Muppets Tonight

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Muppets Tonight
Clifford, host of Muppets Tonight
Genre Comedy
Created by Jim Henson Productions
Written by Greg V. Fera
Brian Henson
Tom Trbovich
Gary Halvorson
Starring Dave Goelz
Brian Henson
Jerry Nelson
Steve Whitmire
Kevin Clash
Bill Barretta
Frank Oz
Leslie Carrara-Rudolph
No. of seasons 2
No. of episodes 22 (List of episodes)
Location(s) Hollywood Center Studios
Hollywood, California
Running time 22–24 minutes
Production company(s) Jim Henson Productions
Original channel ABC[1]
Original run March 8, 1996 (1996-03-08) – February 8, 1998 (1998-02-08)

Muppets Tonight is a live-action/puppet television series created by Jim Henson Productions and featuring The Muppets. Much like the "MuppeTelevision" segment of The Jim Henson Hour, the show was a continuation of The Muppet Show, set in a television studio, rather than a theater.[2]

It first ran on ABC from March 8 to July 14, 1996, with reruns on Disney Channel from 1997 to 2000. As of 2015, it is the last television series to star The Muppets characters.


The premise of Muppets Tonight was that Clifford was the host of a variety/talk show on KMUP.[3] The show stuck closely to The Muppet Show format of various skits (mostly featuring the show's human guest star) interspersed with some sort of crisis occurring backstage.[4]


Main article: List of Muppets

Returning Muppets[edit]

  • Clifford (performed by Kevin Clash) – Host of the show since no one else wanted the job (Though he was featured with Muppet eyes in place of his usual sunglasses, he went back to wearing sunglasses in later Muppet projects as revealed at MuppetFest)
  • Behemoth (performed by Bill Barretta) – Ernst Stavros Grouper's assistant
  • Dr. Bunsen Honeydew (performed by Dave Goelz) – The scientist and inventor from Muppet Labs who shows off his inventions on the show
    • Beaker (performed by Steve Whitmire) – Dr. Bunsen Honeydew's assistant
  • J.P. Grosse (performed by Kevin Clash) – The owner of the Muppet Theater who makes cameos as a crew member. In the Sandra Bullock episode, he appears in "The Tubmans of Porksmith" as Howard Tubman's doctor (performed by Allan Trautman)
  • Mulch (performed by Kevin Clash) – Dr. Phil van Neuter's assistant (shown in minor parts in earlier Muppet projects); in one sketch, it is revealed that he has a sister named Composta Heap to whom Dr. Phil van Neuter is engaged

Muppet cameos[edit]

Some familiar Muppets from other Muppet-based projects appear in this show:

  • Baskerville the Hound – First episode alongside the other Muppets
  • Bean Bunny (performed by Steve Whitmire) – First episode alongside the other Muppets, appears in the "Martin Short" episode working with a scout group and offering some cookies to Johnny Fiama only for him to be thrown out the window
  • Beauregard (performed by Dave Goelz) – At the end of the "Sandra Bullock" episode, when Sandra is still on stage
  • Droop – In the first episode alongside the other Muppets
  • Dr. Teeth – In the first episode alongside the other Muppets
  • Floyd Pepper – In the first episode alongside the other Muppets
  • Inkspots from Fraggle Rock – In this show with one of them being in the control room
  • Janice – In the first episode alongside the other Muppets
  • Lenny the Lizard – He makes a cameo during "The Coffee Song" in the "Heather Locklear" episode
  • Louis Kazzager – In the first episode alongside the other Muppets; also in "The Cameo Show" episode
  • Paul Revere Horse – In "City Schtickers" sketch of the "Billy Crystal" episode
  • Poison Cackler from Fraggle Rock – In the "John Goodman" episode, a background appearance in the "Tales from the Vet" segment
  • Swedish Chef – In the first episode alongside the other Muppets
  • Zelda Rose – In "The Cameo Show" episode as Dr. Phil van Neuter's mother
  • Zoot – In the episode "The Cameo Show" assisting Animal in performing with Little Richard

The following Muppet characters are seen in the studio audience:

  • Angus McGonagle (from The Muppet Show)
  • Annie Sue (from The Muppet Show)
  • Blustering Bellowpane Monster (from Fraggle Rock)
  • Brool the Minstrel (from Fraggle Rock)
  • Butch the Tiger (from The Muppet Show)
  • Large Marvin Fraggle (from Fraggle Rock)
  • Murray the Minstrel (from Fraggle Rock)
  • Ohreally Bird (from The Muppet Show)
  • Old Tom (from Muppet Treasure Island)
  • Quongo the Gorilla (from The Muppet Show)
  • Youknow Bird (from The Muppet Show)

New Muppets[edit]

Some of these introduced in Muppets Tonight went on to appear in later Muppet productions, particularly Pepe the Prawn, who has become a regular.

  • Big Mean Carl (performed by Bill Barretta) – A shaggy monster who is in the category of Muppets eating other Muppets. He also makes some audience appearances
  • Bill the Bubble Guy (performed by Dave Goelz) – A blue-skinned Muppet who can make bubbles come out of his head; first appears in the Garth Brooks episode where the Head of the Network threatened to replace Clifford with Bill if Garth Brooks did not sing one of his country songs
  • Captain Pighead (performed by Steve Whitmire) – A pig who serves as the captain of the new Swinetrek in the "Pigs in Space: Deep Dish Nine" segments
  • Craniac (performed by Kevin Clash) – An alien with a brain for a head; a crew member on the Swinetrek in the "Pigs in Space: Deep Dish Nine" segments
  • Dr. Phil van Neuter (performed by Brian Henson, assisted by Bill Barretta, operating the hands) – A mad scientist who hosts "Tales from the Vet"; in one sketch, it is revealed that he is married to Mulch's sister Composta Heap
  • Head of the Network (performed by Jerry Nelson) – Clifford's boss at K-MUP who first appears in the "Garth Brooks" episode wanting Clifford to get Garth Brooks to perform a country song or he will give Clifford's time slot to Bill the Bubble Guy; makes background appearances in the control room in later episodes
  • Jowls (performed by Jerry Nelson) – A wrinkly faced man who leads a house band called the Muppets Tonight Band
  • Muppets Tonight Writers – A group of three monkeys who did the writing for the show as seen in the "Andie MacDowell" episode; bear a resemblance to Quongo the Gorilla from The Muppet Show
  • Nigel (performed by Brian Henson) – A green monster with a long pointy nose who serves as the show's stressed-out director; resembles Droop from The Muppet Show
  • Polly Lobster (performed by Kevin Clash) – A lobster who previously appeared in Muppet Treasure Island; appears in the "At the Bar" sketch co-owning a bar with Clueless Morgan
  • Pokey – A monster who appears in unnamed appearances in this show. This character got its name when it appeared on the "Muppet Takeover" episode of The Today Show where the puppet was performed by Stephanie D'Abruzzo.
  • Sal Minella (performed by Brian Henson) – A chimpanzee who serves as Johnny Fiama's flunky, bodyguard, and assistant (designed and built by Jane Gootnick)
  • Snookie Blyer (performed by Bill Barretta) – The host of the game show "Swift Wits"
  • Thor (performed by Brian Henson) – The God of Thunder who is seen doing everyday mundane tasks; whenever someone angered him, Thor would strike the person with lightning
  • Zippity Zap (performed by Bill Barretta) – A frog who is one of the crew members on the show

Recurring sketches[edit]

Among the regular sketches are:

  • Bay of Pigswatch – A parody of Baywatch starring David Hoggselhoff as Champ Schwimmer, Spamela Hamderson as Spamela, and Andy and Randy Pig as Donnie and Art C. Shell where they work as lifeguards at a beach.
  • E-I-E-I-O R – In a parody of ER, it features Fozzie Bear working at a hospital where the doctors and patients pass around humor; Fozzie is assisted by Dr. Pain, Ernst Stavro Grouper, and an Afghan Hound.
  • Pigs In Space: Deep Dish Nine – In a sequel to "Pigs in Space," Miss Piggy is featured on the new Swinetrek with a different crew. The title is a spoof of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
  • Screen Tests – A bunch of screen tests that featured the Muppets auditioning in a movie that featured the guest stars of the episodes it was featured in.
  • Tales from the Vet – In a parody of Tales from the Crypt, Dr. Phil van Neuter tells scary stories revolving around animals.
  • The Eagle's Nest – Sam the Eagle talks about politics and other issues with Andy and Randy Pig as his recurring guests.
  • The Johnny Fiama Show – A talk show hosted by Johnny Fiama.
  • The Real World Muppets – A spoof of The Real World that follows Clifford, Rizzo the Rat, Bobo the Bear, Bill the Bubble Guy, and Darci living together in one house.
  • Thor: God of Thunder – Deals with Thor doing every day mundane tasks.
  • UK Spots – There were some UK Spots that were in this show due to the United Kingdom version not having any commercials
    • Fairyland PD – Clifford and Bobo the Bear work as detectives at the Fairyland Police Department under the supervision of their police chief; Clifford and Bobo are charged with the duties of solving mysteries revolving around nursery rhymes and fairy tales.
    • Mr. Callahan – Features the unseen Mr. Callahan who is a regular customer at a bar owned by Polly Lobster and Clueless Morgan with this sketch being at Mr. Callahan's point of view.
    • Swift Wits – A game show that stars Snookie Blyer. In it, one must guess a secret word in 10 seconds to stop Big Mean Carl (in his Carl the Big Mean Bunny alter ego) from eating an adorable animal.
    • The Tubmans of Porksmith – Follows the comical misadventures of a rich food-loving pig named Howard Tubman and his butler Carter (was reworked into Boarshead Revisited in season 2).

Series run[edit]

The show ran from 1996 to 1998. There were 22 episodes produced in two batches. 13 episodes were ordered by ABC, though only ten of them were run in the 1995–96 TV season. The program was then purchased by the Disney Channel, which ordered a further nine episodes and aired these along with the three episodes ABC did not air, in the 1997–98 season. One of the nine newly produced episodes was a clip show compilation culled from the earlier episodes.

In the United Kingdom thirteen episodes of the show were transmitted at 7pm on Friday evenings on BBC1 from September – December 1996. The remaining nine episodes have not been shown in the UK.

In Ireland the show was broadcast on TG4, eventually being dubbed into Irish Gaelic.

Guest stars[edit]

Unlike the original Muppet Show, most episodes of Muppets Tonight featured multiple guest stars. Typically, there would be one principal guest, but other celebrities would make small walk-on appearances. For example, the Garth Brooks episode (aired as episode #2) features a cameo from Leonard Nimoy.[5]


Muppet performers[edit]

  • Kevin Clash – Clifford, Carter, Craniac, Mulch, Polly Lobster, Waldorf (episode 1), Philo Sobfinger (episode 1), Agnes Stonewick (episode 2), Paul Revere Horse (episode 3), Lester Tomwater (episode 10), Moo-Ing the Merciless' Henchman (episode 12), Bill the Frog (singing voice, episode 13), Arthur Modell (episode 14)
  • Brian Henson – Dr. Phil van Neuter, Elvises, Nigel, Sal Minella, Seymour the Elephant, Thor, Sid Knishes (episode 7), Slim Wilson (episode 13), KMUP Camera Man (episode 14), IRS Appeal Officer (episode 17), Pizza Delivery Guy (episode 18)
  • Jerry Nelson – Camilla the Chicken, A. Ligator, Dr. Julius Strangepork, Elvises, Jowls, Mama Fiama, Floyd Pepper, Statler, Lew Zealand, Head of the Network (episode 2), Taylor the Turkey (episode 2), Rob Reiner Muppet (episode 3), Clarissa (episode 4), Indiana Rat (episode 4), Newt (episode 5), Robbie (episode 5), Toshiro (episode 5), Mad Bomber (episode 7), Baby Jerry Seinfeld (episode 7), Ernest Pleth (episodes 7, and 8), Egghead #2 (episode 8), Vulture (episode 9), Two-Headed Comic (Left Head, episode 10), Moo-Ing the Merciless (episode 12), President (episode 12), Percy the Ham-Eating Pig (episode 13), Zebra (episode 13), Rock Lobster Leader (episode 14), Robot Abraham Lincoln (episode 16), Ms. Whipley (episode 16), Dr. Watson (episode 16), Cow (episode 17)
  • Steve Whitmire – Kermit the Frog, Rizzo the Rat, Beaker, Foo-Foo, Captain Pighead, Mr. Poodlepants, Andy Pig, George the Janitor, Bug Llewelyn (episode 9), Lash Holstein (episode 12), Farm Person (episode 12), Meepzorp (episode 12), Phil the Devil (episode 12), Rock Lobsters (singing voices, episode 14), Miss Weatherington (episode 16), Pigeon (episode 17), Alfonso D'Bruzzo (episode 21), Nigel's Mom (episode 22)
  • Dave Goelz – Gonzo the Great, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, Waldorf, Zoot, Bill the Bubble Guy, Dr. Pain, Gary Cahuenga, Beauregard, Randy Pig, Snorty, Extreme (episode 1), Stu (episode 5), Don the Prop Guy (episode 6), Baby Cosmo Kramer (episode 7), Egghead #1 (episode 8), Two-Headed Comic (Right Head, episode 10), Purple Rain Man (episode 11), Hillbilly (episode 11), Co-Dependence Day Therapist (episode 12), Morty the Devil (episode 12), Flea (episode 13), Ed the Lobster (episode 14), Jean-Dodd van Clamme (episode 15), Artie Pipkin (episode 17), Zippity Zap's Mom (episode 22), Whatnot (episode 22)
  • Bill Barretta – Pepe the King Prawn, Rowlf the Dog, Behemoth, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew (episode 1, "Muppet Match-Up" segment), Big Mean Carl, Bobo the Bear, Clueless Morgan, David Hoggselhoff, Doglion, Elvises, Ernst Stavros Grouper, Dr. Phil van Neuter (hands), Howard Tubman, Johnny Fiama, J.P. Grosse, Snookie Blyer, Zippity Zap, Frankie Yakovic (episode 7), Baby George Costanza (episode 7), The AL-1995 Plus Tax (episode 8), Zeus (episode 8), Cow Announcer (episode 12), Steve (episode 13), Bill the Frog (speaking voice, episode 13), Sherlock Holmes Whale (episode 16), Marty Pipkin (episode 17), Carla the Big Mean Mom (episode 22)
  • Frank Oz – Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Sam the Eagle, Animal, Stagehand (episode 1), Gray Whatnot (episode 2), Lion (episode 3), Blue Whatnot (episode 16)
  • Leslie Carrara-Rudolph – Spamela Hamderson, Darci, Floor Manager, Shirley the Network Censor (episode 6), Baby Elaine Benes (episode 7), Pullover Sweater (episode 12), Theresa (episode 13), Pigeon (episode 17), Belle the Bubble Mom (episode 22)
  • John Henson – Sweetums (episode 16)
  • John Kennedy – Female Rock Lobster (episode 14)
  • Allan Trautman – Fairyland Police Chief (episodes 8, 9, 13, and 17), Howard Tubman's Doctor (episode 7)

Additional Muppets performed by Brad Abrell, Aurorah Allain, Greg Ballora, Phil Baron, Tim Blaney, Billy Blanks Jr., Matthew Brooks, Pat Brymer, Julianne Buescher, Clayton Cameron, Kevin Carlson, Agostino Castagnola, John Corella, Brad Elliott, Thomas Fountain, Liz Gandora, Terri Hardin, Jennifer Keyes, Bruce Lanoil, Doug Legacy, Len Levitt, Drew Massey, Nancy O'Meara, Steven Ritz, David Rudman, Jeff Schnell, Joe Self, Jim Sloane, Lisa Thompson, and Leif Tilden.


The reception from critics was mixed.[6][7]


  1. ^ Verrier, Richard (May 8, 2003). "Henson Family Buys Back Muppets For $78 Million". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved June 10, 2013. 
  2. ^ King, Susan (1996-03-10). "The Muppets Put On a Show, Again". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2010-10-18. 
  3. ^ Mifflin, Lawrie (1996-03-10). "Following in the Frog's Footsteps". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-12-19. 
  4. ^ "Muppets Tonight! Means the Return of Cuddly Chaos". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-03-20. 
  5. ^ "TV NOTES;High Hopes for Aliens". The New York Times. Retrieved 2012-03-20. 
  6. ^ "Muppets Tonight! Means the Return of Cuddly Chaos". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-03-20. 
  7. ^ "Picks and Pans Review: Muppets Tonight!". People. Retrieved 2012-03-20. 

External links[edit]