Transcription by Katilyn Miller.
The Muppets Mayhem: Backstage Pass – Episode 3 “Exile on Main Street”
[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 are talking about Track Three: Exile on Main Street in which Animal quits the band and he gives Baby Yoda a run for his money. This week, we’ve got two return guests and one first-timer. First up, he’s the co-creator and executive producer of The Muppets Mayhem, please welcome Jeff Yorkes back to the podcast. Hey, Jeff!
JEFF YORKES: Oh my god. Thank you, Joe. Thank you.
BILL BARRETTA: Bravo, bravo bravo! [clapping sounds]
JOE: Bravo to you, Jeff.
JEFF: Bill, sit down. Please.
BILL: I can’t. I can’t. Bravo.
JEFF: Stand up.
JOE: Next. Stand up for your introduction. He is another co-creator and executive producer as well as Dr. Teeth’s number one pal, please welcome Bill Barretta back to the podcast. Hey, Bill.
BILL: Bravo, bravo, bravo for me. [clapping sounds]
JOE: Bravo to you. Our final guest is the Muppet performer responsible for taming the wild beast known as Animal. Please welcome Eric Jacobson to the podcast. Hi, Eric!
ERIC JACOBSON: Hello. Hello.
BILL: Woooo. [whistles]
JOE: Great to have you here.
ERIC: Yeah. Yeah, it’s good to be here. So wait, I’m kind of representing Animal in this? Is that what I’m doing?
JOE: I’m going to talk about Animal?
BILL: Normally he does Janice.
BILL: But he’s doing the Animal stuff I guess.
JEFF: Today. For this. yes.
ERIC: Normally when I go on podcasts I like to talk about Janice. We’ll talk about Janice.
JOE: You can talk about Janice. I’m fine with that.
ERIC: All right.
JOE: I mean Animal might come up in passing as we continue. We’ll see. We’ll see how the flow goes.
ERIC: Before we get started though. I really have a question. Okay, so it’s Joe Hennes. [pronounces the e before the s] but Jeff Yorkes [does not pronounce the e before the s]?
JEFF: Mm, you’re talking about the e?
ERIC: Yeah, I think you guys should get together and kind of decide on a pronunciation.
BILL: Jeff Yorkes [pronounces the e]
JEFF: Oh I get Yorkes [pronounces the e] all the time.
JOE: Do you? And I get Hens all the time.
JEFF: Well, that’s probably the correct pronunciation. According to the Yorkes school of pronunciation.
JOE: I’ll talk to my dad about it.
ERIC: Anyway, I mean you know, talk it over, you can,
JEFF: This might be a separate podcast.
ERIC: Yeah, yeah. Maybe it’s a whole offshoot.
JOE: Yeah, we can’t all be Jacobson. Jacobson is the easy one, I feel like. So Eric Jacobson, what was your first reaction when you heard that there was going to be an Electric Mayhem series?
BILL: Did you make that noise? Did you do that?
ERIC: I’d been hearing about the possibility.
BILL: Did you go? Can I ask you? I’m sorry. Did you go? [mimics] “Oh.”
ERIC: Yeah, that’s exactly what I did.
BILL: All right.
ERIC: [repeats] Oh.
[Bill and laugh]
ERIC: But it was a long time coming. I know, Bill, you’d been thinking about this for a long time and Jeff, you keep on hounding me at like comic cons?
ERIC: Yeah. “I got this idea for a Mayhem…” I’m like, “I’m not the guy you need to talk to.”
JEFF: Can I pitch it to you right now? In front of the Star Wars booth.
ERIC: “I wish you all the luck in the world.” But I had always thought it was a great idea. If you’re going to do a kind of an offshoot of the brand, that you could do a show, you could do something with this subset of characters. It makes sense because they all have this really tight, all these tight relationships with each other. You know, outside of, apart from, the rest of the Muppets. So I thought it was a great idea
BILL: [mimics] Oh.
JEFF: I want to say it was 2019 at comic con but I did run into you and Matt. I knew you. I didn’t know Matt. But I was talking, you know, we chatting it up and we were supposed to come back from that, I was gonna meet Matt, and we were supposed to pitch it the next day at the Muppets.
BILL: Oh my god.
JEFF: And for whatever reason, that was canceled. I couldn’t bring it up to you guys.
ERIC: No, no. [laughs] Oh, man.
BILL: That’s wild. That’s so cool.
JEFF: Yeah, and it’s random. And then on the train back, Brian Henson was on the train.
BILL: That’s right. Yes, I remember you telling me that.
JEFF: I introduced myself to him or reintroduced myself because I’m sure he remembered me as an intern from, you know, 25 years previous.
JEFF: But I couldn’t say anything to him, you know?
JOE: Do you guys get pitched to a lot? Do you get people coming up to you to be like, “Hey, I got this great idea for a Muppet thing. Like you should do a Pigs in Space series.” And you’re like, “Thanks. I don’t. I’m not…I can’t take your unsolicited offer.
ERIC: Oh not a lot. No, cause most people don’t, most people don’t really recognize me.
ERIC: There’s no real reason for most people to come up to me and start pitching. “Hey, random guy in the street, I’ve got this great Muppet idea.”
BILL: Yeah. Not in person so much. Sometimes letters and things.
ERIC: Yeah. Yeah, every now and then. But you know. I just say, “I’m not the guy, I’m not the guy to talk to. I wish you all the luck.”
JOE: So how hard is it to keep a character like Animal, who was pretty much designed to be more or less one note, interesting throughout an entire season of a television show?
ERIC: For me? I’ll just say…
JOE: Yeah, as a performer.
ERIC: Yeah, yeah, I’ll just say that I was truly scared going into this. Because I thought, “I’m gonna have to do this one character all day long, every day. I’m gonna shoot out my voice really fast.” When I go in and do audio records, I’m pretty much tapped out after like half an hour of screaming. And then my voice is blown. So I was really scared going into it as far as you know, performing. But it turned out to be fine because Animal is very terse. He doesn’t say a lot. And it’s not just him. You know, I’m not going into a studio by myself trying to do, you know, all the dialogue is for me. It’s not. I have very little and that wound up being a saving grace, obviously, to my voice but also a lot of fun for me in that I could just be kind of in the background a lot of times and just making stuff up. And in trying to get into a lot of trouble.
BILL: Hey Eric, do you remember? Sorry, I’m just curious. Eric would come up with like different ideas, things to do, like you just said in the background, you know, playing around. I’m trying to remember, was the record album in the Zedd episode, was that something we made in the moment because you wanted…Right? We didn’t write that, right?
ERIC: I’m trying to remember that myself. That was gonna be one of my questions for you guys. I’m sure that some of it…where it wound up was very made up in the moment.
BILL: Yeah. I think we did.
ERIC: I couldn’t remember if there was something in the script that said, “Oh he’s about to eat a record that he got off the wall.”
BILL: No, I think you wanted to and we like made the frame crooked and then they quickly went off and took the thing that was in there and cut teeth marks in it.
ERIC: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. You know, props to the prop department.
ERIC: You know, they took, they had two. Thankfully, they had at least two gold records and they were okay with, you know, eating one figuratively and literally, and sawing it and putting in those teeth marks.
BILL: But it was that kind of stuff that Eric would have different things and he’d be like, “I’m just going to be like doing this thing.” Like okay. Go ahead. Go for it.
[Bill and Eric laugh]
BILL: “I’m gonna be eating tissues.” Okay, great.
[Bill and Eric laugh]
JOE: I feel like that’s something that we’re hearing a lot from you guys throughout this entire podcast is the amount of play and the amount of everyone’s got good ideas. And especially you guys, the main performers, who you’ve been working with them for so long, these characters for so long. It’s like, of course that’s what Animal would be doing. Of course, Animal would be eating tissues or take a bite out of that gold record.
JOE: And you could just do it. You could just make that decision. Go for it.
ERIC: This is a different episode but the eating the box of tissues was like probably my favorite moment in the show.
JEFF: Some of it’s still in there.
ERIC: And most of it’s cut out.
BILL: Eric, you know what happened? You know, we never talk about it was the timing of the dialogue.
ERIC: I know.
BILL: Was always just off from your side when you were chewing or grabbing one.
ERIC: Well, there was a whole other scene, I guess, that had to take place, right?
BILL: If we had thought about it and said, “Just grab it when we’re on Nora’s side, right?
ERIC: I did it like 20… I don’t know. I probably ate…Animal probably ate 25 to 30 tissues just one after another.
BILL: I know.
JEFF: And your method about it.
ERIC: But you had to bounce around. You had to tell the story. I get it. It was so much fun.
BILL: Yeah. That was just so… we were all like, “Damn, this was really fun. A little bit’s there.
JEFF: It’s the best though, just looking in the sides of the frames, when there’s the scene happening in the foreground, and there’s something else happening in the background. Again, it’s like, you know, Nora comes in and, after settling Teeth’s problem with his parents, walks in, and it’s just the wall of Lips Janice, and Floyd. But Animal and Moog were in the background and he’s eating popcorn, with his head following it, like a laser pointer, you know?
BILL: Yeah, like a puppy.
ERIC: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I mean a lot of that stuff, you know, ultimately had to get cut out, you know, for time or it’s just too distracting or I don’t know. But we had so much fun doing it.
BILL: “W” was made up in the moment. Right?
ERIC: That made it.
BILL: That made it in. That was amazing.
JOE: It was like anti-Sesame Street moment.
JOE: Was that cathartic for you? You’re like, “I might get this letter wrong. It’s gonna feel so good. I’ve been doing letters on Sesame for so many years.”
ERIC: No, because I get stuff wrong all the time on Sesame Street. It empowers the kids because they can correct him.
JOE: Oh that’s a good point. Yeah.
ERIC: Yeah, I mean does Grover ever get it right? No. No. Somebody else has to correct him.
JEFF: I’m drawing a line in the sand. This is not Sesame Street.
JOE: That’s right.
JEFF: One of our first pitch meetings, you know, someone asked, “Okay, how is this going to appeal to the little kids? The toddlers.” And we’re like, “This is not those Muppets.”
BILL: It’s not really.
JOE: You could just say, “In the merchandising.” Make some dolls.
JEFF: What merchandising?
JOE: Well, that’s the next questions.
ERIC: They’re gonna like it because it’s funny and it’s puppets. Yeah.
BILL: Colors, feathers and shapes. And that’s what they like.
ERIC: But, you know, one thing that I love about this show is that it welcomes everybody. That there’s no reason why you can’t watch this with your family. And that makes me truly happy because I have a family. [laughs] You know, I’ve got two young girls and we had a blast watching the whole thing together. It was so wonderful to just pile up on the couch and watch this show together.
JEFF: There is relatable for each segment of the audience, you know?
ERIC: Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely.
JEFF: There are jokes that appeal to adults, that don’t make kids feel like they’re missing something.
JEFF: You know?
ERIC: Right, right.
JEFF: Have fun just laughing all the time.
JOE: Speaking of ideally laughing, let’s get into this episode. It begins with our cold open back in the Electric Mayhem van. Animal is playing Simon. The old game, the handheld game. And he’s showcasing some of his perfect rhythm reminding us that he is a drummer. He’s a professional. And the band starts rocking to the beats. Floyd starts blowing into an empty soda bottle. Lips is rustling a mylar balloon. Janice is playing the beaded curtain in the back of the van and y’all are making this like really fun song.
JEFF: I think Lips has chips. Lips has a bag of chips.
JOE: Lips has a bag of chips? Gotcha. Yeah, I thought it was a balloon. Yeah, that makes more sense.
BILL: Yeah, he’s opening them.
JOE: Yeah. I don’t know why there would be a balloon in the van but I didn’t question it.
BILL: Why not?
JOE: Exactly. And yeah, this reminds me very much of like some stuff that The Muppet Show did in the early years. I think there even is a sketch somewhere where they’re all in a library and someone’s sneezing and someone’s being shushed and it kind of turns into like an orchestra of noises.
And then Animal gets a note wrong on the Simon. He throws it out the window. The song’s over.
JEFF: There was a moment in the 2015 series that we really liked where I think in one of the episodes, they’re all sort of jamming to The Muppet Show theme song. Isn’t that what it was?
JOE: Yeah, yeah, you’re right. They’re sitting around the table. And they’re like tapping pencils and riffing.
JEFF: Just kinda riffing to it. That was sort of an inspiration.
ERIC: Is it too late? Is it too late to give a note for the edit?
JEFF: No. It’s not. Go for it.
ERIC: Because I feel like the fail sound…
ERIC: The sound effect is a little late.
JEFF: It’s late?
ERIC: Can we just move that up just a little bit.
BILL: Oh, it’s late.
ERIC: I think so.
JEFF: Well, we should make a note for viewers, at that moment, to just hit your little fast forward like once.
ERIC: Yeah. Yeah. Okay.
JEFF: Just tap it.
BILL: Or they can go [mimicking Simon fail noise] AAAAHHH at the right time.
JOE: Alright, everybody record yourself making the noise. And put it on social media. Put it on Instagram. Put it on TikTok.
BILL: So you’re saying, Eric, just come, what? A beat earlier?
ERIC: Not even. It’s like half a beat.
BILL: Like a half a beat? So a half a beat while you’re watching, a half a beat before it buzzes, people just go [mimicking Simon fail noise] AAAHHH .
JEFF: Or go to the website.
JEFF: W-w-w mayhem fixes dot gov
BILL: Mayhem Fixes [laughs]
JOE: Backslash [mimicking Simon fail sound] AAAHHH
ERIC: I promise that’s the only note I have for this episode.
BILL: Wow. That’s amazing.
JOE: Great. Otherwise it’s perfect.
JEFF: It’s like a Persian rug, a single flaw. you know?
JOE: Right. We pick up from the previous episode in which the band has gotten Zedd to produce their album. And now we’re at Zedd’s recording studio. Where was this? Was this a set?
BILL: I’m sorry, slight correction. Sorry, Joe.
BILL: But Nora has gotten.
JOE: Fair. I was thinking of Nora as a member of the band, which I guess she is not quite yet.
BILL: Oh, I see. Not yet, not yet.
JOE: Not yet. Yeah, that’s fair. But you’re right, Nora got Zedd to agree to it. So was this a set or was this a real studio?
BILL: Set. Beautiful, right?
JOE: Yeah. Oh, yeah. Looks very real.
BILL: I love, inside the studio, when they’re recording, that background was a great psych there.
JOE: Yeah, Eric, as you said, Animal tries to eat one of Zedd’s gold albums because he has expensive taste.
JEFF: Also, that is Zedd’s Grammy.
JOE: Was that a real Grammy?
ERIC: His real Grammy.
BILL: His real Grammy. Yeah.
JEFF: Yeah, he brought it in.
JOE: Well, that was nice of him. Very trusting.
JEFF: That was awesome. That was another souvenir I thought of taking from the set.
ERIC: I loved, too, that when Nora takes the record from Animal that I couldn’t grab it back. So Bill, you had Teeth grab it back. And then I was like, I don’t know, we decided to then…
BILL: Give it back to him.
ERIC: Teeth gives it back to Animal.
BILL: Yeah. Yeah.
ERIC: And then later, you see the big teeth marks, the big bite taken out of it and it’s just all happening, that all happens in the background,
ERIC: Secondary, yeah. B, C, Q story, whatever. It is great.
BILL: Right, yeah. Yeah.
ERIC: But the thing that impressed me when I watched this was Lips’s handshake.
BILL: Oh right.
ERIC: It’s amazing.
JEFF: It’s masterful.
ERIC: I would swear that his hands are actually clasping Zedd’s.
BILL: And his fingers are wiggling.
JOE: Are his fingers actually wiggling?
BILL: No. I’m saying it looked– You would think.
JOE: Oh, it looks like that.
ERIC: Yeah, it just looks like it. It’s so good. It’s so good. And then Lilly’s handshake, that she does, is so funny and awkward.
BILL: Yeah, so pathetic.
ERIC: She’s so funny.
JEFF: We should give a shout out to Zedd because he came in here and it was like three days, four days of shooting?
BILL: Yeah. Never acted. Right?
BILL: All new to him. Never acted before.
BILL: Like just came in natural.
ERIC: Oh, he just rolled with it. He was great.
JOE: He seemed like he was having a good time. I appreciate that.
BILL: He’s a sweet guy. Super nice guy.
JEFF: So sweet. Couldn’t have been nicer just there to play, you know, and so patient.
BILL: Yeah. Right.
JOE: No, that’s nice.
JOE: You like to hear that.
BILL: And very open, like open to anything. He wasn’t like, “No, I would rather we…” Anything was open for him. He would do it.
JEFF: Yeah. Have you guys been in experiences where like “Oh, we have this idea” that you spring on the guest star and they’re just like, “Uuuuhhhh. Whaaaa?”
BILL: Oh sure.
BILL: Or it’s just like, “Do you really think that would happen here? And, of course, you would debate that thing. But some people are just very open. Like, “Let’s try it. What’s the worst thing that could happen?”
JOE: Like Danny Trejo. Danny Trejo would say yes to anything.
BILL: Danny Trejo will do anything. He’ll go for anything.
ERIC: Game for anything.
JOE: So Zedd is recording everyone in the band separately and he only records like a little bit of music or a little bit of dialogue from each one. My favorite is Zoot, who just says “I left my sax at home.” Which is hysterical. And Zedd mixes it into this techno-ish song. Who actually edited that together? Was it Zedd or was it someone on your team?
BILL: Ed Mitchell and Steve Morrell.
JOE: Did Zedd have to approve it to be like, “Yeah. That sounds like a Zedd song. That sounds like my style.”
JOE: Or did he just…He rolled with it.
BILL: No. No. Yeah, no.
JOE: Cause he’s cool like that.
BILL: No, it was just, I don’t think he knew what it was going to end up being he just knew the idea behind it and the intention of it, right? So that was left to our brilliant people to create.
JOE: And we see Animal with the drum machine and he kind of hits one button with the drum machine with his drumstick and he looks very confused. This made it into the trailers and people loved this moment. I feel like this turned into a meme for a hot second too, of yeah, Animal perplexed by not being able to do his job right.
ERIC: Yeah. Or it could turn into a meme like 20 years from now. Like Rocco the rock.
JOE: That’s true. That’s how memes work. They’re unpredictable and timeless.
BILL: I don’t know, Jeff, do you remember, when we were talking about this episode and they’re, you know, the idea of them always recording together. This was a new thing for them.
JEFF: Yes. To do them separate. Yeah.
BILL: To bring them into the future and that having them separate and seeing how they all would deal with that and what would come out of that situation. That was fun to think about.
BILL: And figure out who was going to do what. [laughs] And the Simon thing came a little bit later. Like we knew he was doing the drum machine but I don’t remember somehow we made the connection to Simon later or something. I don’t know what it was.
JEFF: Yeah, I’m obsessed with Simon. And it seemed like to have this sort of rhythmic thing that had lights to it, that sort of made sense.
JEFF: That, yeah, he would be perplexed by it. And then we wrote it then backwards, “Oh, that could be the cold open.” Again, fitting in this idea that they’re jamming together. That’s what they do. So you could even see the contrast. It’s one of the cold opens, one of the few cold opens, that truly works with the show.
BILL: Stayed with it. Yeah.
JOE: I mean, I like the fact that the two devices that Animal’s playing in those two scenes are, one is very retro. One is very almost futuristic. Kind of cementing the fact that the Mayhem are all pretty timeless. They do exist in all eras and will continue to moving forward.
JEFF: Or that they are having trouble coming to terms, coming to grips with this new thing.
BILL: They’re trying to get into it.
JEFF: And I hope it comes across but the drum machine is multi-colored. That is a VFX thing to make it look like the Simon. You know, it has the four colors of Simon on there.
JOE: Oh, so those colors weren’t live yet? You had to fix those in post?
JEFF: Yeah, it’s white.
JOE: Wow, okay, great.
BILL: Yeah. Yeah, but it was created, they did make it for us.
JEFF: Yeah. It’s a made thing, drum machine.
ERIC: They invented the drum machine just for this show.
JOE: Oh wow.
JEFF: But then they also invented a time machine.
JEFF: They went back and planted it.
JOE: Wow, you guys had quite a budget. I had no idea.
JEFF: Yeah. 76, I think.
BILL: Crazy. A lot of money.
JOE: So while Animal is recording, Floyd is talking about how Zedd’s got all of these high tech gizmos, so they don’t actually need any of their instruments anymore. And Lips puts his feet up on the dash, accidentally hits the talkback button and Animal hears Floyd say that they don’t need Animal or his drum set. And Animal flips out. He takes that futuristic drum machine, and he chucks it at the booth window.
JEFF: One of the most difficult things to edit. This whole sequence.
JOE: Why was that?
JEFF: Why was that? It was just, what were they saying?
BILL: When do they say it?
JEFF: When do they say it and what could Animal just hear to get it, to be upset by it?
ERIC: I was going to say, if I had known how it was going to be edited ultimately, I probably would have performed it a little differently. I would have adjusted something.
BILL: And I still feel like it wasn’t quite right because I think Animal’s reaction to hearing– It’s the shot from the booth to Animal, the wide shot.
ERIC: Yeah, through the glass.
BILL: Animal perks up as if he’s hearing them already say…
BILL: …that the drum is the problem, that Animal’s the problem, but I can’t remember, I don’t know why it happened. It was the dialogue that we needed Floyd to start with. I don’t know. It just wasn’t quite right. It was just a little off.
ERIC: I hear you Bill. I agree with all you guys. Yeah. Something’s a little off there.
ERIC: I think you still get the story.
BILL: You still get it.
ERIC: You still get it. But yeah I think they probably needed like Floyd or the band needed to say one more thing after they said, “We don’t need Animal.”
BILL: Right. It needed one more thing that Floyd said.
ERIC: So he can react to him saying we don’t need Animal. That’s when his eyes kind of go, “What?”
ERIC: And then, like one more thing follow.
BILL: “Because he’s just not good. Ha ha ha.”
ERIC: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And then Animal just like gets really steamed up and then chucks the–
BILL: Again, we have the edit thing you can write to.
JEFF: Viewers can go to w-w-w mayhem fixes dot gov.
BILL: Yeah. Right. Yeah.
ERIC: But it’s interesting to hear that that was difficult. That was challenging to edit.
BILL: It was. Yeah.
ERIC: And I get it. I get it. Sorry. Sorry, I couldn’t help it.
JOE: It’s okay because if anyone at home was going, “Wait a minute that was not perfect or that didn’t make any sense,” it’s immediately forgotten because we get this amazing shot of Animal, very casually, walking through a glass door.
ERIC: Oh my gosh.
BILL: That was fun to design.
ERIC: It looks so good. You would never guess how we shot it either.
JOE: Tell me. I won’t even guess.
JEFF: All nude performers.
JOE: [laughs] You’re right. I wouldn’t have guessed that.
BILL: Three different doors. So there was an empty door with no glass in it. Which is the one that Eric goes through. Do you want to tell?
ERIC: No, it’s not.
BILL: Did we do?
ERIC: Okay, so there was the glass. And they broke the glass.
BILL: Oh that’s right. We left the shards up top.
ERIC: Yeah. Broke the glass and that was one layer.
ERIC: You know, the glass breaking and then I think we were going to maybe do a layer where I walked through an open door without anything, but we just said, well let’s try it. Let’s see if I can actually go through it.
BILL: Oh, right.
ERIC: And I have no idea how I did this. But I actually took Animal through the broken glass like three or four times without getting caught on it at all. I don’t know how that happened because I’m like looking down at monitors. I don’t have a really good view looking up.
BILL: We also added glass in post.
BILL: We added shards too in post that also dropped after he leaves, right?
ERIC: Yes. Yes.
BILL: And then also a few that weren’t there. So I think you might have snuck by a little bit wider opening that maybe that’s there.
JEFF: I always find that it’s so intimidating, though, they’re like, “We have one chance to do this, guys.” It took so long to set up the breaking of the glass.
BILL: But I forgot that we never used, that’s right. We never used the completely open door. That’s right, Eric. We used the one that had shards on it.
ERIC: Yeah. [laughs]
JOE: It just looks so good.
BILL: So good.
JOE: Like you would expect Animal to smash through it. But just the fact that the walk is so casual.
ERIC: Well, I did that. I kind of slowed my walk down a little bit because I was going through the sharded pane of glass. I was like, “Eeeeh, okay.” Because I was intending to book it a little bit at a faster clip and then I kind of, “Okay. I’ve got a new take on this.”
BILL: It works though.
ERIC: Just so I could line myself up and get through it without lacerating my arm.
BILL: It’s really fun.
JOE: Yeah, accidentally made it much funnier. I think.
ERIC: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
JEFF: It’d be funny, you go through the glass. Animal’s fine, but you can take off Animal and all the sudden your hand is all cut. “Huh?”
ERIC: [unamused] Hilarious. Yeah, hilarious.
BILL: Yeah. Like you don’t have an arm anymore.
JEFF: [laughs] Totally.
BILL: Like there’s just a bloody nub. Yeah. Wouldn’t that be great?
ERIC: [sad laugh] No.
JOE: So Animal does not go back to the shack with the rest of the band. Instead he goes to an employment office and we meet Gus D’Vore, played by Ben Schwartz, who I am a huge, huge fan of. People probably know him best from Parks and Recreation but everything he’s ever been in I think he’s absolutely hysterical. And what a get for this show because these scenes with him are just absolute gold.
BILL: They could have gone all day long, by the way. They could have just gone and they went on for a while. There’s so much stuff that isn’t there of Eric and him.
JEFF: 45 minutes.
ERIC: Oh yeah. How long did we actually shoot for?
JEFF: I want to say it’s 45.
BILL: Yeah, it’s like 45 or an hour, something like that.
ERIC: Of footage?
BILL: Just you guys. Yeah.
ERIC: Of footage. Yeah, because I remember being there with him for a couple hours or something. And we just kept shooting stuff and shooting stuff.
JEFF: I got in trouble.
ERIC: It was so much fun. We had such a good time together.
JEFF: I was in the hall just giggling. I couldn’t stop.
ERIC: Oh yeah.
JEFF: It was so funny. I just remember everyone looking at me angrily and I was like, [makes loud laughing sound]. I had to sort of sit in a holding area. It was amazing.
ERIC: He was so funny. I don’t remember what was written for those scenes at all anymore.
JEFF: A lot of it.
ERIC: Because we were just playing most of it.
BILL: Well the shape was there.
BILL: You guys just played around the shape of it and it just got better and better.
JEFF: But he definitely had information he had to get across and he did.
JEFF: He does and then it just built around it.
ERIC: The toughest part was remembering all the improved stuff that we had done in the previous takes. When we were changing angles, when we change camera angles.
ERIC: It’s like, “Okay now let’s do all that again.”
ERIC: “Wait, wait, wait, what did we do?” [laughs]
BILL: Yeah. Did Kevin edit that one, Jeff?
BILL: The edit’s really, really well done. He captured both sides of that conversation really well.
JEFF: And our first cut of it was very long and great. I mean, it’s amazing but we have a show to get to and one of our notes was we have to get to this sooner. Not that, but the next part of the story. We want to see him in his jobs.
ERIC: That was another one of my happiest days, though. Doing those scenes with Ben. He is terrific.
JEFF: Yeah, it’s like magic. It truly is so good.
BILL: I love the counting. [imitates Gus character] “Five, top five? [imitates Animal] Six, seven. [in normal voice] He just starts counting.
ERIC: “I’m not counting. You’re not teaching me how to count here.”
JOE: All of this stuff, like playing with the fact that Animal can only say so much.
JOE: Like the bit where Animal’s saying his name over again. The bit where he’s just saying, “Yeah,” to everything that Ben is saying. Yeah, the counting. It’s such a good use of Animal and someone who is so talented improvising, like Ben Schwarz.
BILL: Well, and like Eric. To improvise with a character like that, that has such a limited kind of vocabulary. But, you know, all the stuff is there. It’s just so funny.
ERIC: I think Animal and I have a lot in common.
BILL: Well, that’s true. Yeah. Yeah.
JEFF: I think we mentioned before that we shot where they shot The Office, and I believe that office was certainly one of the ones that they would do the interviews. You know, like the cutaway interviews?
JOE: The talking heads. Yeah.
ERIC: Another Steve Carell connection though.
ERIC: I think before this first thing with Ben, we go to the shack and there’s an exterior shot of the shack.
JEFF: Oh my god. Yeah.
ERIC: Have you guys already talked about this?
JEFF: We have not.
BILL: I don’t think we’ve brought it up. No.
ERIC: So, after we shot our show, I came home and I had a week or two to kill. I put on some TV. And I saw this Steve Carell show, The Patient. Very dark. Very dark, but wonderful show about a psychiatrist who gets kidnapped by a serial killer.
JEFF: Right? It’s him and Domhnall Gleeson. Is that who it is?
ERIC: Yeah, yes. Yes.
JOE: It’s a comedy, right? It sounds hysterical.
ERIC: Oh yeah, yeah. Well, the serial killer kidnaps Steve Carell and puts him in his basement. And it’s the same house that we shot…
JEFF: It’s the shack.
BILL: The shack, yeah.
ERIC: …the exteriors for the shack at. I immediately recognized it.
JEFF: Shared universe.
ERIC: Yes. Yes. Can you imagine that like the Electric Mayhem lives in the same house as this serial killer. It’s like, why didn’t the Mayhem come to Steve Carell’s rescue?
JEFF: There’s Cheech and Chong and Steve Carell.
JEFF: I haven’t seen it yet. Because we did dress it. We certainly dressed it.
ERIC: We dressed it and most people probably wouldn’t recognize it the way I did.
BILL: Oh, we added the tower and there was a lot of stuff that wasn’t there in the original place.
JEFF: Like the roof.
ERIC: But it’s unmistakably the same.
BILL: Yeah. Right.
JOE: Where does the name Gus D’Vore come from? Because that sounds too random to be just be nothing.
JEFF: I believe it is f– I believe– it is from an early Ben Schwartz video where he’s a basketball coach.
JOE: Oh, all right.
JEFF: I think.
JOE: We’ll do a little digging.
JEFF: Adam has this all-encompassing knowledge of the most random media.
BILL: That sounds like an Adam thing.
JEFF: And so he’ll be like, “Have you not seen this?” I’m like, “What?” And all of the sudden, before I’m even done answering, he’s pulled it up on Youtube. He’s a great time-waster, this guy.
BILL: I just want to mention something about Adam and it was around this time that we were writing this episode that Adam does this fascinating…
JEFF: Oh yeah.
BILL: …astonishing thing in a writer’s room. They call it a tumble. It’s something he’s been doing for years, but I’ve never witnessed anything like it in my life. We sit. Imagine there’s six writers, right? And we’re talking about a scene. And everybody has ideas and they’re throwing out ideas and jokes and a relationship moment and where it’s set and there’s three beats and there’s a certain amount of time you need to get through it. So all this information has now been thrown out.
JEFF: It’s for entire episodes. Not just a scene.
BILL: Well, no. I know. I remember it being my first time experiencing was a scene.
BILL: But it was a lengthy. You know what I mean? It wasn’t like a quick little snippet.
BILL: And so, certain information has to be made clear because you have to get to the next beat. And that also means you need that, because it comes to light later. Anyway, he takes all this information and then he just sits there and he begins to do what they call a tumble. And it’s like Rain Man almost. That he starts to talk through this scene and hits every beat and creates the structure with the comedy beats and the jokes.
JEFF: It’s like an all-encompassing summary. You know, summarization.
BILL: Yeah. He’s like a writing savant and then you go, “Well that sounds like a good thing. We should write that.” [laughs]
JEFF: And we would have an assistant like, you know, a stenographer just taking it all down because it all just made sense.
JEFF: He took every one of these disparate ideas and put them together and it just all makes sense. And he’d be like, “Okay, now go.”
JEFF: And then someone could go off and write it.
BILL: And then and like you said, he could do an episode or he could do half an episode.
JEFF: Yeah. That’s when I found it awe-inspiring.
JEFF: It’s truly an episode, “Okay, we got all this stuff. We got this far. We got to figure out where do we go from here?” And he would just do it.
JEFF: And nearly vomit the entire story. He just figured it out. All the pieces.
BILL: And Floyd says, “Duh duh duh duh duh. Hey, man. Duh duh duh duh.”
BILL: And JJ reacts to him because he’s not sure about it. But then Nora goes, “Well, you know, we should–” And it’s some line that somebody mentioned that Nora should say and it’s unbelievable. It was unbelievable. I’ve never seen anything like it. And I remember it was around this time.
JEFF: And then we would have to get on to like these Zooms where we pitched to the studios. “Okay, here’s what we’re thinking for this episode.”
JEFF: “Oh, you had a problem with this? Well, this is how we’re going to do it.” And he would just go through and do it.
JEFF: And people are just stunned. And they’re just like, “That sounds great.”
BILL: [laughs] Yeah. Yeah.
JEFF: “Well it sounds like you guys figured it out.” Bill and I are just sitting there nodding, proudly.
BILL: Yeah. Anyway, sorry I had to mention that because it was around this time.
JOE: That’s all right. Yeah.
BILL: That I noticed this, or, at least experienced this thing.
JOE: I mean he’s very good at his job, obviously.
BILL: Oh, my god.
JEFF: Very good at his job.
BILL: You have no idea.
JOE: Look at what he’s created– what he co-created with the two of you.
JEFF: I’ll say another thing, very quickly, just to toot Adam’s horn and not mine because early on I came in, you know, I had all these ideas. And we’d be in the room. Something would go a little sideways. And I would start to get a little upset, I’m like, “But what about…But they’re supposed to eat marshmallows.”
I think during the launch Adam called me. And we’re past. And he’s just like, “Hey, just so you know, it’s jazz. Let’s just figure it out. Everyone contributes. We’ll figure it out. Have faith in me. Have faith in the system. It’s going to find its way. Good ideas will make it through. Bad ideas will not. But we got to hear them all. And it’ll get there and so don’t knee jerk. That’s the best thing that you could do, just encourage someone’s idea, and your idea will get better. And a bad idea will fall away, but let’s just see where it goes.”
And it was such great advice to get so early on in the room and it totally changed my outlook.
BILL: Yeah, because I called him every day. I was like, “What’s with this guy?”
JEFF: Yeah. Totally [laughs] I don’t know about Bill’s idea. I just, again, I don’t know about Bill’s idea. Remember what Bill said? I don’t think…
JOE: Good advice for anyone who wants to work in a writer’s room.
JOE: It’s a hard thing to learn.
BILL: You got to be open.
JEFF: Totally and collaborative and just open to the collaboration.
BILL: Just because you have an idea, doesn’t mean it’s the only one.
JOE: And that’s true for most of us for most of our careers of anyone listening out there. If you’re in a room with other people, if you’re brainstorming literally anything, that’s how it works. You gotta throw a lot of stuff against the wall and figure out what’s a good idea and what’s a bad idea.
JEFF: I was coming from 10 years of editing in my office.
BILL: On your own where you make the decisions, right?
JEFF: Exactly. Just me. And the best idea is mine because… and so that’s what I was dealing with.
JEFF: And so it did take acclimating to get back into a collaboration.
BILL: And that’s what’s so cool about the Muppets, right? I mean Eric, you know. It’s always collaborative. We can’t do Muppets without other people, right? We always need somebody to assist the characters or be a part of… I mean, sometimes we’re on our own obviously, but this kind of thing, it’s so collaborative.
ERIC: We’re constantly turning to each other too and saying, “What do you think of this? I’m almost there, can you top this for me. I got it almost there. What do you think?” And everybody just… it’s just this free flow of ideas and it’s all about, you know, we said it so many times before. About the best idea winning.
ERIC: Because there’s no ego down below frame. What’s the point?
JOE: And that goes back to Jim. That’s what Jim said. He took ideas from everyone. Best idea makes it. That’s it.
ERIC: Yeah, yeah.
JOE: That’s how you make good stuff.
ERIC: If somebody else has a better idea that’s going to make my work look better. [laughs] I’m all for it.
JOE: It’s true. Well speaking of work, Ben Schwartz places Animal in his first job, it is waxing floors and we see Animal holding on to a floor waxer for dear life as it’s spinning around. There’s a great shot of Animal looking down the barrel of the camera, spinning.
ERIC: Yeah. Craig Kief’s idea on the day, I think.
JEFF: To do like the GoPro camera vision.
ERIC: He’s like, “I think we can put the camera right here. And can we make it look like Animal’s not armatured?” [laughs] He has to be armatured. And we’re like, “Yeah, we can open his mouth and just bug his eyes out, and I’ll scream and it’ll work.
JOE: Yeah. Great. And I appreciate that it’s not like a green screen thing, which you easily could’ve done too.
ERIC: Yeah, it’s not.
JOE: It’s practical.
ERIC: It’s practical.
JOE: Yeah, love it. Back at Hannah’s house, Janice is aligning Nora’s chakras after a stressful session with Zedd. And she’s upset that Nora didn’t introduce her to Zedd as she promised and Janice is trying to mediate between the two sisters and they’re getting more and more heated and arguing more. It just completely explodes.
JEFF: I had a couple little fun facts though.
JOE: Oh, please, yeah. Go for it.
JEFF: VFX. The candles and stuff in the foreground of the shot, those are all CG.
JEFF: Added in post. We wanted it to feel like…We just didn’t have the, I think, the most ideal framing for showing what was going on. And so we sort of crowded the frame a little more and then even when you see Janice by the couch at the arm, we added those candles.
And then a shout out to Mick Giacchino, our composer. It’s all throughout the show. It’s one of my favorite things, but he just twists the Mayhem theme. [sings] “Dun dun dun dun dun dun.” And just makes it turn into whatever the music is for that theme. For that scene rather. So in this one it’s this sort of ethereal new age kind of thing.
And if you listen you could just hear it sort of woven through. And it’s all throughout the show and it’s a really fun… It’s an Easter egg in itself.
BILL: Right. Yeah.
JEFF: Making the score an Easter egg.
ERIC: Jeff, you said that there’s VFX in that scene throughout. Did VFX do anything with Janice’s fingers because I would swear that her fingers move too.
BILL: Yeah. No.
ERIC: You look at that.
BILL: But that’s Alice [Dinnean]. Alice doing this.
ERIC: I know. But like when they’re on her head?
BILL: Oh, the rubbing her head? I know, right? Yeah.
JOE: There’s no movement there? It’s just arm rod hands? Wow.
ERIC: You look again. It’s moving. It is moving.
BILL: Yeah and I love Lilly’s eyes the way they kind of roll up a little bit.
JEFF: Oh yeah. She’s loving it.
[Joe and Bill laugh]
JEFF: Yeah. And she twirls her finger at one point.
BILL: Right. Yeah.
JOE: Oh, that’s good stuff. Back with Ben Schwartz. Animal is now trying to eat his phone. And Ben Schwartz suggests maybe Animal would want a job answering phones. And you do a little role play. And it’s another one of those scenes where I can watch an hour of this. It’s so good.
BILL: Yeah. Yeah.
ERIC: We did so many takes of those. It was something different every time. [laughs] I think, for a while, instead of picking up the phone, he was just trying to eat the phone.
JOE: Yeah, classic Animal. Trying to eat stuff. Yeah.
JEFF: Again, another shout out for our editor who pored through all this stuff and came to us with just the best version of it, you know?
JEFF: It was there.
BILL: That’s right, Eric. Because It didn’t start off with the phone in his mouth. That grew into something. That came after them playing for a while.
BILL: And the fact that the scene starts with it is really fun.
ERIC: Yeah, it works. It’s great. [laughs] Yeah, you get the sense that we are kind of in the middle of something going really badly.
JOE: Yeah, and like we know Animal well enough that like we start a scene with the phone in his mouth, we know how it got there. Like we don’t need the story to figure out why is there a phone in his mouth? No, no. It’s Animal. There’s no explanation needed. Yeah, moving on.
So he gets Animal a job as a receptionist. And Animal can’t keep up with the calls. He’s hanging up on everybody. It’s chaos. Anyone who, like myself, who has worked front desk reception or an admin job can know it can get very hectic and very pointless, very quickly.
JEFF: That is also, that’s the elevator from Dunder Mifflin. Those two doors would be the elevator. Yeah. Fun fact.
JOE: And Animal is immediately fired by Delia Gertz, played by Jennifer Irwin. She is an actor who appeared in 57 episodes of The Goldbergs.
JOE: Which we have a small connection to through Adam Goldberg.
BILL: Just a little one.
JEFF: That’s him?
JOE: Just a small one.
BILL: Same guy.
JOE: Yeah, same guy.
BILL: Yep. I didn’t know that either.
JEFF: No, that’s funny though.
JOE: I know I thought it was the guy who played the Hebrew Hammer.
BILL: Who’s the actor guy? Right, there’s the actor, right?
JEFF: Yeah, from…
BILL: That’s who I thought it was.
JEFF: Hmm. I don’t know.
BILL: I don’t know.
JOE: I don’t know. We’ll have to talk to Adam and figure it out. Has he been stealing other people’s credits. Claiming them as his own? All the Goldbergs.
Back at the shack, the band is back from a long day of searching for Animal and they’re now roasting marshmallows in the fireplace. It’s a little foreshadowing.
JEFF: Exactly. It’s one of my favorite foods.
ERIC: Nice little seed.
JOE: One of your favorite foods? You just snack on marshmallows all day, Jeff?
JEFF: Mmhmm. Yeah.
BILL: I do like the– I can’t remember exactly how that happened but the build of, “Where you been? Where you been? Where you been?”
JEFF: It’s a mother voice.
JOE: Yeah. Yeah. You’re right. There’s a good pattern to it. You’re right, it builds. And I like that Zoot asks if they knew that the Blockbuster in Van Nuys closed because he still has Bambi.
ERIC: I hear a lot of people quote that line.
JOE: Do you?
JOE: [laughs] I love a good Blockbuster joke.
ERIC: Yeah. [laughs]
JOE: Moog comes back. He tried looking for Animal at the zoo, but he fell into a lion cage. Poor Moog. But to thank him for his efforts, the band has offered to let him watch them record when they’re back in the studio. Which again, speaking as a super fan myself, that’s a big get. I get to watch you work? That’s awesome. Yes, I’m in.
JOE: I feel it.
BILL: We’re kind of setting up also a run of Teeth feeling… Teeth telling everyone it’s all going to be okay. That he’s coming back. And everybody’s starting to question. “No, no. This feels different. Something’s not right. Are you sure?” And he’s like, “No, no. It’s okay.” Which takes us somewhere eventually. But there’s a little bit of a run there which is fine.
JOE: Yeah. It’s interesting because I know we establish, we’ll talk about this in another episode, about how Teeth really isn’t the leader of the band. Even though his name’s in the title. But this is one of those moves that makes you think, “Is he? Is he kind of doing like, “Don’t worry everybody. I got this. I know best thing.”
BILL: Yeah, he’s trying to yeah, He’s trying to convince them that everything’s gonna be fine. But ultimately cries like a big baby. [laughs]
JOE: Right. [laughs]
BILL: But we wanted to set that up. It was really fun to go there.
JOE: Oh, absolutely. Yeah. At Zedd’s studio, the band is still recording, but now they’re recording very sadly because they miss their buddy. And the song is sounding kind of like nonsense. Not bad, just nonsense. But Sofia Carson is there. And she’s visiting her friend Zedd. She wants to see the band record. I’m sure that you got Sofia Carson because you wanted to make a reference to the fact that she appeared in an episode of The Not Too Late Show with Elmo. Everyone got that. It’s a big Muppet connection. No. No, that’s a no? Okay. I’m the only one who noticed that. Fair.
ERIC: I worked on that show. I don’t even remember.
JOE: You don’t remember? [laughs] Did Sofia remember? Who knows?
ERIC: I wasn’t there the whole time.
BILL: She’s super kind.
ERIC: She was great.
BILL Yeah, she’s very nice.
JOE: Oh that’s nice to hear.
JEFF: My kids love The Descendants and I was just like, “Thank you for doing this. My kids love The Descendants.” And she’s just like, “Oh, let me shoot a video.”
JOE: Oh, nice.
JEFF: I got this video for them and I showed it to them. And they’re like, “What is happening?” They loved it.
JOE: You got good dad points for that one.
JOE: Yeah. Nice.
BILL: One of my favorite Moog lines is here. When Zedd asks him if he’ll hit the record button.
JEFF: Oh god.
ERIC: He’s so funny.
BILL: That beat is so great. Just the word “yes.” That’s all he needed. It was amazing.
JOE: He’s so good. Oh man. Moog is good at his job. Tahj is good at his job.
BILL: So good.
JOE: So Sofia Carson takes the mic and she tries singing the Mayhem’s new song. And it sounds real good coming out of her. You know, like that actually, legitimately does. It doesn’t sound like a joke anymore.
JOE: So the band realizes the song is not for them. And so they relinquish it to Zedd and Sofia. They give all rights away. It’s very, very kind, very generous of them.
BILL: It’s not right without their heartbeat.
JOE: That’s right. Yeah. You said it. That’ll come back to bite them, though. Our next scene is back with Ben Schwartz. He has a great idea. Has Animal ever considered a job as a drummer for a rock band? And Animal flips out a little bit.
ERIC: Said the wrong thing.
JOE: Said the wrong thing, Ben. What were you thinking? Was that scripted? That felt like an ad lib to me.
JEFF: I think it was scripted.
BILL: I think it was.
ERIC: I think that’s probably the one thing.
ERIC: It was very hard getting Animal to trash the desk though. I remember that being very, very hard because Animal can’t reach across a table very easily because he has rodded arms.
ERIC: They’re coming out of his wrist. So he can’t extend that far to knock stuff off. So we had to do that a few times.
BILL: The rod removal was a little tricky.
ERIC: For that one.
BILL: Yeah. Yeah, because you were, like you were saying, you’re limited how far you could go.
BILL: So it was a lot of horizontal moves and you moving your body. [laughs]
ERIC: Yeah. Yeah
JOE: So did you have Animal moving around and someone else or something else was knocking stuff off the table? Or you were able to actually do it with Animal’s arms?
ERIC: I was trying to actually do it. I was trying to do it. Yeah, we just moved as much, cheated as much stuff towards the edge of the desk so that I could have a chance at sliding it off. Knocking it off the desk.
JOE: Sure. Yeah, you did. Yeah. Looked realistic. So Ben Schwartz suggests, how about career in the food service industry. And we cut to Animal working at Teppanyaki Terrace as a hibachi chef. And it turns out, he’s really good at it. Animals flipping stuff in the air.
ERIC: Better than I imagined. I was really scared going into these scenes at the restaurant because we hadn’t choreographed anything. A lot of times we’ll rehearse. We’ll choreograph and rehearse something like this. We hadn’t done that for this scene to really show off Animal’s culinary prowess at the grill because, after all, James Hong calls him the chosen one.
ERIC: But we managed and special effects was amazing at getting all that food to dance in the air the way they did. It really does look good.
JEFF: Another thing was, and this was purely selfish. My friends did the Harold and Kumar movie and they now have White Castle for life.
JEFF: That’s one of my favorite restaurants. But Benihana is my absolute favorite restaurant. So from the beginning, I’m like, “It’s gotta be Benihana. It’s gotta be a teppanyaki chef. It’s got to be Benihana.” And they’re like, “We don’t know if we can get Benihana.” I’m like, “It has to be Benihana. I just want to go home at the end of the day with the card that allows me to eat Benihana for free for the rest of my life.
JEFF: And so as the process keeps going, they’re like, “Yeah, it’s looking like it’s not going to be Benihana.” And I would just get upset. Adam would have to call me. “Look, it’s jazz, man. The best idea won.”
JOE: It’s jazz.
JEFF: And finally, just the saddest day was when we had to come up with names for this alternate restaurant.
JOE: But now you can eat at Teppanyaki Terrace for free whenever you want.
JEFF: Yeah. The fictional Teppanyaki Terrace.
BILL: Maybe the only choreographed thing with the food, Eric, aside from you guys doing the chopping which is a feat in itself. Making all that look good. But there was a thing where we said okay. And I think we said it was maybe going to be an egg.
ERIC: Yeah, we did.
BILL: Right, that there was an egg on the spatula.
BILL: And you were going to do some trick with it and catch it.
ERIC: I was going to do a spin on the edge of the spatula.
BILL: Yeah, the spin.
JEFF: What about the shrimp?
ERIC: Yeah, we wound up choreographing something kind of simple. And yeah, they said that that probably wouldn’t have the budget to do any more than an egg. I was really disappointed to hear that but after seeing what was in the final. It looks great. The little moves we came up with really…
ERIC: …seamlessly work with the VFX.
ERIC: And he really does look like a master chef.
BILL: He really does. I love when he flips the shrimp into the people’s mouths and all of that stuff is really, really great.
JEFF: We could not believe we got James Hong. It was another thing. We wrote this part for Chef Dan and castings like, “Who do you want?” I mean, “Who do we want? Can we go to James Hong? I mean, that would be amazing.” And then they came back. They’re like, “Yeah, he’s in.”
JOE: Oh, that’s so cool. James Hong was one of those, when looking at the list, when it was revealed to us, of almost all of the celebrities who are going to be cameoing in the show and like, there’s a few in there that were, obviously, it’s like, “Yes, we’re all freaking out over Weird Al.” But, for me, seeing James Hong, who is such a Hollywood legend and he’s in so many movies and especially in the past few years. People really been rallying around yeah, he’s a legend. Give him a Hollywood star. Pay attention when he’s in an oscar-winning movie like Everything Everywhere All at Once. And to see him get to play with the Muppets, even just very briefly like this is such a joy to get him in there.
ERIC: We were super excited to meet him. But he was just as excited to be there and to be doing this with us. It was really special.
JOE: That’s great. We see the Mayhem’s van driving through Hollywood. It drives right past the El Capitan Theatre, which has lots of Muppet connections. Most notably, it’s the stand-in for the Muppet theater in the 2011 Muppet movie.
BILL: And the Muppets’ star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame is there.
JOE: That’s true. It’s right in front of there.
ERIC: It’s right in front.
JOE: Yeah, everyone should go to Hollywood and go look for it. They hear Sofia Carson’s version of the song “Makin’ Mayhem.” And I like that the lyrics of the song are “Makin’ mayhem, they wanted a hit song so I came in. Make no mistake this song’s about the Mayhem. Electric Mayhem.” [laughs]
It’s very spot on. The song is literally about them, but the band feels like it doesn’t feel like us.
BILL: Not them.
JOE: Nope, only five out of six of them, maybe.
ERIC: And I love Janice’s line too about how you can’t own a song.
BILL: Right. Yes.
ERIC: It’s like land or books or ponchos. Who came up with that? That’s great.
BILL: Probably Jeff.
JEFF: I don’t know. I think it might have been Adam.
ERIC: That’s really funny.
BILL: Or Adam maybe. Yeah.
JOE: And of course, this version of the song is on The Muppets Mayhem soundtrack, which you can listen to if you want to hear the whole thing. Everyone should go buy it if you haven’t already. Or stream it, where you stream music.
BILL: I didn’t know it was for sale. What is it? There’s an album?
JOE: Yeah. There’s a whole album.
JOE: It’s on vinyl. It’s beautiful?
BILL: No kidding.
JOE: Yeah they should make a TV show to promote it. I think.
BILL: Can you buy it digitally as well? Or is it just an album?
JOE: You can buy it digitally. You could stream it.
BILL: What? Where?
JOE: If you have the Spotify or the Apple Music. Or the iTunes.
ERIC: Is it on vinyl too? I have an old record player.
ERIC: Can I play it on that?
JOE: You sure can. Once Animal comes home, the Mayhem will be able to make their music again. And Dr. Teeth starts to cry. This cry scene is hysterical. It’s unintelligible. You could basically see tears forming in his eyes even though there’s obviously nothing. He’s not looking at the road. Now everyone is crying and freaking out. Just screaming, basically.
BILL: I like how Floyd repeats back what Teeth said.
JEFF: His blubber.
BILL: In his blubber. Yeah. [performs Dr. Teeth’s blubber voice]
BILL: [imitating Lips] Maybe he’s dead! [in normal voice] Yeah.
JOE: And again, Lips thinks that he’s dead.
ERIC: And we learn here, it’s not that early, but there’s a little bit of a seed here where we learn that Floyd has always been responsible for Animal since he was a baby.
JOE: That’s right. Yeah.
ERIC: Which we follow up on a little bit later in the show.
JOE: Yeah, we’ll definitely be seeing more of that. Yeah, that’s a little bit of an eyebrow raise.
JEFF: I’ll throw in one little detail that we have in this scene because a reflection comes up at the end of this scene. When we were shooting the van stuff, there’s no windshield. We’re shooting through the open space and it’s mostly just grips sort of jostling the van. And outside the van are a couple of screens, a few screens of LEDs that have views of what they’re driving past.
So I asked our post guy, I was like, “Look, that’s like a package you bought from like a VFX house. Is there another view that’s above. That’s a camera pointing like what the sky would be above.” And he said yes. I said, “Let me try something.” So I took it home and made this proof of concept, that is the reflection that would be on this windshield.
And it just starts every, I think, just about every scene that there’s this wide shot, that starts with a wide shot of them driving as this sort of reflection that’s placed on there and over the first two seconds of these scene, it fades away.
JOE: Oh cool.
JEFF: So you just get the impression that there’s a window and then we’re in the scene.
BILL: To establish it.
JOE: That’s cool. I did not notice that here.
ERIC: Here it plays a little bit more of an important role.
ERIC: Because, actually, we see the reflection of the billboard before we see the billboard.
JEFF: Yeah, we mentioned Almost Famous was one of the influences of the show. I’m a huge fan of that one but there’s a shot specifically in Almost Famous when he’s driving, when he’s first going with Penny Lane to go see the band, they’re at the Hyatt house or “Riot House.” They pass just very subtly Dark Side of the Moon billboard and it just passes over the windshield. And so I kept pointing that out as what this moment should be.
JOE: That’s cool. Yeah, I like that.
ERIC: And then Zoot pokes his head out, right?
JOE: They see the billboard. Mmhmm.
ERIC: And Zoot comes out to take a picture of everything and he says, “Hey, it’s Animal and he grew.”
ERIC: Is that a reference to The Muppet Movie?
JEFF: I don’t think it was intentional.
BILL: No, I think I just thought that he’s big on a billboard. I think I remember writing that bit that he was just big on the billboard, that he grew.
BILL: But no.
ERIC: Yeah I was wondering. I heard a number of people kind of make that connection, you know that of course, Animal in The Muppet Movie he grows a hundred times his usual size.
JEFF: This was another thrilling day. I think we shot that day. That was Teeth in the hot tub.
BILL: Oh yeah.
JEFF: And then we went from there to the van on the street and then just like to go from location to location, pulling up. And then just seeing the Electric Mayhem van is just parked in the real world.
JEFF: It was just a trip, surreal. And then Bill’s in the van as Dr. Teeth. Because you do see him.
JEFF: Oh, just in case. I just remember pedestrians would come by and like a parent came by with a little kid. And just sort of walked over and I think Bill, probably was like, as Dr. Teeth, “Come on over. Hey, what’s up?
BILL: Oh yeah.
JOE: Oh great.
BILL: Talked to them while we were hanging out.
JEFF: It was just the sweetest thing. Just watching this go down. Kids in awe.
BILL: It was fun. Yeah.
JOE: Oh, I can’t imagine. I can’t imagine just walking down the street. There’s Dr. Teeth driving the van. [laughs] I’d lose my mind.
BILL: We basically were like if anybody knows where this is, but on Ventura Boulevard and Studio City. Like, I don’t know, between Laurel Canyon and Whitsett kind of thing. But just right there, right at the corner of Ventura and another side street. People were just going to get their ice cream and stuff. [laughs] It was fun.
JOE: Nice. So, the band now knows where Animal is. They go to the restaurant and they see how good he is at his new job. Floyd tries to talk to Animal, but he doesn’t know what to say. You know, Dr. Teeth is one who’s good with words, not Floyd. And so he just starts singing. He starts singing “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” A Simon and Garfunkel song.
BILL: I think Matt was a little unsure whether he wanted to do this, but I think I convinced him to sing it live there.
JOE: Oh interesting.
BILL: Yeah. And it’s beautiful. Like that’s his voice live. That’s him singing. He didn’t sing to a track at that point. Because he did the little lines in between that he’s doing. And it just sounded so good. I was like, “Man, I’m glad he’s doing that live.” And his tempo was right on. Like you can’t tell that it didn’t bridge. Because we already had the song recorded.
ERIC: Did he have a clip track or something in his ear? I can’t remember.
BILL: I don’t know. He may have listened to it ahead just to get the tempo on his own, kind of thing. But boy, he just nailed that. It was so great.
JOE: The next thing I was going to say was Matt sounds so good singing this.
BILL: Oh, so good.
ERIC: He sounds so good. Leading into the song too, like his acting is really great.
ERIC: He’s tongue tied and not being able to get the words out. And then shifting gears to singing Animal’s baby song.
BILL: Yeah and there’s a great balance. [mimicking Animal] Baby song. [in normal voice] And there’s a great line before they come into the room. And Janice says, what is it? Benihana? The famous quote?
JEFF: “Kids eat free?”
BILL: Yeah. [laughs] It’s such a good line. “Oh, that’s right. No, it’s Kids eat free,”
JEFF: And it’s a nice turn for Nora, who’s finally finding her place with this band and can help guide them more than just recording an album, but just in their interpersonal relations. Which is really sweet, you know.
JOE: Yeah, which is especially important here because if you don’t, then people could chip off from the band and go do their own thing. We’ll see what that looks like later in the season.
JEFF: But she’s not following her own advice.
JEFF: Because she’s at odds with Hannah.
JOE: Yeah, absolutely. But yeah, so “Bridge Over Trouble Water” turns out this is a song that Floyd sang to Animal as a baby.
ERIC: At the end of the scene in the restaurant when Animal takes off his hat and then runs to go hug the rest of the band. I mean it’s so sweet and everything. But there’s actually a couple alternate shots that might have ended the scene that didn’t make it into the final. And probably it’s for the best.
BILL: I still vote for–
JEFF: It was really tough.
BILL: I tried hard to keep it.
ERIC: But Animal takes off his hat. I think some of us were thinking, “Is this going to be too mushy? Can we really end here on this mushy note? And so Animal takes off his hat. And he just lays it straight down on the grill, if you notice.
JEFF: Yeah, he tosses it onto the grill.
ERIC: Yeah, yeah. So the idea was that he goes and runs and hugs everybody. And then they all go off together. They leave the restaurant. But then you see the hat on the grill catch fire.
BILL: Bursts into flame.
ERIC: Bursts into flame. And then somebody at another table notices it and then somebody else and somebody else and soon, the whole restaurant is standing up and making a mad dash for the door.
JEFF: I think as it’s conceived, it’s supposed to be this really sweet moment and then it would be set up. You’d see him toss it on the table and then they’d be hugging and behind them, sort of out of focus a little bit, would be [makes fire catching sound] people running in chaos.
BILL: But I loved it because I still was hoping. I felt like we still needed a little time. I’m going to send to the Mayhem fixes website.
BILL: I wish there was just a little more time before seeing Nora and Teeth hugging to her in the car. In my mind, I always felt like we needed that little bit of comedy beat of the fire, the people freaking out, [laughs] and then cut to her in the car. Yeah, you know, that was just in my brain. I thought that was a really funny idea. It’s a shame but it works still. Still works.
JOE: If it was the end of a scene, like if this was the button, I feel like that would have been hysterical. That would’ve work so well, but we still had to lead into the next thing.
JOE: You know, when Floyd opens up his trunk, finds the little piece of paper that says, Keep” and we get a flashback. Floyd has a knock on the door and he looks down. And he sees a cage with the word “Keep” on it. That same “keep.” And inside is Baby Animal. And he looks scruffy and angry and not at all like the Muppet Babies version of Animal with the bright pink and the bonnet and all that. Alright. So we gotta talk about Baby Animal because, first of all, this is the cutest thing in the world. And I’m so glad that you guys did this. Why design a new Animal when we already have, at this point, two other Baby Animals from for the original Muppet Babies and the 2018 Muppet Babies that you could have pulled from.
JEFF: I always refer to this as a babier Animal.
JOE: Babier Animal.
JEFF: Muppet Babies Animal’s a little toddler, closer in age to being a toddler. This is truly a baby. So there’s a distinction there.
ERIC: You have to remember, also, there’s no real, there’s very little that is canon with the Muppets.
JOE: Of course. Yes.
ERIC: And because Muppet babies is a concoction of Miss Piggy’s imagination of how the Muppets met. They didn’t actually meet like that. This is all, it’s all imagination. Theoretically, the whole series, Muppet Babies series, is Miss Piggy’s imagination. [laughs]
JEFF: And in the show they’re using their imaginations. So it’s like double imagination. It’s sort of like Inception.
JOE: Too much.
ERIC: I know. I know. So it’s perfectly reasonable to come up with something for this production. Which is also not canon because it’s a TV show with actors playing the roles of Nora and Moog and JJ and all the rest. Quite literally, the only thing that you can, I think, call canon is The Muppet Show because all the guest stars who come on, they’re playing themselves.
ERIC: But it’s great. I love the design of the character. Like you said Joe, there’s some bite to him.
JOE: Yeah. He looks feral a little bit.
ERIC: Yes. Yes, which I really like that. I think there was talk at one time that he was just going to be in a bassinet at the door. And I suggested, “Oh, he should be in a cage.”
ERIC: I wasn’t thinking a bird cage. I think bird cage is even weirder.
ERIC: And I love it. But he needed to be in a cage like he’s not being dropped off by a stork. He’s being dropped off by somebody who could not handle this creature. They got him on the black market.
ERIC: And they could not handle him. And they’re like pushing him off on somebody else.
JEFF: I think I mentioned one day, we’re speaking of canon, and I’m like, “Hey, I know guys that, you know, Muppets are loosey goosey with the canon. I just want you to be aware there is a storybook where Animal and his grandmother.” Or something like that and everyone’s like, “Shut up, Jeff.”
JOE: You’re talking about The Case of the Missing Mother in which they find Animal’s mom. Of course you are.
BILL: I just liked the idea that he was more– It just felt like it was more reality. It just felt more like an Animal to me.
BILL: You know this design and this look. It fit with the show and the reality of the show and the look of the show. I loved the design when Paul [Andrejco] created it. It was just perfect.
JOE: The kicker for the design for me is the low brow. He’s got like the low eyebrow that he just kind of scowls. The one little snaggle tooth. It’s so cute. I love it. Eric, how did you approach performing Baby Animal. You’re obviously so familiar with adult Animal. But obviously you gotta change your performance somehow to this variation on him.
ERIC: Yeah. I didn’t want him to be cute. He’s inherently, by the design, there’s a cuteness to him. Even, while at the same time, an element of danger. [laughs] When he gets the chance he’s gonna bite Floyd. He doesn’t know this guy yet. Yeah, he’s a wild animal. Even at that young age. Especially at that young age. He’s not been domesticated. He should never be. And I don’t think he ever does.
JEFF: Yeah. Floyd barely got the job done.
BILL: And Floyd names him basically right there too. Once he snaps at him. It’s just great.
ERIC: Yeah. Yeah. But I didn’t have a lot of time to think about the voice. I don’t know why I hadn’t. I just wanted to come up with it in the moment. Let’s see what this is like when I actually put him on and we do this scene. I didn’t want him to be Howie Mandel.
JOE: Right. [laughs]
ERIC: From Muppet Babies. But I also wanted to sound a little bit different from the grown version of Animal that we all know. There’s not much there, but he just laughs. Right? When he kind of copies Floyd.
ERIC: He echoes Floyd’s laughter and I feel like that we’re showing a connection there.
JOE: There’s a connection there they will build off of.
JOE: Yup. And you all raised so many questions now about who put him in that cage? Who left him on Floyd’s doorstep. Why Floyd? What does Floyd do to raise Baby Animal into adult Animal? And I appreciate that you didn’t try to cram too much into this season of Muppets Mayhem, but on the assumption that we’re getting a season two, I think we’re all looking forward to getting a little more detail there.
ERIC: I’m gonna wave the flag for a little bit of mystique.
ERIC: Of all the characters, I think he’s one of them that I personally don’t want…
BILL: Know too much about.
ERIC: …spill the beans and know too much about.
JEFF: Know the beats. [laughs]
BILL: Oh you!
JEFF: [laughs] I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I had to.
BILL: You are so fun. This is what it was like in the writer’s room.
JEFF: It’s a nightmare.
JOE: The sound of one man laughing.
ERIC: He is so funny.
JEFF: But you’re not alone, Eric. I think we all agree with you. It’s fun to do something like this, but to try to explain more.
ERIC: Even though again, this isn’t canon. This is just a version.
ERIC: Of what could have happened in this story.
BILL: Imagination is so much more.
ERIC: Yeah. I like that. There’s just this intrigue. A mystique, an air of mystique around him.
JOE: I will say, though, like just to counter that a little bit. That was my argument for months leading up to actually seeing Muppets Mayhem was, I don’t want to know their backstories. I don’t want to know more about them. These characters work so well being more mysterious and multi-use. And now that we are starting to get those pieces, you know, Dr. Teeth and Floyd’s backgrounds especially, and seeing how well they’re working in the context of the show, it’s like, well, now I kind of have a lot of faith in you all to be able to do it and to do it right. So, although Eric, I completely agree with you. Animal of any of the characters should be a mystery. Maybe second to Zoot. I don’t know if I really want to do much of Zoot’s backstory but if you decided that’s something you wanted to do then I would be all on board.
BILL: I totally get what you’re saying. I really appreciate that you’re enjoying getting some like flavor, some new things. But I think also, what’s really important is that we all want to imagine what could be. And so I think there’s fun in teasing that and maybe, if we do a second season, maybe you don’t find out any more about Dr. Teeth, but you learn a little more about Floyd or maybe you learn a little more about Janice but you don’t learn any more about Animal. We save that for another season.
BILL: It feels like we should just be letting people imagine what could be.
BILL: And that’s I think the fun of it.
ERIC: You got to be careful with doing a Beard’s Night Out, right?
BILL: A what?
ERIC: Beard’s Night Out.
JEFF: Oh, you’re talking about from Ted Lasso?
ERIC: From Ted Lasso.
ERIC: That character, any fans of the show who watched the show, there were a lot of people who didn’t care for that particular episode because it followed him as he left work one night and we finally see why he comes in the way he does.
BILL: Everybody had their own version, right?
JEFF: It’s like an existential journey, isn’t it? Wasn’t it?
JOE: A little bit. Yeah. I think what it is is taking a character that is designed specifically to be mysterious and then breaking the mystery. Like now you finally get to see it. It’s like, “Oh it was better when we didn’t.”
ERIC: Well I think there’s a lot of fun that we can have in the margins and you learn a little something but still maintain the mystique.
JOE: Yeah, absolutely.
JOE: So back in modern day, Nora shows up at the shack. She has been kicked out of Hannah’s house and she has nowhere to stay. A lot of good acting from from Lilly here of just choking back her words. And Animal pokes his head up and he just says, “Keep.” And like what a nice little sentiment that we just learned about.
ERIC: I love the parallel.
BILL: That scene between the two sisters earlier is really great.
BILL: They really play that really well. It could have been very broad.
JEFF: You’re talking about the argument in the…the first argument.
BILL: Yeah, with Janice. Did we talk about that already?
JOE: Briefly, yeah.
BILL: I just wanted to mention that.
JEFF: What’s really nice also is it is a for real argument. And it just feels real. And then you just counter with a Muppet in the middle. Just trying to keep up, who’s adding the counter of humor.
JEFF: Which I think makes it a little more palpable cause that’s a painful scene.
BILL: Maybe you could edit this. Take that and put it back there, Joe.
ERIC: Was that scene originally– did that scene originally have Janice in it?
ERIC: It did.
BILL: Oh yeah.
ERIC: Cause I know as we went on we kind of checked ourselves and made sure. Oh, let’s make sure we get a Muppet involved in some of these heavier scenes with the humans.
JEFF: Definitely. You know it gets a little trickier when you get to episode 8 or 9 when they’re breaking up. I guess it’s 9 when they’re breaking up and there can’t be a Muppet in those scenes. But that was definitely one of our rules that we try to adhere to is if you’re going to have these human scenes at least try your best to have a Muppet in there.
BILL: Yeah, that feels organic.
BILL: It helps drive the scene in some way.
JEFF: And if it’s going to be a cereal box with Cröonchy Stars, I guess that will have to do without any Muppets in there.
JOE: Something for the nerds.
JEFF: Yeah. Still a Muppet.
JOE: To appease us. Still a Muppet. He’s still there. Yeah. The next morning, Animal is making breakfast for everyone on the grill. And he’s doing it Benihana style. We get another scene of him flipping veggies.
BILL: And no CG at all. As a matter of fact.
ERIC: That’s was just really well rehearsed.
BILL: Animal and Peter [Linz] flipping. Rather Eric and Matt [Vogel] and Peter really flipping the eggs onto those plates.
JOE: [laughs] Amazing. I believe you. 100%.
ERIC: You should.
JOE: Moog assures Nora that pretty soon the band will have something awesome to drop. Don’t worry about it. And of course, as he says drop, he drops right through the floorboards. He says, “You guys are never going to believe what’s down here.” And we don’t find out. We end on a cliffhanger.
JEFF: [imitates Floyd] Disney Plus is gonna love this.
JOE: Disney Plus is gonna love this. [laughs] And that’s it. That’s where our episode ends. We’ll find out next week what’s down that hole. Could be anything. I don’t know what’s down there. I haven’t watched this show before.
JOE: Rats. Probably rats.
JEFF: Gateway to Hell.
BILL: Or Steve Carell.
ERIC: It’s Steve Carell and his kidnapper.
JEFF: Steve Carell.
JOE: [laughs] Why aren’t they helping him? It’s so cruel.
BILL: They have an album to make. What do you mean?
JOE: That’s fair.
JEFF: How am I supposed to make a television show with Steve Carell down here?
BILL: [as Dr. Teeth] Hey man, look it’s Steve. He looks fine.
JOE: So Eric, now that we’ve reached the end of this episode, do you have any other memories, any other scenes that you particularly had a good time filming throughout the season since you’re not going to be here for the other episodes?
ERIC: I really like doing Baby Animal. When he is…when Animal is hallucinating.
JOE: Sure. Yeah. In the desert episode. Yeah.
ERIC: In the desert.
BILL: Yeah, it’s great.
ERIC: I love trying to do impressions and stuff and so that was my take on Rowan Atkinson.
ERIC: Doesn’t sound exactly like him but it’s me doing him.
JOE: This, by the way, is something that Jerry Nelson taught me is I asked him about some of the voices of his old characters and he said he’s doing impressions of celebrities but he wasn’t a good impressionist. So you can never really tell who he’s doing an impression of. And it sounds like an original character.
ERIC: Yeah, yeah. No. It’s a great way to do it.
BILL: I like when you restructured a few things, Eric. Like [imitates Baby Animal] At young age.
BILL: You know, how that character’d actually speak, versus what we wrote, but still using what’s there? But you just did those things that felt very English.
ERIC: Right. Right.
JEFF: Eric, what was the most uncomfortable position you’d gotten into.
ERIC: Oh, on this show?
ERIC: You know what? I mentioned, you know, loving doing Baby Animal. But being inside that boulder was no cakewalk. That was really hard.
BILL That’s what Peter said.
ERIC: Yeah, that was really hard.
JEFF: Were you guys nose to nose performing?
ERIC: Not exactly but super hyper extended just to trying to get my arm in the right position. Anytime we’re working through a hole in something, whether it’s a piece of furniture or a boulder, it can be really, really hard. But that just comes to mind. Most of the time we were standing in an ideal, standing and working on an elevated set. And so that’s the ideal way for us to work. And so it was really freeing, the whole experience, in general. It was really great.
BILL: I was just remembering inside that boulder there was a lot of structural beams and things that I had to ask them to cut away and it was still hard.
ERIC: Oh yeah.
BILL: To get around.
ERIC: Because it’s in the shape of a boulder.
ERIC: Nobody actually thought, “Well, let’s kind of make it jut out over this way and that’ll be a good place for Eric’s head to occupy inside.
JOE: A nice head-shaped lump on the back.
ERIC: Yeah. Yeah. A hunchback boulder would have been great. But it’s okay. It just added to the performance.
JOE: It did.
BILL: You couldn’t be comfortable the whole time. I mean, you’ve got to have a little something to have difficulty with.
ERIC: But doing the desert scenes was really fun just because I’d never worked on a volumetric stage before like this. I’m sure you’ll talk loads about this but that was really fun. There was also a scene… I had a lot of fun with Tahj that day because when they arrived to the desert. Animal… You don’t see i. It doesn’t really make it into the final. But Animal sees a snake and he starts chasing a snake all over the place. This is just my own little backstory that I had for Animal. And he finds the snake and props actually had a snake, a little rubber snake for me and he brings it over to Tahj in his mouth and offers it to him.
And then Tahj freaks out. He holds it up and he freaks out and he throws it away and then Animal runs off again, like he’s playing fetch with him.
ERIC: None of that makes it in but we had such a fun time just playing in the background while other people were talking and having a real scene.
BILL: It’s amazing that props had a snake in the moment.
ERIC: I know.
JOE: They just happened to have a snake. As you do.
BILL: I love Tahj going, “Hey, what do you got there, Bud– Aaah!”
JEFF: I’m presuming that people listening to this have watched the whole show, but how do you do something like the bus barreling down the highway and Animal’s on top playing the drums.
BILL: Oh. Well, you put him in a harness.
BILL: Eric. You put Eric in a harness.
JEFF: Up top.
BILL: that’s tethered safely. Yeah he’s standing inside of the bus.
ERIC: Kids, don’t try this at home.
BILL: On boxes that we built, that are also then held down. But yeah, Eric is standing up through the sunroof, the front of the sunroof. He’s like right up against it, with [Michelan Sisti] in front. [Michelin Sisti]’s playing the drums.
BILL: Eric’s behind him.
JEFF: And [Michelan Sisti]’s not tethered.
BILL: [Michelan Sisti] is also tethered.
JEFF: Yeah, I’m just kidding.
BILL: But yeah, no, he’s standing up in there, standing up.
ERIC: As much as we could do practically, we did and I’m so glad for it.
JEFF: Joe, you said early on that, Animal’s sort of one note and it truly is a testament to Eric because he is more than one note. He’s sort of five notes, but what Eric brings to it… You could just write on the page, “Nora Nora Nora.” All caps. NORA. And you’ll get 45 different takes of that with all different inflections. With all different feelings and emotions. And it’s just fantastic.
JOE: Yeah. How many times do you think you had to say Nora on the show, Eric.
ERIC: I have no idea.
JOE: Someone’s gonna count it.
ERIC: I’m sure somebody will, it won’t be me.
JOE: Yeah. Me neither.
ERIC: It was daunting, though. What Jeff was saying, a lot of times. I’d go up to Jeff or I’d go up to somebody and say, “What, what is he supposed to…What’s his intention here? Like what is he thinking right now? Like what do you think he’s thinking? I want to make sure that I’m addressing your take on the scene before I make something up completely on my own.”
JEFF: His intention is Nora.
[Eric and Joe laugh]
JOE: It’s right there in the script.
BILL: I always thought that we just don’t know what his intentions are until he’s in that moment. But that’s a hard thing for somebody to play and Eric would figure it out. But I think it’s that idea that Animal is so random in a sense. At least in my mind is that he’s… you just don’t know what’s going to happen, in a sense, from moment to moment. And so Eric would have to find that balance of using that but then also still having some intention to help us do the scenes. And it’s not easy.
JOE: And you’re not saying it, you never say it in a way that Frank Oz would say, “Woman” when he would play Animal back in the 70s and 80s.
ERIC: No, it’s a little bit different.
JOE: It’s not a lust thing. He’s not chasing.
JOE: We are very happy to let that characteristic go.
ERIC: It’s more infatuation.
BILL: Yeah. What was the word in the script?
JEFF: Bill would always say the word smitten.
BILL: Smitten. That’s right. I always put the word smitten.
BILL: To kind of ease it off a little bit.
JEFF: I just thought it meant that he was wearing mittens but it’s not that.
BILL: Right. Two mittens is a smitten.
JEFF: It’s a set of smitten.
JOE: Well, on that educational note, Eric thank you so much for being here on the podcast. Thank you for everything you brought to Animal on Muppets Mayhem. He was such a delight and this episode is such an amazing spotlight of that character. Both the baby version and the seeking a job version. It’s some of my favorite moments in the entire series. So thank you for all you’ve done.
ERIC: Oh wonderful. Thank you for saying that. Yeah, well we had a blast, making it as well as the whole show. I hope nobody’s listening to this and hasn’t watched the entire series yet. Go out and watch it. Come on, guys.
JOE: The podcast will be waiting for you when you’re done.
JEFF: So will the website w-w-w dot mayhem fixes dot gov.
BILL: And apparently, there’s an album. Who knew?
JOE: And a new Steve Carell TV show.
JOE: Yeah, so much for you to watch and listen to and enjoy. Bill and Jeff, thank you again for being here. We hope to see you again next week.
JEFF: Thank you.
JOE: And everyone else. Thank you for listening to Muppets Mayhem: Backstage Pass. We will see you all again 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!