After you finish this article, click here for the exciting follow-up!
My fellow Muppet fans: I want — no, I need — to talk about something that I don’t think has received nearly enough coverage. Namely, Janice’s uvula.
You know what a uvula is, right? It’s that little thing that hangs down in the back of your throat, over your tongue. Here it is, helpfully pointed out in this diagram I found online:
(Side note: In searching for that photo I discovered that some people get their uvulas pierced, which made me wish I had never searched for images of uvulas.)
Janice is not one of the biggest Muppet stars, but she’s certainly well-liked. When a new Muppet video featuring a lot of characters gets posted online, or a new Muppet production comes out, there’s a pretty good chance Janice will get some dialogue or a line in a song. This has happened more regularly in the last several years since David Rudman was officially cast to provide Janice with the delightfully spacey lilt originally established by Richard Hunt. Inevitably, these new videos and productions are followed by comments like this one:
It’s a valid question. Janice has been around since the first season of The Muppet Show (yes, she’s technically been around since Sex & Violence before that, but YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN), and Muppet fans both hardcore and casual consider themselves pretty familiar with her appearance. Most people with a working knowledge of the Muppets could describe her: She has full lips, long, luxurious eyelashes adorning eyes that are apparently always closed, and blonde hair that can only be compared to the spaghetti at the Italian joint down the street. People know Janice well enough that they don’t hesitate to compare her to dozens of celebrities and semi-celebrities.
Also, like Kermit and a few other Muppets, Janice has always had an upper palate built into her mouth, along with a tongue. But she hasn’t always had the uvula. So when a fan first catches a glimpse of it, it catches them off guard. I mean, look at that thing. It’s so prominent, and so… dangly. In fact, if you called me up and asked me for an adjective to describe Janice’s uvula for a story you’re reporting for The Dubuque Telegraph Herald, the adjective I would choose would be “dangly.” Any time she talks or sings, it dangles, to and fro, like a paddleball on a string. Her recent “Muppet Thought of the Week” is a good example:
Distracting, isn’t it? And we Muppet fans are observant people. If it had been there before, we would have noticed! Right? You would think so. We know that Muppets are rebuilt over time as the original puppets wear out, so it’s certainly within the realm of possibility that a recent Janice rebuild had the uvula tacked on for the very first time. But I won’t be able to sleep until I know for sure.
My first stop was Muppet Wiki’s Janice Through the Years article, so I could see whether the question had already been answered and my brilliant idea for a Tough Pigs piece was actually pointless. There was some chatter about it on the old-fashioned talk page, but nothing specific included in the timeline of the article. So now it’s time for some detective work.
I know folks mentioned the uvula when talking about The Muppets TV series (2015), Muppets Most Wanted (2014), and The Muppets movie (2011). It was practically all Rex Reed could talk about in his review of the 2011 movie. So it was definitely already there by then. What about the previous round of high-profile productions? I don’t have a pristine copy of Letters to Santa to scrutinize in search of Janice’s uvula, but what about the “Bohemian Rhapsody” video, which hit YouTube in 2009 not so long before that special? Janice definitely sang a couple lines with Floyd in that. Here we go:
(By the way: I may someday do a video version of this article, so you can see Janice’s uvula dangle for yourself. For now, I hope you can accept these images of her prominent uvula and trust me that it dangles. Or watch these things yourself. It’s always a good time to rewatch Muppet things.)
So she had it for the dawn of The Great 21st Century Muppet Renaissance in 2009. Maybe that’s it, then. Maybe in anticipation of the slew of planned projects, the Muppet builders gave Janice a spiffy new hat and a matching uvula.
But let’s go back a few years. We should review another significant checkpoint in Janice history. I know what you’re thinking, and I’m thinking it too: Janice had a line in 2002’s It’s a Very Merry Happy Silly Muppet Christmastime Kaboom. That’s what you were thinking. Let’s take a look.
There it is! Janice’s dangly uvula can accurately say it co-starred in a TV movie with Carson Daly. We must go back further! Let’s cast our investigative eye back to the Richard Hunt years, all the way back to A Muppet Family Christmas. That’s from 1987, a full 22 years before “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Janice sings a bit of “Jingle Bell Rock” with the rest of the Electric Mayhem, and…
How far back does this thing go, anyway? Could it have been there as early as the last season of The Muppet Show??? (You know, season five. One of the seasons that’s NEVER BEEN COMMERCIALLY RELEASED.) Here’s Janice singing lead in the “Rockin’ Robin” number, taped in 1980.
Okay. Every little swallow and every chickadee can plainly see there’s no uvula there. Which means that she got it some time after 1980. Which means it’s time to move forward in time once again. Did she have it in The Muppets Take Manhattan?
Intriguing! The uvula is present in Janice’s mouth in 1984, but it’s definitely not as noticeable, and it’s not dangling with quite the same vivaciousness as it does now. I wonder if it was the same way in The Great Muppet Caper.
Here, then, is my extremely informed expert theory: The very first Janice puppet did not have the uvula. Even if it was part of her built-in palate, it was attached to the roof of her mouth and did not hang down. Sometime between the end of The Muppet Show and The Great Muppet Caper, she was rebuilt, and the uvula was added. Then, the next time Janice was rebuilt, the uvula became larger, perhaps because the Muppet workshop used up their last box of Small Uvulas.
And here’s what made all the difference: HD. Now that we can see the Electric Mayhem in high definition, Dr. Teeth’s gold tooth is shinier than ever, we can make out every hair in Floyd’s mustache — and Janice’s uvula demands our attention, mesmerizing us like an old pocket watch swinging at the end of a chain held by a master hypnotist. Gaze at Janice’s uvula. You are getting sleepy… veeery sleepy… It is really quite remarkable how sleepy you’re getting… watching… the… uvula…
Uhhh, where was I? Oh yeah! High definition video plus a rebuilt puppet equals one very noticeable uvula. That’s my conclusion. If anyone has any evidence to the contrary, please let me know, on the Tough Pigs forum or Facebook or by e-mailing me at Ryan@ToughPigs.com. And let me know if you think there are any other Muppets whose mouths I should be studying!
Click here to play a game of Pin the Uvula on the Janice on the Tough Pigs forum!
by Ryan Roe – Ryan@ToughPigs.com