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Posted at 12:35 PM ET, 05/17/2010

Our six favorite peripheral Muppet characters

By Jen Chaney

Everyone loves Betty White. We've more than established that at this point. But you know who else people love, unconditionally and unequivocally? The Muppets.

Seriously, find a person who honestly, deep in their soul, loathes the foam-and-felt ambassadors of family comedy delight. It can't be done. And if such a person can be found, I strongly suggest that said person immediately begin some intense psychotherapy.

Those who keep close tabs on Muppet-related happenings already know that yesterday was a significant day: May 16 marked the 20th anniversary of the death of Muppet creator Jim Henson, a man for whom those of us in the Washington, D.C. area harbor particular fondness. Henson not only spent part of his childhood here and attended the University of Maryland, he also unveiled the first, primitive Muppets on our local airwaves.

As a small tribute to Henson and those Muppets that everyone -- that's right, I said everyone -- loves so dearly, I offer this list of the best peripheral "Muppet Show" characters. These are the puppets that didn't quite get the marquee billing of a Kermit or a Miss Piggy or even a Scooter, but managed to win our hearts with their quirkiness, their inability to speak actual, coherent words or their mastery of boomerang-fish throwing. Enjoy.

1. The Swedish Chef

Why are there so many celebrity chefs these days? Sure, Julia Child is probably responsible. And so is the Food Network. But don't underestimate the influential power of this guy. Because as far as I'm concerned, you're not really cooking unless you're tossing around ingredients and/or kitchen utensils while shouting, "Børk! Børk! Børk!"

2. Beaker

The Muppet who always appears to be in the midst of a panic attack, Beaker may be Dr. Bunsen Honeydew's sidekick, but we all know he was the real star of those science experiment segments. He's also become a viral video star of sorts, winning his very own Webby Award last year for this oft-passed-around gem:

3. Janice

Guitarist for the totally groovy band Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, we always dug Janice's "like, you know, whatever" vibe. And she dated the fuzzy-eyebrowed Floyd, who I think we can all agree is a stallion.

4. Sam the Eagle

He is a true patriot. He is outspoken. It's entirely possible he is a member of the Tea Party. Politics aside, God bless Sam the Eagle for always speaking his mind, no matter how much of a curmudgeon he sounds like.

5. Link Hogthrob

As the hunky but clueless captain of the Swinetrek featured in "Pigs in Space," Link established himself as the obvious romantic partner for Miss Piggy. And perhaps he could have won her heart -- not to mention top Muppet billing -- if only a certain meddling frog hadn't stood in his way. But perhaps there's still hope for our favorite arrogant swine: If William Shatner ever cedes the gig, we think Link would make an awesome Priceline Negotiator.

6. Lew Zealand

Okay, I technically didn't remember this Muppet's name either until I looked it up. But who could forget the way he flung a cold fish? In the clip below, he explains his artistry, then shows it off during a stirring duet with Leslie Uggams. Genius.

Who's your favorite peripheral Muppet? One of these? Or is there going to be a massive protest because Statler and Waldorf -- who I consider perhaps a little too prominent to be entirely peripheral -- aren't on this list? Sound off in the comments.

By Jen Chaney  | May 17, 2010; 12:35 PM ET
Categories:  Pop Culture  | Tags:  Pop Culture  
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Comments

These are good clips, but you forgot the best. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NA90IlymdZ4

Posted by: kvs09 | May 17, 2010 12:55 PM | Report abuse

Janice from Electric Mayhem looks like dozens of real people:

http://livebythefoma.blogspot.com/2009/07/separated-at-sewing-machine.html


Posted by: yellojkt | May 17, 2010 1:13 PM | Report abuse

You left out that Sam the Eagle was the forerunner of Stephen Colbert and the Colbert Report!

Also, that Floyd bears an uncanny resemblance to Skunk Baxter of the Doobie Brothers!

BTW, my favorite peripheral character was that cute little frog, Robin.

Posted by: lydandy | May 17, 2010 1:22 PM | Report abuse

Statler and Waldorf openly mock this inadequate list. They are the number one choice of true Muppets sophisticates.

Posted by: Christopher Dean Hopkins | May 17, 2010 1:32 PM | Report abuse

I would agree with those listed, but would also add Dr. Teeth and Animal (if Janice is conisdered "peripheral," than Animal is too). You also must include Sweetums!

Posted by: Russtinator | May 17, 2010 1:32 PM | Report abuse

Oh man, this is great!!! I love, love, love the Swedish Chef.

But- you forgot Sweetums! He is the best. All shaggy and monster-y.

Posted by: Bawlmer51 | May 17, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Watching the friggin Muppets is like being sober at Broadway Danny Rose's open bar renunion party.

Posted by: molsonmich | May 17, 2010 1:42 PM | Report abuse

Celebrity-based muppets Placido Flamingo and Meryl Sheep, of course!

Posted by: Nosy_Parker | May 17, 2010 1:48 PM | Report abuse

SWEETUMS - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Zdu2zeiJ1Y

Posted by: paujwill | May 17, 2010 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Janice makes me think of Mary from Peter, Paul and Mary.

Gotta love Fozzy Bear!!!

Posted by: Diner65 | May 17, 2010 2:14 PM | Report abuse

ANIMAL!!! how can you NOT put this guy in!!?!? or uh... thing..

good choices otherwise, I love New Zealand!

Posted by: knowledge1 | May 17, 2010 2:16 PM | Report abuse

I'm a HUGE muppet fan!

Agree Sweetums should be included. Also Camilla the chicken that gonzo is infatuated with, I could never tell if she returned his affections or not. Finally - is Rizzo too mainstream or is he really better known from the movies vs. the show?

Posted by: sjcpeach | May 17, 2010 2:18 PM | Report abuse

I loved Beaker! I always felt so sorry for him.

One of my favorite Muppets pair were the aliens who were on Sesame St. (don't think they ever were on TMS).

Tel-e-phoooone.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7fQaj31Wtko

Haha, classic!

Posted by: blahblah6b | May 17, 2010 2:18 PM | Report abuse

For my money, if Janice is going to be on this list, Floyd needs to be as well. Perhaps we can enter them as a duo?

Posted by: Aterio | May 17, 2010 2:18 PM | Report abuse

Rowlf the Dog was my favorite!

Posted by: hodie2 | May 17, 2010 2:19 PM | Report abuse

I always loved the Penguins and Gonzo's chickens myself, whenever they occurred.

I usually liked Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, along with Beaker. It wasn't just the Beaker reaction, it was the overexcited scientist that made it fun, too.

Posted by: Chasmosaur1 | May 17, 2010 2:19 PM | Report abuse

You are leaving out the whole Sesame Street gang. Jim had a lot of influence in their development. Biff (and Sully) (http://muppet.wikia.com/wiki/Biff) was always one of my favorites from that show.
From The Muppet Show, Sweetums was a gem. Wayne and Wanda always cracked me up.

Posted by: redbecca | May 17, 2010 2:20 PM | Report abuse

I had the Muppets theme as my cell ring for a long time.

More great peripheral characters: any of the Swedish Chef's food - esp. the lettuce that kept trying to crawl off b/c they didn't want to be chopped up!

Posted by: blahblah6b | May 17, 2010 2:20 PM | Report abuse

Camilla the chicken!

Posted by: reiflame1 | May 17, 2010 2:29 PM | Report abuse

What about the 2 old guys in the balcony?!? Those guys were the best!

Posted by: aglatfelter | May 17, 2010 2:30 PM | Report abuse

Great list, though I would argue Rowlf was a core member of the troupe and not eligible for it.

Absolutely the best peripheral character was Sweetums. Nothing beats his turn in the Muppet Movie as Milton Berle's employee at the used car lot: "Jack not name, Jack job!"

Posted by: ResidentDC85 | May 17, 2010 2:31 PM | Report abuse

Does this mean that Statler and Waldorf are considered central characters?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14njUwJUg1I

Posted by: njacobs | May 17, 2010 2:31 PM | Report abuse

I love Beaker. My all-time favorite Christmas album is _John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together._ On the first track, "The Twelve Days of Christmas," Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker have the "Nine Ladies Dancing" verse. I sing along with Beaker and it's funny _every single time_.

Posted by: notawaitress | May 17, 2010 2:39 PM | Report abuse

Fun fact: Statler and Waldorf are named after hotel chains. The Statler Hotel in New York is now the Hotel Pennsylvania of PennsylvaniA 6-5000 fame which is still the hotel's current phone number.

Posted by: yellojkt | May 17, 2010 2:41 PM | Report abuse

My favorite Muppet? Either Ben Stein or Sen. Jim Bunning of Kentucky.

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | May 17, 2010 2:45 PM | Report abuse

Or the Mighty Favog, with whom I bear an uncanny resemblance.

http://www.shawnlealos.com/writing/411mania/images/alt_takes_004_SNL.jpg

Posted by: curmudgeon6 | May 17, 2010 2:47 PM | Report abuse

Zoot, man.

May have skipped a groove, but he's the coolest!

Posted by: Eler | May 17, 2010 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Best Statler & Waldorf line of all time (at the end of the first Muppet Movie):

I've seen better films around the side of a bathtub!

Posted by: njacobs | May 17, 2010 2:51 PM | Report abuse

Animal, Beaker, Fozzie Bear =>

Posted by: JM16 | May 17, 2010 2:53 PM | Report abuse

One of my chemistry major friends back then pointed out that Beaker is actually an Erlenmeyer Flask

Posted by: Pmack1 | May 17, 2010 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Grover the waiter: no one could "broil a biggie" with more passion and flair.

Posted by: truatan | May 17, 2010 2:55 PM | Report abuse

Link Hogthrob is ok, but I much preferred Dr. Strangepork. His oddity, funny voice and brains were much more appealing than Link's chin dimple and muscles. Great list, I miss excellent prime-time kids' tv like the Muppet Show. At least we have the DVDs.

Posted by: muppfan | May 17, 2010 2:57 PM | Report abuse

STATLER: What IS a "ma na ma na"?

WALDORF: Who cares?!

(start earworm in 3...2...1... :) )

Posted by: SportzNut21 | May 17, 2010 2:57 PM | Report abuse

Statler and Waldorf openly mock this inadequate list. They are the number one choice of true Muppets sophisticates.

Posted by: Christopher Dean Hopkins
_______________________________

ST: That's terrible!
WAL: Boo!
BOTH: HA! HA-HA-HA-HA-HA!!!

Posted by: bs2004 | May 17, 2010 2:58 PM | Report abuse

The Cookie Monster rules!

Posted by: kabuki3 | May 17, 2010 3:11 PM | Report abuse

crazy harry or the flying zuchinni brothers. crazy harry in particular, loved the explosions and the worried looks on kermit's face whenever he was around.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gEYb3AeW4LU

Posted by: giumri | May 17, 2010 3:32 PM | Report abuse

So many wonderful choices! I think Floyd was my favorite. He looked just like a friend of mine.

Posted by: plszmeczek | May 17, 2010 3:40 PM | Report abuse

My fave was Robin, the little cousin of Kermit T. Frog. He was such a cute little guy, and only appeared occasionally.

Thanks for a GREAT article. I loved watching all the old video clips which brought back many fond memories of childhood.

Posted by: hendriks70 | May 17, 2010 4:02 PM | Report abuse

Don't sleep on Stadtler and Waldorf, baby! The two old coots in the balcony were funnier than all the Shrek movies combined.

Posted by: dkdc1 | May 17, 2010 4:04 PM | Report abuse

Also, if you havent seen the Muppets doing Bohemian Rhapsody, it is fantastic...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tgbNymZ7vqY

Posted by: dkdc1 | May 17, 2010 4:11 PM | Report abuse

Sam The Eagle! I was but a wee lass when Muppets was on the air, and I didn't like Sam. He was boring. He wasn't funny. My heart was all for Animal. He was on my metal lunchbox and everything.

As an adult, he cracks me up. I get all the jokes. He's the best! (Animal is still awesome too. I haven't forgotten about you, crazy drummer!)

You need a seventh, for the always snarky Statler and Waldorf.

Posted by: DCCubefarm | May 17, 2010 4:11 PM | Report abuse

Why can't some smart exec at NBC bring back the Muppet show? As lousy as their present programming is, it could only be an improvement. So many of us enjoyed the program it its heyday and raised our kids on Sesame Street, it surely would have an audience. Also, think of all the current celebrities who would jump at the chance to appear on the show. Probably for scale and the exposure. It could even be more politically relevant to draw the "sophisticated" audience. Go for it!!

Posted by: frogflyer7 | May 17, 2010 4:13 PM | Report abuse

Don't forget Zoot, the blue sax player ("uh oh, Zoot skipped a groove again!!!"). Not only was he cool as ice, he epitomized the blues, both literally and figuratively.

Posted by: applebtr | May 17, 2010 4:15 PM | Report abuse

One emphatic vote for Rolf in the role of Dr. Bob the pun-spewing, quack of a surgeon in Veterinarians' Hospital.

Posted by: flotsam3 | May 17, 2010 4:22 PM | Report abuse

The Swedish Chef rocks! Bork! Bork! Bork!

I had forgotten all about Sweetums until reading the comments to this article. He definitely belongs on the list.

Peripheral or not, Statler and Waldorf were and are still my favorite characters on the show.

Posted by: EKruse | May 17, 2010 4:24 PM | Report abuse

I was all set to argue that Janice needed to be on your list - then I scrolled down and there she was! Hooray!

I've always had a bit of a crush on Janice. You left out one of her recurring roles. Besides playing in Dr. Teeth's band, she is a kind and caring nurse on Veterinarian's Hospital.

Posted by: getkind | May 17, 2010 4:25 PM | Report abuse

What about Spamella Hamderson?!?

Posted by: just_passing_through | May 17, 2010 4:34 PM | Report abuse

I favor Spamela Hamberson---though I think maybe she was on Muppets Tonight. I also loved the entire cast of a Muppet Christmas show from many years ago whose plot revolved around a gang of monsters who hide out in Santa's Workshop posing as very hairy elves. For some reason, that show has never been repeated. I would love to see it again because it was hilariously revisionist re: the Christmas spirit.

Posted by: eskarp | May 17, 2010 4:36 PM | Report abuse

Statler and Waldorf.

Duh.

Posted by: singleseatbiggermeat | May 17, 2010 4:44 PM | Report abuse

Pepe, the King Prawn is my favorite! His funny hair and attitude always crack me up! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pa_HT9vQiLw

Posted by: emodra | May 17, 2010 4:45 PM | Report abuse

Pepe, the King Prawn is my favorite! His funny hair and attitude always crack me up! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pa_HT9vQiLw

Posted by: emodra | May 17, 2010 4:46 PM | Report abuse

Glad to see the love for Statler and Waldorf. I was hoping I wasn't the only ones who thought they were the best. Imagine if these guys were on American Idol or Dancing with the Stars.

"Is that a toupee you're wearing, or did your cat die?"

"It's too bad Gonzo is leaving the show."
"Who'd you rather see leave?"
"Me."

"What was that?"
"It's called the medium sketch.
"The medium sketch?"
"Yeah, it wasn't rare and it certainly wasn't well done!"

Posted by: yetanotherpassword | May 17, 2010 5:23 PM | Report abuse

A-NI-MAL!!!

Posted by: stella117 | May 17, 2010 5:37 PM | Report abuse

Statler: What does 'peripheral' mean anyways?

Waldorf: It's the people who don't belong in the spotlight.

St: Well, shouldn't that be the entire cast?!

Both: HA HA HA HA!!

Posted by: NickNaigm | May 17, 2010 5:42 PM | Report abuse

Lew Zealand--the boomerang fish guy! "I brought some paper towels...."

Kills me every time...

Posted by: zonkerscm | May 17, 2010 5:54 PM | Report abuse

Another vote for Sweetums here. I always loved his big orange nose.

Posted by: jjjunob | May 17, 2010 5:55 PM | Report abuse

Dr. Suggs and his Amazing Muppaphones

Scooter

Wayne and Wanda

Robin (Kermit's nephew)

Camilla (the chicken, love of Gonzo's life)

Crazy Harry (always blowing things up)

Rowlf

Sweetums

All of the Electric Mayhem members (Dr. Teeth, Floyd, Zoot, Janice, Animal)

Dr. Bunsen and Honeydew

Statler and Waldorf

Swedish Chef

Gonzo


Awww...heck, I'd have a hard time finding names that I don't think belong on the list.

Posted by: blert | May 17, 2010 11:30 PM | Report abuse

While not Muppets, they should be:
Fig Newton Gingrich
Karl Rove
Ann Coulter
Sarah Palin
I know..they don't live on Sesame Street but more likely they are our worse Nightmares on Elm Street

Posted by: johnklenert | May 18, 2010 7:21 AM | Report abuse

Gonzo's chickens - I love those girls. ; )

And Rowlf! His version of "You, and I and George" will always be my favorite.

Posted by: undercover_hon | May 18, 2010 12:05 PM | Report abuse

Don't forget Rowlf, Monster, Gonzo.

Don't know if these were specifically Sesame Street or not but the Yip Yip Aliens,
Cookie Monster and Oscar the grouch.

Posted by: fredkreugerjason | May 18, 2010 12:12 PM | Report abuse

Anyone else see Nancy Sinatra's recent appearance on American Idol? She had plastic surgery to make herself look exactly like Janice the Muppet!

On your next visit to Disney World in Florida, check out the "4-D" movie at Hollywood Studios starring all of your favorite muppets. Waldorf and Stadtler, Animal, Gonzo and his chickens, Beaker, Fozzie, Kermit, Miss Piggy, Animal, Sam the Eagle...all there.

Posted by: newengland1 | May 18, 2010 2:31 PM | Report abuse

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Posted by: sallyworking2006 | May 18, 2010 9:25 PM | Report abuse

Kermit's nephew Robin and his rendition of "Halfway Up the Stairs" -- Muppets and AA Milne... sublime.

Posted by: JoniJaz | May 24, 2010 2:26 PM | Report abuse

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