Jan 16, 2012

Muppetology 101: Recasting of Muppet Show Characters Pt. 1

Ryan Dosier - Good afternoon class, and welcome to the first lecture for Muppetology 101. If you're looking for Applications of Reinforced Concrete, it's down the hall. I know it's the start of a new semester, but we're going to jump right into things today with a lecture on a topic some of you may not be fully familiarized with: the recasts of Muppet characters performed by deceased or retired Muppeteers on The Muppet Show. Recently, numerous characters have been taken over by some talented individuals, so we'll discuss these recasts and show clips comparing the voices and performances. Take notes. There will be a quiz. (Probably. There will at least be some soda.)

Today's lecture spotlights the characters performed by Muppet creator Jim Henson. If you don't know who that is or what he did... you probably shouldn't be in this class.
    • Originally performed by JIM HENSON (1955-1990)
    • Currently performed by STEVE WHITMIRE (1990-present)
  • The first and most important recast to be made in the Muppet universe came with the untimely passing of Jim Henson, when Steve Whitmire took over the role of the world's most famous amphibian: Kermit the Frog. The transition was not an easy one for Steve, but after over 20 years, Kermit has not only been respectfully similar under (or over) Steve, but he has developed and grown as a character as well. It certainly helps that Kermit is by far the most popular and recognizable character in the Muppet stable, meaning that Steve had numerous appearances and opportunities to become the frog and hone him.
    • Jim Henson built and perfected Kermit the Frog for Sam and Friends in 1955 and performed him for 35 years. Jim's final performance as Kermit was during an interview on The Arsenio Hall Show in 1990.
    • Steve Whitmire has performed Kermit the Frog since The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson in 1990 and has performed him almost exclusively (besides a few minor hiccups which we will discuss another time) since then, including The Muppets film in 2011.
    • Originally performed by JIM HENSON (1962-1990)
    • Currently performed by BILL BARRETTA (1996-present)
  • One of the more difficult Muppets to recast after Jim Henson's death was Rowlf the Dog. Rowlf was very much a part of Jim Henson. His musical sense was displayed through Rowlf and his zen-like quality was possessed by Rowlf as well. It was so hard for Rowlf to find another performer that it took six years for Rowlf to find a voice again when Bill Barretta took on the dog. Bill didn't have a chance to hone his characterization of Rowlf until much later, when he performed Rowlf for a full segment on From the Balcony and a YouTube video called "The Skateboarding Dog Gets Served."
    • Bill Barretta first performed Rowlf in Episode 102 of Muppets Tonight in 1996 during Garth Brooks "We Shall Be Free" number. He continues to perform Rowlf currently, giving him his largest role in years in The Muppets in 2011.
    • Originally performed by JIM HENSON (1975-1990)
    • Currently performed by BILL BARRETTA (2005-present)
  • Dr. Teeth, the band leader and keyboardist for the Electric Mayhem,  proved another challenge to recast permanently, which helps to explain the silent and background roles of the Electric Mayhem in the 1990s and early 2000s. Why it took so long to recast the good doctor, I do not know, because once Bill Barretta took on the role in 2005, his gravelly and excited tones returned in full. By 2006, Dr. Teeth was singing full tracks on A Green and Red Christmas album.
    • Jim Henson's first performance as Dr. Teeth was also the character's first appearance in The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence in 1975. He performed him exclusively up until The Muppets at Walt Disney World in 1990, when the good doctor led the Electric Mayhem in the song "Rock and Rollin' Around the World."
    • Bill Barretta's first performance as Dr. Teeth was in 2005 with the TV movie The Muppets' Wizard of Oz for the song "Naptime." He continues to perform him now, giving the band leader a few prominent lines in The Muppets in 2011.
    • Originally performed by JIM HENSON (1975-1990)
    • Currently performed by BILL BARRETTA (1996-present)
  • The Swedish Chef didn't find a new permanent performer until Muppet Treasure Island when Bill Barretta joined the Muppet team. He was performed for the first time after Jim Henson's death by David Rudman in The Muppet Christmas Carol, but David just couldn't capture the Chef's voice. Thankfully, Bill Barretta brings a near-perfect performance to the unintelligible Chef, and has ever since 1996, with hits such as the viral YouTube videos "Popcorn," "Habanera," and "Ringing of the Bells."
    • Jim Henson first performed The Swedish Chef in The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence in 1975. His final performance as The Swedish Chef was in 1990 when the Chef sold Bunsen and Beaker tacos in The Muppets at Walt Disney World.
    • Bill Barretta first performed The Swedish Chef in Muppet Treasure Island in 1996 where he dressed as a tribal pig and skewered vegetables. Bill has performed the Chef ever since, including his role in The Muppets in 2011.
    • Originally performed by JIM HENSON (1975-1990)
    • Currently performed by DAVE GOELZ (1992-present)
  • One of the easier recasts to make was for Waldorf, half of the team of Statler and Waldorf, the two Muppet Show hecklers. Perhaps it was because these two grumpy old men are so popular, or perhaps it's because they had such a large role in The Muppet Christmas Carol, but Waldorf went to Dave Goelz less than two years after Jim Henson's death. Dave has continued to perform Waldorf, alongside both Jerry Nelson and Steve Whitmire's Statler, ever since.
    • Jim Henson first performed Waldorf in 1975 in the TV pilot The Muppet Show: Sex and Viloence. His final performance was with Richard Hunt as Statler in The Muppets at Walt Disney World in 1990 when Statler and Waldorf sang "Who's Your Lady Friend?".
    • Dave Goelz first performed Waldorf in 1992 in The Muppet Christmas Carol. Dave has performed Waldorf ever since, for 20 years now, in countless appearances and projects, including The Muppets in 2011.
    • Originally performed by JIM HENSON (1977-1990)
    • Currently performed by STEVE WHITMIRE (2003-2011)
  • Best known as the captain of the S.S. Swinetrek in the "Pigs in Space" sketches on The Muppet Show, Link Hogthrob's deep, goofy, voice proved hard to duplicate (or perhaps unnecessary), and Link remained silent throughout the 1990s. In 2003, Steve Whitmire performed Link's voice in a video game. It wasn't until The Muppets in 2011 that Link Hogthrob both spoke and performed for the first time in over 20 years. Link performed as part of the Muppet Barbershop Quartet, giving him not only his biggest role in two decades, but his biggest role in any Muppet feature film.
    • Jim Henson first performed Link Hogthrob in The Muppet Show Episode 203 in the first ever "Pigs in Space" sketch. His final performance with the pompous pig was once again in 1990 in The Muppets at Walt Disney World, where Link "helps" Charles Grodin's security guard character find the Muppets.
    • Steve Whitmire first performed Link Hogthrob's voice in 2003 for the Muppet Party Cruise video game. The most recent, and only second time, Steve performed Link was in 2011 in The Muppets.
    • Originally performed by JIM HENSON (1976-1989)
    • Currently performed by STEVE WHITMIRE (2008-present)
  • One of Jim Henson's goofier characters was the Newsman who hosted the Muppet Newsflash segments on The Muppet Show. Perhaps it was because no one else wanted to be blown up, crushed, and turned into things, but the Newsman did not return until 2001, when Brian Henson performed him for The Muppet Show LIVE at the MuppetFest fan convention. That would prove to be the Newsman's only appearance, however, until 2008 when Steve Whitmire performed him in a few hilarious sketches on Muppets.com. The Newsman has not appeared too often since then, but Steve Whitmire has performed him in every instance since when he has appeared.
    • Jim Henson first performed the Newsman in the first season of The Muppet Show in 1976. His final performance was in The Jim Henson Hour Episode 105, when The Newsman provided translations for the unhip while Bobby McFerrin read the musical news.
    • Steve Whitmire first performed the Newsman in 2008 in a Muppets.com video. He continues to perform the Newsman whenever he appears, including a few brief lines in The Muppets in 2011.
Well class, that's it for lecture this week. Join us next week when we discuss Frank Oz and the recasts of his characters from The Muppet Show (hint: they're all performed by Eric Jacobson). Remember... attendance counts for half your grade! So we had better see you there. Class dismissed!

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


        1. Who performed Link during Muppet's Tonight? The Baywatch sketch's featured Link very well and there is no mention of that here. Thanks.

        2. Link was never a featured character on Muppets Tonight. That was another pig puppet on Bay Of Pigs Watch.

        3. A few other notes:
          - John Kennedy performed Kermit for a demonstration at MuppetFest (2001) opposite Steve's "young Kermit" (from Kermit's Swamp Years). John was also Kermit for most of the "Muppets Ahoy!" performances in 2006.

          - Artie Esposito performed Kermit in 2009 for apperances on "America's Got Talent", "MTV Video Music Awards", and "D23 Expo".

          - John Kennedy also sometimes performed Dr. Teeth after Jim's passing (and prior to Bill taking over). These performances were in "Muppets on Location: Days of Swine and Roses" (1991), "Muppet Treasure Island Video Game" (1996), "Muppets From Space" (1999), "Muppet RaceMania" (2000), "We Are Family" (2002), "Muppet Party Cruise" (2003).

          - Victor Yerrid performed the good Doctor in an episode of "From the Balcony".

          - Steve Whitmire performed the Swedish Chef in a Movie Mania short (1999), and on his apperances on "Donna's Day" during that same year.

          - Victor Yerrid performed the chef in an episode of "From the Balcony".

          - Jerry Nelson performed the Newsman in a 1996 CD-Rom, "Muppets Inside"