Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem

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The five principal members of The Electric Mayhem (from left to right); Dr. Teeth, Janice, Animal, Floyd Pepper, and Zoot.

Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem is a Muppet rock band of The Muppet Show. Following The Muppet Show, they appeared in various Muppet movies and television specials, and have also recorded album tracks. Dr. Teeth and Animal were designed by Jim Henson, while the rest of the original band members were designed by Michael K. Frith. They made their debut in 1975's The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence, and pilot for the The Muppet Show.

The band consists of Dr. Teeth on vocals and keyboards, Animal on drums, Sgt. Floyd Pepper on bass guitar, Janice on guitar, and Zoot on saxophone. In season five of the show, Lips joined the band on trumpet. Animal, Floyd and Zoot also played in the Muppet Show pit band, performing the opening and closing themes and underscoring most of the Muppet Show performances. Lips and occasionally Janice appeared in the orchestra in later episodes. Though Lips made some appearances with the group after The Muppet Show ended production, the group later reverted to its original line-up. Also, the original pilot episode featured "Jim", a Muppet caricature of Jim Henson on banjo.

The band's first film role was performing the song "Can You Picture That?" in The Muppet Movie. They also performed "Saturday Night Life" and participated in "The Happiness Hotel" in The Great Muppet Caper, and performed "Jingle Bell Rock" in A Muppet Family Christmas. They appeared in The Muppets Take Manhattan (sans Lips), where Dr. Teeth sang "You Can't Take No For An Answer". Following the deaths of two of the group's puppeteers, Jim Henson (Dr. Teeth), and Richard Hunt (Janice), they were limited to brief instrumental background music for years. However, Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem backed Miss Piggy for a song in The Muppets' Wizard of Oz and performed alongside Miley Cyrus in the Studio DC: Almost Live television special. More recently, they appeared on the YouTube channel as part of the 2009 parody cover of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" in which many Muppet characters took part.

An Electric Mayhem "survive" tour, with animatronic versions of the puppets, and rock band My Morning Jacket performing the characters, was proposed by The Walt Disney Company, but ultimately abandoned.[1]

Members[edit]

Dr. Teeth[edit]

Dr. Teeth is the keyboard player and gravelly-voiced leader of the band. He is green-skinned and red-haired with, as his name suggests, a large grinning mouth of teeth, including a gold tooth claimed to be fashioned by melting down his gold records. He maintains a scruffy beard, a fur vest, a striped shirt, and a floppy purple top hat. He has arms so long that additional puppeteers are required to guide them; this design enabled Henson to work the Dr. Teeth puppet while another performer acted as Dr. Teeth's 'hands' in order to play the keyboard. His introductory lines in The Muppet Movie were: "Golden teeth and golden tones, welcome to my presence." He often misuses long words and mangles verb conjugation. Jim Henson originally performed him, and based the character on musician Dr. John.[citation needed]

Dr. Teeth only sings lead vocals on the second Muppet pilot and during the first season and these songs were only written before Rowlf had become firmly established as the regular Muppet pianist. Later performances mostly feature lead vocals by Floyd or Janice and only a few featured Dr. Teeth. His speaking roles got even smaller after his performer Jim Henson's death; an exception was the 1991 Muppets stage show "Muppets on Location: Days of Swine and Roses", the voice being performed by John Kennedy. He performed Dr. Teeth from 1991 to 2003, but made only very brief appearances, with very little dialogue, some examples being the 1999 film Muppets from Space, and once in the music video for the We Are Family charity song in 2002. Bill Barretta took over the role beginning with The Muppets' Wizard of Oz so that Kennedy could start performing Floyd instead following the retirement of Jerry Nelson, Floyd's original performer (although Matt Vogel later assumed the role of Floyd, as well as most of Nelson's primary Muppet characters). Dr. Teeth's first major speaking role since Henson's death was in Statler and Waldorf's very own show, Statler and Waldorf: From the Balcony, where Victor Yerrid performed him. Bill Barretta, however, has been performing Dr. Teeth consistently, since 2005.

Despite being the band leader, Dr. Teeth is never featured in the regular orchestra playing at The Muppet Show like the rest of the group. Instead, Rowlf plays the piano in the orchestra pit.

Jim Henson once said that Dr. Teeth was one of the more difficult characters to play due to the harshness of the character's voice. Interestingly enough, Dr. Teeth and Rowlf are remarkably similar in voice, with Rowlf's being less gravelly, but still recognizable as being very similar to Dr. Teeth. Although he appeared in Muppet Treasure Island, he was absent from Muppets Tonight and did not appear in the first episode.

Animal[edit]

Main article: Animal (Muppet)

Animal is the primitive wild man, drummer, and the most published member of the band, being the only member to have appeared in every feature film and the only member in the regular cast of the Muppet Babies spin-off cartoon. He is named for his wild behavior and drumming. Some speculate the character is based on either Keith Moon or Levon Helm[2][3] while others have suggested Mick Fleetwood.[4] In the April 8, 2002, episode of Inside the Actors Studio, Billy Joel claimed that Liberty DeVitto was the inspiration for The Muppets character Animal. This assertion has not been taken seriously, as Animal's initial appearance in the 1974 pilot for The Muppet Show occurred two full years before DeVitto even made his first recording (on Joel's 1976 album Turnstiles). Others say there is no evidence that Animal was based on anyone.[5]

Frank Oz operated Animal from his first appearance until 1999; in 2002 newcomer Eric Jacobson took over. In Muppet Babies he was voiced by Howie Mandel (1984–1985) and Dave Coulier (1986–1991). Animal was also played by Kevin Clash in Muppets Tonight and by Bill Barretta in MuppetFest (the first Muppet fan convention). Animal's drumming was performed by British jazz and big band drummer Ronnie Verrell.[5] He has had numerous appearances on television, in advertising, and even on a U.S. postage stamp.

Sgt. Floyd Pepper[edit]

Sgt. Floyd Pepper is the bass player. A laid back "hipster" with a pink body and long orange hair, he usually wore a green army cap, or sometimes, while in the pit, a slightly fancier cap of stiffer, glittery material, and a red uniform with epaulets and ornate gold braid on the buttons. He plays his bass left-handed. The character was played and voiced by Jerry Nelson until 2004. At this time, Nelson retired from performing most of his characters, citing health reasons, and John Kennedy took over the role, beginning with The Muppets' Wizard of Oz. However, Nelson performed Floyd's voice (though not the puppetry) one more time for Studio DC: Almost Live, Matt Vogel took over in A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa.

Floyd is the most cynical member of the band and perhaps of the entire cast; in several episodes, he observes his fellow Muppet Show performers' backstage antics and pratfalls with great amusement and is not above outright laughing at them. A battle of the egos occurs whenever he and Miss Piggy are on screen together as he loves to poke fun at her airs and graces. He's also somewhat arrogant, referring to himself in a Muppet Magazine article as "one real cool dude" and during The Muppet Show (season 1 episode 23) he says to Kermit: "Kermit, you are talking to Floyd Pepper! The hippest of the hip! I mean I have a room for life at the home of the chronically groovy!". His pink color is a little insider joke, and a reference - he is a Pink Floyd. He appears backstage more often than the other band members, presumably because Jerry Nelson was the Muppeteer least often preoccupied with performing other characters backstage.

Although Dr. Teeth is the leader, Floyd is the one who sings lead most often. Some of the songs he sang on The Muppet Show include: "New York State of Mind", "Ain't Misbehavin'", "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" and "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover". He has a close relationship with Janice, and is Animal's handler, and in books like The Case of The Missing Mother, by James Howe, Animal is practically Floyd's pet.

Floyd claims to consider himself an excellent songwriter but, with no apparent contradiction, admits that everyone hates his music. Not that he blames them. "If I didn't know I was a genius," he once declared, "I wouldn't listen to the trash I write."

Janice[edit]

Janice is a lead guitar player. She has blond hair, big eyelashes and lips, and usually wears a brown hat with a turquoise gem and a feather. Though she regularly performed vocals, she actually only sang lead a couple of times on the show. She also acted in sketches periodically, most notably as wisecracking Nurse Janice in 'Veterinarian's Hospital', a recurring parody of medical dramas. Her name is an homage to Janis Joplin. Janice is the band's lead guitar player, and she plays left-handed. Her favourite guitar is a Gibson Les Paul with cherry sunburst colour scheme.

This flower girl was involved with Zoot in the first season of The Muppet Show, but paired up with Floyd Pepper at the start of season two. Janice was performed by Eren Ozker during the first season of The Muppet Show (without the valley-girl voice), then she was performed by Richard Hunt until his death in 1992. Due to the lack of female Muppeteers, Janice has, since Ozker's departure, consistently been played by a man.

Muppet characters are frequently paired together based on how well puppeteers perform as a team. Richard Hunt and Jerry Nelson had established themselves as a team prior to The Muppet Show. Therefore, the change in Janice's performer may have been the reason for her relationship shifting from Zoot to Floyd. After Hunt's death, her character was faded back to brief non-speaking background appearances until the 2002 It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie, in which she was performed by Brian Henson. Henson also provided her voice for the video game Muppet Party Cruise. In The Muppets' Wizard of Oz, she was performed by Tyler Bunch. Her most recent performer is David Rudman, who first performed her in Studio DC: Almost Live. Matt Vogel provided the voices for Janice and Scooter in the video game Muppet RaceMania. David Rudman took over Scooter as well the same time he took over for Janice.

A running gag in some Muppet movies was that during a scene in which several characters were excitedly talking at once, and someone called for silence, Janice would be the last one still talking, on a topic with no apparent connection to the situation. In The Muppets Take Manhattan: "So I told him 'Look, buddy, I don't take my clothes off for anybody, even if it is artistic,' and... Oh". Another example from The Great Muppet Caper, she says: "Look, Mother. It's my life. OK. So if I want to live on a beach and walk around naked... Oh".

Janice is the only member of the band apart from Animal to have appeared on the animated series Muppet Babies. In her single appearance she was portrayed as slightly older than the main characters, and able to read. She was voiced by Dave Coulier, who regularly voiced baby versions of Animal, Bunsen and Bean Bunny.

Zoot[edit]

Zoot is a teal, balding saxophone player with dark glasses and a high-crowned blue felt hat, and was generally a laid-back fellow of few words. His name refers to the 20th century saxophonist Zoot Sims and per designer Bonnie Erickson, is modeled after Latin jazz artist Gato Barbieri. He is performed by Dave Goelz. He was conceived as a burned-out, depressed 50-year old musician, but according to Goelz, when the role was assigned to him, he did not know how to perform that type of character. He therefore made the character mainly communicate through his playing rather than by speaking.

Oddly enough, Zoot spoke much more in the first season, where he was often seen dancing with Janice in the "At the Dance" sketches. Goelz stated that he tried to give most of Zoot's lines away to other characters, particularly Floyd. Floyd's performer Jerry Nelson was not performing full-time in the first season, which may explain Zoot originally having more dialogue.

Zoot's claim to fame was playing the final off-key note to the end theme of the show; he then looks into his saxophone with a bewildered expression, checks his music, gives a satisfied nod, looks around at the other musicians and gives the same nod. The note played is the lowest note on the baritone saxophone, and most of Zoot's other playing has the sound of a tenor saxophone, while his instrument appears to be an alto.[citation needed]

In A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa, it's revealed that he celebrates Hanukkah.

Lips[edit]

Lips, performed by Steve Whitmire, joined the Electric Mayhem for several numbers during the final season of The Muppet Show, playing the trumpet. His name naturally refers to the fact that trumpet players use their lips to play. He has a yellow Afro, goatee, and a permanent squint. His appearances on the Muppet Show were few and far between, and when he did appear in the later episodes or movies, he rarely did anything besides play the trumpet. One of his few speaking appearances was in the Shirley Bassey episode, where he sang a line of "Barnyard Boogie".

He was mainly created so that Whitmire could have a character to perform in the band. His lack of character development was apparently due to Whitmire's uncertainty about performing Lips. He was less experienced as a puppeteer at the time, and wanted to use a voice like Louis Armstrong but was afraid of offending African-Americans. After The Muppet Christmas Carol, he was never seen at all until the NBC special Christmas in Rockefeller Center. He also appeared in the movie The Muppets. He will also appear and speak in the upcoming movie Muppets Most Wanted.

Other members[edit]

Clifford, performed by Kevin Clash, was briefly made a member of the Electric Mayhem (as a percussionist) in 1990. His only appearances with the group were in the television special The Muppets at Walt Disney World and minor publicity material.

Parody[edit]

In an episode of Adult Swim's Robot Chicken (Season 1, Episode 4), Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem were in a fake VH1 Behind The Music sketch detailing the band's activities after The Muppet Show. It shows Dr. Teeth earning a living as a piano teacher, and claims that no one has seen Zoot since he was arrested in Japan for possessing a suitcase filled with thirty-seven pounds of hash - which is a parody of the 1980 Paul McCartney marijuana bust. Also, in a fake episode of The Howard Stern Show, Janice reveals that Tommy Lee gave her Hepatitis C and that she only has 5 years to live (referencing similar claims made by actress Pamela Anderson); when Stern ignores her distress and asks if Janice will show him her breasts; she angrily refuses. Finally, a possible comeback for the Electric Mayhem—a performance on Star Search—ends in tragedy when Animal has to be put down for a vicious attack on host Ed McMahon. The sketch ends with Floyd sadly stating that a reunion of the Electric Mayhem is impossible without Animal and Zoot, as Dr. Teeth plays a piano duet with Rowlf the Dog and a sickly Janice coughs in the background.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Montgomery, James "My Morning Jacket 'Sad' Over Electric Mayhem Tour" MTV website - June 20, 2011
  2. ^ "Front page". Keithmoon.co.uk. Retrieved 2014-03-25. 
  3. ^ BBC News, "Myers 'to play' Who's Keith Moon". September 30, 2005.
  4. ^ "Fleetwood Mac Artistfacts", Artisfacts.com.
  5. ^ a b "Animal - Ronnie Verell". Drummerworld. Retrieved 2014-03-25. 

External links[edit]