premiere, I remember laughing at that. I was like, “Oh I see.” [laughs]
JEFF: The deep irony of her like, “Come on, Hannah and get away from your green screen and live a little.” Yeah, only to do it, and here’s the thing, when we first saw it, you know, our editors just comped it like you could just key it out in the avid and do like a dirty comp and it was the worst thing we’d ever seen.
BILL: Yeah, it looked awful.
JEFF: And we’re like, “Oh god. How are we gonna do this?” But again, you give it to Soapbox and it looked pretty masterful.
JOE: Yeah, add a little bit of smog. That’s how you do it. That’s how you mask it.
JEFF: Yes, totally.
BILL: . Oh, they added much for that, but it’s great. Yeah. I had a running thing with Tahj. That he was so patient and put up with me. But I knew I could do it because of how good he is, right? So I knew right away, this guy, he’s fine. He’s giving us gold. Like every take is great. There’s always something new. It’s always really good. So I made it my business. [laughs] I would kind of be next to the camera kind of watching, and he would do his take. And then I would go. [whispers] “Jesus Christ.”
BILL: [in regular voice] “What is going on? What was that?” Then I’d walk away.
TAHJ: You wouldn’t even– Bill, you need to really say what you, because sometimes he wouldn’t even be there. He would come from his chair and come right next to the camera and be like, “Bro. What the hell?”
BILL: Or even just more subtle.
TAHJ: Sometimes even during the take.
BILL: Yeah, just shaking my head no. Like, this is not working.
TAHJ: It was great. It was great. I loved every second of it, Bill. I freaking love it.
BILL: Oh, it was fun. You put up with that. Thank you.
JOE: I’m so glad because that would give me anxiety out my ears. Like, “Haha, what a good joke. It is a joke, right? It’s a joke.”
TAHJ: But from day one, that’s just how the cast and the crew were. You gotta be on your toes around the Muppets. You know what I mean? You have to be on your toes. I knew that going into it and so I love that. I love it. It makes it fun.
JEFF: Tahj, what was your favorite scene to shoot?
TAHJ: Oh my. Oh, oh easy! It’s the desert episode where I’m in the van and I have Animal and Lips on me. That, to me, I look at that picture now in my phone and I’m just like…I posted it actually. It’s like all my dreams to have Animal and Lips just nuzzling. And, fun fact.
JEFF: Mayhem Fun Fact.
TAHJ: I know that’s not this episode.
JEFF: They were right. It wouldn’t work. It wouldn’t work.
TAHJ: I actually got to, I remember Eric during that scene going, “Hey, do you want to help me place my hand.” So I actually got to hold…like control one of his hands in that scene as well. So to me, it was just like, “Oh my god. This is amazing.”
JEFF: Oh, wow.
TAHJ: So yeah, that was my definitely favorite scene to shoot. It was just, I loved it.
JOE: You almost mentioned earlier, Moog’s trailer. Did you have any fond memories or stories about that?
TAHJ: It’s a testament to the attention to detail of this show. Like, no corners were cut. And I think you could see when you watch it. But yeah, Moog’s trailer, sort of went through a rehaul, I guess. It looked different.
JEFF: Yeah, a rehaul of the U-haul.
TAHJ: Yeah, it transitioned. It looked different from what you see in the show, it didn’t always look like that.
TAHJ: Yes, the interior.
BILL: Right, the interior.
JEFF: The exterior is a work of art.
TAHJ: Yes. Adam Goldberg: he is a genius. He knows what he wants. I got to see two versions of Moog’s trailer, which I didn’t even ask for and it was really cool.
[Jeff, Bill and Tahj laugh]
JOE: That’s great and I do love the exterior of that. I remember seeing it for the first time and going like, “I need that sticker. I need that sticker. I need that on a t-shirt.”
TAHJ: Oh my gosh, yeah. I spent like hours. I would always see a new sticker that I hadn’t seen before. And it was just cool. Like, “Wow, that’s my trailer.”
TAHJ: Yeah crazy. But yeah, there’s so many bumper stickers on that thing that were just hilarious. And actually, I have a picture of it in my phone, but in the original trailer, there was an autographed photo from Janice to Moog and I loved it so much. I’ll probably end up cropping it and printing it out. Just so it seems like I have an autographed picture of Janice in my own office. But yeah, just so many little, so many little things that, you know, you wouldn’t even know were there, but it’s just the details that were so fun to see on set every day.
JOE: Oh, absolutely. Do you have any other memories that you want to share from anything in the series before we start wrapping up?
BILL: Anything you want to say great about me?
JOE: Yeah. Yeah. How do you like that Bill guy?
TAHJ: You know, Jeff, Jeff is great. Jeff is so great. Jeff, Jeff. Who else? Yeah. Jeff, Jeff. As far as people on this call.
JEFF: Yeah, yeah. That sounds about right.
TAHJ: No, I freaking love you, Bill. Come on, Bill. No. I guess overall. It’s just, you know…To be able to see Bill, and the rest of the Muppet performers, what they do, is mind boggling. Like it blew my mind. And again, the attention to detail, the amount of things that they’re doing at one time. And I’m over here, just trying to say my lines and they’re controlling someone at the same time. They’re even singing at times like and it’s just like that was another thing that always blew my mind. Whenever, on set, you guys were like, rehearsing a song that you had like you were in the studio the day before or something and I would hear glimpses of you guys singing it. I’m like,
“These guys really can sing.” Like Bill. Your voice is like really good.
JEFF: Bill has the best voice.
TAHJ: Matt Vogel, like, hearing you guys sing, without even trying on set. I was just like, “Man, they really are The Electric Mayhem.”
JEFF: Correct me if I’m wrong. You sort of, kind of knew Lilly before you started.
JEFF: A little bit, though.
TAHJ: Yes, I knew Lilly. She is friends with one of my sisters.
TAHJ: So I had met Lilly at my sister’s baby shower, years ago.
JEFF: And now you guys could not be closer now.
TAHJ: Oh here’s another cool story for you. You know, some days we weren’t on set together and anytime I was off and she was on set or vice versa, we literally would be texting each other going like, “I can’t do it. Where are you? Tahj, where are you? Please come back. Why aren’t you here?”
BILL: [laughs] Awww.
TAHJ: Or one of us had, you know, finished up early. We’re like, “No, you’re not going anywhere. Stay.”
BILL: Oh nice.
TAHJ: That’s my girl. And you know it’s hard to come by people like Lilly, who have so much. She’s done so much. She’s a huge deal and she’s humble. And she’s onset telling me, she’s like, “I’m learning.” Telling me what I’m teaching her or what she’s learning from me or, you know, giving me props and I’m like, “No, you’re amazing.” And for this to be her first lead. And the fact that she was able to do what she did in this, it’s incredible. She’s so talented. I love that woman dearly.
BILL: Yeah and she’s not, you know, the social media presence is a very different attitude to all this. Right? What she did with this character is so good. It’s just real.
BILL: But she enhances it. All of you actually have this same unique talent which is to be grounded, being real, but finding those moments to highlight and to play. And to find, you know, the little bit of extra comedy, little bit of extra. And that’s there when it’s necessary.
TAHJ: When it’s necessary.
BILL: Lless is more.
BILL: You all played it so well with the Muppets. Because a lot of people try and match the Muppets, that energy.
TAHJ: And that’s why I appreciate you guys for you know, because before we went into it, I was talking with with one of our directors, Matt Sohn and it was just the importance of keeping it grounded in a reality because this is real life for these people. This is life. There are Muppets in life. It’s not like, “ A Muppet! Wow!” It’s like, no, like they’re just, this is life. Keeping that at the forefront of like, “Yes I’m speaking to a puppet that is very colorful but this is real.” Like this is a real being and I think that’s what makes the show so special because you forget that it’s puppets and you just get lost in the reality of the whole thing.
And that doesn’t come unless you’re taking the scene to be reality. And so we had to keep it grounded. And yeah, it was fun to find those moments of like “Okay, where can I play up a little bit more of Moog here.” It was fun for me to find those moments. And you guys made it easy too because when, you know, I would see if you guys were doing a little something that was a little leeway for me to. So it was just a give and take. It was a give and take. It was great.
JEFF: I have two more questions. What did you think of the Smart Guy reference?
TAHJ: Okay, I must tell you, people love that, by the way. [laughs]
JEFF: Cool. What did you think?
TAHJ: I love it. Are you kidding? Perfect. Yeah, To be honest There’s so many little hints as far as Muppets go, little Easter eggs.
JEFF: Easter eggs.
TAHJ: So to have to have my own little Easter egg in there was very special for me. So thank you.
JEFF: Yeah, of course. My other question, did you take any, besides the wardrobe, did you take anything else from the set? And I’m just asking. Not, you know, for security.
TAHJ: I’m trying to think. No, I’m trying to think. Did I?
JEFF: Not that Janice picture, clearly.
TAHJ: No, I don’t think I did.
JEFF: Where is the trailer? That’s, I guess, what I want to know.
JOE: [laughs] Someone took the trailer.
TAHJ: Actually, I stole that.
JOE: You stole the hearts of everyone on set.
JEFF: That’s true.
TAHJ: Aww, thank you.
JOE: That’s what you stole. And everyone watching. Tahj, thank you so much for joining us for this podcast. This was an absolute blast to get to talk to you and thank you for everything you brought to Moog. He’s a fantastic character and I really hope we get to see more of him at some point.
TAHJ: Thank you so much. It is an honor. That’s all I can say. An honor. I love Moog dearly.
BILL: Thank goodness for all the CG that the VFX people did on Tahj.
TAHJ: Yes. Yeah.
BILL: Really bringing a lot of the expressions that weren’t there.We just want to thank Soapbox.
TAHJ: This is another running joke of ours. If you’re a little confused it’s because we have so many of these little running jokes that nobody gets. [laughs] I feel like even in the group chat Bill, no one really knows what we’re talking about.
BILL: [laughs] It’s okay.
JOE: Whatever you guys did, Moog came out very lifelike.
BILL: Yeah, the VFX, Soapbox did an amazing stuff on his face. Mostly his face.
BILL: But because it was, you know, kind of flat, but they really brought out all the expressions and made it feel alive.
JEFF: Yeah. He’s very lifelike.
TAHJ: Yeah, I still feel part of the character in some way, you know? So it’s great.
BILL: It’s your voice. It’s your voice.
TAHJ: It’s my voice. It’s my voice.
BILL: Yeah, yeah.
JOE: Well, thank you again for being here. Bill, Jeff, thank you both for being here as well. Hope to see you again next week. And thanks everyone for listening. We’ll be back with more Muppets Mayhem, real soon.
[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!