1 The Muppet Mindset: Weekly Muppet Wednesdays: Yolanda the Rat

Aug 6, 2014

Weekly Muppet Wednesdays: Yolanda the Rat

Written by Abigail Maughan.


Performed by…

Karen Prell (The Muppets Take Manhattan, The Muppet Show On Tour: 2nd Edition)
Camille Bonora (Muppet Studios Presents: You’re the Director)
Julianne Buescher (Muppet Classic Theater)
Alice Dinnean-Vernon (The Muppets Kitchen with Cat Cora)

First appearance...
The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984)

Most recent appearance...
The Muppets (2011)

Also known as...
Yolanda Steel

Best known role...
Rizzo the Rat’s girlfriend and occasional partner in crime; diner cook; head of production at studio Not-2B; rat

Memorable quote...
"Hey, Pete, here you go! Two zeroes on a trampoline with a side of Joan of Arc."

Yolanda is one of many rats that inhabit the Muppet universe, and the only named female one. Sporting a blond ponytail, purple eyelids with lashes, and a higher-pitched voice with a slight nasal, Yolanda has no constant performer, or even role, in Muppet productions, but has been featured frequently throughout the years, often paired with Rizzo or in a large group of rats.

Yolanda made her debut and had her current biggest role in 1984’s The Muppets Take Manhattan, where she was performed by Karen Prell. Here, Yolanda is recruited by Rizzo to work with him at Pete’s Luncheonette, along with fellow rats Chester, Masterson, and Tattooey. She works in the kitchen, serves up orders, aids Kermit the Frog in one of his attempts to sell his musical, and sings a verse of the finale with Miss Piggy, Camilla, and Janice.

Throughout The Muppets Take Manhattan, Rizzo unashamedly attempts to flirt with her, vocally admiring her physique and otherwise making hopeful advances. Yolanda remains unimpressed, at one point responding by socking him in the gut. However, the two prove their effectiveness as a team by working together during Kermit’s whispering campaign at a fancy restaurant, which they also ultimately ruin by looking for food and startling patrons. Yolanda and Rizzo also sit together during Kermit and Miss Piggy’s marriage scene, in cute little wedding garb of their own, oddly, and again during the carol sing-along in Muppet Family Christmas. They are mentioned to be dating in Muppet Classic Theater, at least within the context of the story. So obviously the two are close, but to what degree? Their underdeveloped but potentially intriguing relationship could be one worth expounding on in some future Muppet production.

After The Muppets Take Manhattan, Yolanda appeared in the background of many major Muppet projects that decade, including A Muppet Family Christmas, The Muppets at Walt Disney World, and The Muppets: A Celebration of 30 Years. She was also used in The Muppet Show on Tour: 2nd Edition, her vocals once again provided by Karen Prell.

In 1988, she appeared as the no-nonsense head of movie studio Not-2B in a VHS tape video game called Muppet Studios Presents: You’re the Director, here christened Yolanda Steel. Throughout the game, she pops up to remind her employees and the director of the studio’s tight schedule and budget. Her efforts are in vain, however, and at the end she has no choice but to join the rest of the cast in singing the depressing ditty “We’re Gonna Go Broke.”

A prominent appearance for Yolanda came in the 1994 direct-to-video production Muppet Classic Theater, which involved Muppets reenacting fairy tales. Here, performed by Julianne Buescher, she joined Rizzo and a rat named Montague in playing the antagonists of the story “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” working together to hoodwink Emperor Fozzie out of his money and get him to traverse about in his underpants. Before the rats receive their comeuppance in prison, Yolanda notably has several lines to herself in the musical number “Nothing’s Too Good for You.”

Since then, Yolanda’s appearances have become more and more sporadic.  Her only speaking part in the last twenty years was in an episode of the 2010 web series The Muppets Kitchen with Cat Cora, in which she helped construct a giant sandwich and was played by Alice Dinnean-Vernon. She appeared in illustrated form with Rizzo near the end of The Muppet Show Comic Book: Family Reunion that same year, but didn’t speak. Although apparently not invited back for the sequel, Yolanda most recently sang in the big finale of The Muppets with Beauregard, Rizzo, and an entourage of other rats.

As miniscule as her varied appearances are, Yolanda has one consistent trait: she’s a hard worker. From breaking social boundaries as a rodent cook, to running a movie studio, to working as a con woman, to being a construction worker, she is always engaged in productive activity, and always seems to be at least moderately successful at what she does. The Muppets need an equal balance of both pandemonium and practicality, and Yolanda seems like she could supply quite a bit of the latter, while occasionally veering into the former, like many Muppets do.

I can think of many reasons to bring Yolanda the Rat back to being a tertiary Muppet character, or even promoting her to a secondary one like Rizzo himself. More female Muppets are never a bad thing, and Yolanda has been around for a long time. Her performers are always changing, so recasting or rehiring would be a piece of cake. Other than her previously discussed stick-to-itiveness and her relationship with Rizzo, she’s somewhat of a blank slate, and thus could very easily be written to be almost anything without violating those two other characteristics. Even if she’d started off small like in The Muppets Take Manhattan, Yolanda the Rat could easily be integrated into the Muppets today.

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

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