The Muppet Wiki currently includes the names of 3,075 Muppets, and if you click the “Random Muppet” button you’ll get a page for one of them chosen by the arbitrary whims of the wiki’s electronic brain. How many do you think you would recognize off the top of your nerdy head? Recently, Tough Pigs’ own Ryan Roe and Matthew Soberman got together to test their Muppet geek knowledge with another round of a sporadically played Tough Pigs game called The Random Muppet Challenge!
Ryan: Greetings, fellow Muppet geek Matthew! How would you like to play the latest round of America’s favorite game, the Random Muppet Challenge?
Matthew: I’d like to buy a vowel! Wait, that’s America’s other favorite game. Yeah, this’ll do fine, I guess.
Ryan: Hey, you just might get your chance if the Letter U Muppet from Sesame Street comes up. (And now if it does, people will think we’re cheating.) Anyway, as you already know, the way the game works is: We take turns clicking on the Random Muppet button on Muppet Wiki, and then announcing the name — and ONLY the name! — of the random Muppet to the other player. Then it’s up to the other player to provide a brief description, the production the character is from, and the performer who, for lack of a better term, performed the character. Easy, right?
Matthew: Of course! I can’t wait to look like a complete idiot in front of thousands of fellow fans! (Even though I’m only aiming for partial idiot.)
Ryan: If there are no objections, I’ll click the button first.
Matthew: Click away.
Ryan: Your first Random Muppet is… Pickled Egg!
Matthew: Hmm…seems like a Muppet Show-esque character, so I’ll say it’s from Season Two of The Muppet Show, performed by Jerry Nelson in a Swedish Chef sketch.
Ryan: I hope you won’t feel like you have egg on your face, but that answer is completely wrong. The Pickled Egg Muppet appeared in the Don Rickles & Coolio episode of Muppets Tonight, in a scene where Waldorf orders a pickled egg at a bar, only to meet an egg who is drunk. GET IT? And he was performed by Steve Whitmire. Hey, didn’t you review that episode for this very website?
Matthew: That I did. I guess my memory’s pretty pickled itself.
Ryan: Is there where we laugh like Statler and Waldorf?
Matthew: Only if we’re wearing leisure suits. (Which I remember they did in Muppets Tonight, for some reason.
Ryan: Well, this is not a video feature, so the readers can easily imagine us wearing leisure suits.
Matthew: True! Well then, I guess I’ll give a hearty D’OH-HO-HO!
Ryan: D’OH-HO-et cetera!
Matthew: I guess it’s my turn to hit the button. Okay…moving over to Muppet Wiki, hovering over the “Random Muppet” button…and…CLICK! Ryan, your first Random Muppet is… Captain Cabbage!
Ryan: Intriguing! I’ve heard of a Captain Vegetable, and even a Captain Breakfast, but I’m not sure I know Captain Cabbage. But I’m going to say he was a cabbaged-themed superhero who appeared in a Sesame Street sketch about healthy eating, and he was performed by Marty Robinson.
Matthew: You’re not entirely right, but you’re not entirely wrong, either! Captain Cabbage did appear in a Sesame Street sketch about healthy eating, but he was not a superhero, but rather a drill instructor (the Captain was a military rank) and he was performed by Jerry Nelson.
Ryan: Sure he was. Semi-related story that I can’t remember if I’ve told or not on the website but I probably have but I’m gonna tell it again: When I was a little kid, my mom convinced me to eat cabbage by reminding me that Mr. Snuffleupagus liked cabbage. I don’t recall exactly when that was established on the show, but at some point it was. And I ate it, and it was… okay, I guess, and… that’s the story. I hope you enjoyed it.
Ryan: Okay, here comes your next Random Muppet! Ooh, it’s a group character: The Cobblestones. I’ll give you credit if you can name just one of the performers this time.
Matthew: Well, I definitely can tell you they were Sesame Street characters, a parody of the Rolling Stones, best known for “(I Can’t Get No) Co-Operation.” I don’t know if Mick Swagger, the Cobblestones’ lead singer, counts, but I can say that his voice at least was performed by Christopher Cerf.
Ryan: Wow, you didn’t need no cooperation from anyone on that one. I bet you’ve spent a lot of time listening to the Born to Add album.
Matthew: And wondering if Sesame Street has its own Rock and Roll Hall of Fame!
Ryan: If it did, it would be 90% Chris Cerf-voiced characters. The Rock and Roll Hall of Cerf?
Matthew: Umm… sure, why not?
Matthew: Here comes your next character… who is… Laughing Boy!
Ryan: Right. Laughing Boy is one of Bugsy Them’s flunkies from Dog City, and his thing is that he laughs a lot. Except then I think he has one of those gags toward the end where, instead of laughing, he suddenly speaks in an unexpectedly articulate way. And I think his laughs were brought to us by Mr. Steve Whitmire.
Matthew: Again, not too bad. He was in Dog City as one of Bugsy’s thugs, but he was performed by Rickey Boyd. He doesn’t have a moment like you said (at least not on his Wiki page), but he spends the whole episode laughing and cracking bad jokes. So a regular Muppet character, really.
Ryan: Dawww, of course. He was the Rickey Boyd guy! I was conflating him with his esteemed colleague Mad Dog.
Ryan: And now, like a mad dog, I’m barking out your next Random Muppet: The Great Halfini!
Matthew: Hmm… sounds to me like a Sesame Street character teaching the concept of fractions, specifically a magic-themed sketch about halves, and I’ll say the Great Halfini was performed by the great Jim Henson.
Ryan: You correctly identified one-third of the details of Halfini. He’s from Sesame Street, but it was an “Elmo the Musical” segment in which Elmo encounters a magician who splits things in half, and he was performed by Tyler Bunch.
Matthew: Call me The Great Thirdini!
Ryan: Great Thirdini, have you seen much of “Elmo the Musical?”
Matthew: I haven’t seen much except “Guacamole the Musical.”
Ryan: “Guacamole” was a good one.
Matthew: I liked it too, but they charged me extra for it.
Ryan: Next time just stick with “Salsa the Musical.”
Matthew: Okay, next Muppet! Your next character is… Fast Eddie.
Ryan: Oh, man, I feel like I should know this one. There was a scrappy Muppet kid on Sesame Street a few times when I was little, but I think his name was Tough Eddie, so that’s the wrong adjective. But I’m getting a Sesame vibe from this one, so my official answer is… Fast Eddie is from Sesame Street, in a sketch about fast and slow, and he was performed by… let’s say Richard Hunt.
Matthew: Sorry, but none of that was correct. Fast Eddie was one of Rizzo’s C.O.V.N.E.T. cellmates in Muppets From Space, performed by Drew Massey. He was a whiz with a harmonica.
Ryan: Ah, rats. I couldn’t have gotten Bubba? Bubba I remember. And I think there was one named Birdman? Maybe it’s a good time for me to rewatch Muppets From Space. Although that assumes there’s ever a good time to rewatch Muppets From Space.
Matthew: Hey, it’s a must-see when studying the history of talking Muppet sandwiches!
Ryan: I’ll remember that when I write my thesis.
Ryan: Now, if your next Random Muppet were a sandwich, you would look between two slices of bread and find a Muppet named… Worthington. Good luck!
Matthew: Sounds like an upper-crust character… let’s see… I know a Masterson, a Howard Tubman… I’ll fly completely blind on this one and say that Worthington is a Muppet butler from The Ghost of Faffner Hall, performed by Dave Goelz.
Ryan: It does sound like an upper-crust character, doesn’t it? Which is why you’d never guess that it’s a small Anything Muppet boy who sang one song on Sesame Street in 1974. You see, it seems Worthington built a playhouse out of boxes on the street, and he used to like it, but now he doesn’t, and he doesn’t understand why he’s such a flip-flopper. Because it’s Sesame Street, Bob is close at hand to explain Worthington’s feelings to him in song.
Oh, but get this… Muppet Wiki doesn’t know who performed him! Yep, like Astoria and African Mask #4, his true identity is a mystery. So I’m going to give you this point, because who knows? Despite the fact that Dave Goelz wasn’t even a Muppet performer in 1974, and almost never worked on Sesame Street, there’s no proof it wasn’t him.
Matthew: I’ll take it! Benefit of the doubt for everyone!
Matthew: So moving on, Ryan, your next Random Muppet is…ooh, another ensemble…The Sleeze Brothers!
Ryan: Well, the only Sleeze Brothers I know are from Follow That Bird, but they’re not Muppets. (Dave Thomas is only ¼ Muppet on his mother’s side.) It’s only logical, though, that the Sleeze Brothers of whom you speak are also from a Sesame Street thing, probably from a street story in the early 80s, in which they’re door-to-door salesmen who annoy David at Hooper’s Store. And they were performed by Jerry Nelson and Brian Meehl. How wrong am I?
Matthew: Only mostly wrong! The Sleeze Brothers appear in The Muppet Show episode 215 with guest star Lou Rawls, where they back Lou up while he sings “Groovy People.” Jerry Nelson did perform two of the brothers, but the other two were performed by Richard Hunt.
Ryan: I’ll take half a point. I just realized that the Follow That Bird villains bear the correctly spelled surname “Sleaze,” but it can’t be a coincidence. Somebody who worked on the Bird script must have known about those singers and liked the name.
Matthew: Who knows, maybe Tony Geiss and Judy Freudberg were big Lou Rawls fans!
Ryan: Maybe they were sitting there working on the screenplay, took a break for lunch, turned on the TV, saw Lou Rawls on a The Muppet Show rerun singing with some groovy Whatnots, and were struck by inspiration. You’ll have to read my upcoming Tony Geiss & Judy Freudberg fanfic for the rest of the story.
Ryan: Now, it’s the final countdown, because your very last Random Muppet is here… and it… is… A. Ligator!
Matthew: Snappy! See, because it’s probably an alligator… and… or maybe it’s someone who gets confused with an alligator, because that’s a really great joke. But I’ll go with my first instinct that A. Ligator is an alligator from The Muppet Show, performed by Frank Oz.
Ryan: You know, ever since I learned this character’s name, I’ve wondered, “Why is that his name?” And now I know: The writers of Muppets Tonight anticipated us playing this game 21 years in the future, and they wanted to mess with you by making Jerry Nelson’s announcer character A. Ligator not an alligator, but a pinkish-purplish vulture.
Matthew: Ha! The classic pinkish-purplish-vulture-named-after-a-completely-different-animal bit! Classic! That’s the second time I’ve swung and missed on Muppets Tonight characters! I think karma’s getting back at me for not knowing the plotline of The Gary Cahuenga Episode had an actual resolution.
Ryan: Another reason A. Ligator fascinates me: It’s this really colorful, cool-looking puppet, and we only glimpse him a few times in the announcer booth, and I can’t recall ever seeing that puppet again. I wonder if he was intended for The Animal Show or something but they just didn’t want him to go unseen.
Matthew: Ryan, your final Random Muppet is… OH COME ON! Well, anyways, your final Muppet is… Little Jerry.
Ryan: It’s funny that twice in a row I incorrectly guessed a character was from Sesame Street, and now I’ve been given Sesame Street’s most famous rock star. Little Jerry was the leader of Little Jerry and the Monotones, whose hits include “With Every Beat of My Heart” and one of the all-time great rock ‘n’ roll songs (I am not being sarcastic) “Telephone Rock.” And his rockin’ vocals were probably hard on the voice of his performer, Little Jerry Nelson.
Matthew: Game, set, and friggin’ match. Right on all counts! I too think “Telephone Rock” is one of the best rock songs Sesame Street put out. If the Street does have a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Little Jerry and the Monotones would be first-ballot inductees.
Ryan: I’d vote for them.
Ryan: I was about to announce the final score, but The Great Halfini split the scoreboard in half, so now I have no idea who actually won. Good game!
Matthew: That was the most random time I’ve ever had. Thanks for a fun journey through the obscure and mysterious, through the colorful and whimsical, through the performed-by-Jerry-Nelson and the not-performed-by-Jerry-Nelson.
Ryan: Any time! Now, who wants a pickled egg?
Matthew: No thanks, I’m driving.
Click here to sing backup for Lou Rawls on the Tough Pigs forum!
by Matthew Soberman and Ryan Roe