Transcription provided by Katilyn Miller.
The Muppets Mayhem: Backstage Pass – Track 6: Fortunate Son
JOE HENNES: Hello and welcome to The Muppets Mayhem: Backstage Pass, the unofficial companion podcast to The Muppets Mayhem presented by Toughpigs.com. This is the podcast where we tour through every episode of The Muppets Mayhem to uncover behind the scenes stories, Easter eggs and more with the talented cast and crew, who helped put the series together. I’m your host, dedicated Mayhead, Joe Hennes.
JOE: Today we’re talking about Track Six: Fortunate Son in which Dr. Teeth gets a mother, a father and an all-new origin story. This week, we’ve got a whole bunch of fantastic guests. First up, he’s the co-creator and executive producer of The Muppets Mayhem. Please welcome Jeff Yorkes back to the podcast. Hello, Jeff.
JEFF YORKES: Hello, thanks for having me back.
BILL BARRETTA: [clapping] Bravo! Bravo!
JOE: More applause for Jeff. Lovely.
[Bill simulates the roar of a crowd]
JOE: And someone left their humidifier on. Next, he’s another co-creator and executive producer as well as the Electric Mayhem’s resident hot tub enthusiast, Dr. Teeth. Please welcome Bill Barretta back to the podcast. Hey, Bill.
BILL: [impersonating Elvis] Thank you very much.
STEPHANIE D’ABRUZZO: Woowooo!
BILL: [still impersonating Elvis] Thank you very much. Thank you.
DAVID BIZZARO: Yaay! We love you!
STEPHANIE: [clapping] Woooo!
JOE: Our next guest is a puppeteer who’s performed alongside Oscar the Grouch, The Flaming Lips and Michelle Obama. On The Muppets Mayhem he’s Dr. Teeth’s monosyllabic dad, Gerald Teeth. Please welcome David Bizzaro to the podcast. Hey, David.
DAVID: Hi. Thank you. It’s good to be here.
BILL: So weird. He’s bizarro.
DAVID: I’m the weird one.
JOE: Glad to have you. And last but certainly not least, a performer best known for Kate Monster on Avenue Q, Prairie Dawn on Sesame Street, and now Dr. Teeth’s mom, Tina Teeth on The Muppets Mayhem. Please welcome Stephanie D’Abruzzo to the podcast. Hi, Stephanie.
BILL [doing the voice of Dr. Teeth] My mama.
JOE: So nice to see all of you. So nice to hear all of you. So excited to dive into Dr. Teeth’s secret origin here with all of you. Stephanie and David, let’s start with talking a little bit about how you got these roles. Was there an audition process? How did you first hear about the characters? Tell me everything.
BILL: Are they whole wheat? Are they white? What kind of rolls are they?
STEPHANIE: Oh, I like a nice seeded grain. Yeah.
BILL: If these characters were rolls, if these characters were rolls…
BILL: …If Tina and Gerald were rolls…
BILL: …what kind of rolls would they– Okay.
STEPHANIE: Sourdough, a nice. Yeah.
STEPHANIE: A nice dense sourdough.
DAVID: I can’t think of it now. The roll that’s got the Nutella and the cinnamon and it’s rolled up and you can buy it at a corner.
JOE: Like a babka?
STEPHANIE: Like a babka?
DAVID: It’s a babka. Gerald’s like a babka.
JOE: I love a good babka.
DAVID: Dense. Doesn’t wiggle a lot. But when you cut right in there it’s just like the sweetest most savoriest thing we could get.
BILL: Yeah, very good.
JOE: That’s a great answer.
BILL: Sorry, Joe.
JOE: It’s okay.
JEFF: Derailed with the rolls.
JOE: Yeah, immediately derailed but it’s okay. Because it was a delicious derailment. But so Stephanie, let’s start with you. Did you get a phone call or an email? What did you know about this role that you were auditioning for?
STEPHANIE: It’s funny. I got an email with a quote, I remember, it was “An audition opportunity” with Muppets. Not the name of the show, not anything about it. An audition opportunity, who do I go through. And when it comes to you know Muppets and puppetry stuff, I don’t go through an agent. It just said, send whatever materials just directly to me. And then I got the materials for the characters. And yeah. So you know, self-tape. And they didn’t want us to do it as puppets, it was just as yourself. Be on camera. Perform the role. Which was fun because it’s one less thing to think about. When you don’t have to puppeteer and you’re sort of embodying it yourself then it becomes okay, I can really focus on what vocal characteristics am I going to do? What intensity am I going to do? And the words too. The monologue, the sides that I got for Tina, it was pretty long. It was a lot of words. So I wanted to get those right. It was great though, it was great fun.
JEFF: Did it mention, did it say it was Tina Teeth? It was Dr. Teeth’s mom?
STEPHANIE: Yeah. I got a drawing, a brief description, but only that first table scene.
BILL: The big long scene.
STEPHANIE: Which is a little different from what’s on the air but a little longer, a little more involved. No context. I wasn’t sure if I was actually at Cavity Con. I didn’t know where I was. When I got the sides. It was a little out of context. You know. I remember we always wanted to come to Cavity Con. I thought I was there. Especially since I was throwing floss and beignets. I was supposed to throw the beignets. And throw the floss.
JEFF: Yeah. Funny.
STEPHANIE: Yeah. So not knowing where I was, not knowing the context of that. It was fun.
JEFF: You still nailed it.
STEPHANIE: Ah, thanks. But yeah, so that’s how I did that.
JOE: So for that audition, since you were as yourself on camera, did you dress up for the part?
JOE: Did you actually have like floss that you were throwing nothing like that?
JOE: You just did it. Street clothes. No props.
STEPHANIE: Just mimed.
JOE: All right.
STEPHANIE: I just mimed. I don’t like to do that too much. The only time a prop ever works when you’re doing self-tapes, I could be wrong, I think a lot of actors have different opinions about this, a phone. You know, if you’re on the phone, it’s probably good to have a phone as a prop, but I think anything else, miming is probably the best way to go. It’s just one less thing to worry about.
BILL: Did you hold any type of felt or any kind of material in your hands to get closer to the character?
STEPHANIE: No. Nothing.
BILL: Nothing. That’s why you are who you are.
STEPHANIE: I’m saying, when you’re a puppeteer, you can’t get too method with these things because you think about how many times we’ve got to go back and forth between things especially back in the day, sometimes if someone was doing multiple characters at once, they’d be throwing one voice and puppeteering another, while someone else is catching it, you can’t get too method about that. You can’t say, “Okay, stop because I need to think about, hmm.” And that’s not to crap on method or anything like that. It’s just puppetry, you kind of don’t have the time.
JOE: Yeah. That makes sense.
STEPHANIE: And also…
JOE: That’s fair.
STEPHANIE: …Most puppets aren’t made of felt.
STEPHANIE: [laughs] Isn’t that something you want to yell at the TV whenever you hear that said in relationship to like, [imitates uppercrust accent] “Ah, these characters made of felt and the Muppets deeply felt.” [in normal voice but grumpy] “They’re not made of felt.”
JOE: That’s a rant for another podcast.
BILL: I didn’t realize it was such a hot button.
STEPHANIE: No, it’s just a, you know, it’s the little nerd in me, “Um, actually.
DAVID: [In stuffy nerd voice] Um actually, they’re made now not of antron fleece but Nylafleece is what they’re made of.
STEPHANIE: Yeah, I wanted to hear about David’s experience auditioning too because we never really got to talk about our audition experiences.
JEFF: He auditioned with one word.
DAVID: Yeah yeah. And what’s funny is I was just on Melrose and Bill pulled up and was like, “Hey you want to be in a show?” And I went, “Yep.” And I got the part.
JEFF: You’re in.
DAVID: It was crazy. He’s like “Yeah kid, you got it.”
STEPHANIE: That’s so much easier.
BILL: He’s telling lies. He’s lying.
DAVID: I am. Pathological. So I was actually shooting Waffles and Mochi and we were doing our stage days in the kitchen and restaurant. And I got the same emails you did, Stephanie. It was an email that was like, hey, there is a Muppet opportunity. Are you interested? Do you have an agent? And I said, “No, but yes.” And then I got the same thing. I got a side which was his Cavity Con monologue with an additional, I think there was a “yep” in there. I think one or two pages.
And yeah, the request to say you don’t need a puppet which was great because I was on set and I didn’t have a puppet. And I had to shoot it in between scenes. And so I didn’t want to tell anybody what was happening because I didn’t want to jinx it because I was like, “Oh no, I don’t want to add any extra nerves to what I’m doing. And I just don’t want to talk about this.”
And so I ran away to my dressing room and I set up my ipad and I had the script there. And I just did take after take after take after take and I wasn’t sure. I don’t normally do this when I’m auditioning for a character. I don’t usually offer more than one sort of take on the character. But I did three that I thought were interesting. And I was like, “You know, who cares?” I’m gonna send these three. And at least there’s an option of like, “Oh well, you know, this is more towards what we like or we can play.”
I thought maybe that might be the case. And so I sent those three different options in and then I just waited nervously [laughs] hoping that I would get asked to come in. And when I got asked, it was cool. I think I’d gotten back home after shooting. Michael [Steinbach] had called. My son had just been born and Michael was like hey. You know it’s so funny he’s kind of dry when you talk to him on the phone. He was like, “Hey, so I just wanted to thank you for coming in and taking the time to audition.”
JEFF: This is Michael Steinbach?
DAVID: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Sorry I didn’t clarify. Yeah. So Michael Steinbach is telling me this and I’m like, “Oh okay. So I didn’t get it.” I was like, well why are they calling me to tell me this? Usually they just say nothing and leave you hanging like, what a sweet guy Michael is to call. And then he goes, “Yeah. So we want to congratulate you. So welcome to the Muppet family. You know, you’re gonna play Gerald.”
I was like, “Oh my god.” Okay and I told him I was like, “Michael, next time lead with we want you to come on board.” I really was just unsure.
JOE: Have a little bit of excitement about the whole thing. Wake up, Michael.
DAVID: Well, I think he was just trying to be kind and professional. And I also may have just been nervous getting the call and thinking that, as we do as artists, we’re not good enough. But yeah, I got asked to come out and it was, I’ve been telling people, it was a dream coming true that I didn’t know that I had when it happened.
STEPHANIE: It was a long wait between auditions and finding out too.
DAVID: Oh yeah.
STEPHANIE: I just assumed. I just assumed. Okay. Well, you know, three and a half weeks have gone by.
BILL: Oh wow. Wasn’t that long?
STEPHANIE: Yeah between the time I submitted and the time I first got the call from Michael.
BILL: Yeah. We were so wrapped up in everything. Right?
STEPHANIE: Oh sure.
JEFF: Yeah, we were writing. But the flip side for us, we just listened to your auditions. So I don’t know if you were on video tape but we just listened.
DAVID: Oh wow.
JEFF: I think there was an instinct that some of us might know who you guys were and that might affect it.
STEPHANIE: I see.
JEFF: So let’s just listen to the voices of these characters.
STEPHANIE: Well good because my faces were ridiculous.
JOE: We want to see the audition tape. Release the audition tape.
DAVID: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I think I even was going [pause] like that in one of my takes because I was imagining the drawing.
JOE: Right. Sticking your jaw out is what you’re doing.
DAVID: Yeah. From the drawing that I looked at.
JEFF: It sort of goes back to what Bill has said about being Dr. Teeth, where so much of it comes from his mouth, from his Teeth like Jim [Henson] did it, you know?
DAVID: Yeah, yeah. Bill. Yeah. Yeah, you told me that story once and when I was auditioning that was one of the things that I was considering was I’ve heard from you and other voice actors how changing the structure of your face will affect the sound of the character.
STEPHANIE: Oh sure.
DAVID: And I think someone, this might have been you, Stephanie, actually talking about how difficult that can be as a puppeteer, especially when you’re sitting down performing a character.
STEPHANIE: It changes things.
DAVID: You’re having to shorten your vocal cords and so it just becomes another dance.
BILL: Right. It squashes them.
STEPHANIE: Yeah, you have to adjust.
JOE: Your job sounds hard. Just as I’m noticing throughout this entire podcast. It sounds really difficult to be a puppeteer. Did each of you already have like a New Orleans accent in your repertoire? Did you have to learn how to do that for this role?
DAVID: I kind of did a little bit. My father-in-law lived in New Orleans for some time. And so I have a sense of it and I also just love southern accents. The first accent I really worked on as a young actor was a Georgian accent. And I just fell in love with the sound and the rhythm of it. And I’ve lived for many years in Oklahoma and it’s a very specific, different type of southern accent.
And so when I knew I had the role, the first thing I did was buy some audio on the Yat accent, which is specific to a certain part of Louisiana. And I knew I wouldn’t be speaking a lot, you know, but I knew that when I did, I didn’t want someone from New Orleans to go, “That’s an accent from Atlanta. Like that’s not New Orleans.” Because the Yat accent is so specific to just northern New Orleans, that people, if they hear it and if it hits right, you know, they’ll know, “Oh, they’re from that part of town. They’re not from southern New Orleans.” Which the northern part I think, is where more of the southern-y, musicality side of that comes from. So I thought, that’s to work on. So, yeah. That’s what I did.
STEPHANIE: I was doing a combo platter that was also, and I don’t want to say this, it’s going to come out wrong, but Muppet-forgivable. If that makes sense.
STEPHANIE: There’s a leeway that you get with Muppet characters when you’re doing dialects. But also with Tina, the intensity came first. And the accent came second. So it became less about I’m putting New Orleans in front of it, it was more about her intensity. And then it was layered on top of that. But yeah, I wasn’t as studious as Bizarro was. And I’m chagrined because I love dialects and yeah, there are huge differences. It’s not just “the south.” It ain’t a Civil War dialect. It’s region by region; state by state. But yeah, you know enough to make it work for that character. So you’re sort of creating something that’s specific to her. And so that’s how I approached that.
JOE: Sure, yeah. Well, as far as we know, she’s from right outside New Orleans where she has a very specific accent from that specific region. You can’t complain. That’s how people talk there.
STEPHANIE: Well also, you know, there are people…like I grew up in Pittsburgh and there’s a very specific Pittsburgh dialect, right? But there are variations within that dialect and some people have it heavier than others. Some people there’s only a shade of it. Even people who’ve lived there their whole life and some people it’s really, really thick. So even among people who are in one specific place, there’s all sorts of variation. There’s no such thing as a blanket dialect.
BILL: Oh yeah. For sure.
DAVID: When you and I were talking when we first met up in LA, when we were first seeing the puppets, we were talking about that. About our characters and how they relate and different things. And one of the things I thought of when you were saying that about how you were going to approach the vocalization of the character, I thought about my father-in-law. I was like, oh yeah. He is from the east coast but lived in Louisiana for like 15 years and then now has lived in Texas for another 20. And when you listen to him you can’t quite tell exactly where he’s from. You know that he’s southern.
DAVID: But you can’t quite place it. And also he’s got a funny voice. Like he’s six foot three with a big mustache, [in high, nasally voice] and he talks like this. “That’s all right, that’s okay. But, you know, it’s really better to wind your extension cable like this. Because it unravels in a much more efficient way. Now you see team management.”
[In normal voice] And then he talks about managing teams.
STEPHANIE: What a great voice.
DAVID: But you can’t quite place what southern he is. And also what you did with Tina was wonderful.
STEPHANIE: Aw, well what you did with Gerald was wonderful. Everybody’s wonderful.
BILL: Oh, well, look at that.
DAVID: We’re all wonderful.
JOE: Let’s talk about this episode. We can really get into how wonderful everyone did. The episode starts with our cold open. The band’s driving down the road at night in the van. The van breaks down and “when the van breaks down, the band gets down.” And they jump out. They sing “It’s Only Rock and Roll” by The Rolling Stones. Great song. Very Mayhem-y song. And then they are interrupted by highway patrolman Cedric Yarbrough. Best known for playing a police officer on Reno 911.
JEFF: I don’t know if it comes across on screen, but he represents the Paradise City Police Department.
JOE: Oh, I didn’t notice that.
JOE: That’s a good little music reference.
JEFF: It’s on his uniform where you wouldn’t see it. It was on the side of the police car.
BILL: The car, right? I don’t know whenever we could…
JOE: Yeah. Well, we know now.
DAVID: What’s weird is I did ask that question to myself, when I watched him on screen. When I was watching episode, I was like, “What’s it?” Literally I was like, “What city is this cop from? Where’s this guy from?”
JOE: I was gonna ask because his name on his badge is Axl. And I thought, “Oh, that might be a Guns N’ Roses reference.”
JEFF: There you go.
JOE: It’s Officer Axl from Paradise City.
STEPHANIE: That’s great.
JOE: Wow. I like that. That’s pretty good.
JEFF: This might actually be the place to talk about the lens flares, Bill.
STEPHANIE: You’re J. J. Abrams-ing?
JEFF: I’m just trying to think of the future episodes we still have. This might be the most lens flare-y.
BILL: It could be. Yeah.
JEFF: We’ve discussed before, this was the original opening of episode one– of Track One, if you will. But then Disney saw it and they’re just like, “We want to make this bigger.” So we wound up moving it here. But we did edit it first and it was part of Track One. And so one of the things that I kind of thought from the beginning, just the tapestry of the show, visually, when the Mayhem plays, they should just burst through the screen. They should change the look of the show. They should illuminate. There should be lens flares. Like it should just change our view. And it was tough to capture. [laughs]
JEFF: Certainly in real time. And so it just became my thing in post-production, we have to get these lens flares in. I was a broken record. I was like, please purchase a pack of these overlays. In trailer cutting, I would always throw in these lens flares just to make it look fresh and new. But here, it’s their music literally blinding, illuminating, the screen. Also, I just wanted there to be color whenever they played. Even more color. And so yeah. Yeah, I was a broken record and everyone made fun of me.
BILL: We teased him a lot because, they were just like flare.
JEFF: They’re Anamorphic. They would cross over character’s faces and Bill’s like, “Okay, okay.”
BILL: They’re like biting them as they sing.
JEFF: There’s so much work that went into these where we’re masking them out so that they sort of dissipate over characters’ faces or they’re going a little higher than their heads.
JEFF: Yeah, this was–
BILL: It found a nice balance of it all.
STEPHANIE: Wow. So the lens flare is the seventh character or the seventh member of the Mayhem.
JEFF: Seventh member of the band.
STEPHANIE: Yeah. Great.
JOE: If the Muppets are going to do lens flares, they’re gonna go way overboard with it. I mean, that’s the only way to make it work so I appreciate it. Bill disagrees.
BILL: I don’t know about that necessarily but I think we found the right balance.
STEPHANIE: Well, you know, if it’s worth it, I didn’t really notice the lens flares. So mission accomplished because I think if I noticed it, then it would have been too much.
STEPHANIE: It was probably enough to make it look cool without it “Oh, look at those lens flares.”
DAVID: I thought there could have been more.
JOE: If you ever decide to do a Pigs in Space series, then that would be the time to like really go overboard with lens flares. Like just blind us with them.
BILL: Right. I think my favorite place that we use them is the backyard, the first time they play in the backyard at the pool. I thought that looked really good.
JEFF: Yeah, I think that one is actually a combination of what we laid in in post but also… also with post, I should say, that our VFX company did.
BILL: Right. It was a combination.
JEFF: So it was a balance.
JOE: So that scene with the Mayhem singing, the song ends with you see the long line of cars going all the way down the highway. That’s the joke. Just wanted to put a little bow on that. As we dig into the first scene of the episode, this one starts with a “Previously on Muppets Mayhem.” Which, is this the only episode that has that?
JOE: I mean, it was obviously a really cliff hanger in the previous episode.
JEFF: We have it on ten.
BILL: Oh, is it on ten?
BILL: Oh, yeah, sorry, Jeff, you’re right. Sorry. Sorry.
JEFF: A little bit on four where Moog falls. We do an audio recap.
BILL: Right. But we don’t say…
JEFF: Exactly. Previously on…
JOE: And to have Lips be the one to say, “Previously on Muppets Mayhem” is also a nice little… it’s very cute. I see what you’re doing.
BILL: We weren’t sure if it was gonna be clear. But to Peter’s craft, he made it work.
JEFF: I’m sure it’s clear in the closed captioning.
JOE: Yeah yeah right. Well Either way, we’re so trained to listen for, “Previously on Full House.” Like, I feel like that intonation of how you say it. Like the Swedish Chef could have said it and we would have known what he was saying, you know?
JEFF: Exactly. That was the fun of it.
JOE: Exactly. So yes, Dr. Teeth’s parents are there. They’re at the door. They’re ready to bring their son home. And as you mentioned earlier, Stephanie, Tina has brought beignets from New Orleans for everyone.
STEPHANIE: It happens.
JOE: And you just don’t stop talking. You’re just going and going and going. That must have been an exhausting scene.
STEPHANIE: There used to be more. There used to be more. Those were Cafe Du Monde beignets.
STEPHANIE: Best beignets in New Orleans.
STEPHANIE: Yeah, there was a lot of that. I believe it was, I think I can still remember this. I believe it was…We got the award…[in Tina Teeth’s voice] So we figured perfect timing. We’d come, accept the award, visit Junior and get him to finally move back home and take over our dental practice like he promised or else he’d break his mother’s heart into a million pieces. Ain’t that right, Gerald?
DAVID: [in Gerlad’s voice] Yup.
STEPHANIE: I still remember because that was the audition. And yeah.
STEPHANIE: Like that was just [trills tongue] because I knew if I was gonna do something I needed to memorize.
STEPHANIE: And I’m glad that I did. Because doing that thing or walking around that table, I had to.
BILL: Yeah, boy.
STEPHANIE: There was no other way.
BILL: That was a challenge.
JEFF: Yeah. We worked that scene to death.
STEPHANIE: But it was fun. But anyway, yes. So those were originally Cafe Du Monde beignets. Yes.
BILL: That’s right.
JOE: And you must have had a second puppeteer there because, like you said, you’re walking around the table. You’ve got all this dialogue and you’re handing out beignets at the same time.
STEPHANIE: Well, I was supposed to have someone with me, but I decided at the last minute and I felt so bad I made production wait to get this rig going because it was going to be too much to have two people going on this really tight path. So I had the shop rig it where the bag was armatured in her hand and that was just me pulling out a beignet that was attached to her hand, putting it down and keeping it below frame, pretending that I was getting another one out of the bag and bringing up said attached beignet again. That was going to be the most effective, quickest, safest really way to do it so we weren’t tripping on each other. Because there was not a lot of space once you got the puppeteers who were at the table. And the clearance around. So it was just me and that wound up being the most effective way to do it.
JOE: Wow. That’s good puppetry magic. I didn’t even notice.
STEPHANIE: Well, that was the best thing. I was able to ask Kimmy [Gatewood] “Wait, we can dip this below frame, right? We don’t have to actually see this go from empty-handed to full-handed, right? We can fake this, right?” Because man. Then you don’t notice and I’m sorry if I ruin the illusion of so many people.
BILL: We wanted it in the run too. We didn’t want to have to cut. We wanted to have a run of you moving through. Which, it worked great.
STEPHANIE: Yeah. Yeah.
JOE: Ruining the puppetry magic is not a thing, especially for anyone listening to this podcast. Like we want to know all the secrets. We want to know how the magic worked. And so David you have such a monologue in this scene where you have a whole word to say.
DAVID: A whole word. Yeah.
JOE: Was it freeing for you that you didn’t have to memorize a lot? Or was it challenging that you’re like, “I have to convey so much through one syllable?”
DAVID: It wasn’t…the challenge with Gerald in those scenes was not so much conveying everything through the one phrase, it was more complementing what you saw on frame. And trying to perform life in him with still trying to keep him… like keeping him alive, I guess is what I’m trying to say, was the difficult part. Trying to show that he was thinking or in a moment or in his own moment, in his own mind while there’s other stuff happening. And being able to clock in when he needs to say… agree with his wife after she’s said what she said.
Yeah, but I mean… I’m sorry. Whenever I talk about stuff like that, my brain goes to that moment and I could just visualize that whole space when we were in there together. And the hardest thing is really just, and this is totally true, the hardest thing in those moments is performing around people who are a million times better than you and hoping that you do well. I’m not even kidding.
STEPHANIE: I know the feeling.
DAVID: Like I was sitting there. There was someone who was assisting, didn’t need to assist me but he was assisting me. And he’s been doing it longer than I have. And even then I was like, I need to make sure that I’m doing this character justice and that I’m performing and doing all the right stuff that all these beautiful people have taught me over the years.
BILL: Can I just say, that’s the fun. It’s like me personally, I prefer reactionary characters. I would rather be a character that lives and reacts to what’s happening then driving scenes. That’s just my preference and I think it’s more fun because then you’re thinking of how do I, like you said, David, keeping it alive. So I thought with that it was great.
DAVID: Thank you.
BILL: I just think it felt like he was there and present and had this like knee react, whenever he heard his voice, all he needed to know was “yep.”
DAVID: Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.
BILL:It wasn’t like, you don’t have to go too deep. “Yep.” [laughs]
STEPHANIE: And puppets do deadpan so well. You know? I think better than humans do. So you can have so much fun with that. Sorry, I interrupted you. You were about to say.
JEFF: I had a quick little thing. When we were thinking about these characters, we didn’t want them to be like Milhouse’s parents from The Simpsons, where they look exactly alike.
JEFF: And so one of our original ideas was that one of them would be blue and one of them would be yellow. And then together they would make green.
STEPHANIE: Ahhh. That’s great.
JOE: That’s cute.
JEFF: There were certain limitations, I suppose. I think the character design is amazing and they do look different enough and their parts do add up to make Teeth. But it would have been a funny idea.
DAVID: Yeah. They do look so good.
JEFF: They look a little bit of a thinker, I think.
JOE: Yeah. And not just the visuals because yeah, you’re right. Like Gerald has the big jaw and Tina’s got the orange hair and all that. They do visually mix but also like we learned immediately, Dr. Teeth obviously picked up a lot of the way that he speaks from Tina. And, you know, a lot of I think like we learned much later, the more emotional and soulful part of him probably comes from his dad. So you could see how those two characters really merge to create Dr. Teeth.
BILL: Interesting about Teeth following his mother’s personality when he’s speaking and talking. We later found that we needed Tina to have a little bit of…Do you want to talk about it Steph? The laugh?
STEPHANIE: That was your idea, Bill. When we were in a looping session.
BILL: And we just thought to brighten her up a little more. So she didn’t feel so like…
BILL: [hits fist into hand] And strong and bossy coming through. And we just played with that idea of like that Teeth’s laugh and Tina’s laugh are similar in that way. They’re like [laughs in Dr. Teeth’s voice] And then and Steph went with it and she has her versions. So it just tied them together I think even more, which was sweet.
STEPHANIE: Yeah. Yeah, no, it was a good call. It was a good call to make.
JEFF: We put Stephanie through the ringer in terms of ADR. This scene was reworked a number of times. We had a really hard time in the edit room and just trying to make it work and trying to get the information across and trying to get there faster. And so, you know, with puppets we have the advantage and disadvantage of rewriting because they’re just mouths moving in a certain way. You know? That’s disrespectful. But it did give us an advantage to do this third rewrite, and we went back to Stephanie so many times to just be like, “Actually, now the scene is this.”
STEPHANIE: I really appreciate your patience with me on that. I hope that what I did in the initial performance didn’t come off badly.
BILL: No, no, no. That’s not it. The thing is is that we wrote it with her driving like that, right?
BILL: Which is exactly… you nailed exactly what I think we wrote and believed she should be. But what we didn’t realize is, we didn’t give her a place to go. Right?
BILL: So she could still be light and strong in the beginning. We needed her to get to the place where it was more stern like in the dental office and in the flashbacks, right?
STEPHANIE: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.
BILL: So I think we did you a disservice by having her the same in that first scene. She just needed you to lighten her up, which is what you did. And we did an ADR, but I feel like it works, you know.
BILL: And it gave her that kind of, [imitates Tina Teeth] “I’m just here and I’m going to say what’s on my mind. Ha ha!”
STEPHANIE: Right. Right. The laugh was a really good call. I’m glad we were able to squeeze that in off camera.
BILL: Right. Yeah.
JEFF: But we would sit there in the editing room and we were just like, “Okay, I think there are enough flaps here. And this is a larger flap here to make this word work.” And then we just handed it off to you to do and make work.
STEPHANIE: . You guys had such a hard job. You guys had such a hard job in that regard.
JEFF: Oh, please. Come on.
STEPHANIE: I’m so sorry.
BILL: No, it was all there, Steph.
JEFF: Not you. Not you.
BILL: Yeah, that’s the thing. We didn’t think of the arc enough.
JEFF: And some of these things we discovered. Clearly, we discovered.
STEPHANIE: And Bizzaro’s talking about working with, being overwhelmed by the people in the room and I’m talking about, “Oh god, did I mess up?” These are the insecurities that we all have.
STEPHANIE: Especially both of us being invited to this A-game party. It was rarified air really. I had not spoken a classic Muppet character. I’ve assisted on a couple of things but I’d never done. I know all the guys. When I got there, I felt like, and I said this to a couple of the guys, I felt like, you know how when you’re in college and your friend from high school is at the other college? And they come visit you over a weekend? I felt like the visiting friend.
STEPHANIE: Because I knew everyone but it was not high school and it was not the same school and there was other stuff going on that I was…So it was great but that was kind of, I had that same feeling, David. You are not alone in that regard.
DAVID: Yeah. My wife asked me how it was going when I was down there and I was like, “I feel like it’s that Thanksgiving year where I’ve just been invited to the adult table and I’m just trying to keep up with the conversations.” [laughs]
BILL: Well, I hope it doesn’t feel like that pressure when you’re there.
BILL: I hope that’s not the feeling because I feel that way around Dave [Goelz]. I think we all have our levels of where we are, you know?
BILL: And yeah it just runs through it. I think.
DAVID: Oh, totally well. I’m sure like with you, Bill, Leslie [Carrara-Rudolph] and Peter [Linz] have been my teachers for years and friends and confidantes. And so to then be working with them on such an amazing project, you’re just all of a sudden, you’re like, “Okay, now I’m next to you.
DAVID: Not at his level at all by any means, but just like, oh my god, now I’m working with you. I’m no longer just texting you like, “How do I do this?”
BILL: So interesting because we don’t think about it in the moment. We don’t think of it when we’re working. In my mind I feel like it’s just we’re all there to make that scene work together.
BILL: You know, it’s really interesting.
JEFF: I definitely had it too. I’ve even just coming on to this set, someone had a question and like, “Well let’s bring in Jeff or whatever.” And I walked on there and it was so intimidating just to see all the performance and now the crew just looking at me for my opinion on something.
JEFF: And I’m like, “Aaaaauuugh.” I just want to be in the background fading.
STEPHANIE: Hey, Mr. Answers what you got?
STEPHANIE: No. I love Bill so much and I don’t get to work with Bill very much in any capacity.
BILL: In a long time.
STEPHANIE: So for me it was like, I know…whether or not this was true, Bill, I’m reasonably sure you were a huge part as to why I even got invited to audition for this.
BILL: I mean, I just knew it was in your wheelhouse. I could hear you already. Again like even with Leslie. I said this about Leslie.
BILL: Seriously, I could hear this and you were my kind of first where I would go.
STEPHANIE: Oh, that’s kind.
BILL: If I had to ask somebody to come and play. But it has been a long time that we’ve got, but it’s true.
STEPHANIE: Yeah. And so I just felt like, “Well, I better not suck because I want to work with Bill again.”
STEPHANIE: Because I really like working with Bill and all the guys, but at least, you know, Peter and Matt [Vogel] and Eric [Jacobson], I get to see on Sesame Street. And [David] Rudman, I work with all the time.
BILL: It’d be like me going to Sesame, it’s the same feeling, you know?
STEPHANIE: We always loved having you with us at Sesame too.
BILL: That’s what I’m saying. Going to do Elmo’s dad or something, it was very like, oh my god, there’s a whole thing that’s happening here. This is a world that I’m stepping into that I’m not used to in the dynamics and the way everything works.
STEPHANIE: That’s true.
BILL: It’s just natural that I think as people we all feel that way.
STEPHANIE: But when you came to Sesame it was like, Santa Claus coming to town. You know?
STEPHANIE: Yeah! Hey, Santa! Come play with us!
JOE: It’s Santa!
STEPHANIE: Hi, tangent number one, of many.
JOE: Number one? Yeah, no. Get ready. This is how the podcast works. But hey, let’s get back into this. We’re still at the dinner table here at the shack.
BILL: Oh. Scene one.
JOE: Tina sees Floyd and you guys have a moment here. You say, [imitating Tina Teeth] “Well hello, Floyd Pepper.” [in normal voice] And he goes, “Ma’am.” Gonna have to unpack that throughout this episode.
STEPHANIE: I love my friend, Matt Vogel.
JOE: [laughs] And he does not get a beignet.
STEPHANIE: I think that is my favorite part to just like speak unspoken words.
JOE: Uh-huh. Like you said deadpan Muppets. You say a lot with that unmoving face. In a way that humans can’t.
BILL: And you look at the beignet and put it in the bag.
DAVID: When my wife saw that, she was like, “Oooh, there’s a lot there.” She was like, “Oooh, wow.”
BILL: Yeah we get it right away between the two of them, you know there’s a big problem.
JOE: You gotta earn a beignet. Turns out they are here because they want to retire. They want Dr. Teeth to come home and take over the dental practice and stop wasting his time with all this music nonsense. Because it turns out, Dr. Teeth is a real doctor. We learn that he is a musical healer of hearts and souls, but also a fully licensed and accredited dentist. It seems obvious in retrospect. I feel like there must have been something in the past that has made Dr. Teeth a dentist specifically. But was this always the case from day one or did you have other ideas for what his background would be?
BILL: This was something that Jeff and… go ahead, do you want to?
JEFF: Adam [Goldberg] and I, when we started on this thing we were thinking of backstories. This popped into our heads and again, you’re right, it seems very obvious so maybe it’s not a great idea. But, yeah, it just seemed right and a fun idea. And of course, we have to pitch it to Bill. And he’s just like, yeah. I mean because it’s more than just his job. There’s all this backstory with his family and so much you can do with it.
BILL: And I think the fact that it is so obvious is a good thing because I think it’s just…lay into it. Sometimes you just have to lay into things.
BILL: And people go, “Yeah, okay. I can go with that.” You don’t have to think about it. It makes sense. But I think what we did was we took that idea and then we found a great way to create the backstory with Floyd and his parents.
BILL: That was the fun part of what do you do with dentistry?
JEFF: Yeah. It’s not just a gimmick. Totally and it’s emotional.
BILL: Cavity Con. Come on. Jeff threw out Cavity Con. It just took on a whole thing.
JEFF: Everything sort of just a place.
JOE: And also, I want to point out, I did say it’s obvious in retrospect because that’s the best kind of obvious. Where you go, “Oh, of course he is.” And not like, there’s no expectation of well someday we’re going to find out… that’s been in my head canon for 30 years.
JEFF: Oh, I see.
JOE: It’s not. Once you said it, it’s obvious that it’s true. So I like that.
BILL: Yeah. And then you say, “Well what are they going to do with it? Let’s see what they do.”
BILL: I think we found a fun way to apply it.
JEFF: Yeah, it’s also something we could all relate to, especially being in the arts in some way, having parents who are just like, “You’re doing what now?”
STEPHANIE: It’s the Jazz Singer, folks. It’s a tale as old as time.
JEFF: But it’s such a non-linear business and there’s a whole generation that is just like, “No this. You do this. You go here. This happens next.: And it’s constantly a struggle and even when you have a success, they’re like, “Okay what’s next?”
JOE: That’s right.
JOE: But how are you going to pay your bills? Yeah.
BILL: Well, as I was doing Muppets Tonight or whatever was happening and it’s some characters and stuff. My father would go, “Ah, so you’re still doing that acting, huh?”
DAVID: Yeah. Yeah, my father said to me once he’s like, “David, you’re never gonna make money in puppetry.”
JEFF: Very cool.
DAVID: Like when I was starting, he was like, “Just do something else.” And my dad is a artist, full-time, fine art painter. And he was like, “You’re not going to make any money in puppetry. Don’t do that. You’re not going to go anywhere with it.”
JEFF: Of all the arts.
DAVID: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And then once I started doing things, I was like, “Hey, dad. Look, it’s kind of working.” [laughs] But yeah, it’s such a relatable story and so honest. And it doesn’t feel shoehorned. That’s what I loved about it when I found out. It didn’t feel like you were just going, “Uhhh, he’s an honorary doctor of this because he played a concert somewhere.” It felt earned. And I really like that.
STEPHANIE: I know we’re gonna get to it really soon, but young Teeth. Aww,
JOE: Yup, that’s the next scene here. We get our Dr. Teeth flashback.
BILL: I think Stephanie has a crush on him. She’s got the hots for him.
STEPHANIE: Well, he’s so sweet. It’s not about crush. It’s such a sweet, sweet performance.
JOE: Absolutely. So when we see Dr. Teeth, he has no beard. He’s got his glasses but there’s no tint in his glasses. He doesn’t have his gold tooth yet. He’s wearing a letterman jacket that has a tooth on the breast. And most importantly, he does not seem happy. And his parents are working out of a white school bus.
STEPHANIE: Why wouldn’t he be flossing on the side of a bus?
STEPHANIE: Come on. It’s all the cool kids hanging out, flossing, man.
JOE: That’s right.
BILL: And then it hurts him. I don’t know if you can hear it but it hurts a little. He’s kind of going [makes tiny pain sounds].
[laughing and crosstalk]
JOE: He’s new to flossing.
BILL: He doesn’t like it. He just doesn’t like it.
JOE: His parents are working out of a white school bus called the Molar Express. It’s got a giant tooth on the roof. That’s a great visual.
JEFF: This episode was written by our writer Hannah Friedman and her first draft had that and we were just, I think all of us, like, “Oh.”
JOE: It’s good stuff.
BILL: Yeah. So great.
JEFF: It’s genius.
JOE: The Molar Express.
STEPHANIE: [in Tina Teeth’s voice] Should’ve sued Spielberg.
JOE: Yeah. Retroactively. We should sue him for making a movie 15 years ago.
JEFF: Because it came before.
STEPHANIE: No, that was Zemeckis. That was Zemeckis who did Polar Express. Sorry, sorry wrong director. Sue ‘em all.
JOE: We’ll sue Tom Hanks. We’ll just make sure. It’ll funnell down.
DAVID: Sue Tom Hanks.
JOE: He hears someone playing guitar and he looks over and there’s a music store. It’s called The Original Jerry’s Tunes, which is an obvious reference to Jerry Nelson, the original performer for Floyd.
STEPHANIE: Established 1939.
JOE It says established 1934.
STEPHANIE: Oh, ‘34.
JOE: Which was the year Jerry Nelson was born. And we go in and we see young Floyd. He’s got a spotty mustache just starting to come in which is great.
JOE: He’s wearing glasses over his eyes which I think a lot of people are talking about on social media that we thought his eyes were sunglasses, but now he’s wearing glasses over the sunglasses like eyes.
DAVID: [laughs] Yeah.
JOE: And yeah he’s playing this blues riff on his guitar. Dr. Teeth grabs a harmonica off the shelf and he starts playing. They’re jamming together. And Tina runs in, catches them and she tells them that harmonica is gonna blow the enamel right off his teeth. But this was the whole moment. This is where everything started with Dr. Teeth and Floyd meeting for the first time and what, a great interaction between these two characters that we felt like we’ve known for so long. And yet, here they are meeting for the first time. Wonderful.
BILL: Can I just say one little thing?
BILL: Do you guys sense that Floyd is a little bit older than Teeth at all?
BILL: Okay, good.
BILL: Because that’s Jim and Jerry, right?
JOE: Yeah. I felt that way too. Well, especially because Floyd’s got a real job. Quote, unquote, real job. And Dr. Teeth is not yet in school. You know, that’s a little nebulous of what time of school he’s in.
BILL: Oh, I think he’s in high school.
STEPHANIE: That’s what I felt. High school.
JOE: Yeah. Sorry. You’re right. I said school. I meant dental school. Yes.
BILL: Oh dental school. Yes, sorry. Joe yeah. But I think, yeah, they’re like Jim and Jerry were. They’re like two years apart. It just worked perfectly.
JOE: Yeah, that’s nice. Well, especially, I feel like I’ve always just assumed that Dr. Teeth is older than Floyd. When we see them as adults. I don’t know why I assumed that.
BILL: I know.
JOE: But there’s no reason for that to be.
BILL: I did too. Yeah, I did too, but I like the idea that Floyd was actually the older one who influences Teeth.
DAVID: Like a bit of nerdiness about Floyd from that same thing. If I’m remembering correctly, when I went to go visit the Muppet shop when we were on set, I went and I was talking to Jane Gootnick back there and just kind of picking her brain because she has amazing stories. And she’s an amazing person. But she said that the Floyd that they were using was an older Floyd. And is a bit smaller than the original– or not the original but the Floyd they use now.
BILL: Oh, wow.
DAVID: Because it’s more to the size of Jerry’s hand.
DAVID: And so knowing that from that scene is really cool because we’re in Jerry’s Tunes.
BILL: Yeah. How great.
DAVID: It’s actually a puppet that Jerry had used.
BILL: I didn’t know that.
JEFF: I didn’t know that either.
DAVID: It is, sort of, a younger version of Floyd.
BILL: Right. Right.
DAVID: And so when I heard that I was just like this is really special.
STEPHANIE: Oh, that’s amazing.
JOE: That is special. Wow. Oh, I’m glad you got that story. That’s real nice.
BILL: Puppet Heap did a great job of creating their youth. I love the little details of their little mustaches. That’s so good.
JOE: Yeah. And especially, and we’ll see this in a few minutes, but we’ll see them at several stages in their life growing up and it’s so subtle. Like, I kind of forgot that they aren’t actually aging. Like they’re just different puppet builds. Like, I thought for a minute, it’s like, “Oh yeah. He grew his mustache in a bit.” That’s a new mustache. That’s not how puppets work.
STEPHANIE: Sweet, sweet, sweet young Teeth, baby face.
DAVID: I know.
JEFF: That voice.
STEPHANIE: That voice, that choice. Bill, your choices were just so perfect.
BILL: Aw, thanks.
STEPHANIE: Because not just about the youth and the innocence but then that explains why he didn’t just run off and become a musician right away. His journey took a few years of coincidentally running into Floyd, running into this– Well, he doesn’t even really this guy, this music guy. So the choice of if Teeth had been any wiser or… He was conflicted because he’s a good boy.
BILL: That’s it. Just listen to his mama.
STEPHANIE: Good boy’s gotta listen to his mama. And he’s doing what’s right and it comes from that sweetness. Right? Just that purity that you bring to it. He’s got his, you know, he says he goes to the clubs and sneaks in. That’s as bad as he gets. [laughs]
JOE: Yeah, he peeks in the window.
BILL: Peeks in the window.
STEPHANIE: And that’s his rebellion. He always gets caught.
STEPHANIE: But it’s free.
JOE: That’s great.
BILL: So that’s actually, that’s something I got from Louis Prima. Louis Prima as a kid, used to go and peek into the clubs and watch Louis Armstrong and all those people play. Because he couldn’t go in.
JOE: That’s great.
DAVID: It was nice to see your restraint in the performance too in that younger music shop scene with the character. Like Dr. Teeth hasn’t quite found his voice yet, literally. And you see you not performing as big as you would with older Teeth. I felt like when I saw you performing him because you just like, there’s a lot of restraint and very specific intention. I get nerdy about certain performance moves that people make. And there’s a moment where you’re about to leave and you kind of go, “Yeah.” Like you kind of just gently nod your head as you look away because you know you’re accepting that you have to leave and you’re kind of letting him know, just through your movement, “Eh, all right, well, thanks.”
DAVID: That’s what you do in an honest moment. So that moment was just so innocent and pure and honest and it was really lovely to see.
BILL: Thank you.
STEPHANIE: And the chemistry with Matt too…
STEPHANIE: …is gorgeous. But what just occurred to me is the purity of your performance tells a story in that moment that you don’t really think about. In that moment, you think, “Okay. He stays on the dentist track. He becomes Gerald. He goes to the music track. He becomes Teeth.”
DAVID: Mmm. That’s interesting.
STEPHANIE: You know?
JOE: That’s interesting.
STEPHANIE: And that’s where it’s clear in that music shop thing. He’s almost yeping. You know what I mean?
STEPHANIE: So it’s just a gorgeous, gorgeous choice. Whether that was intentional or just subliminal subconscious.
BILL: I was just trying to make him as uncomfortable as possible. I don’t think he’s comfortable in his skin. That’s what I was trying to do is that this thing that just hit him in the face. You know, this idea that music came out of his mouth for the first time like that. It was all firsts and I think he doesn’t know what to do with it because he’s just a kid. And then his momma just says, “Uh-uh. Come on. Let’s go. Stop playing around. That’s going to ruin your Teeth. Let’s go.”
STEPHANIE: One of the lines that I miss, I think it was in an early draft, I don’t even know. I don’t think you shot it. But it was maybe in the table read draft when she was tossing the floss from the Molar Express to the kids and she says, “Get some more free samples.” The kids are loving it.
DAVID: [laughs] Yeah.
STEPHANIE: You muttering under your breath. “You’re just throwing things at people.”
BILL: Oh, that’s right.
STEPHANIE: I know it would have derailed the purity of the moment, but I just loved that line.
BILL: Just throwing things at people.
JOE: That’s great.
DAVID: That’s such a great young person phrase of defiance. “Mom, you’re just throwing stuff at people.”
JOE: Yeah, but also saying it to yourself. “Like mom can’t hear that I said this.
JOE: So Dr. Teeth snaps out of this flashback and he shouts something about crawdads and he runs off. It turns out that this happens every decade or so. His parents come to town and they ask him to come take over the family practice and the band just has to wait for Dr. Teeth to cycle through this emotional rejuvenation journey. I’m gonna very quickly go through some of the phases that he’s going through in this moment.
Phase one is he’s gonna go fishing for crawdads and making a delicious gumbo, which sounds great. Phase two is creative malaise, which Animal misinterprets as creative mayonnaise. That got a big laugh out of me. And we also see Dr. Teeth like, depressed lying on this keyboard just repeating, “why,” over and over again. Phase three is musical self-doubt. He can’t even ding the dang triangle. [laughs] And he hits the triangle and it makes a thunk.
STEPHANIE: That’s great.
JOE: I love that.
DAVID: That run of phases in the studio is so funny. I love it.
JOE: Phase four is explosive rebellion. And he goes on a big rant. “I don’t need you. I don’t need my parents. I don’t even need triangles.” He rejectifies shapes of all kinds, even the rhombus.
JEFF: Here’s a fun little fact. When he throws the triangle, or the dang, if you will, when it hits, that’s the one time that actually a note is played.
JOE: Oh great. [laughs]
JEFF: It’s on key. Yeah. Everything else is muted, weird, he can’t hit it. But when he throws it, that’s when it goes “ding!”
JOE: Oh, that’s funny. Phase five is explosive regret. He hugs and apologizes to Zoot for saying he didn’t need him. And phase six is my favorite. It’s a very abrupt flashback. And just as Floyd is saying that we get another flashback.
JEFF: Classic editing joke.
JOE: I rewound my video so I could watch that three times in a row because I thought that was hysterical. The timing was real good. Kudos to the editor, Jeff, whoever that was.
JEFF: I wasn’t the editor, but I was near the editor.
JOE: You were near the editor? Kudos to whoever the other editor was.
JEFF: That was in the script as an editing joke. Yeah. Like it’s in the script as “abrupt flashback.”
JOE: And in that flashback, we see Dr. Teeth graduating from dental academy. Now, there’s a banner in the background. It says that the dental academy was founded in 1938 and we had just seen a year reference on Jerry’s Tunes. I was looking up to see what the significance between 1938 was. The only thing I could come up with was it was the year Jerry Juhl was born, the Muppet writer. But was it just a random number or was there actually a reference there?
BILL: Somebody probably cleverly added something. I don’t know. And I didn’t pick that up. Jeff, do you know that one?
JEFF: Nope. That Jerry Juh thing sounded good.
BILL: Yeah. That could be it.
JOE: Alright, let’s go with that.
BILL: That really could be it.
STEPHANIE: Yeah, Jerry Juhl. Yeah.
BILL: Our art department and props, everybody, they were so amazing, and thinking of things, and exploring and finding more things to add.
JEFF: Absolutely. We’ll go to Cavity Con later but you’ll see just all that stuff like.
JEFF: We wrote jokes, they wrote better jokes. It’s all there. They just love details.
JOE: Sure. Yeah. And I want to give some props to the costumers for these characters, too, because in this scene, Dr. Teeth’s in this beautiful cap and gown and it’s like, the gown, the guy could have been in a poncho, we wouldn’t have blinked twice, but it’s a real graduation gown.
BILL: Oh, it’s beautiful.
JOE: Yeah, with the embroidery and all that. And Tina Teeth is wearing this suit-like dress and she’s got a gold necklace with a tooth on it. A gold tooth. And Gerald is wearing this great baby blue suit.
JOE: With a great little bowtie. Seersucker. Thank you. I knew there was a word for it. I couldn’t figure out how to Google that.
JOE: Yeah, these costumes are great and again, we see them for what a minute maybe? And that’s it.
BILL: Well, it’s the period. Between everything that whole, you buy that that’s the period. I mean look at the cars out there and everybody around them. It’s really so well done.
STEPHANIE: All those poor background people. It was one of the hottest days and they’re wearing graduation robes over their sixties clothes.
JOE: A lot of three-piece suits back there, I saw. Speaking of which. So if we’re placing this in the 60s and then the other stuff takes place in modern day, does that make Dr. Teeth’s parents like 100 years old?
STEPHANIE: There was a wrinkle in time.
JEFF: They are vampires. I believe we said the Teeth are mostly fangs. They’re vampires.
JOE: Oh, okay.
STEPHANIE: The film Back to the Future just compressed everything in time. That film existing just made everything just [makes sound effect] without anybody knowing.
JEFF: That’s your second Zemeckis reference.
STEPHANIE: Second [laughs] we’re on two Zemeckises.
JEFF: We’re gonna get there guys. We can do it.
STEPHANIE: I like the term second Zemeckis.
JEFF: Second Zemeckis.
BILL: I think we think about eras, like periods of time but I don’t think we have to tie necessarily the characters to a specific age, although in our minds in our backstories in our minds it’s there. But I don’t think you could say that Tina and Gerald are a hundred years old.
JOE: And look, they’re talking about retirement.
BILL: They’re older. They’re his parents.
JOE: Either way they deserved it. They’ve probably been working for the last 80 years.
BILL: Yeah. I think it’s creative license. You can call attention to it or not.
JOE: Oh, of course.
STEPHANIE: Look at the Simpsons. You have to do the same thing with The Simpsons. Any long-term franchise characters, you can’t get too precious with.
JOE: Yeah. Well, and of course I’m bringing this up as a joke because we hear, you know, when Matt Vogel’s performing Kermit the Frog talking about that time that he worked with Jimmy Dean– Er, not Jimmy Dean, but you know, someone from like the 50s or 60s, or something like that. And it’s like not only are we putting a date on Kermit but we’re putting a date on Matt’s experience. Like none of it makes any sense. We just have to roll with it. And this is something that we’ve gotten used to as Muppet fans.
JEFF: The Muppets are vampires.
JOE: Well, there’s one. One Muppet vampire, but he’s not on this show. But yeah, also it’s something that we like to poke fun at. It’s something that we like to think about. Like wait a minute, exactly how long has Robin been six years old? You know what I mean?
JEFF: Well, he’s a vampire.
JOE: Yes, he’s a vampire. He’s a vampire frog. Right. So Dr. Teeth hears that guitar riff again and he sees Floyd. He’s busking on a park bench. And his mustache has grown in. He lost the glasses. And now he’s wearing an army jacket and Dr. Teeth calls him Sarge, which is the origin of the full name of Sergeant Floyd Pepper that we are used to from the old Muppet Show.
And Floyd reveals that he was dishonorably discharged from West Point for turning Taps into a jazz odyssey. So I love the fact that not only did you confirm Dr. Teeth is a doctor, but you have also confirmed that Sergeant Floyd Pepper, while not actually a sergeant, does have a background in the armed forces.
JOE: So, yeah. And it’s a nice balance too. You didn’t have to write a whole backstory about like, “Okay. So Floyd must have been in the army for x number of years. To get to the point of sergeant.” Like, forget it. He was there for two weeks.
JEFF: We do have it.
BILL: We do have it. Yeah.
STEPHANIE: Well maybe he didn’t have to be in the army for a long time. Maybe it’s like Sergeant York where he just shot a bunch of Germans and they promoted him.
[Crosstalk of agreement.]
DAVID: Floyd, you’ve shot enough Germans. Here’s a promotion.
JOE: In…what is it? Catch 22? There’s Major Major, which they just gave him the title because like, “That’s your name. It’s too confusing that you’re not a major. We’ll just make you a major.” And he’s, yeah, not at all prepared for that. But yeah, so they jam together once again. The Teeth parents catch him once again. They disapprove. This is going to keep on going until we get these crazy kids together.
JEFF: When the Molar Express, the horn it doesn’t say toot toot. It says tooth tooth.
JOE: Nooooo. Does it?
JEFF: Yes. It absolutely does.
JOE: That’s funny.
STEPHANIE: Tooth tooth.
JOE: That’s hysterical. I did not pick up on that. Who’s performing the tooth? Whose voice is that?
BILL: It was an ADR session person.
JEFF: James Earl Jones, I thought did it. Wasn’t it?
JOE: When Morgan Freeman was on set, you’re like, “Could you just say ‘tooth tooth’ really quick into this microphone?
BILL: It was someone in our loop group.
JOE: Yeah, great. Back in present day, Dr. Teeth is in the midst of phase seven, which is manic prosperity. He’s jamming on the keyboards, which is great.
BILL: Which is, by the way, brilliant performing by Alice Dinnean.
JOE: Oh, Alice Dinnean is doing the fingers. The hands.
DAVID: It’s so good. Yeah.
JOE: We don’t talk about this too much but throughout the episode, there’s a runner where Animal is continually reminding Moog that he also has a thing for Nora. And we hear Animal say Nora over and over and over and over again throughout this episode to the point where it’s funny and then it gets annoying and then it loops back to funny. By the last few I was like, “Say it. Gotta say it one more time. There it is.”
JEFF: I love these scenes. I just think Tahj is so endearing, you know?
JEFF: And when he goes on his little runs just being uncomfortable, just when he’s face to face with this monosyllabic little creature…Animal, you know?
JEFF: He keeps going and Animal just says Nora.
JOE: Yeah, one more. Got to drive it home.
STEPHANIE: Yeah. Tahj is such a sweet, sweet guy.
DAVID: He is.
STEPHANIE: I can’t imagine that in the hands of any other actor. I really can’t.
JEFF: He’s so likeable.
BILL: Right. Perfect.
JOE: Nora, Hannah and Janice are together. They’re wearing spa masks. And Nora and Hannah are comparing Tina Teeth to their mom. There’s a lot more story there that we’re not getting in this season. Hopefully, if there’s a season two, we’ll hear more about what the drama with their mother is. And Janice warns them about phase eight, which is romantic impulsivity. And we see Dr. Teeth bursting into Penny’s office, interrupting her hot wing time, and he gets on one knee and proposes to her.
Thankfully, Penny’s been around Dr. Teeth for a long time so she is aware that this is the sort of thing that happens when his parents are in town. And so thankfully we don’t get into the whole like, “Oh no, they’re engaged. Now they have to be not engaged. She gets it right away. But also Dr. Teeth is wearing this amazing, psychedelic suit that I wanted to point out.
JOE: Because that’s another really good outfit in this episode.
BILL: So good.
JOE: Yeah. It’s beautiful.
STEPHANIE: I love seeing full-body Penny too. I love seeing Penny’s legs.
STEPHANIE: Great legs.
STEPHANIE: Also that was the most uncomfortable position I’ve ever been in. I was right handing Penny.
BILL That’s right. You were doing that.
STEPHANIE: With the wing in the hand. And the pile of wings next to her had to move to cover my head.
STEPHANIE: I could not reach up into the hand and get my head… I was bent in half and you could still see a lump.
BILL: Forgot about that. That’s right.
STEPHANIE: Yeah, it was fun. I was so happy to get to do it though. Sorry, David. You were going to say something.
DAVID: No. I was actually gonna bring up that and because anytime that I wasn’t performing, if I could, I would sneak on set and hide somewhere. So I could watch everybody work. Because if there are any younger puppeteers listening, if you’re ever able to be on set and you can be very quiet and respectful, watch what everybody else is doing because that’s the best place to get that sort of education. You won’t see it anywhere else.
BILL: I hope you don’t feel like you had to sneak on to the set.
DAVID: Oh no, no, no. That’s how I felt.
BILL: Oh right. I see. Got it.
DAVID: Like I was saying earlier, I felt like the little kid. I was like, “Okay.” [whispers as if sneaking] Oh, I’m not here. Not here.” [in normal voice] But I would go and I would sit. And in the scene where Dr. Teeth barges in. I’m literally right behind the doorframe, sitting, staring across the way at the director’s monitor.
BILL: Oh, awesome.
DAVID: You can’t see me and I was going to tell that story you just said, Stephanie, about how…. or throw it to you, about how like difficult that was and I watched you guys work. And you and Bill and Leslie talk about how to figure out how to get you in a position where you could perform and get that beat across.
STEPHANIE: It looked great.
DAVID: It looked really good. It was so good.
STEPHANIE: Pile of wings.
DAVID: And then Bill, watching you–Again, nerd for great manipulation moments–Bill, when you had Dr. Teeth get up from one knee, it’s beautiful. Like seeing the weight shift from one leg to another and him get up, it doesn’t seem like a lot and when you watch it, you’re like, I was just telling someone yesterday, when you watch it, you’re like, “Oh yeah, he’s just getting up.” But people often forget that there isn’t actually any legs under there. There’s no floor.
And as a performer, we have to figure out how to make them get up and you could have very easily just had them go straight up which is what a lot of people do. They’ll just go. “Yep. He’s up now.” But instead you see him turn and shift.
JEFF: You hear him too.
DAVID: Yeah. And it really sells.
BILL: So maybe this is something if puppeteers you’re listening, but I tend to move the puppet with my body as well. Because I did get up there. I had to get up off of a stool.
STEPHANIE: Yes you did. That’s right.
DAVID: That’s right.
BILL: To get higher to go to Lilly. And the camera goes up with him. So it was about me doing it as well that I think added to.
BILL: I’m not trying to do it all here. I’m kind of doing it with myself. So that helps sometimes.
STEPHANIE: I forgot about that.
DAVID: Yeah. And I wouldn’t have known that had I not been hiding behind a door frame watching you. Because the first time I watched you do it on the monitor and I was like, “That is gorgeous. How is he doing that?”
And then I got into position where I could see you doing it. I was like, “Oh, he’s really…
BILL: Actually getting up. [laughs]
DAVID: …moving through and really getting up, which is driving.”
BILL: And grunting.
DAVID: [laughs] Yeah.
STEPHANIE: He’s not the not the youngster he once was.
JOE: So, in the scene, Nora is inspiring Dr. Teeth to finally stand up to his parents, but when she gets back to the shack, Lips, Floyd, and Janice are waiting for her with these disapproving looks, their arms crossed.
BILL: Love that.
JOE: And it turns out the process always ends with Teeth telling his parents, “No.” But it will only happen if he does the whole process. And now Nora’s ruined everything. And so we’re getting another flashback, but Dr. Teeth’s not there to give it because this one is Floyd’s flashback.
We see Dr. Teeth as a dentist, he’s playing with a set of dentures. Bill, you say, “I don’t think you’ve been brushing, Eugene,” to one of the pairs of dentures. That’s got to be reference to your brother, Gene. Is that right?
BILL: Yeah. There’s quite a few characters that have been named Eugene over the years, so I just keep adding them. There’s Behemoth. I call him Clean Gene now. There was a guy who was playing a trombone that Allan Trautman did in Letters to Santa or something named Gene in the orchestra pit. There was Eugene in the wild dog from the Animal Show.
STEPHANIE: Oh my gosh.
BILL: And I think this is the latest, Eugene dentures. [laughs]
JOE: Wow. Well, and because of that pattern is the only reason that we notice it now. It’s like, “Oh, there’s another Eugene.”
BILL: There’s another Eugene.
JOE: Know what that is.
JEFF: It’s like a Nina.
BILL: A Nina. That’s right, Jeff.
STEPHANIE: He’s drawn you in his books. So, you know, it’s a trade off.
BILL: Oh yeah.
JEFF: I want to throw out something. One of the things that I thought was very cool was growing in these flashbacks. It just felt so appropriate for this band and their history on the road and whatever they’ve done in history that they would have literal flashbacks. So I thought that was a really fun thing. That first Teeth one for him to be like, [impersonating Dr. Teeth] “Flashback.”
JEFF: [in normal voice] I needed that in there. The other cool thing about the flashbacks, and it’s very subtle but it’s a really fun thing that we threw in, you hear their instrument for each of these characters. In Teeth’s you hear the harmonica and it gets sort of twisted around as the frame is literally twisting. And Floyd’s you hear the bass.
JEFF: And then you hear what’s coming up with Zoot. You’ll hear the saxophone also play as it’s going.
STEPHANIE: Very nice.
JOE: Floyd seems to have accidentally wandered into the Teeth family dental practice. Dr. Teeth offers to take a look under the hood and he goes, “I see the problem. You ain’t got no teeth.” It’s a good Muppet joke. Some people got Teeth. Some people don’t.
BILL: Yeah, and it’s true. [laughs]
JOE: It is true. True for humans as well, I suppose. They jam together once again. Tina Teeth, once again, walks in on them. I also love, I noticed she’s wearing these great toothbrush earrings. She’s got good style.
STEPHANIE: Oh yeah. That was Puppet Heap.
DAVID: Yeah. All of her earrings are so good.
JEFF: Yeah, they change, right? Throughout the show?
JOE: And in this moment, Dr. Teeth promises that he’ll finally take over the family practice, but he doesn’t say when and so he and Floyd scoot out the door. They steal the bus. And, oh sorry before that, he takes the gold floss case that was a gift from his mom on his graduation day. And he sticks it in his mouth. And that is the origin of his gold tooth. Nice that we get an origin for his gold tooth.
BILL: Great Granddaddy. Wasn’t it, Steph.
[crosstalk of agreement]
JOE: That’s right. Yeah.
STEPHANIE: Yeah. So it’s a cap. It’s been a cap all this time.
BILL: [laughs] Yeah.
JEFF: He’s since I think said it’s all melted down from all the gold records he’s sold.
JEFF: But we know that’s not true,
STEPHANIE: It was a good cover story for The Tonight Show.
STEPHANIE: Excellent story.
JEFF: Hadn’t even made an album.
JOE: That’s right. It’s so his parents wouldn’t find him.
STEPHANIE: That’s right.
JOE: He’s on the run with that stolen bus.
STEPHANIE: They watch Carson.
DAVID: Yeah. That can’t be our boy. He’s got a gold tooth.
JOE: He’s got a beard. No.
STEPHANIE: [as Tina Teeth] No, we just don’t talk about him, is what we do.
BILL: Yeah, that’s right.
JOE: We return to present day. Everyone’s back from the flashback, except for Zoot. He is still in the flashback conducting a barber shop quartet of singing dentures. Wonderful, wonderful moments, singing about teeth.
BILL: Love it.
JOE: Alright. Let’s talk about Cavity Con. We’re now at Cavity Con. Which I have been to many comic book conventions in my life. There’s so many little specifics when you see cons on TV shows and movies about like specifically the…what do you call it? Like the scaffolding that keeps everything up. It’s a very specific kind of scaffolding. It’s a specific kind of banner. You recognize it immediately as a convention. There’s a giant tooth mascot people are getting their photo taken with. Kind of looks like, I think he’s wearing a cape. Is he a superhero?
JOE: Does he have a name? I assume he has a name.
STEPHANIE: He had a name on the day and I don’t even remember.
STEPHANIE: Was it Toothy or something.
JEFF: Yeah, Toothy sounds about right.
STEPHANIE: Oh, because I think in an early draft, there was like a gag with him. Wasn’t there?
DAVID: Oh there was. Wasn’t there? Because I think Leslie kept saying, “I really wanted to do it.” Like she really wanted to be in that tooth outfit.
BILL: Leslie wanted to be Toothy.
STEPHANIE: Someone’s nephew was in Toothy.
[crosstalk of agreement]
JEFF: We had a cameo we had written.
STEPHANIE: Yes, I remember that in the table read.
JEFF: For the open. That’s how Cavity Con would start. And I believe that’s his nephew, right? Doesn’t he call him out?
JEFF: Does that sound right?
DAVID: I think that sounds right because I think it was like, “Nathan, what are you doing? Get over here!”
DAVID: Yeah, yeah.
STEPHANIE: Something like that.
JOE: I know you probably can’t say but I’m so curious who that was. Who that celebrity was.
JEFF: It was a great. We had two. I don’t know what we could say except that they played a famous dentist. So we would have been very appropriate and quasi-Muppet related.
JOE: All right.
DAVID: Famous dentist, Dr. Ronald. You know, he’s a famous dentist guy.
JEFF: In movies. In movies, I should say.
JOE: Oh okay, well now I’m starting to piece it together.
JEFF: But again a lesson we learned the hard way is you don’t write for guest actors and cameos.
JEFF: That you don’t have yet have.
JOE: Right. Because some of them are very busy shooting their own series on Hulu, I would assume.
BILL: For sure. Or on tour.
JOE: Or on tour!
BILL: After Covid starts to subside, everybody tends to go out and have a life again.
JOE: Ah ha!
BILL: So the timing was just perfect for the show.
JOE: That would have been great but that’s okay. We still got Toothy. Toothy’s in there. We see booths for things like toothpaste. And I tried to pause and zoom a little bit to see, was there any gags there with the different booths?
DAVID: Ah, there was so many.
JEFF: There are tons. I mean, we just have lists upon lists of all these silly products.
JEFF: And then, again, production department just made amazing ones.
JEFF: But yeah.
DAVID: Wasn’t there like dentures for dogs or something?
DAVID: Like we spent like an hour walking around just looking at all the booths.
JEFF: At the convention? At Cavity Con?
DAVID: Yeah, they were so funny.
STEPHANIE: I didn’t because that was my very first day of shooting. I was so overwhelmed.
JEFF: That’s right.
STEPHANIE: I was freaking out a little bit because I didn’t know the crew. We were on a location. I didn’t know where I should be. Where we were supposed to be, what I needed to do. Everybody else was like, “Yeah, let’s go get some toothpaste. Let’s look at…let’s get pictures with Toothy.” And I’m like, I didn’t do any of that. I was the nerdiest girl in school. Yeah. So I felt bad.
JEFF: You were prepared.
BILL: I didn’t either, Steph.
STEPHANIE: Really? Well, you’re busy.
BILL: Yeah, I was just too moving around doing work.
JOE: Yeah, y’all were working. [laughs]
BILL: Yeah, there was some work going on.
STEPHANIE: But Bill, I remember you were so great, all the time. You were always looking out. I mean, you didn’t have a moment to do anything but work because you were the one saying, “Hey, okay. We’re going to set you guys up. We’re going to sit on the stage behind the podium. Let’s get monitors in here. What do you need?” Like, you’re asking me what do I need? “Do you need a camp chair? Do you need an apple box? What do you? You think this is going to work. Okay, great.” I never saw you sip a beverage casually.
STEPHANIE: Really, I was concerned about your hydration at one point.
BILL: Oh, but that, but that’s just, that’s what I, that’s what I…
STEPHANIE: I know. But you were also carrying the episode, carrying the show. There was so much and you just did it gracefully. And with care for everyone. And I hope people can appreciate that.
BILL: Wow. That’s kind.
JEFF: I was also on your back, like Yoda.
BILL: That’s very kind of you. Thank you.
JEFF: I was on his back like Yoda. He was literally carrying me.
STEPHANIE: That’s exactly right.
BILL: If everybody doesn’t have what they need, then that doesn’t help any of us, right? So that’s all I’m always thinking about. How do we make sure everybody’s got their stuff? What they need?
STEPHANIE: Oh yeah.
BILL: Are we good here? And blah, blah, blah. Right? You know. We all do it when we’re on sets.
JOE: You’re being a good producer. Mmhmm. Yeah.
BILL: I don’t really like you people. It’s very selfish. I just want it to be for me.
DAVID: Well, yeah. It’s good. You get a paycheck and that’s what you’re shooting for.
BILL: That’s all it’s about is money. Yeah. [laughs]
JOE: All about the money. And is it about awards? Because in the scene, Tina Teeth and the Teeth family are accepting the Million Smiles Award.
JOE: Did you have something, Stephanie, in your head canon, or David, or Jeff and Bill in the script that like why specifically they’re… what did they do to accept this award? To earn the award?
JOE: Like, they’ve been a dentist long enough. It’s time for the award.
STEPHANIE: Yeah, you didn’t die yet.
DAVID: That’s what was in my head. Lifetime. Yeah.
STEPHANIE: Lifetime achievement award, maybe?
BILL: Yeah. That’s what I think in the back of our minds it was that they’re just amazing dentists and they’ve probably been involved in every organization around the country.
JEFF: I think that’s possible. Yeah.
BILL: They’re well-known.
JEFF: Tina’s very vocal.
JOE: That’s true.
BILL: Tina’s the dentist.
JOE: She makes herself seen. Yeah.
BILL: Yeah. Tina’s the doctor and Gerald is, they’re a team.
JEFF: Yeah, assistant, Gerald is.
DAVID: Yeah, he balances the books.
STEPHANIE: Going back, when I auditioned because I also saw the blurb for Gerald, I didn’t see assistant in there. I assumed they were both dentists. I assumed they were both partners. I never considered Gerald to be lesser in any way. I just thought that’s his personality.
BILL: I get what you’re saying. I think that he handles the day-to-day. Like he makes it happen.
STEPHANIE: Oh yeah.
[crosstalk of agreement]
BILL: She’s the doctor.
STEPHANIE: He’s the engine.
BILL: She’s the face of the business. And the doctor, of course.
JOE: And he’s obviously supporting her and everybody. So of course, like professionally as well.
BILL: Yeah. Anesthesiologist. I mean it does it all.
STEPHANIE: Oh yeah, he does it all. Yeah. He does all the other stuff.
BILL: Yes. Right. [laughs]
STEPHANIE: But I didn’t know that going in.
BILL: Oh right.
STEPHANIE: I felt silly that I wasn’t aware of that.
BILL: Well, it wasn’t clear, maybe I guess.
STEPHANIE: That award could very well be a “who you know.” You know? We’ve been glad-handing for a long time. It’s our time.
JEFF: She might be head of the committee.
BILL: That’s right.
STEPHANIE: Could be.
BILL: She gave it to herself. [laughs]
JOE: Whatever sells seats at the gala. Right?
DAVID: Yeah. You gotta sell those dinner plates.
STEPHANIE: You sell enough tickets. You get enough sponsors. Sell enough booth space.
DAVID: Yeah, yeah.
JEFF: It’s a piece of art made by Bethany Barton who’s our propist.
JEFF: The award is phenomenal.
DAVID: It’s really nice.
JEFF: I think it’s sitting on a shelf in Adam’s office.
STEPHANIE: I remember there was an early line where she was accepting it from someone, whoever the cameo may have been or I remember there was a stand in. And I remember there was that line, “It’s so heavy.” Right?
STEPHANIE: And because of just the nature of A) we didn’t have a presenter and B) it had to be prominent and C) the podium was very deep. So we just had to place it.
STEPHANIE: That was going to be the best thing for everyone.
STEPHANIE: Yeah. Having that falsae modesty moment.
STEPHANIE: Oh, so heavy.
BILL: Yeah. I think we even had, I think, at one point we thought it was gonna be Bobby Moynihan, but something happened. He wasn’t able to do it.
JOE: So the Mayhem shows up. Floyd is there with his guitar, playing that same blues riff, saying they should finish that song that they started all those years ago. The Mayhem sings the original song “Gotta Be.” And while they sing, we get more flashbacks.
We see Teeth and Floyd. They’re sitting out on lawn chairs, looking up at the stars. They’re looking at the aurora borealis. Dr. Teeth says, “So bright, it’s probably shining down on Dallas.” And Floyd says, “Can you picture that?” And they share a moment? We just stole a song from Paul Williams.
STEPHANIE: My favorite moment of that is Floyd’s eyes widening just a tiny little bit.
JOE: Yeah, that’s good stuff. Good puppetry.
DAVID: I love Dr. Teeth’s little legs. Those are my favorite.
DAVID: Just little tiny legs.
BILL: So little.
JOE: We see them jamming in the bus and Animal– baby Animal, excuse me, joins in. He’s keeping beat with two cans of beets. And that’s how they got their drummer. Nice to see them all coming together. And then we also see the entire band together. We’ve skipped a few steps which I’m hoping that we’ll see in a potential season 2 of how they pick up Janice, Lips, Zoot. But we see them all together. They’re now painting the bus. They’re knocking that giant tooth off the roof. Dr. Teeth says, “Now that’s what I call a roof canal.” Which was a great groan-worthy joke. And we’re getting a little tease that maybe we’ll be seeing this bus again in the series. But not today. We’ll come back to that.
After the song, Dr. Teeth admits, “Okay. I made a promise to my parents and I’m gonna keep it. And Gerald, David, you finally speak up. You say more than one word. You get a whole monologue.
DAVID: Yeah. He gets a whole monologue and, like Stephanie said, that was our first day. And I had not performed the character yet and so, just like Stephanie, I was super nervous. I was practicing the lines on my drive from my hotel the whole way. And even when I got to set there was a really funny thing that happened actually. I got to set and one of the crew members saw me was like, “Oh, hey, are you David?”
“Oh, you’re playing Gerald, right?”
“We’re so excited to see Dr. Teeth’s dad. This is so cool. Excited to see you perform. And man, this whole series hinges on your monologue right?”
DAVID: And then he holds. And I’m just like “Oh no!”
BILL: Who said this? Who was this?
DAVID: I don’t know who it was. It was just like some crew guy.
BILL: That’s hysterical.
DAVID: I suddenly just got tunnel vision and I went over to Jane and I was like, “Jane!” She goes, she just knew. She just hands me Gerald, she goes, “Go downstairs. Go downstairs.”
DAVID: It’s like, “Great! Bye!” And I ran away. And I just sat in front of a mirror and just performed that monologue until I felt like I really didn’t do it anymore.
BILL: Oh wow.
DAVID: And yeah. I was petrified and like Bill you’ve seen me perform in a casual sense. Not like in a real working sense.
BILL: Yeah, yeah playing around.
DAVID: So this is my first time just playing, yeah, but I’ve never performed like that in a working environment with you. And I hadn’t done it with Stephanie or Leslie. And I’m surrounded by all these people and I’m doing this monologue in front of you all. And after it was done, I still was nervous. I was terrified because I thought maybe I’d done it wrong. Because there was so much to navigate. We had, Stephanie, you had Leslie next to you helping you hand the award.
DAVID: And I had Bradley next to me, assisting me.
STEPHANIE: Bradley Freeman.
DAVID: Bradley Freeman, which that was a cool moment. When I showed up on set I said to him, “You’re my assist today.” I was like, “How crazy is it that a couple of Latino kids are performing one character together on the Muppets. Like this is insane. Like this is such a cool moment.” He was like, “Oh my god. I hadn’t even thought of that. Oh my god, this is so cool.” We both just kind of walked together to set and just kind of reveled in that moment.
BILL: It’s such a good moment. I mean it really is. It’s the moment where you’re hoping that you’re going to get through to him. And the dad just lays it out and Tina’s just stuck. She becomes the “yup.” And daddy’s there to rescue his son. It’s great.
JEFF: I have two things to point out in this scene. One thing is lens flares are gleaming, sparkly white. They’re coming off the giant teeth stage.
JEFF: So they weren’t in color. They were white. And then also, I don’t want to get too far ahead, but when Tina turns to Floyd and says, you know, finally acknowledges him, thankfully. He says “Ma’am.” That “ma’am” is one of our more proud moments in the editing room. We rock the edit. We only had him opening his mouth once. Just going, “ma.” So it goes forwards and backwards.
STEPHANIE: Oh. I didn’t even notice it was a rock.
STEPHANIE: Usually a rock is very noticeable.
JEFF: Yeah so it’s like you know, in Star Wars, which is not a Zemeckis reference. When you have the Tusken Raider going back and forth.
STEPHANIE: [makes Tusken Raider sound effects] Heck yeah.
JEFF: Yeah, there you go. That’s what we did. We go forwards and backwards to have his mouth open and close so he could say, [enunciates] “ma’am.”
JOE: That’s great. Well done.
DAVID: That’s cool.
JOE: Didn’t notice it.
STEPHANIE: That shot of Teeth catching the harmonica and spinning around was one of my favorite shots.
DAVID: That was amazing.
JEFF: That’s another one that I think we had imagined differently and we saw that. That was sent us that day. I think Kimmy Gatewood, the director, sent that. She’s like, “Hey, We’re still going to do that shot with the harmonica flying through the air.” It was a separate shot, you would just see it spinning. And she’s like, “But what do you think of this?” And we’re like, “Oh no. Yeah that’s it. That’s good. That’s great, actually.
STEPHANIE: But that was really hard because catching it just right, being able to get it in your mouth.
JEFF: And the camera’s swinging.
STEPHANIE: Camera swinging. You’re turning around on your rolly to face the other direction.
STEPHANIE: And you’ve got someone with you.
DAVID: Bradley Freeman.
STEPHANIE: Oh, you had Bradley with you. Okay.
STEPHANIE: Like I know, sometimes you wouldn’t catch it or something would go wrong. You’d catch ahead or there’d be a wobble and ah, it’s just gorgeous, Bill.
JEFF: I was also on your back like Yoda.
BILL: The only thing I wished we had planned a little more ahead was that as we spun around, that the curtains opened. What we currently have is the curtains open previously before that. So it’s already open.
STEPHANIE: The reveal.
BILL: I don’t know however what happened. But yeah, on the turn it I always imagined they would open. I don’t know how it got changed but it is a fun shot.
STEPHANIE: Well there’s so much going on. I know what you mean.
DAVID: Yeah. That was a big day.
STEPHANIE: I know what you mean.
JEFF: And the lens flares come up.
STEPHANIE: Still beautiful.
BILL: Well look, the lens flares were in there. That’s really all that matters.
JOE: It’s all anyone’s talking about.
JOE: So back at the shack, Nora is making a track list for the new album. We’ve got the songs we’ve already discussed in the series: “Can You Picture That,” “Rockin’ Robin”? Now, “What I Got to Be” is on there and then there’s a bunch of songs that don’t end up being on the album, including “Who Brought the Rock,” “Marshmallow Haze,” “The Music Made Me Do It,” “Shack It Up,” and “What Mama Don’t Know.” Jeff, you’re laughing at this. You have any comments on these fake song titles?
JEFF: I mean just that we spent a good 15 minutes coming up with song titles that made us laugh.
JEFF: And I think there was a sort of perfect world scenario where we would have replaced them digitally with songs that were actually going to be on the album. But you have budget and time.
JOE: Hey, it’s all right. Anything can happen in the production process.
STEPHANIE: That’s why they’re on index cards. Index cards are meant to be replaced.\
JOE: That’s true.
DAVID: And season two, album two. B-sides. The basement tapes. We talked about it.
BILL: There was a scene that got cut there which was we go back into Nora’s– Nora has a flashback. And goes to her being in school as a little girl. And her teacher… What is it, Jeff? The teacher’s like, “Why aren’t you? Are you going to be in the school play?”
STEPHANIE: Oh yeah.
BILL: And she says something like, “No, my mom wouldn’t want me to be… My mom doesn’t–”
JEFF: “But isn’t your mom a singer?”
BILL: Right. Right. She says, “Isn’t your mother a singer?” And she’s like, “Yeah, my mother doesn’t want me to do it.” And she walks out.
STEPHANIE: I forgot about that.
BILL: So there was a different kind of there’s a little more different dynamic there at the end.
JEFF: Yeah and the depth.
BILL: It didn’t kind of work ultimately. Unfortunately for G actors who did the scene. The scene was great but it bumped moving forward. It just kind of slowed things down and it just didn’t really kind of fit the flow.
JEFF: It was also like a 45 minute scene.
JEFF: It was not gonna fit.
JOE: So later that night, Nora is in the kitchen. This is notable because even though she’s sharing this great scene with Moog where they’re bonding over their tattoos, but what I want to talk about is…
BILL: Love it.
JOE: …she’s eating Cröonchy Stars Cereal which was a real Swedish Chef themed cereal in the real world from 1988. I definitely ate this cereal in 1988. I have fond memories of doing the puzzles and stuff on the back while watching my Saturday morning cartoons.
[David and Stephanie laugh]
JEFF: No, there was a mail in. You can get a Swedish Chef doll from it.
JEFF: Yes. Yes, that is true. Yeah, there was a doll and a mug and a flashlight you could have gotten that were Cröonchy Stars branded. But yeah, what a great Easter egg. Love seeing that. Muppet fans everywhere probably wore out their pause buttons going, “Oh my god!” Like doing the Leonardo DiCaprio thing, pointing at the screen.
BILL: I do love the tattoos. I do love that Lilly actually really has one.
JEFF: Yeah, that’s her tattoo.
DAVID: Oh wow.
BILL: That’s her tattoo.
STEPHANIE: I didn’t know that.
DAVID: I never knew that.
BILL: And we played off of that. When we found out that she had that.
STEPHANIE: At what stage did you find that out?
JEFF: And how, Bill?
BILL: That’s a good question. I had seen it or we saw it in a Zoom call or something, didn’t we?
JEFF: Yeah, I think so.
BILL: I think so and I was just curious what it was.
BILL: And then when she told us, I think somehow we ended up just applying and we said, “Now what’s a connection that they have. We were looking for that thing that they didn’t realize they had yet. And then we gave Tahj his other. Jeff, I think you came up with the other half.
JEFF: Which we, I think, auditioned. We had to audition tattoos.
BILL: All the tattoos. That’s right.
JEFF: Yeah, we got different choices and then shockingly, we all had opinions.
JOE: Well, and poor Tahj had to get a real tattoo, right?
JEFF: Yeah. It’s dedication to the craft which I respect.
JOE: Right. Of course. But yeah, our episode ends here with Moog kind of confirming to himself that he does, in fact, have a crush on Nora. And that is where our episode ends.
JEFF: [imitates Floyd] Disney Plus is gonna love this.
JOE: Disney Plus is gonna love this.
DAVID: They are.
JOE: And we will catch up again with the Teeth family in a couple more episodes. But that’s a little spoiler for later on. But that’s it for you two, Stephanie and David. Do you have any other memories of working on the show? Were you present for any other episodes? Anything else that you want to share?
STEPHANIE: We both did assisting on a couple of other episodes that were shot in this block.
STEPHANIE: They were shooting block styles. So I think in our block, it was six, eight and nine? Definitely not seven. But I think I did a lot of assisting on eight.
STEPHANIE: Oh and then one of the cold opens that I assisted on, which I think was originally going to be in six wound up in 10. So I got to be Teeth’s hands on the steering wheel a couple of times. Made me happy.
JOE: That’s fun.
BILL: Our little cushy area up front. We have that little space.
STEPHANIE: Yeah. It was good times. I got to right hand Dave with Zoot. I got to right hand Animal. I got to drum for Animal briefly.
JOE: That’s cool.
STEPHANIE: Yeah, that’s good times getting to get into work with my pals, you know.
STEPHANIE: Really had a good time being out there with my friends.
DAVID: Yeah, it was a wonderful time. I, like Stephanie said, I also got to assist on different episodes. I don’t remember which ones they were, but I remember all the moments. Like doing Animal’s feet for the TikTok dances, which was so fun. And assisting Zoot. And, you know, I had never really talked to Dave before. And he kind of keeps on set because of Covid, we were kind of keeping our distance and so I never really chatted with him. And then we were there and we were discussing how to raise the lamp off of his head. And there’s this great photo of him in a full green suit pointing at something and me just like going, “Uh-huh.”
DAVID: Just like looking very like, “Uh-huh. Yes.” Like very reverent and trying to really intensely focus on him telling me how to raise a lampshade off his head. But every day was a challenge. And I’m really such a new guy to this whole group. And there’s so much I still have to learn and whatnot. And so every day was a challenge. I’d never done feet before for a full body puppet like that. And they’re like, “All right, we’re gonna choreograph–” Me and Alice and Eric were like, “All right, we’re going to choreograph this whole thing.” And I was like, “Cool, how?” And they were like, “All right. Here we go.” And I had to figure out what I was doing and it was so fun.
But one of the things that kept me going was after my first day, I was freaking out and I went and talked to Matt. And I have worked with Matt on Sesame Street and I just went to him and I was like, “I’m just like freaking out. I don’t know what I’m doing.” And he did the exact right thing which is the right thing to do for any performer freaking out in my opinion, at least for me. Was we started making fun of each other and how bad we are. We just sort of picking on each other like brothers and that was the best thing to shake me out of the moment and for the rest of the time that I would be on set, he would pick on me.
And my favorite was he would just look at me and clap off time because there was a time I was trying to clap with Bill and I couldn’t quite get it right in the moment and I was like, “What is hap–? What is happening?” Because I just doing one hand and he would just look at me from a classroom and just go…
JOE: This is a podcast so we have to explain. You are clapping off time and looking very confused.
DAVID: Sorry. Clapping off time. Yeah, yeah.
DAVID: And so yeah. He was so good at keeping me grounded.
BILL: Initiation. A little bit of an initiation there, David.
DAVID: [laughs] Yeah, yeah. I loved it.
JOE: That’s great.
DAVID: I loved it.
JEFF: You guys were awesome. You exceeded our expectations in every way.
BILL: Amazing. Amazing.
DAVID: Thank you so much.
STEPHANIE: We were very lucky.
JOE: It was so scary as a fan hearing that we were going to be getting origin stories for these characters that had none. That maybe we thought, “Do they really need them? Do we really want to know more about them.” And then to get performances and get these great three-dimensional characters and a great story to go along with it that goes, “Yes this absolutely fits in with the world. It makes the characters richer. It makes the world richer. I have no complaints.”
So thank you all for all the wonderful performances and contributions you made to the Teeth family and to Dr. Teeth’s backstory.
STEPHANIE: Well, I have to say thank you to Jeff and Bill and Adam, who’s not here, but thank you for giving us the opportunity to play something new and original in this Muppet world. It’s staggering. It really hasn’t happened in a while. And for me to even have the chance to audition for something new, let alone get to do it, it was just a huge gift for me truly. You know, I would have been happy to come out and just right hand and that would have been a lot of fun.
It wouldn’t have happened obviously if I wasn’t out there to play a character but that would have been fine. But yeah to just get to do something and then to let me sink my teeth into it.
JEFF: No pun intended.
STEPHANIE: Jeff, you were so nice to me. I met you that first day. Because I was having trouble getting into I think there was some rewriting. Or the scene had been rewritten at the top of the scene and it wasn’t really working and I was trying to give it little dribs and drabs and you came over and you were so nice. I just really appreciate and then Bill being right next to me and all the support was just extra.
BILL: You guys are so good.
BILL: So good.
JOE: Yes. And Stephanie and David, thank you so much for being here on this podcast. It was such a joy to get to talk to both of you.
STEPHANIE: Thanks, Joe.
JOE: Bill and Jeff, same.
DAVID: Yeah, thank you.
JOE: Always great having you here. I hope to see you both again next week. Thanks, everyone for listening to Muppets Mayhem: Backstage Pass. And we will see you all again soon.
BILL: See you.
[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!