Let’s list some names. Kermit the Frog. Miss Piggy. Fozzy Bear. Gonzo the Great. Animal. What do all of these names have in common? They’re all weirdos.
But since their debut in 1955, the Muppets have become some of the most iconic characters in the world. Their blend of humor, music, heart, and genuine optimism has made them a staple of American pop culture.
There’s just one problem. The Muppets are sorely underappreciated today. Despite being comedy legends, the Muppets don’t get a whole lot of love from Juab students.
“I just never watched them as a kid,” says Ryan Hughes.
It’s a crying shame. Thus, we at the Clarion staff, in anticipation of the new hit movie, Muppets Most Wanted, have compiled a simple yet essential beginner’s guide to the Muppets.
Creative genius, Jim Henson, created the Muppets in 1955 for a local childrens show, Sam and Friends. The show ran for six years and earned Henson and his Muppets multiple appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show, but the only character to last from the show was Kermit the Frog.
In 1969, after years of working in commercials, Jim Henson accepted an offer to use the Muppets on a new children's program called Sesame Street. The show became a massive show and made Kermit the Frog, Big Bird, Ernie, Bert, and Cookie Monster household names.
Wanting to bring the Muppets to more adult audiences, Henson created characters in 1975 for a new variety show, Saturday Night Live. Unfortunately, the Muppet segments only lasted for SNL's first season because the show's writers refused to keep writing for a bunch of puppets.
Luckily, Henson and crew had been planning a weekly show of their own starring the Muppets. A British production company picked the series up, and CBS started airing it in the US in 1976. The Muppet Show finally brought Henson's unique comic sensibilities to a primetime audience and introduced the world to its legendary cast of characters.
The most famous Muppet, of course, is Kermit the Frog. Kermit is the franchise's ringleader; the man in charge. He works hard to keep the Muppets together and to keep their performances running. He’s a friend to everyone, and can often be called upon to give a motivational speech, but this doesn’t mean he can’t become exasperated. After all, “it’s not easy being green”. It can get hard keeping the Muppets in check, what with bears making bad jokes, “whatevers” blowing holes in the wall, and pigs falling deeply in love with you. But Kermit the Frog, the Muppets’ everyman, manages to keep it all together.
Miss Piggy is the group’s demanding diva. She fancies herself a model of beauty, grace, and fashion. She’s obsessed with Kermit the Frog and ignores the fact that her advances aren’t returned. Beneath her surface though, is a raw rage that is most often unleashed in the form of kung fu. Let’s just say you don’t want to be on the receiving end of Miss Piggy’s karate chop.
Fozzie Bear is Kermit’s best friend and the Muppets’ resident comedian. He’s always cracking jokes, followed by his catchphrase, “Wocka, wocka!” The problem is that his jokes are truly unbearable. This doesn’t deter Fozzie’s optimism though and just motivates him to keep telling jokes until one lands, which as of press time, still hasn’t happened yet.
Gonzo the Great is the Muppets’ greatest mystery. Is he a bird? Is he a mammal? Is he an alien? Though this question tried to be answered in 1999’s Muppets from Space, official Muppet canon classifies Gonzo as a “whatever”. What we do know about Gonzo is that he’s daredevil stuntman, always ready to be shot from a cannon or have heavy objects be hurled at his head. He also has a strange attraction to chickens, which, no, we don’t understand either.
Animal is the drummer for Electric Mayhem, the Muppets’ in-house band. What kind of animal Animal actually is is unclear, but he sure is an angry one. That anger is best manifested in his energetic drumming. Other animalistic tendencies include a lack of vocabulary skills and an unbridled lust for attractive women.
Rounding out the Muppet cast are Dr. Teeth, the wide-grinned frontman of the Electric Mayhem; Scooter, the cast’s preppy manager; Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, a well-meaning inventor and Beaker, his mute and tortured assistant; Rizzo the Rat, Gonzo’s sarcastic best friend; Pepe le Prawn, a sexy, foreign shrimp; Sam the Eagle, the patriotic, moral center of the Muppets; and many, many more.
Below is a chronological list of every theatrical Muppet movie so far. Each is comedy dynamite with one notable exception. All are worth seeing though for a good taste of how the Muppets, and comedy itself, have evolved over the years.
- The Muppet Movie (1978): The story of the Muppets meeting each other for the first time and making the road trip to Hollywood.
- The Great Muppet Caper (1981): Kermit and Fozzie play reporters, with Gonzo as their photographer, investigating a stolen diamond.
- The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984): This one takes place in a world where the Muppets all went to college together, separate for their careers, and come back for one last great show.
- The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992): The Muppets take supporting roles while Michael Caine plays Ebenezer Scrooge in what may be the best film version of Charles Dickens’ classic novel.
- Muppet Treasure Island (1996): Humans once again take center stage while the Muppets steal the show is this swashbuckling adaptation.
- Muppets from Space (1999): The only truly disappointing Muppet movie tries to explain Gonzo’s origins (spoiler alert: he’s from space!), but a poor reaction from fans has lead the Muppet creators to once again say Gonzo is just a “whatever”.
- The Muppets (2011): Possibly the best Muppet movie (certainly the best since Jim Henson’s death in 1990), this one follows an enthusiastic Muppet and Muppet fan named Walter who assists the Muppets in staging a reunion show in order to save the Muppet Show’s original theatre.
- Muppets Most Wanted (2014): The Muppets’ newest outing picks up directly after The Muppets as the gang embarks on a world tour and Kermit is kidnapped by his evil Russian doppelganger, Constantine.