1 The Muppet Mindset: Muppetology 101: Recasting of Muppet Show Characters, Pt. 4

Feb 21, 2012

Muppetology 101: Recasting of Muppet Show Characters, Pt. 4

Ryan Dosier - Good day, students! Welcome back to our weekly Muppetology 101 lecture. After last week's special class, we're returning to our chapter on Recasting of Muppet Show Characters, this time spotlighting the Muppets performed by Jerry Nelson. As Jerry is the final original Muppeteer to somehow leave performing (Dave Goelz continues to perform all the characters he originated), this will be our final lecture on this topic. But, fear not, because more Muppetology with more topics will be on the way!

As we begin discussing Jerry Nelson's characters, it must be noted that virtually every Muppet on this list has been taken over by the talented Matt Vogel. In recent recasts, it seems that a single new performer is chosen to take on the characters of a single gone performer--such is the case with Eric Jacobson and Frank Oz as well as David Rudman and Richard Hunt. Since about 2008 Matt Vogel has revived most, if not all, of Jerry Nelson's fan-favorite characters from The Muppet Show.
  • FLOYD PEPPER
    • Originally performed by JERRY NELSON (1975-2003)
    • Currently performed by MATT VOGEL (2008-present)
  • Floyd Pepper was one of Jerry Nelson's favorite characters to perform. Even after the deaths of Jim Henson (Dr. Teeth) and Richard Hunt (Janice), Jerry kept Floyd around in appearances throughout the 1990s even without the rest of the Electric Mayhem. Upon Jerry's retirement from performing with the Muppets in 2003, Floyd disappeared for a few years. In the extended version of The Muppets' Wizard of Oz on DVD in 2005 and on The Muppets Green and Red Christmas album in 2006, John Kennedy performed Floyd. Kennedy's performance, while right in personality, just didn't capture Floyd's trademark raspy voice. In the first installment of Studio DC: Almost Live!, Matt Vogel performed Floyd for the first time. It could be this performance that solidified Matt as the chosen recast for all of Jerry Nelson's characters. Matt Vogel has performed Floyd since in appearances in viral videos, on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, TV specials, and most recently in The Muppets.
    • Jerry Nelson first performed Floyd Pepper for The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence pilot in 1975, in which Floyd was one of the three main characters alongside Sam Eagle and Nigel. Jerry Nelson's final physical performance as Floyd was for the television movie It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie in 2002, but Jerry provided Floyd's voice for the 2003 video game Muppets Party Cruise.
    • Matt Vogel first performed Floyd Pepper in both Studio DC: Almost Live! specials in 2008, when Floyd notably jammed alongside Disney star David Henrie. Matt Vogel has continued to perform Floyd since then including his appearance in The Muppets in 2011. 
  • LEW ZEALAND 
    • Originally performed by JERRY NELSON (1977-2003)
    • Performed by BILL BARRETTA (2002-2005)
    • Currently performed by MATT VOGEL (2008-present)
  • Lew Zealand, everyone's favorite boomerang fish thrower, was originated and perfected by Jerry Nelson for over 25 years. However, when filming It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie in 2002, the voices of Jerry's characters had to be looped over later due to health concerns. One such character was not looped, for whatever reason, and that was Lew Zealand as performed by Bill Barretta. Bill's Lew was over the top and hilarious--as it should be--and he stuck with the character through The Muppets' Wizard of Oz in 2005. Starting in A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa in 2008, Matt Vogel stepped in once again to take over Jerry Nelson's character, a casting which has stuck since then in all appearances of Lew Zealand.
    • Jerry Nelson first performed Lew Zealand in The Muppet Show Season 3 episode guest starring Marisa Berenson, in which Lew saves Kermit from marrying Miss Piggy in "the wedding sketch." Jerry's final, physical performance as Lew was at "The Muppet Show LIVE!" at MuppetFest in 2001, but his final vocal performance as Lew was for Muppets Party Cruise in 2003.
    • Matt Vogel first performed Lew Zealand in the A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa in 2008, where Lew offered Claire's Mom fishes. Matt has performed Lew since then in appearances in the "Bohemian Rhapsody" viral video in 2009 and in The Muppets in 2011.
  • CRAZY HARRY
    • Originally performed by JOHN LOVELADY (1974-1977)
    • Performed by JERRY NELSON (1977-2003)
    • Currently performed by MATT VOGEL (2008-present)
  • Crazy Harry is by now means a main Muppet character, but he has been recast quite a few times. His first performer was John Lovelady, who originated the character in The Muppet Valentine Show in 1974 when he was called "Crazy Donald" after Muppet designer and practical joker Don Sahlin. But come The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence in 1975 (where he was performed for the only time by Richard Hunt), the character's name had been changed to Crazy Harry for an unknown reason. John Lovelady returned to the character for The Muppet Show Season One in 1976-1977, but when he departed the show, Jerry Nelson took over. Even when Jerry was still performing, Crazy Harry was seen in the background but rarely spoke. In 2005 Crazy Harry returned to speaking in The Muppets' Wizard of Oz where he was performed by Rickey Boyd. But, once again, in 2008 Matt Vogel began performing Crazy Harry in viral videos, and the character made a sort of resurgence, appearing prominently in various music videos, TV specials and appearances, and The Muppets movie.
    • John Lovelady first performed Crazy Harry (then called Crazy Donald) in The Muppet Valentine Show pilot in 1974. He would continue to perform the character in The Muppet Show's first season throughout 1976 to 1977.
    • Jerry Nelson first performed Crazy Harry in The Muppet Show's second season in 1977. He would become the character's definitive performer for over 25 years. His final known physical and vocal performance as Crazy Harry was in The Muppets: A Celebration of 30 Years in 1986. However, Jerry provided Crazy Harry's voice for Muppets Party Cruise in 2003.
    • Matt Vogel first performed Crazy Harry in 2008 for the "Stars and Stripes FOREVER!" music video on YouTube. Matt continues to perform the character currently through appearances in Extreme Makeover: Home Edition in 2010, "Bohemian Rhapsody" in 2009, and The Muppets in 2011.
  • ROBIN THE FROG
    • Originally performed by JERRY NELSON (1971-2002)
    • Currently performed by MATT VOGEL (2008-present)
  • One of the most personal of Jerry Nelson's characters is Robin the Frog. Jerry originated Robin as the sweet, caring innocent we know and love and gave him a chipper, beautiful voice that is only a higher version of Jerry's own and extremely difficult to mimic. Matt Vogel was put to the task of giving Robin a voice for the first time in over five years in A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa when Robin sang a line in the song "My Best Christmas Yet." This proved difficult for Matt, and Robin sounded somewhat off. In 2009, Matt sang again as Robin on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon during the "Twelve Days of Christmas" number as Robin perched on Jimmy's shoulder. Again, Robin's voice wasn't perfect, but it was improving. Robin's most recent appearance was again on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon in 2011 where he and Kermit sang "When the River Meets the Sea" with Jimmy. Matt Vogel's Robin voice is still not perfect, but the personality and joy of the character absolutely are, and the voice can only improve with more appearances.
    • Jerry Nelson first performed Robin for The Frog Prince television special in 1971. Jerry would perform Robin throughout the run of The Muppet Show, for his major role in The Muppet Christmas Carol, and more up until It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie in 2002. This would also be Robin's last somewhat-substantial role to date.
    • Matt Vogel first performed Robin for A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa in 2008, in which Robin had a line singing in "My Best Christmas Yet." Matt has performed Robin for a few appearances since then on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon both in 2009 and 2011, both times Robin sang with Jimmy and the other Muppets.
  • CAMILLA THE CHICKEN
    • Originally performed by JERRY NELSON (1978-2003)
    • Currently performed by MATT VOGEL (2008-present)
  • Perhaps one of Jerry's easiest (yet somehow most challenging) characters to perform is Gonzo's chicken girlfriend Camilla. Jerry was the sole performer of Camilla, giving her a trademark clucking voice, for 25 years. After Jerry's retirement Camilla sort of disappeared with only an appearance in The Muppets' Wizard of Oz in 2005 (where she was performed by Alice Dinnean-Vernon) to put on her record. But in 2008, when Camilla was needed for the viral video "Classical Chicken," it was Matt Vogel who clucked up the scene. Camilla has found a new permanent performer in Matt, and her appearances have been more frequent ever since.
    • Jerry Nelson first performed the chicken named Camilla in The Muppet Show Season 3 in 1978 (Jerry had performed other chickens before this, but none named Camilla). Jerry would continue to perform Camilla for about 25 years until her vocal cameo in the 2003 video game Muppet Party Cruise.
    • Matt Vogel first performed Camilla in he 2008 music video "Classical Chicken," in which she literally laid an egg. Matt continues to perform Camilla still, including her appearance and scene-stealing "Forget You" performance in The Muppets in 2011.
  • UNCLE DEADLY 
    • Originally performed by JERRY NELSON (1976-1979)
    • Currently performed by MATT VOGEL (2011-present)
  • The most obscure of Jerry Nelson's semi-major characters is the Phantom of The Muppet Show, Uncle Deadly. The character only had a handful of appearances for about three years before disappearing into obscurity. It took director James Bobin and performer Matt Vogel to revive the long-lost phantom in The Muppets in 2011, giving Uncle Deadly his most prominent role ever as henchman of Tex Richman. Matt Vogel's Uncle Deadly is spot-on and we hope to see a lot more of him in the future.
    • Jerry Nelson first performed Uncle Deadly in The Muppet Show Season 1 episode where Twiggy guest starred. Jerry would perform the phantom in a few more appearances until his final physical and vocal performance as the character on The Tonight Show in 1979 when Kermit the Frog guest hosted.
    • Matt Vogel first performed Uncle Deadly in The Muppets in 2011 when the character made a huge return to the spotlight after over 30 years of being both silent and gone completely. Uncle Deadly has not appeared since The Muppets last year, but if he does Matt Vogel will be performing him after his fantastic work in the film. 
  • POPS
    • Originally performed by JERRY NELSON (1980-2002)
    • Currently performed by MATT VOGEL (2011-present)
  • Pops, the Muppet Theater doorman, was one of Jerry Nelson's later characters, first appearing in the final season of The Muppet Show and only making a few other appearances after that. The character has not spoken in an actual Muppet project since Jerry Nelson's retirement, but was seen in "The Muppet Show Theme" music video with OK Go. In a behind the scenes feature posted by the band, Pops is seen and heard speaking to the camera, complaining about the volume of the music, here performed by Matt Vogel. If the character returns, one can assume that Matt will be beneath him.
    • Jerry Nelson first performed Pops in Season 5 of The Muppet Show in 1980 when Pops would start every show in the cold open. Jerry performed Pops in his biggest role in The Great Muppet Caper in 1981 and would perform him until It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie in 2002, when Pops was seen and heard selling tickets.
    • Matt Vogel first performed Pops in 2011 for "The Muppet Show Theme" music video with the band OK Go. The character has yet to appear again, but one can assume that Matt Vogel will be performing him when and if Pops returns.
    • DR. JULIUS STRANGEPORK 
      • Originally performed by JERRY NELSON (1977-1996)
      • Currently performed by MATT VOGEL (2009-present)
    • One of the stars of the "Pigs in Space" sketches on The Muppet Show, Dr. Julius Strangepork was one of Jerry Nelson's best-known characters, if only because of his frequent "Pigs in Space" appearances. The character has not spoken on screen since 1996 on Muppets Tonight, but he has appeared in "Bohemian Rhapsody" and The Muppets. Matt Vogel performed Strangepork in "Bohemian Rhapsody," and even though he did not speak, Matt confirmed it was indeed his performance in an interview. Hopefully we'll get to hear Matt Vogel's take on Dr. Strangepork soon.
      • Jerry Nelson first performed the illustrious Dr. Strangepork in the first "Pigs in Space" sketch in Season 2 of The Muppet Show in 1977. Jerry would continue to perform the character until his final vocal and physical appearance with Strangepork in a "Bay of Pigswatch" sketch on Muppets Tonight in 1997.
      • Matt Vogel performed Dr. Strangepork in the "Bohemian Rhapsody" viral video in 2009. The character did not speak in this appearance, but Matt Vogel confirmed that he did indeed perform him in an interview. Dr. Strangepork has yet to have a speaking role without Jerry Nelson.
    Well, there you have it! Jerry Nelson's Muppet Show characters, all performed with aplomb by Matt Vogel. Don't believe me? Watch The Muppets and listen for Matt and you'll know for sure! His Uncle Deadly, Floyd Pepper, and Lew Zealand are especially perfect.

    Anyway... study hard, there could be a quiz, blah blah... have a good week, class! We'll see you next week with the first of our installment of Recasting of Sesame Street Characters, spotlighting both Jim Henson and Frank Oz.







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

      3 comments:

      1. Where did you find that pic of Gonzo and Camilla?

        ReplyDelete
      2. I've really enjoyed these articles, thanks for doing them! I hate to nitpick, but I wanted to add that after "Muppets Tonight", Dr. Strangepork did have a vocal performance in "Muppets Party Cruise", hosting the game "Asteroid Belt" along with Steve performing Link. I do believe that Jerry voiced Strangepork for the game (I got a huge kick out of hearing the character again, so I couldn't help but bring it up. I hope I havent' annoyed you!)
        Thanks again for all your hard work with this great site!

        ReplyDelete
      3. While Matt did puppeteer Floyd in the Studio DC specials, Jerry actually came in and did the voice.

        That would make "Letters to Santa" Matt's first vocal performance as Floyd

        David Rudman performed Strangepork for parts of a View-Master Interactive Vision game/video, "Muppets Studios Presents: You're the Director". While Jerry dubbed most of his lines, three lines went undubbed.

        ReplyDelete