In "The Muppets," Gonzo the Great has become a plumbing mogul.
Sure, I love Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy, and they're featured prominently in the new "Muppets" movie. But some of my favorite Muppets are the underrated ones, the supporting cast. Here's a look at a few of the often-overlooked stars of the show.
Statler and Waldorf
The top pair has to be Statler and Waldorf, the crotchety old critics who sit in an opera box and heckle "The Muppet Show" as it happens. They vaguely resemble an elderly Siskel and Ebert, and Milton Berle once dubbed them "Starsky and Crutch." Snapped Berle, "I'd like to see you come down here and be funny." "You first!" was the response. They're even featured in the theme song, singing "Why do we always come here? I guess we'll never know. It's like a kind of torture, to have to watch this show."
Poor Beaker. Kermit is chased around by Miss Piggy, Gonzo is shot out of cannons, but no one suffers more than Dr. Bunsen Honeydew's carrot-topped lab assistant. He's had bananas shot at him, been multiplied in a giant copier machine, had his hair shot off with hair-growing tonic, been shrunken to a tiny size, made to eat edible paperclips and otherwise tormented by his clueless boss. If his many tortured "Meeps!" sound familiar, it may be because his voice was provided by Richard Hunt, who also often did Miss Piggy's voice.
The Swedish Chef
Even before Food Network, the Swedish Chef was cooking up trouble. His recipes always include throwing exploding pots and ladles, using threatening utensils (chainsaws, battleaxes) and singing in a cheerful slurry of Scandinavian and Muppet. Since so many Muppets are animals and vegetables, the Chef was always trying to drag one or more of them into his recipe, to much googly-eyed resistance. The poor guy. Jamie Oliver never had to prepare food that fought back. Bork, bork, bork!
Rowlf the Dog
In the new "Muppets" movie, Kermit and pals drive around the country to collect all the other Muppets, showing only some of the meet-up scenes. "How come you didn't put me in the montage?"complains Rowlf, whining that he thought his scene was pretty exciting. The movie then flashes to Kermit discovering Rowlf sacked out in a hammock. That's piano-playing Rowlf's personality right there -- he was one of the mellowest Muppets around, and even if chainsaws were flying and chickens squawking, he never got flustered. We could all use a little Rowlf.
Gonzo the Great
If you want to start a Muppet debate, just ask a fan what in the heck Gonzo was supposed to be. Even the show didn't know. In "The Great Muppet Caper," when the Muppets go to Europe in boxes labeled with their species, Gonzo's box reads "Whatever." "He's a little like a turkey," Kermit once said, though one movie revealed him as a space alien. He has blue fur, feathers, a bendy nose, and a love for chickens and Evel Knievel-like stunts. Once he jumped his motorcycle into Statler and Waldorf's box. Another time he hypnotized himself and ended up being crushed under a 5,000-pound weight. And of course, in every episode, he showed up at the end of the "Muppet Show" theme song with his trumpet to hit the song's final note. His trumpet would alternately catch on fire, squirt water, blow up a balloon, explode, emit colorful smoke or even fly away on its own. This is what we call the Muppet Shooooooow!
Who (or what) is your favorite Muppet? Tell us in the comments.