Transcription provided by Katilyn Miller.
The Muppets Mayhem: Backstage Pass – Track 10: We Will Rock You
JOE HENNES: Hello and welcome to The Muppets Mayhem: Backstage Pass, the unofficial companion podcast to The Muppets Mayhem presented by Toughpigs.com. This is the podcast where we tour through every episode of The Muppets Mayhem to uncover behind the scenes stories, Easter eggs and more with the talented cast and crew who helped put the series together. I’m your host, dedicated Mayhead, Joe Hennes.
JOE: Today we are talking about track 10, We Will Rock You in which we get the band back together and they put on a show at the Hollywood Bowl, again. For our finale, we are excited to welcome two return guests and one special first-time guest. First up, he’s co-creator and executive producer of The Muppets Mayhem. Please welcome Jeff Yorkes back to the podcast. Hey Jeff.
JEFF YORKES: Thank you for having me. I didn’t need to wave, I suppose. This is an audio podcast, but thank you. I’m glad to be here.
JOE: You’re always polite. I’m glad that you did. That was for me. That was for me and no one else.
BILL BARRETTA: Noted that you waved.
JEFF: I was waving to Dave.
JOE: [laughs] Next, he’s another co-creator and executive producer as well as the performer beneath and behind Dr. Teeth. Please welcome Bill Barretta back to the podcast. Hey, Bill.
BILL: Hi. I guess I didn’t need to bow. Sorry. [laughs]
JEFF: Yes, you did.
JOE: That’s so courteous. Y’all are so polite. Last, but certainly not least, a Muppet performer who originated and has continued to perform Zoot since 1975. It’s the one and only Dave Goelz. Hey, Dave.
DAVE GOELZ: Hey Joe. Thank you for welcoming me to be here today. It’s fantastic. I’m looking forward to…questions
BILL: Oh no.
JOE: Oh no.
BILL: Oh no. He’s got audio problems.
JOE: You have such a bad connection.
JEFF: Technical issues happening.
JOE: Oh, geez. Well, we’ll try to power through, I guess.
BILL: Dave, can you plug, unplug and plug in again?
JEFF: [laughs] Dave?
JOE: Unplug Dave.
DAVE: I’m not plugged in. I’m running on batteries.
JEFF: [makes sound of machine running low on power] Dave stops.
BILL: Lot of comedy going on.
JOE: It’s very Digit of you, Dave.
DAVE: Yeah. Ooh.
JEFF: Deep cut. Deep cut.
JOE: Pulled that one out of the past. All right.
DAVE: Oh, Digit.
JOE: Digit, why, yeah. Here’s my first question. Why isn’t Digit on the show? [laughs]
DAVE: You know, I wish I could have another shot at him. We didn’t get that whole show working and I didn’t quite land on Digit. But I had a really strong idea for him as a guy–
JOE: What was the idea? Yeah.
DAVE: The idea was he’s a guy who was a techno music guy and he decided to modify himself.
DAVE: So he got out the soldering iron, put a switch panel on his chest and started rewiring his own self. And it was such a great idea with so much fun. We just, it’s one of those things that fell by the wayside.
JOE: All right, well, if Muppets Mayhem gets a second season, Jeff and Bill, you know what to do. Right?
JEFF: Sound check. He runs the mix board.
DAVE: Digit. Yeah. He could be the sound check guy.
JOE: Yeah. He’s the amp. The Mayhem needs an amp.
JEFF: He’s the amp.
JEFF: Basically, we do need another character with eyeballs. So that would help even though it would be horrifying.
JOE: So Dave, how does it feel giving Zoot such a huge spotlight? This is probably his biggest role in his entire career with the Muppets.
DAVE: Yeah, I guess I could give you a little backstory if I haven’t before. I don’t think I have.
JOE: Hey, go for it.
DAVE: In the very beginning. We started out the Electric Mayhem and did The Muppet Show. We started them before The Muppet Show but we got on The Muppet Show. The Mayhem was great. Jerry Nelson was Floyd. He was like a beat generation guy, a jazz fan, a musician. He was just Floyd and he could do that character perfectly. I was, on the other hand, 27. I was not any of those things. I did not know how to do Zoot. So I used to give away my lines to Floyd. We’d have cold reads every Sunday morning with the guest and I would go over to Jerry and I’d say, “Can you do this line on this line?”
DAVE: And he would take them and Jim [Henson] didn’t mind. And so, basically I didn’t do anything with Zoot because I just didn’t know what to do. And then we did The Muppet Movie. And after the premiere in London, at the party, this little guy came up to me. And he said, [in gruff voice] “Hey, yeah, they tell me you’re the guy who does Zoot. I love Zoot. I’ve known so many sax players just like him. He’s fantastic. You really nailed it. I’m Sammy Cahn.”
DAVE: Now Sammy Cahn for listeners who don’t know, wrote like half of the hits of the mid-century. And he wrote things for Frank Sinatra and all the big greats. So this was an amazing moment. And I thought, well, whatever. I guess by not doing anything, I must be doing something right. I’m onto something. I haven’t done anything, ever since then. It’s been like 46 years or something.
DAVE: But this particular show, we had so much scrutiny of these guys because they’re the only characters that we’re doing on the shows that I thought I’d try to add. I’d try to deepen him in some way. And my choice was to make him surreal. So that wasn’t part of the writing on the show. It started when I got there. So you don’t see a lot of it, but the dude is like a Magritte painting. He’s in another planet. He’s not out of it. He’s just in another place.
JOE: Yeah, and I feel like that’s part of the character’s history a bit as well. I mean, I’m thinking specifically of things like, Muppets Take Manhattan where he’s sleepy but he kind of wakes up and they’re telling him nobody’s landed yet. He’s kind of not tethered to this planet.
DAVE: Yeah. Well, the reason I chose that was it is consistent with what we’ve done in the past but it could go to other places. He could be running a vacuum cleaner in the living room but there’s no vacuum cleaner, but we hear the sound.
JOE: Sure. [laughs]
DAVE: So most of that stuff didn’t get in the series because it was a very complicated series to write for. And so it was hard to make adjustments for that. But that’s the idea that I had with him.
BILL: Yeah, I love the idea that he and the audience are aware of his surrealism. Or that he is surreal. I don’t think the people around him… [laughs]
BILL: …see what’s going on. But I think the audience and Zoot, in a sense, are one mind. That’s what I loved is that they’re let in on his surreal mind and world. So we never call attention to it.
DAVE: Yeah, the band is used to it.
BILL: Yeah. Nobody talks to Jimmy Shoe, right? Or nobody thinks about the fact that his shoe is floating on the couch or looks at or calls attention to it. That’s just what’s happening and we’re lucky enough to be a part of it.
JOE: Dave, is it strange for you to show up on a Muppet set and not have Gonzo on your arm?
DAVE: No, no. Because I’ve done lots of shows without Gonzo. It’s strange to have only one character.
DAVE: A lot more trailer time.
[Bill and Joe laugh]
BILL: A lot less lines.
DAVE: Lot less lines, especially with Zoot. Not much to say.
BILL: Right. Yeah.
JEFF: The weird thing was, it wasn’t your trailer.
JEFF: It wasn’t your trailer that trailer time. You were just going to other people’s trailers.
JOE: You just found a trailer.
JEFF: Oh Dave!
JOE: So in this series, we get a solid backstory for Dr. Teeth, we get a good amount for Animal and Floyd, even a little bit of Janice. We don’t really find anything out about Zoot before joining the Mayhem. I know that there’s probably some stuff that might be saved for a potential season two. But Dave, do you have a backstory in your head, like your own head canon of where Zoot comes from?
JEFF: He’s nodding as he says that.
DAVE: I like backstories but I’ve always been clueless about Zoot. All I know is that he lives in a flop house hotel, like a downtown hotel where you pay by the month for a little room with a bed and a little bedside table and chair. That’s all he has. That’s all I know about him.
BILL: We have something about him. Yeah. We came up with stuff. Yeah, we’re saving it but yeah, Jeff.
JEFF: No, no. We had a bunch of options of things. Different ideas that we liked.
BILL: [whispers] Don’t give it away. Don’t give it away.
JEFF: But we’re not going to give away.
JEFF: But it just felt silly to do a show that took place now and spent half of it in their past. Give a little bit. And, like Janice for example, tease a little more but all of them obviously came from somewhere and we definitely thought about all of it.
JOE: This show was pretty different from most other Muppet shows, mainly in that it’s more of a narrative sitcom which I know you did in the 2015 Muppet series, but not really aside from that. Dave, for you as a performer, did you have any unique challenges to Muppets Mayhem that you didn’t have in those other mother projects?
DAVE: Yeah, my foot hurt.
JOE: Oh no.
DAVE: Yeah, yeah.
JOE: What happened to your foot?
DAVE: Yeah, just my right foot hurt a lot.
BILL: Oh it’s a whole thing.
JEFF: [laughs] Yeah, that’s another podcast.
DAVE: People aren’t interested in that, but it hurt and that made it harder.
BILL: Oh, jesus.
JOE: I’m so sorry.
BILL: Can I say something?
BILL: I don’t know. In my mind I guess I didn’t think of it as a situation comedy approach.
DAVE: I like your gestures.
BILL: Thank you.
DAVE: They’re clarifying and elucidating. I wish people could see what you’re doing.
BILL: So I didn’t think of it as a situation comedy. I thought of it more as a, and I think when we were writing too, we thought of it as a big, long film.
BILL: Right? A big long movie. and I think the challenge was because we’re what’s called block shooting, where we’re shooting several episodes at the same time, I think it was difficult for some people to track where you are in this time, So if I’m doing a scene from episode three, I’m supposed to feel a certain way because I just came after episode two. We approached the writing as a big long film. And that it wasn’t necessarily situation comedy. As a matter of fact, I remember saying to Adam [Goldberg], “Let’s think of this as a Goldberg movie. How would you write a Goldberg movie? You wouldn’t have the same setups and immediate jokes and it’d be a little different.” You kind of approach it in a different way.
DAVE: You’re talking to Adam like a child then?
BILL: Little bit.
JEFF: But it was something I think we also had to prove to the powers that be. Just like, “Look, we don’t want to explain everything right up front.”
JEFF: We do want to piece this out and take our time learning and meeting these characters.
BILL: Yeah. We didn’t want to set everything up and then pay everything off at the end. We were trying to find ways of, like Jeff just said, letting it play out over time.
JEFF: But yeah, in the block shooting aspect is an interesting thing that I think was tough to grasp where, yeah, you’re shooting different episodes at once. And it’s not in order. It’s not one, two, three. Sometimes it was one, two and then part of seven. And then we’ll do six and eight together and nine and ten. And I can’t even imagine as a performer, as an actor, what it was like to be like, “Okay, where am I? Okay, Nora was here and… right. And I’m coming from…right.”
It’s not even just whole episodes, it’s scenes from, parts of episodes here. And now we’re shooting in the same location.
DAVE: I can clarify that for you, Joe. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing all the time.
[Joe, Bill and Jeff laugh]
DAVE: No idea. None of us did.
BILL: That helped.
DAVE: The other puppeteers were the same way. We all were just trusting Bill.
JEFF: It’s very Mayhem.
JOE: But that works for Zoot because doesn’t always know where he is anyway.
JEFF: You’re right. I mean you guys were so incredibly lucky, as were we, to have Bill there to just… Yeah,
DAVE: Yeah, to prepare for this, I watched episode 10 a couple times. And several times, I went, “Oh, that was part of this episode?”
JOE: Mmm, sure.
DAVE: It’s so disorienting to block shoot.
BILL: There were a lot of conversations with our human actors, with the Muppet performers, just about, “Wait, did I already do that? Did we already have that emotional thing happen?” So yeah, it was challenging certainly that way.
JEFF: A very difficult thing when there are arcs.
BILL: But it also, that’s the way we can make this show, is that we needed to be efficient as far as scheduling and using our sets and reusing our sets.
DAVE: Yeah, to hell with the talent.
BILL: Yeah, I mean, they just have to say the words.
JEFF: You’re all puppets to us.
BILL: Yeah, yeah.
JOE: Wow. Dave, as the only original Muppet Show performer on set, how often did the cast and crew lean on you for information about the band or about what so and so would have done with this character or anything like that just to kind of maintain the legacy?
DAVE: No, they’re all arrogant. Nobody asked me anything.
[Bill and Joe laugh]
DAVE: But you know what? What I do appreciate about this show was that they went back to source. Dr. Teeth is inventing his fantabulous language. Animal has got a very limited vocabulary. Those things have drifted off over the years.
DAVE: And it happens because of working in a big company where we work with a lot of people who don’t know about the history of the characters. And also finding a character for Lips. Because he’s been worse than Zoot in a way. Like we’ve never really spent enough time on them to figure out who Lips is. And so Peter came in with an idea and that turned out to be his mumbling character. Janice is interesting because she’s pretty much back to model but different in the sense that she’s more sympathetic now.
DAVE: She was originally a send-up of a surfer girl or valley girl. Or a hybrid of those two. And now she has sort of alternative consciousness kind of sweetness about her which I really like. And I don’t know. I guess that’s a function of the writing as well as what David Rudman is doing with her.
BILL: Yeah we wanted to give her the kind of compassionate soul. Somebody who wants to help everybody.
DAVE: And back when Matt [Vogel] started doing Floyd, I coached him quite a bit. I would just volunteer advice which was generally along the lines of put more energy into it. You’ve got to really push those words out. Because I was standing next to Jerry for all the years that he did Floyd and there was a lot of energy that he put into it. And, at first, Matt wasn’t putting that energy in and now he’s got it.
JOE: So they don’t need you anymore, is what you’re saying. Like they’ve got it down pat. Yeah.
DAVE: No, no.
BILL: Actually, talk about energy thing, when I first started doing Dr. Teeth, Dave had said to me, “You know, when I used to watch Jim do him, he would kind of grit his teeth and do this [in voice of Dr. Teeth] kind of smile.”
DAVE: Oh yeah. He smiled so wide that it looked painful. He would [imitates Dr. Teeth] get into Teeth, you know.
BILL: [laughs] And so I started doing that and it really helped me a lot.
DAVE: Yeah. It was also, again, a lot of emphasis, a lot of energy from Jim. To see this really thin, tall guy in the recording studio singing as Teeth, he put his whole body into it. It was like a willow tree that was trying to make a sound like a gorilla.
DAVE: It was really something to see but Jim committed.
JOE: Wow, that’s fantastic. I can picture. I can picture that.
BILL: Can you? Can you?
JOE: Let’s jump into this episode. Episode 10. Our cold open where we see Nora and the band. They’re singing “Rock and Roll All Night.” That’s the song we heard them singing in the pilot episode. That’s a little bit of a callback. But Nora still thinks the lyrics are “and part of every day” not “and party every day.”
The band gives her this cold stare. Janice feels bad for her. That was a funny line. And Lips settles the argument by definitively telling everyone what the lyrics are in his signature style.It was very cute.
JEFF: So eloquent.
JOE: Yes. But of course, this is not a real cold open because we left in the previous episode with the band all split up. So this is kind of, I guess, a little bit out of continuity. A little bit in the past or the future.
JOE: I don’t know how you…Did you just write like a whole bunch of cold opens and then just you decided to stick one on the front of this episode, even though it didn’t fit with the narrative of the story where we’re at at this point?
DAVE: Ooh. Little aggressive. Little anger there coming from Joe.
JEFF: We definitely rearranged. But we liked the idea. They don’t have their van. And that’s something we’ve had consistently. So how do we do the van without, storywise, having the van. And so then we came up with the idea that it’s A) Zoot remembering and he’s remembering a VHS tape somehow. That seemed to kind of work a little bit. I think. I hope.
BILL: Yeah, we just went with a false start.
BILL: Zoot’s in control of running this episode and it’s just completely off.
JEFF: Yeah. And it’s weird. He’s remembering something we have not seen.
BILL: Again, the surreal side of Zoot.
BILL: For the audience.
JOE: I like the VHS aspect of it. That is kind of how I remember things as well with that little bit of static. The bad tracking.
JEFF: Yeah, we wanted to do the recap.
JEFF: Because it really does feel like a part two.
BILL: Yeah. We had to have the recap. Definitely
JOE: Right. We’ve talked before about cliffhangers, but this previous episode really did end on a cliffhanger.
JEFF: Mmhmm. Get the band back together.
JOE: We gotta see how this ends up. Gotta get the band back together because when we last left off, Nora and Moog agreed that’s what they’re going to do. So they start with Floyd who is now a successful jingle writer.
JOE: We meet Jenny, his new assistant, played by Kristen Schaal, another friend of the Muppets.
BILL: So great.
JOE: She was in the 2011 Muppet Movie with Animal. She was his anger management coach.
JOE: She also appeared on a TV show called At Midnight with Fozzie Bear. I don’t know if you knew that. Yep. And this scene is hysterical with them shouting across that comically long table, about Utz pretzels. They’re just shouting Utz. I thought that was hysterical. Is that all on the page or is that Kristen Schaal coming in and being funny?
BILL: When they were rehearsing, she wasn’t at the other end of the table.
BILL: It was her in closer proximity. And I had said to our director, I said, and Kristen was there too. I said, “You guys, how would you feel if you were like further apart? What would happen?” And then they started to play around and then all kinds of things started to happen in addition to the great, I think, scene that’s there. But then they started to play because [laughs] all started to feed in to how they were communicating.
JEFF: Lastly, the third rewrite, is in the editing room and so we just found if we repeat it. Because we had all these different takes. I’m like, “Let’s just throw in one more exchange, back and forth.” And I always wanted one more, one more exchange. But it just made the confusion funny.
JOE: [laughs] The jingles that he comes up with, that Floyd comes up with in this are also terrific. Who writes those?
JEFF: I wrote those.
JOE: Great job.
JEFF: Thank you. I have a second career as a jinglist. Yeah, all Floyd’s jingles are Yorkes specials. We had one that was way too meta, but it was for Disney Plus.
JEFF: And something like, “You should watch us, but if you already have it, you’re already watching us.” I don’t remember what it was. Now I’ve just betrayed my bragging. I’m a terrible jinglist.
JOE: Oh, you still get the metal. Those jingles are catchy and to see Floyd come up with them off the top of his head so impulsively, I think makes them hit even harder that he could just spew out a song about Bennigan’s, even though they closed in 2008.
JEFF: I’ll tell you, another little Easter egg is that logo. I had worked on a little bit but it was, if you see, there are music notes. And the last three notes are the Muppets Mayhem theme.
JOE: Oh, that’s clever.
JEFF: I wrote to our composer, Mick. And I was like, “Okay, can you just give me the sheet music? Let me. I’ll incorporate it into the logo.”
JOE: That’s good. I never would have noticed that.
BILL: And the first jingle, of course, Jeff wrote too. The soup.
JOE: The soup.
JEFF: Oh, the soup song. Soup di Doup.
JOE: That’s pretty good.
JOE: Jingle for soup.
JOE: Yeah. So Nora and Moog try unsuccessfully to convince Floyd to rejoin the band but he is too busy. He is preoccupied thinking about jingles. Can’t do it. Dave, were you on set for any of this? Or were you in your trailer waiting for Zoot to be called?
JEFF: Not his trailer.
JOE: Yeah. Great. Someone’s trailer.
BILL: Well, you know, we shot this on the Queen Mary. So this room is actually inside of the Queen Mary down in Long Beach.
JOE: Oh. Really?
BILL: Yup. Yeah. Because we also shot the exterior of Dr. Teeth and Penny on the Queen Mary. So we used it and also yeah, when they’re entering and then also that beautiful shot where you actually see Long Beach in the background of them out on the deck. That’s also, that’s all Queen Mary.
So Dave didn’t actually have to be there that day. It was only Penny, Teeth and Floyd.
DAVE: Yeah, you could have told me. I wouldn’t have stayed in my trailer.
BILL: I know. I forgot.
JEFF: But thank you for doing craft services that day. It was very, very generous of you.
BILL: It was pretty good. It was all vegan.
JOE: In your head canon then Bill, is Floyd actually on the boat that Dr. Teeth is on?
BILL: No. No.
JOE: Were they just a few feet apart from each other the whole time and never knew it?
BILL: No, no. We establish he’s in a building.
JOE: All right. That’s fair. That’s true.
BILL: Yeah. When you see the establishing shot, he’s in his own building. We just happened to shoot it.
JOE: Is the building on the Queen Mary?
JOE: I don’t know what the Queen Mary looks like. I don’t know how big that boat is.
JEFF: What is happening?
BILL: Yes. It’s on the Queen Mary. Yeah.
DAVE: It used to be a very big ship. It’s smaller now.
JOE: Did they cut it in half?
BILL: Oh yeah. They reduced the size a little big. Part of it sank.
JOE: Is it eroding from the outside in?
[Bill and Jeff laugh]
JOE: So Nora and Moog go to Janice’s commune. All of her followers from the digital world are now her followers in the real world. They got very culty, very quickly. They refer to themselves as the Forsureleans
JOE: Nora and Moog ask to see Janice, but one of the Forsureleans says that the Spirit Mother is not here. Even though they can see her just a few feet away. That is just her organic skin shell. Because her soul is surfing the astral plane.
BILL: One very special Forsurelean.
JEFF: Yes. We should point out that Forsurelean, that main Forsurelean, is Hannah Friedman, who’s one of our writers.
JEFF: Who is the composer of “Rock On,” the main title theme song. She desperately wanted to be a Forsurelean. So we made her the Forsureleans. She’s great.
JOE: I love that because I actually took note of this. There’s so many great celebrity cameos in this thing.
JOE: And I’m thinking, “Man, that person has a lot of lines. But they don’t seem to be a celebrity.”
JOE: Like did someone drop out last minute? Yet, right.
JEFF: She’s a star in our world.
JOE: Yeah. Hey, you know what? I’m all for giving writers and crew and all that more.
JEFF: I think she’s not credited because of SAG rules. I think there’s some sort of thing because she’s a writer and possibly a producer. There was some sort of thing. She’s not credited I don’t believe.
BILL: Oh really?
BILL: That’s weird.
JEFF: It’s a cameo.
JOE: Yeah, it is. It’s a special cameo just for us. For people who are listening this podcast.
JOE: But yeah. Janice is not responding. So they give up on that and they go to visit Zoot at his museum gallery where his Instagram photos are on display. It’s the Mallory Gallery from The Great Muppet Caper. That’s a great Easter egg. Love it.
JEFF: That’s a good one.
JOE: Jeff, you look very proud of yourself. I assume that’s one of yours.
JEFF: It had to be. I mean, please. Yeah, there was never a doubt my mind. That’s exactly what it had to be. It’s the Mallory Gallery East, I want to say or West. That was the intention. Yeah, the other little Easter egg in there is that the two humans that he runs into, they’re named Jackson Cannery and Annie Waits after Ben Fold’s songs.
JEFF: I’m a big Ben Fold’s fan so we had to name them so that’s what they’re named.
JOE: Hey, terrific. Those folks, by the way, are Arden Myrin from Mad TV and Nico Santos from Superstore.
JEFF: And Guardians of the Galaxy 3.
JOE: That’s right. He’s in the new Guardians of the Galaxy.
JEFF: I think Zoot was also there.
JOE: Zoot was in Guardians of the Galaxy? Wow.
JEFF: No. No. In this scene.
JOE: You know, he could have been in Guardians of the Galaxy.
DAVE: [in Zoot’s voice] I was in Guardians of the Galaxy.
BILL: He was in Guardians of the Galaxy.
JEFF: You were one of the main ones.
JOE: Yo were one of the Guardians.
BILL: He was in that raccoon costume.
JOE: Do you have any memories of shooting in this location, Dave? Any interesting stories about being there in your own gallery?
DAVE: Well, it’s a place called Descanso gardens up in…I’m not exactly sure.
BILL: It’s like Glendale or something, isn’t it?
DAVE: It’s between Glendale and…
DAVE: Yeah, and there’s another town about there.
DAVE: I can’t think of the name of it.
JOE: I’m being told it’s La Canada.
DAVE: La Cañada.
BILL: La Cañada.
JOE: La Cañada, oh excuse me. I’m only seeing it written down.
DAVE: Yeah, and it’s funny enough. It’s a place that I heard about my whole life, because I grew up in Burbank, but I never had gotten there until now.
BILL: Oh, wow, really? Seriously.
DAVE: Finishing my life, when completing something.
BILL: Wow. You had a never. That’s interesting.
JEFF: Have you been back since?
DAVE: No, I don’t need to.
JEFF: Oh yeah, check. Bucket list.
DAVE:I’m complete now.
BILL: But we actually shot (just a little tidbit) we shot the Forsureleans and Zoot’s gallery both at Descanso Gardens.
JOE: Oh Great. So you only had two locations with this whole thing. You had the boat and you had the gardens and that’s it.
BILL: Oh. Running back and forth. It was interesting. And recording at the same time in Burbank. So it was quite a day.
JEFF: All right.
[Bill and Dave laugh]
JEFF: Oh, fun fact. I think a couple of Zoot’s pictures are mine in there. And then there’s a VFX shot that is not particularly obvious. Bill, do you know what I’m going to talk about?
BILL: Oh you’re gonna talk about the…
BILL: But that’s my favorite photo, by the way.
JEFF: Moog’s, yeah.
JEFF: Moog’s nostril.
JEFF: It was very important that it be sold. So VFX had to put in a red sticker. There’s a little red circle that denotes that it was sold.
JOE: Amazing. For $10,000.
JEFF: Very important details.
DAVE: Yeah. And I gotta say the gallery pictures there were done by our art department. I think it was, you can correct me, Bill, was it Denise [Pizzini] that did those?
BILL: Yes, Denise. And David [DiGiacomo]. Yeah.
DAVE: They went out and they shot these pictures and then they made four foot square enlargements of them. And they’re just beautiful. They’re beautiful, beautiful pictures. And, in fact, I got one of them. She had a two foot square one printed for me.
BILL: Oh nice.
DAVE: But I’ve got pictures everywhere and I don’t have a place for it now, but I do want to get it up because it’s a picture of a part of a lawn chair; of 50s, metal, green, pale mint green lawn chair. And it’s just so beautiful. And it’s so perfect for Zoot. I mean that’s what makes a production really satisfying, that when you get all these people on the crew who are completely in sync and invested.
DAVE: And you get work like that to sort of support the reality. It’s incredible.
BILL: Yeah. You know, obviously Denise and David and Don Diers and then Jane [Madden]
JEFF: Bob West.
BILL: Yeah, Bob West, Jane Madden but then also our leadmen. I just want to mention that too because I don’t know if people know what a leadman is, but they make sure the things look like if it’s from 70 years ago, they make sure that the props and the things look like they’re supposed to be, but they’ve been there for a while or they’re brand new. It’s all about defining that and I think he may have had a big part with those photos as well, Dave. His name’s Ron, Ron Shulem. But they just did a great job with the shack. Our set design I thought was just amazing.
BILL: Everybody did an amazing job.
JOE: Yeah, these photos, they’re almost too good. I hate to say because Nora walks in and she’s like, “I can’t believe that people are buying this stuff for $10,000.” And then you see the pictures and you’re like they are really good.
DAVE: Let’s just take a moment there.
BILL: Yeah, yeah.
DAVE: That happens.
DAVE: Sometimes we overlook things that are intrinsically beautiful. You know, because they’re ordinary. You just look at some random shot of a guy’s nostril but it expresses something about his character. That’s a bad example.
BILL: But still.
DAVE: You know what I mean. I think there’s just, for example, I have a plastic bottle. I have my soap dispenser in our bathroom at my sink.
BILL: [laughing] Yeah.
DAVE: The plastic soft soap dispenser from when we moved in, in 1994. So it’s whatever that is like 29 years old, is the original container that was on the shelf in the store. And I peeled the label off of it. I thought, I’m keeping this because it’s beautiful. It won’t break when you drop it. It’s made of plastic. And it’s squishy and flexible when you touch it. It’s soft. Oh my god. So that’s the kind of thing that these photos represent just common everyday things that are absolutely wonderful.
JOE: I just want to point out, Dave, I think you’ve mentioned that soap bottle in every interview I’ve ever done with you.
[Bill and Dave laugh]
JOE: Somehow it’s come up in conversation like four or five times.
DAVE: Have I really?
BILL: He likes it.
JOE: I don’t want you to stop. I’m not going to suggest that.
DAVE: No, you know what, I apologize. I know I did it in Fraggle Gaggle the original creative meaning for the new Fraggle Rock. I know I brought it down and showed it to everybody on the Zoom call.
DAVE: But I didn’t know I’d gone into that with you. I’m really sorry.
JOE: Oh, no, no. I’m grateful. It’s a running gag now.
BILL: Dave, remember when you threw me that surprise party and you brought it there. [laughs]
DAVE: [laughs] I love my bottle. Okay? It means so much to me.
DAVE: Of all the bottles on that shelf in that store that day…
BILL: That was it.
DAVE: …it’s the only one that has been treasured, I would guess. But that’s because I can see the beauty in life.
JEFF: I just like that all of a sudden you went with, “I have this soap bottle.” That just came out of nowhere. Yeah, what’s happening?
JOE: I think everyone’s got that soap bottle, right? Like, everyone’s got that thing.
DAVE: Like 100 years ago that would have been absolute family heirloom just any old water bottle, just a bottle of Evian. Just a plastic bottle. It would become a family heirloom. They would say, “Look at this. You can see right through it. It holds things. It’s watertight but look I’m dropping it. It doesn’t break.” It would have blown their minds.
BILL: No, I don’t think so.
JOE: But that’s that movie, The Gods Must be Crazy. That’s the whole thing.
JEFF: The Coke bottle that falls from the sky. The soap bottle that fell in Dave’s bathroom.
DAVE: We take things for granted.
JEFF: Not Zoot.
JEFF: Not Zoot. We do not take Zoot for granted.
JEFF: I’ll say this, Bill and I spent a lot of time working on Zoot’s Polaroids. And it is an art form to take these pictures that we had and to just try to Zoot-ify them.
JEFF: Because they do stand on their own. They’re kind of cool.
JOE: They do. They are. Yeah.
DAVE: They’re beautiful.
BILL: Yeah, they’re not perfectly… There’s no perfect composition.
BILL: It’s his thing.
JEFF: Focusing them.
BILL: It’s something you would never think is interesting to the normal person’s eye. You go in on that.
JEFF: Yeah, exactly. The interesting thing is off on the side.
JEFF: Pretty cool. Zoot is a little untethered from reality. He doesn’t even register that Nora and Moog are there to convince him to rejoin the band. But you know who does recognize that they’re there? It’s Jimmy the Shoe. And Jimmy pops back up.
BILL: Jimmy Shoe.
DAVE: Jimmy Shoe.
JOE: Let’s talk about Jimmy. Where did Jimmy come from?
BILL: Can we just say it’s not Jimmy the Shoe.
JOE: It’s not Jimmy the Shoe. It’s just Jimmy Shoe?
BILL: Right? Yeah. Jimmy Shoe.
DAVE: Or even just Jimmy. What he is is Zoot’s shaman. It’s where Zoot gets his…
JOE: His Shoeman.
DAVE: …the answers to his questions. Yeah. So that’s all. That’s what he does for Zoot.
BILL: How’d he come about?
DAVE: I don’t know.
[Bill and Joe laugh]
DAVE: He just showed up on set one day.
BILL: Yes, you do.
JOE: He just shoed up on set. It was right there. I’m sorry.
DAVE: I never saw him before.
BILL: Do you want me? Do you want me to tell?
DAVE: No, I don’t want to talk about it. I don’t think we should talk about it.
BILL: You don’t want to talk about it?
JEFF: You don’t want to reveal?
DAVE: Oh, I don’t think… he’s just Zoot’s shaman.
BILL: All right.
DAVE: And, Maybe he’s always been there. I don’t know. You know what? I never saw Jimmy before this series. But he could have been there.
JOE: I mean Zoot has to wear something on his feet. Yeah. I mean, he doesn’t have to but usually does. I assume.
DAVE: He could have been getting advice all these years. I don’t know.
BILL: All right. Well, that’s that. I guess.
JOE: So we check in with Dr. Teeth and Penny. They are about to get on the Queen Mary. Although in the script, it’s the Jalapeño Princess. Which is pretty cute. And this was filmed, you said you filmed this at the Queen Mary. Have the Muppets ever filmed there before? I feel like every show has been there except for the Muppets.
BILL: Dave, have you ever done anything there?
DAVE: On the Queen Mary? No.
BILL: No, I don’t think we’ve ever done something in my time, at least.
JOE: Yeah, it was a matter of time before the Muppets get there. Yeah.
BILL: Yeah, and it was beautiful day. It was great actually to shoot there. The people were great. It was, yeah, it was a great place to shoot. Great spot. Great being out on the deck. Being in that beautiful room, like we just mentioned for Floyd. Beautiful inside. The history in there’s unbelievable.
JEFF: I remember when we were writing it, we were trying to figure out, I spent a great deal of time trying to figure out what that macaroni tube is called, that Animal pops his head out of.
JEFF: Then it was just like, it’s some term, I lost it. But it was like, even if we put it in the script no one will understand it.
JOE: Is it not just a porthole? I just assumed it was like a porthole.
JEFF: It’s not.
JOE: No? I didn’t even look it up. Yeah.
BILL: It’s a vent of some kind.
JEFF: It has something with a C or something like that, but it was just like, this is going to help no one to call it that.
JOE: You can tell that none of us are sailors.
JEFF: Yeah. Yeah, And so we were in meetings and I was like, “It’s that macaroni thing that you could pop your head out in a cartoon.”
DAVE: I love the sound effect of Animal’s nails, as he slid down that thing.
DAVE: It just makes my spine curl up like a shrimp but it’s good.
JEFF: That was a late thing. That was a sound mix. We were just like, “And we need that sound.”
BILL: A dorade box.
JEFF: Yep. It’s not even a box. Why would you even call it a box?
BILL: A dorade box or a dorade vent they call it.
JOE: You know, no one should claim that this podcast is not educational. Everyone learned something today.
JOE: We’re all walking away with a little bit of information.
JOE: About ships.
DAVE: That’s a really good point, Joe.
JOE: Thank you.
JEFF: We’re learning things.
JOE: We are. Lips is busy. He’s giving a TED talk about how to save the world. I’m curious, Jeff, did you actually have a plan for like what Lips’s plan to save the world was? Or was it just he’s just going into action to save the world?
JEFF: Yep, the latter.
JOE: It was just that vague.
JEFF: Yeah, I mean we had other concepts, but when we hit upon TED talk, literally talking…
DAVE: [laughs] Perfect.
JEFF: That fit all too well. But no, to describe how he was going to save the world would betray the mission.
JEFF: It’s on the audience. How are you going to say it? What are you getting from Lips right now.
JEFF: And how are you going to make a difference in this world?
JOE: Sure, I believe this is the third time that a Muppet has given a TED talk.
JEFF: Is that true?
JOE: Scooter does it in the 2011 Muppet movie and–I’m sorry. No, sorry. Scooter did it in real life. Mistaken. Scooter did it in real life and I think Kermit did one in real life about… something about puppetry.
BILL: Oh that’s right. Kermit did do one.
JEFF: Yeah, but we’re the first to do it in fake life.
JOE: Right. Scooter, I believe, he’s working at Google and going to a TED talk in the 2011 movie. That’s what I was thinking of.
JOE: So it’s not quite the same but he does. Yeah, Scooter and Kermit have both given TED Talks in real life and now Lips, which I feel like this is another trend. Like Danny Trejo is going to be in every Muppet movie and every Muppet project will have a new Muppet giving a new TED talk.
JEFF: That’s our new Muppet idea is Ted.
BILL: Yeah, we need Ted.
JOE: It’s Ted. Yes. Yeah. Who is Ted? Let’s find out at his talk.
JEFF: Why is Ted?
JOE: [laughs] So Nora and Moog, and Hannah are all trying to figure out what to do because the band won’t get back together. They deliver the news to Animal. So he upends Hannah’s purse, grabs her car keys, tells her to drive. Animal’s gonna do the hard work. He’s going to bring everyone back together. So we see him crash through Floyd’s ceiling to tell them that Nora is gone. Zooms into Lips’s TED talk. He bursts through Janice’s yoga tent.
BILL: Ooooh, ooh, ooh.
BILL: Sorry, sorry, sorry.
JOE: Yeah, yeah. Go ahead.
BILL: It just popped in my head but there are so many special effects shots in the show that just look seamless and nobody would ever think about them. There are so many. I mean tons.
BILL: The shot where Animal’s dumping the bag was a great one.
BILL: If you notice, there’s no way all that stuff could probably be in that bag because he just keeps going. That’s a special effect shot. That’s with people pouring stuff into the top of the bag as he’s shaking, people in green around are making that.
JEFF: They call it a reverse Poppins.
BILL: Yeah. But there’s just all kinds of stuff like that.
JOE: [laughs] That’s funny. You’re right. It didn’t even occur to me because it looks like Animal, yeah, he just picks up the bag and he turns it up and things fall out. Didn’t even occur to me.
BILL: There’s a lot of stuff.
JEFF: Nora’s car. Nora’s car is not real.
BILL: The car, right. That’s the next one.
DAVE: You know what’s weird about that? It didn’t occur to me either.
DAVE: Which usually, I’m always aware of how things have to have been shot. But I’m so immersed in this episode that I just didn’t even think about any of that. And I think, the reason I love this episode was that it paid off all of the layers that this series has. And that was a Jim thing and he never pontificated about it, but he loved layers.He liked layers in depth; people in the background doing something unrelated. He liked layers of meaning. And he would just always put them in and allow people to put them in.
And that’s what this show has. It has lots of characters. Lots of arcs. And lots of sort of invisible meanings too. The layer effect is, I think, one of the great achievements here. We haven’t done that since Jim, really. And Brian Henson too. I think Brian did.
JEFF: Yeah, I go back. When we hit upon the album, the photo album and the record album, and that parallel, I just thought to pay that off, to have that work would be a triumph. Zoot’s pictures, again, as we said before, having the pictures that he’s been taking be a map to get us the money that we lost.
BILL: You know, just going off of what Dave was saying about Jim. This is something that Dave told me, long time ago, was that everybody’s opinions or ideas are valid. If you have a suggestion that those were welcome. Not everything may get used. Maybe not everything works. But whenever we start something, I try and say that first to people when we’re starting a project or on a set so the people feel like they’re involved, they’re included and they’re a part of it.
And I wish I could remember the moment. But one of those moments, I can’t remember what episode, but one of our Covid specialists that were on set, had a suggestion for a joke as we were doing a scene. And there was something playing, and the line didn’t quite work, and he said, “what if they were…la la la.” And I said, “Well, go tell them.” And he went over and he gave the note and we used it. And I wish I remembered what line it was, but I remember seeing he felt so good. And I think that’s what we tried to do is make people feel like they’re a part of this and they were.
DAVE: Well, you know what? You’re absolutely right. And it’s more than making them feel like a part of it. It’s making them be–
BILL: Be a part of it. That’s what I meant. Yeah.
DAVE: This is something Jim was noted for. He was approachable. He didn’t have an inflated ego. He didn’t have a persona that he felt he had to maintain. He was accessible to everyone. So he could walk in the door and the custodian would come up to him and say, “Hey, what if Fozzie did such and such.” Jim would stop and talk to him about it for like two-three minutes and they would elaborate on the idea and play around with it. And then Jim might end up using it or not.
But the input was great.
DAVE: Because it really helps.
DAVE: And I always say the feeling in the room. I probably said this to you, Joe. I know you’ll remind me.
DAVE: But the feeling in the room gets on the screen.
DAVE: And if you have a tense set, it’s reflected in the work that you do.
DAVE: When you have a really good happy set with people contributing and having fun with it, it makes a difference.
BILL: And working so hard. Everybody works so hard on our projects and our shows but they enjoy the challenge. They just love it even though they’re working really hard. [laughs] We all enjoy each other.
JOE: I love that. I feel like I’ve had a few jobs where I have not had that. And I think we can all say that. It’s a joy when you get to work on a set or a job where you feel heard. You feel valued no matter what your station. And for you guys working at the top level of the creative, you never know where the next good idea is going to come from. And you don’t want to miss out on something just because someone didn’t feel like they could be comfortable just talking to you about it.
JOE: Yeah. That’s great.
DAVE: Like in a restaurant. It’s really important that everybody is happy.
DAVE: Really important. You do not want the guy who is plating…
BILL: That’s right.
DAVE: …to have a grudge against one of the customers.
BILL: Or the chef. You don’t want the chef unhappy.
DAVE: No, because, you know, say no more.
BILL: Yeah, but can I just…Jeff. Jeff, you were going to say about the car. When Nora leaves the shack, when she leaves before Animal gets upset and they tell Animal. Tell them about.
JEFF: Yeah, it’s a CG car.
JOE: I thought you were joking.
JEFF: We sort of wrote. No, no, it’s absolutely. And you see it parked in the driveway in another shot. I think it’s still. But we did not have the car and we needed establishing shots of the house and while Nora’s there. And it’s not the van anymore. And fortunately, they did shoot the house without anything parked in front and we’re like, “We do need her car there and we do need it leaving.”
BILL: Leaving. Yeah.
JEFF: And so our amazing VFX team at Soapbox were just like “Is this the car?” Or they knew what the car was and you can go to like a catalog and like, “Okay and it’s this color and it’s this beaten up.” And then we go through and Bill and I are sticklers. They loved us.
JEFF: Adam’s like, “It looks great.” And Bill and I are like, “Eeeh.”
DAVE: Is that when Nora left the shack? Drove away?
JEFF: That car speeding off.
DAVE: That’s CG?
JEFF: That’s CG.
DAVE: Oh my god. It’s funny because when I watched, I thought I don’t remember that car being out there.
DAVE: But I just dropped it.
BILL: Nora’s is in it. Nora is in the front. You can see part of Nora.
DAVE: [laughs] That’s great.
BILL: And her stuff. They put stuff in there and then we talked about the puffs coming out of the tailpipe. Like is it too much? At first it looked like a little too much. But it needs to feel like it’s not in great shape because she has to break down.
BILL: So it was a whole thing that Jeff and I kept.
JEFF: We just obsessed and every point Bill and I just like our attention to detail. We totally care and it does make a difference.
DAVE: Yes, it does.
JEFF: We can’t have this moment where she’s going off and she’s heated up and it’s an emotional moment and then it’s cartoon smoke, you know?
JEFF: Same thing on the sound design when we got that. We’re like, “No, you can’t. I love that you want to do this, but it’s a serious moment.”
BILL: They were incredibly patient.
JEFF: Incredible patience.
BILL: They were an incredible team. Brooke and Nick and all those folks over there were incredibly patient. They were amazing.
JOE: So Animal has successfully gotten the band back together. Because Nora is gone, but just to clarify, Nora is not dead.
BILL: That’s right.
JOE: The runner of Lips thinking that people are dead when they’re not throughout the series is hysterical.
BILL: Love it.
JOE: Especially he’s got his like little black outfit with the little parasol. I think that’s good stuff.
JEFF: And that is our reshoot. I think Adam referred to a reshoot in the first episode of the podcast.
JEFF: This was our reshoot that we pleaded for. We just needed connective tissue. We had written this episode while we were shooting and we sort of wrote ourselves into a plot hole. And we saw and we were editing it and we’re like, “This does not work. Is there any chance we could do this reshoot?” Muppets Studio stepped up and Bill and I each took a stab at trying to reorder Just in editing. Can this work? It can. But it would be so much better if we could shoot this scene And so we did. We wrote a scene, the three of us.
BILL: Two. Two scenes.
JEFF: Oh, right but we spent a day and it was just a fantastic day just to go back at the end of this process, to sit there as writers again where we started to write the scene and it was great. Like we just enjoyed the hell out of writing together.
JEFF: And it just came so easily. And then they’re like, “Yeah, no. You are not getting this reshoot.” Adam, I think, turned inward and just couldn’t heal.
ADAM: Which is very uncharacteristic though, very uncharacteristic.
JEFF: Very uncharacteristic.
BILL: Adam goes at it.
JEFF: And Bill was saying, “Well, I did an edit. Maybe it works like this.” Adam couldn’t even watch it. It was just like head down. No eye contact. Okay, I don’t know. And then again Muppets stepped up.
BILL: Thank goodness.
JEFF: And then, I think they stepped up maybe three or four days before the actual shoot. There was one available time. It was going to be a Saturday and I think on Tuesday or Wednesday even.
BILL: Something like that.
JEFF: They said, “Okay, we’re giving you the money to do this.” It’s shot in front of plates; in front of digital screens.
BILL: Yeah, using pre-existing footage that we shot.
BILL: This exterior of the shack and then we grabbed another plate from somewhere else. But that was something we borrowed and put it in on a green screen.
JEFF: But it was crazy. We worked really, really hard. Ten was a tough one and we reordered things and yeah. It was a lot, a lot, a lot of work.
BILL: And those two scenes actually, I said green screen, but that’s wrong. We shot on a virtual wall. An LED wall that Soapbox has.
JEFF: Yeah. Digital backplates.
BILL: So it worked out great to be able to use that.
JEFF: It was a trip to walk in to Soapbox and all of a sudden you saw the shack.
JEFF:I was like, “Oh this would have been a lot easier.”
JOE: Yeah, really.
DAVE: Don’t go there.
BILL: Dave loved Muppets Haunted Mansion. He loved all this.
JOE: I was gonna say, that’s how you filmed Muppets Haunted Mansion, right? Was on the virtual background?
JEFF: You wanted to, right?
DAVE: And another thing about episode 10 is just that there’s a lot of emotional payoffs.
JEFF: There you go. Keep it going Dave.
DAVE: [laughs] I mean, really I just watched it and I just found it so affecting.
JOE: The big emotional payoff in the scene is the Mayhem goes into the garage, which for some reason they had never bothered to look in at the shack. And we will see in a moment, it’s the Electric Mayhem bus. The original bus from The Muppet Movie. I will jump ahead a little bit here because we’re talking about it, but this is not the actually the original bus. Is that correct?
BILL: Right. Correct.
JOE: Because I feel like I read about, there was a fire or something years ago.
BILL: Yeah, caught on fire. Yeah.
JEFF: Zoot’s fault.
JOE: [laughs] What went into recreating the Mayhem bus?
BILL: I searched for some buses to find the right make and model and try and get close. I think we had three options. Two weren’t as close. This was the closest we could get. It was the wrong year. But it had the similar windows, which I thought, at least we could get away with that. And it also had I think a different grill on the front. But it was close. I think it was two years off or something. So we found that, I wish I could remember, I think in Oxnard or something. And then our amazing set people, Denise and everybody, started painting it. We made sure that we got Lips on there.
JOE: Yeah, I noticed that.
BILL: He wasn’t on the original one.
JOE: His name joined the back of the bus with everybody else.
JEFF: It was one of the things from the concept that we were just like, the bus has to come back. And our producer’s like, “You sure you want the bus to come back?” Like, just thinking financially and the amount of research and the amount of work and Yeah. No, the bus has to come back. I love the van. But I love the bus.
BILL: Well and also and also story-wise. Right, Jeff.
BILL: We had to pay off where Zoot put the money.
JEFF: Totally. Right.
BILL: So we needed the bus to come back because we wanted that to then be how they go on the road, what they take on tour.
JEFF: Yeah, it happened in the 70s. So it wasn’t the van.
JEFF: And they’re like, “Okay, it’s going to be a lot of work.” We’re like, “Have fun!”
JEFF: They did an incredible job. I mean it was just yeah. It was a crazy thing just to step out and just see the bus parked in our lot. Or just like at one point, no one was there and it was just parked next to our building and I’m like, I can’t believe I’m standing here and there’s the bus. This is unreal.
BILL: And sorry. I don’t know. I don’t want to jump. It didn’t run so well.
BILL: We’ll start there, but when we get to the end, I’ll tell you something.
JOE: All right. Well, I agree with you. It’s one thing to come into this series, even as a casual Muppet fan and saying, “Wow all my friends are back and all the Mayhem characters are here.” But the bus is kind of a member of the band as well. And to get that emotional like, “Oh my god. That guy’s back too.”
I don’t know if any of you watched the last season of Picard, the Star Trek show, but they brought back everyone from Star Trek: The Next Generation. It was very exciting. And then at the very end, they bring back the original Enterprise. And like it didn’t even occur to me that they would have the set as a returning character. But now that it’s here, I recognize how important that is to me. And I felt very much the same way about the bus.
DAVE: Oh yeah, yeah. So you’re watching other franchises?
BILL: Yeah, what’s up with that?
JOE: Oh Dave, I’m a fan of so many stupid things. The Muppets is the only one I care enough about to do a whole podcast about.
JEFF: We’re the stupidest, right? We’re the stupidest.
DAVE: You and Jeff should have dinner.
JOE: I know. I can see, Jeff, in the background, all your fun toys. And it’s like we should compare notes.
JEFF: I got some snowths. [pronounced with a long o] Mahna Mahna.
JOE: You got snowths? Aw, man.
DAVE: Snowths. [pronounced with an ow sound as in cow] Those are snowths, by the way.
JOE: Snowths. [corrects to ow sound]
DAVE: Everybody mispronounces it.
JEFF: No, no. I have different ones. I have snowths. [pronounced with a long o]
DAVE: The audience can’t see Jeff’s office but every time we do a Zoom with Jeff, he’s got every piece of pup culture merchandise that you can get, I think.
DAVE: Crammed into his office. It’s just everything is there.
JEFF: And if you look carefully. There’s Waldo.
[Dave and Bill laugh]
BILL: But if you can see what’s in front of him, it’s even more amazing.
JOE: Is it Waldo, Where’s Waldo? Or is it Waldo the Muppet?
JEFF: Yeah. It’s Where’s Waldo.
JOE: Oh, okay.
JEFF: It just became a game. Oh you’re talking about my desk?
JEFF: I’m a Lego maniac. So my desk is like two tiers of minifigures.
BILL: Come on. Show them. Show them.
JEFF: This will work really well for the audio.
JOE: Just for us.
JEFF: It’s from above.
DAVE: Oh my god.
JEFF: So these are all Lego minifigures.
JOE: Where do you put your papers or your phone?
JEFF: There’s like two tiers. But there’s me.
JEFF: Basically, but they’re all minifigures that Lego would never make or hasn’t made, like Bill and Ted or the Beastie Boys or Omar from The Wire or Weird Al or Prince or Tyler Durden. That’s what I collect.
JOE: Jeff, if this is what makes you happy, I’m so glad for you.
JEFF: Thank you so much. Can you tell my wife that?
BILL: That’s right. [laughs]
DAVE: It’s great radio.
JEFF: And look at this giant hat I have with all this neon.
BILL: It’s blue.
JEFF: The bubbles that can come out. Really.
JOE: Wow. And you’re levitating. Amazing.
JEFF: It’s amazing.
BILL: Look at Bill. He’s naked now.
JEFF: Put your shirt on.
BILL: Yeah, I’ll make my belly button say hello. [in high-pitched voice] “Hi, everybody.”
JEFF: Can you make it say goodbye?
BILL: Yeah. [in high-pitched voice] “Buh-bye.”
DAVE: I can make my ear talk.
DAVE: [in pinched voice] Hi there. Is everybody okay?”
JEFF: Hey, it’s Jimmy Ear.
DAVE: You know, I keep meaning to make a mechanism so that I can have a thing in my pocket and make my ear talk.
JOE: That would be insane. But also you would be the greatest puppeteer I’ve ever seen if you pulled that off.
JEFF: He is the greatest puppeteer you’ve ever seen.
DAVE: I’d become my own puppet.
JEFF: It was Adam’s idea to do the arrival of the bus, a la Mad Max: Fury Road.
JOE: I was gonna ask if that was a deliberate reference because we got the big speakers and Animal on the roof, with the drums.
JOE: Yeah, that’s good stuff.
JEFF: Playing that song loud. When we hit that song, yeah, we played a bunch of different options but that was the one, right away. We just knew.
BILL: That was quite a ride. Wasn’t it, Dave? What we broke down? [laughs We were out in the desert somewhere. Where were we?
JEFF: There was a snake too. Right?
DAVE: There was a rattlesnake.
BILL: That was great.
DAVE: I think it was a sidewinder actually that rattlesnake.
BILL: Yeah, yeah.
DAVE: We were all shooting. All of us were on little low chairs and facing Nora and shooting this scene. And somebody said, “Snake.” And we looked to our left and about 15 feet away was a rattler heading for us.
BILL: Just coming in.
DAVE: Just coming our way. Like they don’t do that. They go away from people.
DAVE: But I guess we were in the way. He was going somewhere. He was probably going down the hill for groceries.
BILL: And thank goodness we have a handler out at these locations. But he was just coming. He was like, “Excuse me. Pardon me. Coming through.”
JOE: And like the one place you don’t want to be is to be like on the ground with a puppet. You’re literally on the floor. Your hands are occupied.
BILL: Yeah. We got up quick. We got up very quick. Yeah we all got up fast.
DAVE: This is true.
JEFF: Something just popped into my head, which is just incredible luck. But the fact that Lips is doing his TED talk. We have him in all black. Then we have him on the side of the road and he’s wearing black and then we do the gag that he thought Nora died and he’s wearing black.
BILL: Yeah, yeah. We lucked out.
JEFF: Yeah. We totally lucked out.
JOE: What do you think it means?
JEFF: It all sort of …What’s up?
JOE: I said, what do you think it means?
BILL: It’s all about death.
JEFF: Absolutely. It’s just a cloud of death that hangs over.
JOE: Yeah. That’s Lips’s journey through season 2.
JEFF: Even our mistake worked. It was just meant to be.
JOE: So yeah. So the band finds Nora. She’s broken down on the side of the road. As you say, they’re playing a song as they drive up the road. It’s “Joined Together” by The Who.
JEFF: Yeah. I want to give a quick shout out. Yeah, it’s a great choice. We had an amazing music supervisor, Kier Lehman, on this. But this one was recommended by my friend Bobby Gumm, who’s a music supervisor in the world of trailers. And award-winning. And I was like, “Bobby, we need a song for this moment.” And he gave quite a few of them. But this one, as I said before, just was absolutely right.
BILL: Yeah. And then Steve put it together.
JEFF: The idea just that… What’s that?
BILL: And Steve put together the song which was great.
JEFF: Yeah. The instrumentation of it.
BILL: Oh yeah.
JEFF: It’s so great.
BILL: Ed Mitchell and Steve Morrell.
JEFF: Yep, you could hear it coming from the canyon away. The song is just so perfect for this moment. And it’s weird sounding. So she can look over, Nora, and just like cock and eyebrow. Just be like, “What is that?” And the audience too is like, “What is that?” Very, very cool.
BILL: Yeah. Great choice, Jeff.
JOE: And is it a deliberate reference to The Muppet Movie that the Mayhem bus is coming to save someone whose car is broken down on the side of a desert highway?
JEFF: No, I wouldn’t say it was a deliberate reference.
JOE: Well then that’s a great coincidence that that happens in both The Muppet Movie and here.
JEFF: It’s like Star Wars. It’s a tone poem and it all like parallels.
BILL: Must have been in there somewhere, right?
JEFF: Yeah, maybe.
JOE: Sure. Yeah.
JEFF: Remember at one point I pitched like a tow truck that was going to come. It was like a deus ex mechanics. That’s what it was.
JOE: [laughs] That’s funny.
DAVE: I had the sense when I watched the series that Lips was more understandable than he had been on set. Did he do a lot of re-recording?
JEFF: We did re-recording to certain instances to make him less understandable.
DAVE: Oh really?
JEFF: Yeah. Because some were too on the nose. There are a couple that are in there that still, yeah. I guess. We were locked at that point with those episodes.
JEFF: But if I could, and I’m sure Bill, you agree.
JEFF: You’d go back and make him a little less intelligible.
BILL: Which is interesting because Peter’s for the first time doing this character so he’s trying to find the balance of it all. But I know what you’re saying, Dave. I think on set it probably felt like it was more unintelligible.
DAVE: It did. Yeah.
BILL: But I think when it comes, when you’re in the edit. Finally, you’ve got this edit. And now you’re really focused on the moments instead of what he was doing over and over for us. I think, like “chrysanthemum” is very clear to me.
BILL: When Teeth calls him a…
JEFF: [imitates Lips mumbling] Chrysanthemum.
BILL: …Chrysanthemum. So there still are some that are very clear but definitely, yeah, like Jeff, sorry. Not to just reiterate. But yeah, we did have Peter loosen it up on a few things that were too clear.
JOE: Well this line here is a good example because you can kind of hear the first half of his sentiment where he says, “You changed us all for the better.” And then it kind of drifts off into mumbles.
JOE: But it also seems important because Nora can understand Lips for the first time, And they say… well Zoot says, “That’s because you’re one of us. You’re family now, Dorothy.” Which is a cute line.
DAVE: I love that.
JOE: But I feel like we also, as the audience, are starting to hear a little bit. Kind of bringing us like a toe hold into the fold of being a member of the Electric Mayhem.
BILL: That’s good. That’s nice.
JOE: Is that a nice fan theory that you didn’t intend at all?
BILL: It’s great. No, we didn’t intend it at all. And actually I think that’s really sweet. And I love actually my favorite thing that Lips says is that he calls Nora Nobu.
BILL: I just love that.
JOE: That’s cute.
BILL: So funny to me.
JOE: That feels like a very Pepe thing where you pick the wrong name and you stick to it.
BILL: So in my mind, my theory behind it is, and I have never asked Peter, but Lips knows everybody, right? So to me, Lips is the hippest guy in this band. He knows celebrities. He hangs out in different great places. Cool places. I think his favorite restaurant is Nobu, this very trendy, chic kind of place.
JEFF: In Malibu. Yep.
BILL: And he calls Nora Nobu. I don’t know, it’s just my own little thing, but I just love that.
DAVE: Yeah. Yeah. Fun.
JOE: Dave, did you ad lib the “you’re family now, Dorothy?” It sounded like an ad lib that Dorothy line.
DAVE: It was written and it was just perfect. It was so beautiful. Because it’s the last word in the sentence and everything’s going fine. Then you realize he’s completely out of touch.
DAVE: And I love it.
DAVE: It’s a perfect line.
BILL: And h also, Zoot messes up some other names as well at times. He calls Moog different things.
JEFF: Yeah. Mork.
BILL: But I love the Dorothy reference because to me it feels like The Wizard of Oz here, where everybody’s come back to her.
BILL: And it just feels appropriate.
DAVE: Absolutely. I mean, that’s again, that’s one of those layers that’s just so lovely about this.
JOE: So next, we cut straight to the Hollywood Bowl. The Mayhem made it. They are finishing the song “Joined Together.” And this is actually not the first time the Muppets have been at the Hollywood Bowl. In 1977 Big Bird conducted the LA Philharmonic orchestra there. That was the first time. In 2006, Kermit, Piggy, Statler and Waldorf appeared at an honoring of a conductor. The conductor and founding director of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. They sang “Fever” and “Bein’ Green” and “I Got You, Babe.” Dave, I assume you were there as Waldorf. I don’t know if that’s true or not.
DAVE: I was. Yeah. And I was also helping out. I think I was helping with Piggy’s arms and legs on the piano.
JOE: Yeah, great. And then the big one was in 2017. The Muppets did The Muppets Take the Bowl, in which it was basically like a live epic episode of the Muppet Show. And the Mayhem did a mini set there. They sang, “Can You Picture That” and “Home” and “Suffragette City.”
I was there. It was epic. I loved it. Jeff, were you there as well?
JEFF: Yeah. I bought tickets on StubHub. And I was seeing them on Sunday night and then I think I saw Matt tweet. He’s like, “Getting ready to go on.” I’m like, “It’s like 6:15. What’s going on?” And I look and the person from StubHub sent me the wrong tickets.
JOE: Oh no!
JEFF: They’d sent me the tickets that were for Saturday night and I thought I bought for Sunday night. And I called StubHub, and I’m like, “What’s going on? What do I do?” And they’re like, “You can come. We’re not going to get you. We don’t have the seats that you bought.” Because I bought as close as possible, just because I wanted to watch these guys perform as puppeteers. They’re like, “So you’re gonna have to sit a little further back.” I was like, “Okay, but… okay.”
And so we rush over because now it’s in 45 minutes. Go to the Hollywood Bowl. We get over. As we’re walking to our box. It was still a box seat. Was further back. I turn to my wife. I’m like, “That’s John Singleton.” We’re sitting in a box with two other people. It’s John Singleton. Director, John Singleton and his daughter.
JEFF: We talked for a little bit because I come from the world of trailers. I’ve worked on a trailer of his years ago, talked about that and then it turns out he’s the biggest Muppet fan in the world.
JEFF: So, all of a sudden like we be sitting there and Fozzie would come out on stage and he’d go, [mic cuts out with shout].
BILL: He’d scream his name?
JEFF: He just loved it and it was great. It was still terrific.
BILL: Oh wow.
JEFF: It was an amazing show and then yes, to see the band and then now we’re here? Amazing. This time it was almost as difficult for me to see them at the Hollywood Bowl. We had a lot of things that had to happen to make this work.
JOE: Yeah, tell me about that. What were some of the challenges to get to shoot at the bowl?
BILL: We couldn’t do it at the bowl.
JEFF: Getting the Hollywood Bowl.
BILL: We couldn’t shoot at the bowl.
JOE: You didn’t actually shoot at the bowl?
BILL: Pretty great, right?
JEFF: So how do you like that?
JEFF: Them special effects.
JOE: That’s a scoop.
BILL: Soapbox, ladies and gentleman. Soapbox.
JOE: Big scoop.
BILL: Yeah, so what we did was we shot all the performance on our stage as wide as we could get and then shrinking it down when we needed to to make it fit the stage.
JEFF: This was on the last day.
BILL: Yeah, last day. But the concert, where you see all the people, that was for…
JEFF: The Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
BILL: Yep. That was their concert. So, our team was able to go. They allowed us to go film their audience. And we married in– well, Soapbox did an amazing job putting us there. Making it feel like we’re really there.
JEFF: We were desperate to get some act to let us shoot their audience and even their stage elements. But It also had to fit the Mayhem. So like when we were going through the calendar, “Well, maybe this could work. Maybe this…Well, Disney is actually doing something on this night, but it was just like a pianist. So what is the audience for that?” You know. Ideally, you want a rock crowd. And then I think, Bill, you had a connection to Fogarty. And it was the day before, we realized that we would have been able to shoot. We just missed him.
JEFF: And so yeah, they shot all these plates. They shot the concert. They shot the crowd. I guess there were signs there. I hope there were signs there.
JEFF: That said you were going to be part of this audience.
JEFF: And then amazing visual effects work. But you’re cutting, while we’re editing, it’s just these terrible comps of the band shrunk down over like with these hard edges in front of Karen O and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs performing.
JOE: Wow. I mean that explains why there’s no Mayhem t-shirts in the crowd. You would expect a few.
JEFF: Oh no. There are. There are. People were wearing them.
JOE: At the Yeah Yeah Yeahs concert? Yeah, that makes sense.
JEFF: Yeah, I’ll tell you actually, this is a funny thing. By now, people have seen the show so they know that we have Kevin Smith on the show. They know we have Peter Jackson. Two incredible directors. But in the audience of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs is Spike Jones.
BILL: [laugh] Yeah.
JOE: Noooo. Really?
JEFF: Yeah, because he dated Karen O for a while and they collaborated on the song from, Her. And so he was there.
JEFF: And he was wearing this bright red James Dean, “Rebel Without a Clue”…
JEFF: …jacket and it was in the final color mix. We went through and I’m like, “You gotta take it down, because all I see is Spike Jones.”
JEFF: And so now he’s wearing a brown jacket in the middle of that shot.
JOE: But he’s still in the shot? Like he’s still in the show?
JOE: Great. We’re going to look out for it.
DAVE: Before we get off of the Hollywood Bowl, we have to mention Dr. Teeth’s performance in that scene.
JEFF: It’s amazing.
DAVE: Where he’s talking about Nora, introducing the song. And I will say that it is one of the finest moments of puppetry I’ve ever seen. The acting. I mean, seriously, the acting was, when Teeth starts to lose it, that’s just unbelievably good.
BILL: Aw, Davey.
DAVE: It’s so real. Bill just and he had to do many takes and he killed it every time. It was just so good.
BILL: Well, you encouraged me. I was worried it was too much. Dave kept saying, no, no, no, no, no. Don’t think, don’t worry about it.
JEFF: I feel really bad because in the editing room, we have to do a lot of self-editing. We’re constantly worried about the length of the show, if this works, if this doesn’t work. And I think early on, we’re like, “Okay, well, this is one of the pieces we’re gonna cut down.” Because we just have to get moving. We have to get to this next song. We were, again, we had a lot of trouble with this episode. And Bill, in the nicest Bill-way possible is just like, and not ego at all, is just like, “Can you just take a look at this performance?”
BILL: Well and sorry to interrupt.
BILL: Jeff and Adam and Kevin [Kelsey], our editors, they would edit and then I would get to see what they did. And then I would try and do the best I could. Some notes and things on that. But Dave had said this to me. This was a while after now that Dave had said this to me. And I couldn’t believe it. So in my notes, I tried to say, if Dave is feeling this, can we look at it again? Can we see if this is something we should keep in there?
And so I tried to send a little cut of it to try it and then we got to this place. But, yeah, I’m glad it’s in there because I think we needed that for Nora.
JEFF: And for Teeth.
BILL: You know, to sell that. And for Teeth. Yeah.
DAVE: Teeth is so powerful and it’s the hardest thing to do as a performer to simulate that moment when you lose your breath. You’re so emotional that you start to break down. And you try to recover instantly. I don’t know how Bill did it, honestly. Well, I do know how he did it. He actually told me but I don’t know how he pulled it off because it’s just really hard to do. And yet, it happens to all of us.
DAVE: You’re overcome by emotion. these things happen to you and I’ve never seen that done in the world of puppetry before. And it was just profoundly meaningful. It just really pays off that show.
BILL: Thanks, Dave.
JEFF: When Bill sent that email and he was just Dave thought this, so consider it. We just didn’t know who Dave was.
[Dave and Bill laugh]
BILL: Some guy, Dave.
JEFF: All right, Dave.
JOE: I completely agree. I had a lot of comments about this as well. My notes about the power of this moment. I think it’s especially difficult for a character that we generally know as being someone who’s just loud and a little bit chaotic and a little bit two-dimensional. I know we’ve added a lot of third dimension in the show, but we’re not used to that. And to see them have that kind of reaction. Not only is it doubly powerful because of that, but I think it makes it doubly hard to pull off. And I think you did that incredibly well, Bill.
JEFF: I’m gonna say one more thing though.
JEFF: And it sounds trite because I’ve said it before so Bill’s heard it before. But again it is his hand and it’s his voice but it is his heart.
JEFF: So much of this show is Bill’s heart.
BILL: Stop it.
JEFF: It made all the difference in the world. And I made him tear up.
DAVE: Bill, do that thing where you start to say something and then you break up.
BILL: Shut up.
JEFF: Like I shy away from things. I’m a cynic but Bill was always like, “I think we should go there and I think it makes a difference to do this and it’s important to me.” And then he does it or we try it and it’s there. And it totally, absolutely makes a difference in our scenes, in our performances, in our believability. And I think in our audience’s reaction. I think that’s proof of it. Yes. The Muppets, they make me laugh. I enjoy their songs but I didn’t expect to feel as much.
BILL: Yeah. But you think about this history of the Muppets and you think about Gonzo doing his song.
JEFF: Absolutely. Absolutely.
BILL: You think about anything about Kermit singing “Rainbow Connection.” All these songs. There’s heart in the Muppets from the very beginning. And that’s always what I’ve been drawn to the most. Of course, zaniness and fun and jokes and comedy is there.
BILL: Classic, amazing stuff. But then the heart, to see these inanimate objects think and feel, that’s what I want to believe in.
JEFF: Yeah, and it’s tougher with this group because they’re not necessarily known for that.
JOE: I want to also point out, I agree with you, Bill. It’s incredibly important. It’s such a part of the backbone of the Muppets. But that doesn’t mean it’s always done incredibly well or so effectively. Because sometimes it comes across as schmaltzy or I don’t know, just in some way ineffective. Well, Muppets have to have hearts so we put heart into it. And you can’t just put heart into a thing and have it be effective.
BILL: That’s true.
JOE: But this felt earned. He’s talking about Nora. He’s also, we just saw his parents again, and we’re reminded of the whole storyline of him reconnecting with his parents. His parents are here at their first Mayhem show and they’re decked out in Mayhem shirts and buttons. And his mom’s got the microphone earrings and all that. They’re all in for their son and that’s really touching as well. So yeah, it’s not just, I don’t know, like, “Boy, we sure do like Christmas and there’s heart in that.” This is earned. This is Dr. Teeth’s story. But your performance on top of that. That’s a chef’s kiss right there.
DAVE: You know, I did an interview with Frank Oz about Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas a couple years ago and one of the things that Frank said was that with that piece, Jim had the courage to be sweet. To do something really sweet and heartfelt. And it remains certainly one of my top favorites of all time because of that.
JEFF: Mine too. Yep.
DAVE: But it’s a good thing to make note of that you have to have courage to try to pull real emotion off.
DAVE: And when it works, it’s just incredible.
BILL: And I think that that’s it too Dave maybe, it’s just that it’s real. That’s what came out for me, at least, in that moment. It’s a real feeling based on real feelings that I have about that type of situation. So, maybe it’s just about things coming together [laughs] [in husky voice] at the right time. Maybe, I don’t know.
JOE: Oh, that’s nice. Well, also there, in addition to Dr. Teeth’s parents. It’s Statler Waldorf. Our only other real, established Muppet characters outside of the Mayhem are in the audience at the Hollywood Bowl.
JOE: And they’re, of course, booing the Mayhem. But it’s not their seats. They are led away. Because they don’t belong in this show. [laughs]
BILL: And that Statler and Waldorf joke couplet was written by Jim Lewis.
JOE: Oh, really?
DAVE: Oh, was it?
JOE: Oh, that’s great.
BILL: I asked Jim if he had some Statler and Waldorf jokes he could throw at us. Here’s the situation. Here’s what we’re looking for. And he gave us like four options and that was the one.
DAVE: It’s great.
JOE: Why are Statler and Waldorf the only ones to be given this honor of being the only named Muppets in a Mayhem show?
BILL: Who else would heckle?
[Dave and Bill laugh]
JOE: You could have thrown Kermit in there. You could have given Gonzo a cameo. You had options, but you chose Statler and Waldorf.
BILL: We did have a version. We did have that thought.
BILL: We talked about having Kermit and Piggy in another box.
JEFF: Don’t give the audience what they want. Give the audience what they didn’t know they wanted. It felt too convenient and we talked at many other points of Muppets showing up, but we wanted this to be about the band. They certainly weren’t going to, The Muppets, Kermit and the gang, weren’t going to save the band. The band had to do it. This is their story.
JOE: That’s a good point that I hadn’t thought of. That if Kermit was there and the band were going through something, where was he this whole time? And we don’t ask that question because we don’t see him.
JOE: No, that works.
BILL: Yeah, we had talked about versions of where he shows up backstage with everybody, and the bus.
JEFF: Congratulating them. Yeah.
BILL: All kinds of stuff like that. But just it ultimately didn’t feel right. It felt like a different story.
BILL: And maybe it’s a second season thing.
JOE: Honestly, I love the fact that you didn’t put him in there. I think it would be cheap to put him even in the second season. Just because the Mayhem deserves this spotlight. And Kermit is a magnet for a spotlight. It would be a shame to take that attention away from the band just because we all love Kermit so much.
BILL: I think if it’s motivated. Yeah. I think if it’s motivated or it’s organic to what’s happening in the scene or the story, it doesn’t bother me that way. When it’s kind of just voluntarily or randomly tossed in for the sake of saying we have more Muppets in this thing.
JEFF: Hey, had a great show, you know.
BILL: Yeah, that to me feels false. But I think in a second season, if something’s motivated and you’re stumbling upon a character here or there, I think that can be fun.
JOE: Sure. Yeah. I would love that. I mean, not maybe Kermit.
JEFF: You and many people.
JOE: But like any Muppet could just completely show up. Well, just anyone, like you did with Statler and Waldorf here.
JOE: Like if Rowlf the dog had a little walk by. Lew Zealand happens to be near something like that. It doesn’t have to be full of Muppets. It doesn’t have to be even top tier Muppets but just a little, a little taste for the fans.
JEFF: Yep, sure.
JOE: So back at the record store, we get our first glimpse at the Electric Mayhem album cover. And it’s the real album art which is pretty cool. Like this is like the debut of the album which I love.
JEFF: It was the band was looking at a green square.
JOE: I wondered how far in advance this was set up.
JEFF: It was dropped in. It’s a VFX shot. We were doing VFX until March, maybe even early April.
JEFF: I think we were done by April. The art for the album was happening obviously late in the game just months ago at this point. And we dropped it in. I think for a while it was just some terrible mock-up that I made was in the cut.
BILL: Yeah, right.
JOE: Well, I want to see that now.
BILL: The VFX, they put kind of a plastic coat on it and made it look like it was in a sleeve.
JOE: That’s cool. I also just have to mention how much I love that album art. I think it looks so good. It looks like a real album. It’s not just like a shot, a picture from the show. It’s not just The Muppets Mayhem logo.
JEFF: Yeah, that’s Matt Taylor.
JOE: Matt Taylor?
JEFF: Matt Taylor is the artist. Yeah. He is fantastic. He does a lot of stuff with Mondo. He does a lot of Marvel art. He does a lot of Disney art. But we sent over a list of artists that we would love for them to consider to do this to feel like it’s album art and not Muppet clip art or photographs of scenes or whatever.
JOE: Yeah, that’s something that we notice. Yeah. I appreciate that. So Nora says, now that there’s an album to promote they have an actual reason to go on tour. And they’re heading out the door. Was it your original intention that this season would end with a tour? Or is this just kind of a nod toward what we might be seeing in season 2?
BILL: Both? [laughs.]
JOE: Or are you not able to comment on that? [laughs]
JEFF: No, what do you mean, that we would see them go on tour in this season?
JOE: The two things I’m asking are, is this leading to a season two where we’re going to be seeing them on tour? Or was this season supposed to come out and then go to Fandango because the Muppets might be coming to your town?
JEFF: Oh, a real life tour.
JEFF: I don’t think we considered that they would for real be going on tour. That’s outside of our, as writers, jurisdiction.
JEFF: To say, Oh, by the way, Muppets Studio, this is what you guys are doing this summer.”
JOE: Hey, look. Other writers have attempted stuff like. [laughs] So you could have tried.
JEFF: It’s a great idea. Honestly, sure. Absolutely. We would love for there to be a tour. I wanted them to build in to the show just to have like a bunch of gigs. And show a couple of episodes leading up. I thought that would have been amazing.
BILL: And I think if they go on tour in a second season, I think we left it because the bus breaks down, that we have the option of deciding, depending on what we have to, what realistically may need to play out.
BILL: So we just don’t know yet. Yeah.
JEFF: And we’re not allowed to think about it.
BILL: That’s right.
JOE: You’re not allowed to think about the tour?
JEFF: Because of the strike.
JOE: Okay. Oh right.
JEFF: No, we’re not allowed to think about Season two.
BILL: My brain is on strike.
JOE: Fair enough. I will not ask you any questions about things you’ve not written yet. On the bus, Moog is pointing out all the photographs that are all on the ceiling. As we mentioned, there’s this whole treasure hunt thing of following the clues. But Zoot is looking at the birthday cake that he got once. And remember that grilled cheese sandwich. Here’s the band taking Manhattan. That’s a great little little reference to Muppets Take Manhattan. And here’s Penny giving us our cash advance.
BILL: Yeah, that’s not Zoot’s birthday cake.
JOE: Whose birthday cake was that?
BILL: You have to look and see whose name is on the cake.
JOE: Oh, do you need me to go back and zoom in and enhance.
JEFF: His name is almost on the cake.
BILL: Almost on the cake.
JOE: Are you gonna make me look? Or are you gonna reveal it for our listeners?
JEFF: You don’t have to scroll through now but listeners will enjoy the look.
JOE: Okay, fair enough. Can’t wait to find out whose cake that is and what flavor it was.
BILL: This is the stuff you love, right? You want a little, right?
JOE: All right. Yeah. I mean I wanted to reveal all the Easter eggs but we’re gonna leave some for people to find on their own and that’s okay.
JEFF: All these Polaroids. This was, again, this was post Polaroids. This was Bill and J just sort of going through our pictures. We did a shoot where Zoot… Dave, you could tell us about the shoot. Remember doing that shoot where it was you with the teller, getting the check, the money bags. We shot it in our office.
DAVE: Yeah, it was actually in the entrance to the building.
DAVE: In the lobby.
JEFF: The Dunder Mifflin elevator area.
DAVE: Yeah. [laughs]
JEFF: But yeah, we got that and we sort of changed it around and then I think I wound up making it in Photoshop. So it’s actually Penny because he says this is when Penny gave me the money. So it was taking a picture of Penny and then making it a Zoot picture somehow even though he’s in it. But Zoot’s surreal.
JOE: Zoot invented the selfie, as we all know.
JOE: That’s great. Yeah, and also it makes sense that there’s multiple pictures to tell that story because in episode one they talk about cutting a check to Mr. Zootowski and here, he’s accepting cash. So we gotta figure out how…
BILL: He cashed the check.
JOE: …that check became cash. Yeah. We kind of figured that sounds boring for a Muppet show.
JOE: So we could just fill in those blanks ourselves. So yeah, Dr. Teeth, he looks directly down the barrel of the camera. He says, “We’re taking this show on the road.” I hope that means that that’s what we’re gonna be seeing in season two. I hope that means we’re getting a season 2. And as they attempt to drive off before they break down, we hear the song “On Our Way” which is another original song for the show. Appears on the soundtrack. You can listen to the whole thing there.
And that’s pretty much where the episode ends with the exception of the Zoot tag at the end in which Zoot takes a picture of the audience and says, “This one’s for Kermit.” That is our only mention of Kermit the Frog in this entire show.
JEFF: That is true.
JOE: Right there. And that’s the end of Muppets Mayhem. We did it. We made it to the end of this show and the end of this podcast.
BILL: That mention was, I think Leigh [Slaughter] or David Lightbody from Muppets Studio suggested that we mention Kermit there, if we could. Can we find a way of getting that in there?
JEFF: Right. So, Dave, you ADR’d that, right?
DAVE: I think so. Yeah.
BILL: Yeah, we went back and asked him to redo the ADR.
JEFF: The Zoot tags, those are all from… Was that the last day of shooting?
DAVE: I think it was.
BILL: Oh! Yeah, you were shooting while we were doing the concert stuff.
JEFF: Yeah, that was happening over there. Then it was like the VCR/VHS inserts and Zoot tags.
DAVE: That was on the reshoot day, right?
BILL: No, no, no, no. It wasn’t a reshoot day. It was our concert. It was while we were doing the Bowl stuff.
JEFF: On the other side of the stage.
BILL: We were shooting over there. You were shooting your stuff before you had to come and do your Hollywood Bowl stuff.
JOE: How many of those did you film do you think? Of those Zoot tags? I mean, are we talking like we did 12 and cut them down? Or we did 50 of them and cut it down to 10?
JEFF: Yeah, I think we scripted 10 of them. I think we got 12 to 15 back. Five of which were better than ours.
JEFF: And yeah, we used them. I mean, they’re great. [imitates Zoot] I see sparklies.
JOE: I feel like this felt like those old Muppet Show teasers that you guys used to do where you would do a little five second bit before. Here’s what’s coming up on the next episode of the Muppet Show thing. In that like they felt ad libbed. It felt like Dave, it was just you in front of the camera going, “I don’t know. I’ll just get up there and say something funny.” And obviously, that’s not true. You just said you scripted them.
BILL: That’s the magic of Dave Goelz.
DAVE: I think Bill and I were doing that together. He was suggesting things too. But I can’t remember really well.
BILL: I think you were winging them. You were just coming up with stuff.
DAVE: To go back to something that you said earlier about soliciting ideas from everybody and also when we were at Descanso Gardens shooting the Zoot gallery and the Forsureleans, Bill was saying– I was wondering where you were, because then you had to go to the harbor, to go to the Queen Mary that day.
BILL: I had to go record our song that we were shooting the next morning.
BILL: So I came back later.
DAVE: That day we were, we didn’t really have a lot of people around to help us with writing and stuff. And for some reason, when Zoot left the gallery, I can’t remember how it was written, but Rob Cohen, who’s a very sweet soul, was one of our directors, he sort of brought up the idea. I think he brought up the idea of getting Jimmy in there. And so we just kind of worked out this little bit and there was nobody to ask so we did whatever was scripted. And then we just made this other ending where Jimmy says, “Look what are you waiting for? Let’s go.” And it was really nice because it sort of wraps out the season with the shoe.
DAVE: But it’s a case in point where the business is a lot less flexible now than it used to be. There are layers and layers of approvals that you have to get when you’re working for these big companies. Used to be, we would just wing things. We would just make it up and do it. We would do what was scripted, but we would add other extra things and it just gave some choices in the end. And this was a nice little example that day. There was nobody around to ask so we just did it.
DAVE: And it worked out.
BILL: That’s great.
DAVE: One last little addendum, then I want to hear what Jeff said. It’s like jazz. It’s like improvisational jazz. When everything’s working and all the characters are there and everybody around is making suggestions. When we can work loose like that we get really great stuff and that was an example of that.
JEFF: No, I just love that he yanks you off screen.
JEFF: That’s what you want on television. You want movement and it’s also going to take you to the next moment. I guess we do hold on Animal for a bit but just like yeah. You want to be pulled in a direction. We’re moving the story along physically. You want to see that.
DAVE: I’m really glad because Rob suggested that.
DAVE: The director suggested doing something and we just kind of worked out something to do that would give it some animation at the end.
JEFF: It was, for Adam and myself, because we weren’t there as much, because we were writing half the time, like to get into the editing room and see these things, see these moments, these choices, these things that you guys ad libbed, it was the best. It was such a gift for us.
JEFF: More often than not, we’re sitting like, “That was better. Let’s use that.”
DAVE: We should say something. We should say something about the directors, too. Because we had three directors.
DAVE: And they were just really, each one was strong in a different way. It was really, really fun to work with all of them.
JEFF: Yep. We had Matt Sohn. We had Rob Cohen, who you mentioned. And Kimmy Gatewood.
BILL: Kimmy Gatewood.
DAVE: Matt Sohn we’ve worked with before. He’s totally committed. He’s just there 100%. And was really fun to work with. And then Kimmy came in and she was new. I hadn’t worked with her before but she and her first AD had never worked with each other before, but they came in, they were like a laugh machine.
BILL: Oh yeah, they were great.
JEFF: That’s who you want as an audience.
DAVE: They were an audience and they were having so much fun doing the work, that it kind of gave us a boost of energy.
DAVE: One more example of how the feeling in the room gets on the screen.
BILL: Yeah. Yep. Hey, I wanted to say one thing just about the last, when the bus breaks down. We couldn’t do any more takes because the bus broke down. So, we actually…[laughs]
JOE: It actually broke down in real life?
BILL: We actually broke down. We could only…that was as far as we could go. We got what we could get.
DAVE: It’s perfect. And so you use it.
BILL: Yeah, we used it.
DAVE: It’s the truth.
JOE: Yeah. What’s funnier than the truth?
DAVE: Truth is everything.
JOE: That is true. Well, gentlemen, this has been an absolute pleasure to talk to each of you. Thank you so much for joining me. Thank you, Bill and Jeff for joining me for so much of this podcast. It was such a treat to have you here. Dave, it’s always a pleasure to talk to you and talk about soap bottles. Any time.
DAVE: I’m wondering, did I mention the soap bottle this time? I forgot.
JOE: Tell me about this soap bottle.
BILL: It was really good. It was really great.
JEFF: I’m still thinking about it.
JOE: Well, and thank you guys again for putting together such a great season of television. I really loved The Muppets Mayhem. I am keeping my fingers crossed that there’s a season 2 coming. Or at the very least more from this creative team with the Muppets. Because I think you guys really nailed it and I think you made something really special. So thank you for that.
BILL: Thank you. Thanks.
JOE: And everyone else, we will see you next time here on the Toughpigs podcast channel.
[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.
For more from Tough Pigs find us @Toughpigs on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Patreon.
Thanks for listening and until next time, rock on!
[Beep indicating next take]
JOE: Sorry, I lost my place now because we’re talking about Jimmy Shoe now.
BILL: Oh, you’re not very good at this.
JOE: Oh man.
JEFF: We’re on episode 10. You feel like you would have learned by now.
JOE: Yeah, really. Oh geez.
DAVE: You’ll leave all of our stupid stuff in but you’ll save yourself.
JEFF: Yeah, exactly.
JOE: Yeah. You have no idea.
DAVE: You’ll get the scissors in. You’ll chop it out.
DAVE: You’ll chop out all your mistakes.
DAVE: But we are idiots. And here we are.
BILL: We have to sound stupid.
JOE: You’re not going to listen to this anyway. It’s fine.
JEFF: [in silly voice] What was that part of the show where I… [in normal voice] Yeah, just me for four minutes.