Version 1.18. Last updated: 1 June 2007.
Changes since last version: #8 (updated ny address), cleaned up all broken links
WWW location: http://www-cs-students.stanford.edu/~csilvers/muppet-faq.html
Before we start, let me get this out of the way: the two old guys in the balcony are Statler and Waldorf. (See question 9.)
A humble request: If someone posts a question that is answered here, please be polite anyway. Yelling to read the FAQ gets to be more annoying that answering the question that was asked.
1. A Muppet newsgroup? That's SO cool! What is
It's a newsgroup devoted to Muppets and other Jim Henson creations, in all their wonderful shapes and forms. This newsgroup is meant to supersede alt.tv.muppets, the newsgroup formerly devoted to Henson and the Muppets. Don't post anything to alt.tv.muppets; post to rec.arts.henson+muppets instead!
In r.a.h+m we talk about Muppets in cartoons, movies, television shows, happy meal boxes, you name it. While not emphasized in this FAQ, we often also discuss The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, "Fraggle Rock," "Dinosaurs," and other Henson productions. We talk about Babe and other creations from Jim Henson's Creature Shop. We do not really discuss puppets or puppetry in general; rec.arts.puppetry is more appropriate for this.
While "Sesame Street" would not be the same without the Muppets, there is more to "Sesame Street" then just the Muppets. If you want to talk about extra-Muppet parts of "Sesame Street," consider alt.tv.sesame-street.
And if you are feeling terribly silly, there's always alt.swedish.chef.bork.bork.bork.
Please observe the following rules (from the r.a.h+m charter):
2. What other fan activities are there?
If you're in New York City or Los Angeles, The Museum(s) of Television and Radio have a huge collection of Muppet programs for viewing. These includes rare Muppet clips that, no matter how big a Muppet fan you are, you've never seen before! The NY address is 25 West 52nd St, New York, 10019, and the phone number is (212) 621-6600. The LA address is 465 North Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills, 90210, and the phone number there is (310) 786-1000. (Thanks to Danny Horn and Rodney Elin for this info.)
On the web, Muppet Central, maintained by Phillip Chapman, has chat forums and messages boards, original articles about the Muppets, Muppet news and current events, and more. It is at http://www.muppetcentral.com/
3. I have strong opinions about this FAQ. Who should I send
Comments (but please, no thugs!) should go to
II. Muppets And Their Owners
4. What is a Muppet, anyway?
Muppets are puppets invented by Jim Henson and his colleagues. Muppets were specially designed to be on television and in the movies, using camera techniques as well as classical puppeteering techniques to create the illusion of life. Many Muppets are hand puppets with arm wires. However, Muppets now include the most advanced computer and animatronics technology. For the purposes of this newsgroup, "Muppet" covers anything that has been created by The Jim Henson Company or the Creature Shop, including creations in "Muppets Tonight!," "The Muppet Show," "Sesame Street," "Fraggle Rock," "Dinosaurs," The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, Babe, etc.
Here's Jim Henson's take on the question, from an interview by Judy Harris (full text is at http://www.bestweb.net/~foosie/henson.htm; the article that came out of this fascinating interview is in the April/May 1983 issue of Cinefantastique): "Well, to me the Muppets are sort of fuzzy, bright colored, cute, lovable caricatures." He's explaining why, to him, the creatures in The Dark Crystal aren't Muppets. But we don't listen. La la la, we go.
In the same interview, Henson talks about the origin of the word "Muppet": "It was really just a term we made up. For a long time I would tell people it was a combination of marionettes and puppets but, basically, it was really just a word that we coined. We have done very few things connected with marionettes."
5. Why are Muppets left handed?
You may have noticed that Muppets, particularly Muppet musicians, tend to do everything with their left arms. This is because most Muppet performers are right handed and use their primary hand to control the head and face of the Muppet. (Louise Gold is one of the few left-handed performer, and her Muppets are right handed.) This leaves them their left hand to control the Muppet's arms. Muppets like the Swedish Chef, which are controlled by two performers, are of course an exception.
6. Doesn't Disney own the Muppets?
Yes, pretty much. Here's how ownership breaks down, along with the date the relevant company acquired control:
Before February 2000, the Henson company was independent. In February 2000, the German company EM.TV bought the Muppets. They turned around and sold the rights to the Sesame Street characters to Sesame Workshop (formerly Children's Television Network). EM.TV proceeded to utterly collapse and sold the Muppets back to the Henson family in May of 2003, for about the value they bought it. Henson then sold the rights to the Muppets (and Bear in the Big Blue House) to Disney in February 2004.
It's interesting to compare the various press releases as the Henson family lost, gained, and again gave up control: http://web.archive.org/web/20040215115000/http://www.henson.com/company/press/html/022100.html http://web.archive.org/web/20040215115000/http://www.henson.com/company/press/html/050703.html http://web.archive.org/web/20040223103246/http://www.henson.com/company/press/html/021704.html
Disney worked with the Hensons even before the 2004 deal. As far back as 1989, the Walt Disney Company entered into negotiations to acquire The Jim Henson Company (then Jim Henson Productions) and the Muppets. Jim Henson died during the negotiations, and the deal eventually fell through. However, the JHC and Disney continnued to work together, such as for the (wonderful) MuppetVision 3-D at Disney/MGM studios in Orlando and at Disney's California Adventure in Anaheim. Presumably, we'll now see even more along these lines.
7. Who runs the Muppets nowadays?
The Henson family now owns the company and also runs it. (However, it obviously does not run the parts it sold off to Sesame Workshop and Disney.) Brian Henson and Lisa Henson are co-chairs and co-CEOs. The Board of Directors consists of all five Henson children plus Charles Rivkin (who was President and CEO before and during the EM.TV period). Peter Schube, President and COO, is the other major senior executive not from the Henson clan.
8. What's the address of The Jim Henson Company?
1416 North La Brea Avenue Hollywood, CA 90028
Note that this is an office building and is not open for tours.
There's also a New York office:
627 Broadway, 9th floor New York, NY 10012
The Creature Shop is in London:
30 Oval Road Camden, London NW1 7DE
If you want to email them, try the following address:
The Jim Henson Company was formerly known as Jim Henson Productions, and, before that, Henson Associates! Through the 1970's, the company was called Muppets, Inc.
III. "The Muppet Show" And Its Cast
9. Who are the two old guys in the balcony?
Statler and Waldorf. Statler is the taller, thinner one sitting on the right as we look at them in their box. Waldorf's wife is named Astoria. They are all named after old New York hotels.
10. What is Gonzo? What about Scooter?
The current best answers are "whatever" and "human," respectively.
Christopher Finch, in the almost-definitive "Of Muppets and Men," relates the following ad-libbed exchange on the backstage of "The Muppet Show": "Kermit/Jim Henson turns to Scooter/Richard Hunt and asks, 'What are you anyway?' 'My mother was a parrot,' Scooter replies. 'We don't know about my father. It was during the war.' 'Really?' says Kermit. 'Which side was he on?'" Finch describes both Scooter and Gonzo as "creatures of indeterminate provenance."
Continuing the trend, on the official Henson web site (at http://web.archive.org/web/20020826164248/http://www.henson.com/fun/ask/ask_archives_body.html#Goelz3) David Goelz talks coy about Gonzo, saying not even Gonzo himself knows. In many movies he's called a Whatever -- starting in "The Great Muppet Caper", where that's the marking on Gonzo's airplane crate -- and that's the answer we Faqmeisters usually give. (Though Muppets From Space, in which Gonzo is an unnamed alien species, muddies the picture still further.)
Note that the answer has changed over time: the Gonzo Muppet's first appearance was as a Frackle in "The Great Santa Claus Switch" (though clearly this is not the Gonzo we know and love today). Another alternative identification is in "Muppet Babies," in which Gonzo is sometimes called a "weirdo." Also, in "The Muppet Movie," Kermit says Gonzo looks "sort of like a turkey... but not much." (Judging by the Muppet turkey in "The Muppet Family Christmas," he doesn't look much like a turkey at all.)
As for Scooter, his uncle, J. P. Grosse, who owns the theatre, is clearly human. Despite Hunt's joking around, Scooter is probably a human too. While he's called a "gofer," that's his position and not his species ("gofer coffee," etc).
11. Where has Scooter gone, anyway?
The performer who performed Scooter, Richard Hunt, died in 1992 of complications due to AIDS. Scooter was not really seen since until Muppets From Space, in which he had a small cameo. It is unlikely he will ever return as a major character.
12. And where has Skeeter gone?
Scooter's sister Skeeter has never been part of the non-animated Muppet world; she exists only in "Muppet Babies," probably as a nod towards gender equality (though this one instance is hardly enough to mitigate the distressing lack of female voices in the Muppet world). In any case, the writers and producers of "Muppet Babies" like to think she became a famous explorer and disappeared down the Amazon.
13. What's the best ever Muppet sketch?
Mahna Mahna, with Mahna Mahna and the two Snowths. Even now, you sing "doo doo do doo doo" under your breath every time someone says "phenomena," don't you? You know you do.
Seriously, we don't mean to impose our point of view on the FAQ-reading masses. We just love Mahna Mahna, that's all. :-)
(btw, the Mahna Mahna skit is on the "Muppets Season 1" DVD, on the Juliet Prowse episode.)
IV. "Muppets Tonight!" And Its Cast
14. Muppets what?
It's the most recent Muppet TV show. Originally it was on ABC, then the Disney Channel, but alas it's no longer showing in the US.
Not that we're biased, but "Muppets Tonight!" is (was) great. We all love Bobo, and Johnny Fiama (possibly Fiamma) and Sal (Minella -- ha ha), and Pepe and Seymour, and even Garth Brooks! Alas, the broader public did not agree, and no new episodes are being produced.
15. Who plays Kermit now?
Steve Whitmire (whose other credits include Rizzo the Rat, Bean Bunny, and Wembley Fraggle -- he's been a major player since "The Muppet Show"). He has been performing Kermit since Jim Henson's death. He also performs Ernie. Brian Henson has never performed Kermit.
Whitmire's first Kermit performance was in the 1990 special "The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson."
16. What is Clifford? What is Pepe? What is Eugene (Nigel's buddy)?
These have definitive answers, from the performers.
Clifford is a human: In the Billy Crystal episode, Clifford says to Rizzo, "I'm the man and you're the rat. I've got genetic seniority." In early press releases for "Muppets Tonight!" he was referred to as "Clifford the Rasta," but that's his religious affiliation, not his species. In the Garth Brooks episode, Kermit calls Clifford "catfish-faced" but never actually calls him a catfish. Which is good, because he isn't one.
Pepe is a Prawn. (From Muppets From Space: "I am a King Prawn!")
Eugene, Nigel the Director's buddy -- the one who pops out of the control panel during the opening sequence -- is a mink. This isn't actually a Frequently Asked Question (to date, it's been asked all of once) but we threw it in because of its trivia value: Steve Whitmire contributed this answer during discussions of "Muppet Classic Theater" (in which the mink's head-banging performance in "Gotta Get That Name" stole the show for many of us). This was the first ever post of a Muppet performer to alt.tv.muppets, the progenitor of rec.arts.henson+muppets.
V. Muppet Movies
17. Does Beaker give Scrooge the bird in Muppet Christmas Carol?
At one point during Muppet Christmas Carol it looks like Beaker flips off Scrooge. Does he? Close examination of the video reveals that (a) Beaker uses his index finger (the second of his four fingers), and (b) the back of Beaker's hand isn't toward Scrooge. While the gesture is angry, it isn't obscene.
VI. "Sesame Street"
18. Is XXX dying of any disease?
No. No way, no how. No "Sesame Street" Muppet character is dead, dying, or planning to die. This is a rumor that has been circulating since Jim Henson died in 1990 -- people were afraid that since Henson died, the producers of "Sesame Street" were also going to make Ernie die on the show, so that children could learn about death (as they did when Will Lee, the actor who played Mr. Hooper, died). This rumor has since spread and mutated to include Bert, Grover, and other characters, and any number of diseases and fatal accidents. However, the producers have no intention of "killing" any character on "Sesame Street." Jim Henson's characters are kept alive on the show by rerunning sketches that were recorded in the first twenty years of the show, and new Ernie sketches are also being made with Steve Whitmire performing Ernie. Please help to stop this rumor when you hear it. Anyone who is afraid for the life of any character should be encouraged to actually watch an episode of "Sesame Street," where they will see Ernie, Bert, and all the gang, still alive and well.
19. Are Ernie and Bert gay?
This is a source of wide speculation, but nothing has ever been said on "Sesame Street" to indicate that Ernie and Bert have any sexual or romantic feelings at all. While we wouldn't want to suppress free speech on this newsgroup, beware: discussions on this topic have historically been ugly. Rest assured that your point of view has been stated before.
20. I heard PBS is going to cancel SS.
PBS is not likely to cancel one of their most popular programs. While PBS funding is usually in crisis (in 1995 and 2005, particularly so), Sesame Street makes more than enough off merchandizing to support itself. That said, less money for public television is unlikely to be good for Sesame Street.
You may see a call to sign an on-line petition objecting to budget cuts for public television. But better is to contact your representative directly! For more details, check out http://www.snopes.com/politics/arts/pbs.asp.
VII. Things Available On The 'net
21. Who is...?
Thae first site has lists: Muppets from "The Muppet Show" and "Muppets Tonight!" and Muppets and humans from "Sesame Street" (both the U.S. and some non-U.S. versions).
The second and third sites are not currently on the web; the above links point to old versions maintained on archive.org.
The second site has lots of "Sesame Street" characters, with great pictures. The third site has an amazingly detailed list of the Muppets seen on the Muppet Show, and the third has the same for Sesame Street. Do you know who Abe and Bernie are? What episode featured Astoria? The name of Telly's sister? Me either.
Answers to some particularly frequent ID requests:
22. Who performed...?
Chris Vaughn and Sue Rose have put together an extensive, though now somewhat out-of-date, list. Many characters are no longer performed (or no longer exclusively performed) by their original performer; the second site, by Danny Horn, discusses many characters' performers, both old and new.
23. In what episode did...?
D.W. McKim and Michael Dixon both have very substantial episode guides for The Muppet Show, at Muppet Central and kermitage respectively. (The Kermitage site is via archive.org.) The Muppet Central version is more detailed, while the Kermitage page is more complete and consciously tries to leave out "spoilers".
Eric Browne has a very complete episode guide for "Muppets Tonight!"
24. What are the lyrics to...?
In addition to annoying ads, the first site has all sorts of Muppet and Sesame Street songs, including Rainbow Connection, It's Not Easy Being Green, Just One Person, the theme from "The Muppet Show," and more.
The second site, compiled by Tiny Dancer, has "Sesame Street" songs. Besides all the songs you'd expect (Rubber Duckie, "Sesame Street" theme), it has many Frequently Asked Lyrics: the Alligator King, Captain Vegetable, I Don't Want to Live on the Moon, We All Live In A Capital I, etc.
The third site has 232 songs (apparently all of them) from "Fraggle Rock."
25. Where are sounds of...?
There are various sites throughout the web with wav or mp3 clips of the Muppets, but for copyright reasons, we only include information about sounds on official sites. The first site has sounds of several Muppet characters as well as a few songs. The second site is more clip-oriented, but has a wider range as well as videos. Unfortunately, you have to poke around the site a bit to find them all.
26. Where are pictures of...?
For copyright reasons, we only include information about pictures on official sites. For Muppets owned by Disney (most of the ones folks have heard of), that would be go.com. It's an annoying and slow Flash site, but if click on the map in the lower right and then click on "Muppet Stuff," you'll go to a site where you can download a few images of popular muppets, as screensavers, backgrounds, AIM icons, and so forth.
For pictures of the many Muppet collectibles that have been produced, check out http://www.muppetcentral.com/collectibles/muppets/index.shtml
27. What records/CDs/CD-ROMs/videos/books are there?
It used to be I could point to Bill Sherman's amazing muppography, but it's no longer on the web (nor available via archive.org). This is sad news indeed for those keeping track of Muppet items.
VIDEO: many Muppet TV and movie offerings are now available on video. The first three Muppet movies, including Muppets Take Manhattan, are widely available (e.g., through Amazon). Other Muppet movies, and some "Muppet Show" compilations, are also available. The Playhouse Video compilations, such as "Gonzo Presents Muppet Weird Stuff," are no longer being produced. Neither are "Dinosaurs" episodes or "Dog City" episodes. On the other hand, the world is currently swamped with "Sesame Street" videos.
Disney, which now owns rights to The Muppet Show, has released the entire first season on DVD. See, for instance, http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0009ULBGS/ref=nosim/104-1973347-4933567
The first season of Fraggle Rock is also available on DVD! http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0009RQSSW/ref=nosim/104-1973347-4933567
Time-Life had released a collection of Muppet Show episodes on VHS and DVD. The DVD versions are pretty good. They are no longer for sale (at least in the US), but may be available via eBay.
AUDIO: The Muppets are currently "between" record companies -- they dropped Jim Henson Records/BMG Kidz, and rumor has it they are working on starting a new label some day. Right now only relatively recent albums are in print: "Kermit Unpigged," Muppet Treasure Island, "Bear in the Big Blue House," Muppets from Space. "Sesame Street" albums are a dime a dozen.
BOOKS: Books we think are particularly neat:
I've also heard good things about Designs and Doodles, by Alison Inches.
28. Where can I buy Muppet stuff?
Muppet Central has links to products at Amazon, but also has a section for collectibles and for trades.
There are many other Henson items you can buy at various places. Here are some program-related stores:
Muppet Show: http://www.mouseshoppe.com/directory.cfm?CategoryID=406
Collectible stores (you may need to recombine the URLs):
Collectibles and cards: http://www.2momluvme.com/
New stuff, collectibles: http://www.muppetcentral.com/collectibles/shop/index.shtml
Action figures!: http://www.toymania.com/columns/spotlight/muppets3.shtml
"Sesame Street" items: http://www.kbkids.com/w/l/snb.html?txt=sesame+street
Various products: http://www.emerchandise.com/browse/MUPPETS/A:MUPFAQ/
And of course, the standard auction sites often have Henson stuff.
(Special thanks to Nancy Eilers-Hughes for help compiling this list.)
29. What's that program that turns stuff into Mock Swedish?
It's called the "Encheferizer."
30. Yes, but where are the Muppet sites?
The first site is the official Henson web site, the second was created by Phillip Chapman, and the third site is by Danny Horn, faqmeister ex officio. All are excellent resources for Muppets fans, and the best places for current Muppets news.
Henson used to maintain a wonderful site that answered user questions about Henson and the Muppets: http://web.archive.org/web/20020826164248/http://www.henson.com/fun/ask/ask_archives_body.html
The Henson Company: http://www.henson.com/
Official Muppets: http://muppets.go.com/
Muppet Central: http://www.muppetcentral.com/
Danny Horn's site: http://www.toughpigs.com/
Muppet Wiki: http://muppet.wikicities.com/
Muppet blog + forum: http://muppetnewsflash.blogspot.com/
Bear in the Big Blue House: http://www.bearinthebigbluehouse.com/
Sesame Place: http://www.sesameplace.com/
Carroll Spinney Fan: http://carollspinney.web1000.com/
Mar's Muppet site: http://www.geocities.com/Petsburgh/Farm/4164
Muppet News etc: http://www.camelliasoftware.com/TheMuppetsSite
Fraggle Rock: http://www.fragglerocker.com/
Fraggle Rock 2: http://www.punchandjewelry.com/legacy/html/frindex.htm
Muppet*Vision 3D: http://members.aol.com/muppetvisn/mypage.html Pepe's LJS commercials: http://ljs.winnercomm.com (password howcanyouresist)
Jerry Nelson site: http://e.domaindlx.com/jerrynelson
A Muppet forum: http://forums.delphiforums.com/freemuppet/start
What Muppet are you: http://quizilla.com/users/AutumnSong123/quizzes/What%20Muppet%20are%20you%3F/
Please contact us if you have a Muppet page to add to this list.
VIII. Now Playing
31. Can I get The Storyteller on video?
It used to be you couldn't, but now you can.
Storyteller is out on video; there have been sightings of some episodes on VHS, and the entire collection is available on DVD from Amazon, starting 26 August 2003.
By the way, The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth have also been released on VHS and DVD.
32. What Muppet merchandise is planned for release?
Danny's Tough Pigs site does an excellent job of keeping track of what's for sale out there.
The Muppet Movie, The Muppets Take Manhattan, and The Great Muppet Caper are all out on DVD. Consensus is these DVDs are ok but not great -- either few extras, poor image quality, or both. On the other hand, Muppets From Space and Muppet Treasure Island are superb DVDs.
Disney has put out the complete first season of The Muppet Show, and future seasons are also planned. The complete first season of Fraggle Rock is also available. (See question 27.)
33. What Muppet stuff is on TV nowadays?
The "as of" date is when I last received information about listings in that country; the newer the date the more likely it is the listing is accurate. All US times are Eastern.
United States -- as of July 2003 (thanks to Danny Horn and MuppetCentral)
Canada -- as of Febraury 2003 (thanks to Brian Knatchbull, Jamie Gray)
Great Britain -- as of June 2002 (thanks to Emma Shane, Daryl Barber)
Australia -- as of June 2000 (thanks to Robert Whyte, Mac North)
Denmark -- as of July 2006 (Thanks to Martin Lund)
Norway -- as of December 2003 (Thanks to Henrik Rytter)
Sweden -- as of December 2003 (Thanks to Henrik Rytter)
The Netherlands -- as of April 2005 (Thanks to Danny Sanders)
Belgium -- as of April 2005 (Thanks to Danny Sanders)
Germany -- as of April 2005 (Thanks to Danny Sanders)
Israel -- as of April 1997 (thanks to Yoni Dital)
India and South Asia -- as of January 2002 (Thanks to Ganesh)
Singapore -- as of December 1998 (Thanks to Tayan)
Mexico -- as of July 1997 (Thanks to Rachel Moss)
Does anyone know shows, stations, and times for other countries?
END of rec.arts.henson+muppets FAQ.