Not only is Janice a vital member of the excellent Muppet band Electric Mayhem, but she’s also one of the few female Muppets who gets any attention in the movies and The Muppet Show. Unlike Miss Piggy, who is proud of her diva-like behavior, Janice is less about trying to gain attention and super-stardom and like, more about the music and just like, laying back and having a good time, or whatever. Fer sure. One of her best moments is in The Great Muppet Caper when all of the other Muppet chatter cuts off on Kermit’s orders, and only Janice is left talking, stating adamantly, “Looks mother, it’s my life, OK. So if I want to live on a beach and walk around naked...”
Sweetums first appearance was in The Frog Prince special where he begins his journey as a witch's ogre questing to eat the hero (Kermit's nephew Robin), only to eventually end up singing a duet with him. He's not an ogre, just misunderstood. Though Richard Hunt and John Henson dressed up in the full-bodied Sweetums suit doesn't strictly qualify him as a puppet, Sweetums still embodies the spirit and heart of the felt creations. In fact, you could argue that Sweetums serves as the perfect example to showcase the very important difference between a puppet and a Muppet (also throwing a wrench in the saying 'not all puppets are Muppets but all Muppets are puppets'). Despite his ogre-ish appearance, intimidating size and menacing face, Sweetums is, well, just a giant softie (reflected by his name). One should never judge a book by its cover, and the series' running gag (literally) of him constantly trying to catch up to the others always leaves me in stitches, especially when he bursts through the screen at the end the end of the original film, "I made it!" Yes. Yes you did, big fella.
#17: Pepe the King Prawn
Pepe first appeared in 1996 as a part of Muppets Tonight. That makes him one of only two Muppets on this list (Bobo is the other one) who joined the cast after the death of Jim Henson in 1990. He earns it by being the opposite of nearly everything all the other Muppets are about. On the surface at least, he’s a preening, selfish, egotistical aquatic creature. Somehow though, in the end he always does the right thing, and the notion that all that hubris is just one big façade is part of what makes Pepe so great. That outsider position also makes him sort of like a modernized Statler and Waldorf, capable of commenting on the Muppets in his own way by standing apart from them. It doesn’t hurt that he’s also funny. Pepe may be small, but more than any Muppet outside of perhaps Kermit, he thinks big. There’s nothing you can’t do that Pepe isn’t sure he could do better, ok? Just get out of the way and let him do his thing.
#18: Camilla the Chicken
Camilla The Chicken is often written off as merely Gonzo’s lady friend, but to do so sells her seriously short. First of all, someone needs to provide some order and direction to the motley crew of Muppet poultry. She gives the group a name, face and leader to congregate around. Second, she’s got a bit of sass about her and is willing to call Gonzo out when he chases other birds. Third and perhaps most importantly, she clucks along to music better than any chicken I’ve ever seen. Whether it be classical or pop, she accompanies it all with grace and sophistication. For her sake though, let’s hope the Muppets are never asked to appear on Don’t Forget The Lyrics.
#19: Crazy Harry
Deep within all of us is a Crazy Harry. Most of us are able to control it (I’m pretty sure everyone else is in prison) but we all have the same hunger that he does: blowing shit up. The guy has a never-ending passion for making things go boom, and he’s not shy about it. The only think that makes Crazy Harry even better is his look. From his frizzy black hair to his wide, dead eyes, he looks like the exact kind of person that would have the word “Crazy” before his first name. He’s not the most flexible or utilitarian character out there, but he is perfect for a quick laugh. Always armed with his plunger detonator, Harry is the kind of muppet that has found his calling in life. It’s like the old saying goes: do what you love and the money will come.
Nepotism may have earned Scooter his job on The Muppet Show (his uncle, J.P. Grosse owns the Muppet Theater), but over the years, this behind-the-scenes dynamo has become the glue that holds the entire variety program together. With his clipboard in hand and his slick green track jacket ready for action, Scooter is the ultimate gofer, and the Muppet who gets things done when Kermit’s in a bind. Though he tends to stay backstage while other Muppets grab the spotlight, Scooter’s often reluctantly pulled into Miss Piggy’s efforts to steal Kermit’s heart, putting him front and center in one of the strangest love triangle in puppet history. We love Scooter for his steady hand, his dedication to the show business principle that the show must go on … and also for the fact that when he takes his glasses off, his eyeballs come off of his face, as well.
Zoot’s the balding, blue-haired blues man who makes everything Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem does more credible. The most serious musician of the rock and roll super group, he was also the final Muppet seen in every single episode of The Muppet Show where he’d close the show with a signature saxophone blast like this:
His sax stylings are so pivotal that, instrumental mishaps aside, he’s practically taken ownership of that final note. When the band ended Jason Segel’s opening monologue with the Muppets on SNL last weekend with that same, single sax blast, everyone knew what was up. Zoot’s clearly the coolest Muppet. Here’s their Fonzie, only with actual talent instead of all that jumping over sharks.
#22: Mahna Mahna
Unlike many of the other Muppets on this list, Mahna Mahna isn’t known for his wide variety of characters or even for speaking legible English. Mahna Mahna has exactly one skit going for him, but it’s so amazing that he gets inclusion on this list. I am, of course, referring to the magic that is the song “Mahna Mahna.” In the song he is actually kind of an outsider: The Snouths are singing their simple tune and seem fairly happy with their work. But then Manah Manah comes in to jazz it up a bit with a bit of skit-skat that makes the song so memorable. As if that weren’t enough, the character also has one of the coolest looks in the muppet universe. His orange hair and beard almost looks like a lion’s mane and his funny green shirt and remarkably short arms make him look both strange and adorable. There’s a reason why the song is called “Mahna Mahna” and not “Do Do Do Do.”
#23: Bobo the Bear
Bobo The Bear is a miserable television studio security guard. He’s also a miserable life coach, a miserable personal assistant and even a miserable bad guy. He’d be a miserable character too if his larger than life personality wasn’t so infectious. Introduced on Muppets Tonight and seen regularly in bit roles and a web series since, Bobo The Bear’s goofy optimism and occasional snark are perfect in small doses and even better opposite celebrities. He strikes just the right tone. Plus, he’s probably the most interesting Muppet to look at. He’d tell you it’s handsomeness. That might be a generous way to describe his face wrinkles, but regardless, it works.
#24: Bean Bunny
Boy, Bean Bunny had it all going, at least briefly. Introduced in The Tale Of The Bunny Picnic in 1989, the character was given a major push by the writers. He was written into Muppet Babies and was given one of only ten on-stage slots for Here Come The Muppets at Disney World. Then, after Jim Henson’s passing, everyone else kind of turned on the poor guy. Brian Henson even publicly admitted a majority of Muppet Company employees love to hate Bean Bunny. It’s fairly obvious too given he’s often the victim of Muppet violence. Maybe someday he’ll change the momentum and start climbing back up the mountain, but even if he doesn’t, Bean Bunny was a mega-star for about five minutes. He soared higher than most of the other characters on this list, and at one point in time, most of us thought he was adorable.
#25: Lew Zealand
There are some truly strange Muppets in Jim Henson’s universe, but Lew Zealand most definitely ranks as one of the strangest. Seriously, there isn’t a thing about him that can be considered normal. His name is a bizarre riff on the country New Zealand (despite the fact that he has no connection to the nation), he’s outfitted with a ruff collar that hasn’t been in fashion since the mid-seventeenth century, and his voice makes it sound like he suffers from some sort of brain damage, but those are just details. This is a guy whose biggest claim to fame is the fact that he uses live fish as boomerangs. For as long as I’ve been aware of the character I’ve never understood a) how someone actually came up with that idea or b) how Lew is actually able to make it work. That bit of magic alone makes him one of the better characters in the muppet universe.
* Note: This list excludes Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, and other Muppets which aren't directly associated with Kermit and the gang... but which may still be awesome.
Which of our top 25 Muppet characters is your favorite?