GAFFER THE CAT
The Muppet Show Episode 419 (1980)
(onscreen) The Muppet Revue (1985)
(in print) Muppets King Arthur (2010)
Best known role...
Backstage cat in the Muppet Theater; The Cat Who Came Back
WHO IS GAFFER THE CAT?
Gaffer is a tough-looking tabby who sat backstage in several episodes of The Muppet Show. Wearing an eye-patch, the cat was perched on a little shelf by the stairs, where she sat licking herself throughout the course of the fifth season. Although silent, she appeared in various songs and sketches.
The first prominent role for Gaffer was as a test subject in a Muppet Labs sketch in Episode 422. Shoved into Dr. Bunsen Honeydew’s Pet Converter, the unfortunate feline was transformed into a dog and then a lion, which promptly attacked Beaker. Oddly enough, this is the only time she appeared without her eye-patch and bandages. Could this be where she acquired her battle scars?
Another significant sketch involving Gaffer was Foo-Foo’s unimpressive dog act in Episode 520. With the little dog already struggling, Gaffer sneaks up behind him (her intentions unknown) and is immediately ratted out by Rowlf, who teams up with Foo-foo to catch the cat. The three run around the stage frantically, bringing the act to a close.
The bedraggled cat also had a part in the Electric Mayhem’s “Barnyard Boogie” in Episode 505. Her line: “Meow.” It should also be noted that she is sitting next to the very same dog puppet she was transformed into in that Muppet Labs sketch.
Gaffer’s finest moment undoubtedly came in Episode 224, playing the titular role in the song “The Cat Came Back.” In the song, Little Benny’s parents force him to find another home for his cat, but no matter how hard the poor kid tries, Gaffer keeps trotting back to his house. Even after she’s been sold, in a car crash, fired out of a cannon and has a bomb detonate next to her, the seemingly immortal cat continues to saunter back to Benny’s porch completely unharmed. Dumb luck or a deal with the devil? You decide!
In The Great Muppet Caper, Gaffer was one of the residents of the Happiness Hotel. She is seen with her back foot stuck under the radiator, but tapping her paw to the beat of the song nonetheless.
In a recent interview, performer Kathy Mullen said that she was assigned Gaffer for training purposes. Says she: "Jim wanted a cat, and he said, “Give that to her, let her practice.” That was his way of making it easy for me to get really used to the monitor and following things and it was a little training exercise. It was very effective... What I do remember is that it was an exercise in paying attention the whole time. Because when I was in the background, I couldn’t go dead. There was all kinds of stuff happening in the foreground. There were three cameras, so I couldn’t go dead and then, “Oops, I’m in this one!” I had to stay alive the whole time.”
WHY DO THE MUPPETS NEED GAFFER THE CAT?
Having different people and creatures living and interacting backstage adds a whole other layer of realism to The Muppet Show. Seeing a cat just sitting there minding her own business is a perfect little detail to illustrate that the world of the Muppets is a real world with amazing creatures… and real cats, just like ours, licking their behinds.
The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, firstname.lastname@example.org