Nov 9, 2011
Weekly Muppet Wednesdays: Janice
Richard Hunt (1977-1990)
Eren Ozker (1976-1977)
David Rudman (2008-present)
The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence Pilot (1975)
Most recent appearance...
The Muppets (2011)
Best known role...
Lead guitarist for Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem
"...and I said, 'Look mother, it's my life o-kay? And if I want to live on a beach and walk around naked, I--'"
WHO IS JANICE?
Janice is the lanky, big-lipped, blonde valley girl who is most well known as the lead guitarist for The Muppet Show house-band and all around hip and groovy group, Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem. Janice has been a member of the Electric Mayhem since their first Muppet gig in The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence pilot in 1975 (where she was performed by Muppeteer Fran Brill). Her design by Michael Frith is a take off of legendary Rolling Stones front-man, Mick Jagger, and her name is most likely a reference to Janis Joplin.
In the first season of The Muppet Show, Janice was performed by female Muppeteer Eren Ozker (who also performed Wanda and Hilda the Wardrobe Lady). Ozker's portrayal of the character was much different than the groovy valley girl we know today, with Janice being much more reserved and soft-spoken. Also in Season 1, it appeared, due to various "At the Dance" sketches, that Janice and Zoot seemed to have some sort of romantic involvement. Both her relationship with Zoot and her more straight-laced personality would leave by Season 2, when Richard Hunt took over the character.
With Richard Hunt now performing Janice, her valley girl personality began to gel quickly, giving the writers a trait to work with and room to develop Janice as a full-fledged character. By Season 4, Janice was getting her own solo numbers, with "With a Little Help From My Friends" in Season 4 and "Rockin' Robin" in Season 5. Along with solos, Janice also provided harmony to many of the classic Electric Mayhem numbers including "Don't Blame the Dynamite" and "Barnyard Boogie."
Janice soon developed a close relationship with one band member in particular: bassist Floyd Pepper. This relationship was first in the forefront in The Muppet Movie, where Floyd referred to Janice as his "main squeeze" and Janice asked him to buy her some popcorn. Their relationship progressed and instances of their romance can be seen in The Muppets Go to the Movies, Rocky Mountain Holiday, and later episodes of The Muppet Show (most notably their duet of "Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover").
Janice has appeared in every Muppet movie since the beginning, where she and the rest of the Electric Mayhem were turning the church into a coffee shop with, according to Janice, "Rull good music and organic refreshments." In The Great Muppet Caper we got a new aspect of Janice's character: ridiculous comments about her sensuality, when she spoke about her mother's anti-nude beach policies. This facet of Janice returned in The Muppets Take Manhattan when Janice said, "--I told him, 'I don't take my clothes off for anyone! Even if it is artistic.'" Around this time, Janice began sporting a side ponytail which would last until about 2005.
After the death of Richard Hunt in 1991, Janice remained silent until 2001, when she had a brief vocal appearance in the video game Muppet Race Mania. Her first post-Hunt speaking role in a Muppet production was in It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie in 2002 where Janice was performed by Brian Henson, and later in 2005's The Muppets' Wizard of Oz Janice had a brief line when she was performed by Tyler Bunch. Finally, in 2008 and Studio DC: Almost Live!, Janice found a permanent performer in David Rudman. Rudman performed Janice in A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa, "Bohemian Rhapsody," "The Muppet Show Theme Song" music video with OK Go.
WHY DO THE MUPPETS NEED JANICE?
Janice is a crucial member of the Electric Mayhem band and it truly isn't the same without her. If there was no Janice, Floyd would probably leave, starting a chain reaction that would break up the group indefinitely. Notice how the period when Janice was silent saw the Electric Mayhem mostly silent as well. Although she isn't the most out-spoken or prominent member of the band, Janice is still a pertinent member of the group, providing wonderful harmonies and a killer solo voice as well. Thank goodness she has found a permanent, talented performer in David Rudman who has been doing great justice to this classic Richard Hunt character since 2008.