1 The Muppet Mindset: Weekly Muppet Wednesdays: Fozzie Bear

Dec 9, 2009

Weekly Muppet Wednesdays: Fozzie Bear

Written by Ryan Dosier.

FOZZIE BEAR

Performed by...
Frank Oz (1976-1999)
Eric Jacobson (2002-present)

First appearance...
The Muppet Show Episode 101: Juliet Prowse (1976)

Most recent appearance...
Muppets Most Wanted (2014)

Best known role...
The Muppet Show's in-house comedian. Teller of bad jokes. Performer of bad novelty acts. Heckle-target of Statler and Waldorf. Kermit's best friend.

Catchphrase...
"Wocka! Wocka! Wocka!"

WHO IS FOZZIE BEAR?

Fozzie is the furry, fuzzy, funny-man of The Muppet Theater. He is ever-earnest in his quest for the title of World's Greatest Stand-up (Bear) Comedian and that attitude keeps his optimism high and his friendliness equally as high--unfortunately, sometimes his self-esteem falls to the lower end of the scale.

Fozzie's role on The Muppet Show went from comedian, to backstage character and comedian, to prop comic, to ventriloquist, to roller skating comic, and much, much more. Fozzie was originally conceived to be Frank Oz's main character on the show (until Miss Piggy stepped forward--Fozzie was probably more than happy to jump out of the way). Fozzie was an integral part of the cast and you would be hard pressed to find more than a handful of the 120 episodes of the show that didn't include Fozzie.

After The Muppet Show, Fozzie carried on with Kermit and followed him blindly. In The Muppet Movie, Fozzie was rescued by Kermit when the bear's gig in the El Sleezo Cafe went south; and they have been best friends ever since. Fozzie was the first Muppet Kermit met and invited along with him to Hollywood and he acted as Kermit's sort of first mate throughout the rest of the film and continues to do so today.

In The Great Muppet Caper, Fozzie played Kermit's twin brother (he's  the one in the hat), a role that was not much of a stretch for the bear, as he had been acting as Kermit's pseudo-brother for years prior to the film. This is where one of Fozzie's greatest moments comes into play as he provides the rousing speech (on the same level as the guy from Braveheart) to convince the Muppets to help Kermit by stealing the Fabulous Baseball Diamond (long story). "Shame on you!" Fozzie scolds the others. "We don't want the bad guys to win!" And, thanks to Fozzie, they don't.

The Muppets Take Manhattan saw Fozzie take a smaller role as the story turned to focus more on Kermit and Miss Piggy rather than a group dynamic. Fozzie did have some memorable scenes, however. He attempts to hibernate with a cave of bears ("How do they do it? I've been trying to fall asleep for days!") and even sings the climax of the song "Saying Goodbye" surrounded by the rest of the Muppets.

In the late 1980's and early 1990's, Fozzie was a huge big part of the Muppets. He was crucial to the plot of A Muppet Family Christmas, The Muppets at Walt Disney World, and The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson. In the first two, Fozzie's Ma also plays a big role.

Once the 1990's started chugging along, Fozzie was seen less and less. In The Muppet Christmas Carol he was relegated to a very small role as Fozziwig and was only seen for one short scene. He didn't fare much better in Muppet Treasure Island as Squire Trelawney--but, thankfully, his part was slightly more substantial than Fozziwig. In Muppets Tonight Fozzie only appeared a handful of times (mostly due to Frank Oz's other priorities at the time) in a few sketches such as "EIEIO-R" and "City Shtickers" with Kermit and Billy Crystal.

In Muppets From Space Fozzie finally returned as part of the main group of Muppets alongside Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, Rizzo, Pepe, and Animal. He was once again portrayed as Kermit's best friend and showed off his driving skills from The Muppet Movie by driving the Electric Mayhem bus to rescue Gonzo.

All of these films portrayed Fozzie as a dim-witted character and not as the loving, endearing comedian bear he was on The Muppet Show and in earlier films. This all changed with It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie (Eric Jacobson's first performance as Fozzie) where the bear was once again funny because of his endearing qualities. Fozzie's humor was drawn from his dedication to Kermit and the rest of his friends. (Running through a laser field three times just to save the theater? That takes chutzpah!)

In recent films and projects, Fozzie remains a main character. He played the Cowardly Lion in The Muppets' Wizard of Oz, performed at "The North Pole Comedy Club" on The Muppets Red and Green Christmas album, and played a leading role in A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa, where he sang a duet with Gonzo for the first time.

Recently, Fozzie has been seen as an integral part of the Muppets "Give a Day. Get a Disney Day." promotions, at the D23 Expo with Gonzo and Pepe, and with Andrea Bocelli and the rest of the Muppets performing "Jingle Bells" all over the place this holiday season. Fozzie even sang a few lines in the latest, most successful viral video from the Muppets, "Bohemian Rhapsody." "Let me joke!" he begs Statler and Waldorf as they simply shake their heads and grumble "Do not like your jokes!"

Fozzie will return to the big screen in November 2011 in The Muppets feature film. In the movie, Fozzie has split up from the rest of the Muppets and finds himself performing with a troupe of gruff performers in Las Vegas called The Moopets. It takes Kermit, Jason Segel, Amy Adams, and new Muppet, Walter, to bring Fozzie back to the Muppet Theater and find the other Muppets.

FOZZIE BEAR AND FRANK OZ
As mentioned early, Fozzie was conceived as Frank Oz's main character on The Muppet Show. Frank really settled into Fozzie after the first season and fell in love with the bear right after. It is interesting to look at Frank's Fozzie in relation to Jim Henson's Kermit. They played off of each other much like Ernie and Bert, just with the roles/performers reversed. Fozzie would bug Kermit much like Ernie would bug Bert. But, in the end, they remained best friends--just like Jim and Frank.

FOZZIE BEAR AND ERIC JACOBSON
Fozzie is now performed by Eric Jacobson, who performs most of Frank's characters. Eric has really become Fozzie and understands the character extremely well--as his performances as the bear will show. When The Muppet Show Season 3 was released on DVD, Fozzie an Kermit made the interview rounds to promote it and Eric and Steve Whitmire played off of each other extremely well and it really felt like Fozzie was finally back. Kudos to Eric Jacobson for bringing back the bear!

FOZZIE BEAR SONGS
Although Fozzie is mostly comically inclined, every once in awhile he shows off his musical side. These are a few of his more famous numbers:
  • "Wotcher Knocked 'Em in the Old Kent Road" - The Muppet Show Episode 201
  • "The Pig Got Up and Slowly Walked Away" - The Muppet Show Episode 209
  • "An Actor's Life for Me" (with Rowlf on piano) - The Muppet Show Episode 305
  • "Green Door" - The Muppet Show Episode 422
  • "Simon Smith and His Amazing Dancing Bear" (with Scooter) - The Muppet Show Episode 101
  • "Any Old Iron" (with Kermit) - The Muppet Show Episode 214
  • "English Country Garden" (with Rowlf) - The Muppet Show Episode 218
  • "Top Banana" (with Milton Berle) - The Muppet Show Episode 203
  • "The Rhyming Song" (with Scooter, Link, and Annie Sue) - The Muppet Show Episode 308
  • "Movin' Right Along" (with Kermit) - The Muppet Movie
  • "Steppin' Out with a Star" (with Kermit and Gonzo) - The Great Muppet Caper
  • "Saying Goodbye" (with The Muppet) - The Muppets Take Manhattan
  • "Sleigh Ride" (with a Snowman) - A Muppet Family Christmas
  • "Wooly Bully" (with Gonzo and Rizzo) - Muppet Beach Party album
  • "Nothing's Too Good For You" (with Rizzo and the Rats) - Muppet Classic Theater
  • "When I'm With You" (with Ashanti, Kermit, Gonzo, and Pepe) - The Muppets' Wizard of Oz
FOZZIE BEAR'S GREATEST (WORST) JOKES
"My apartment is so small, all of the mice have hunchbacks!"

Kermit: "Bear left."
Fozzie: "Right frog!"

Kermit: "Good grief, the comedian's a bear."
Fozzie: "No he's'a not! He's'a wearin' a neck'a'tie!"

Kermit: "Where did you learn to drive?"
Fozzie: "I took a correspondence course."

"If you think this crowd is ugly, you should see the dancing girls!"

Fozzie: "Ah, Christmas, time for Santa and his eight prancing reinbear."
Snowman: "That's reindeer."
Fozzie: "No... That's SNOW, darling! Ahhh!"

"Hey, that Gonzo is SO dumb, he just heard that we're running short of water, so he wants us to dilute it."

"New York is so crowded, even the cemeteries are standing room only!"

Rowlf: "Oh, Fozzie, what are you carrying the fish for?"
Fozzie: "Oh, for the halibut!"

WHY DO THE MUPPETS NEED FOZZIE BEAR?
Fozzie is everyone's best friend. Not only is he Kermit's, but he's Gonzo's and Rowlf's and Scooter's and, she probably wouldn't admit it, probably Miss Piggy's too. Fozzie cares more about his friends than anything else. He cares about making sure that Kermit is happy--even if it takes a bad joke to do that. Even Statler and Waldorf probably secretly love the bear (but lord knows they won't show it). Although Fozzie may seem obsessed with jokes, he's really obsessed with something else: the dream. Yes, Kermit's dream of never giving up and singing and dancing and making people happy. No one represents this dream better than Fozzie Bear--even Kermit says so in the "Fridays with Fozzie" section of his book Before You Leap.

So honk a bicycle horn, throw a pie, squirt a flower--do something to show Fozzie Bear how much you love him. Wocka! Wocka! Wocka!












The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, muppetmindset@gmail.com

    1 comment:

    1. Did I ever mention that these Muppet profiles should be made into a book? I think I did...I'm gunna mention it again.

      (This comment was brought to you by the confirmation word: repinge...which I assume means, to ping again.)

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