By Zac Bertschy
If you grew up in the 1980?s, the Muppets are a likely a staple of your childhood. Everyone has a favorite character, and people still look back fondly on the old Muppet Show or the early films, like The Muppet Movie or The Great Muppet Caper.
But it?s impossible to deny that there are plenty of suck-ass Muppets that screw up the movies and TV shows they?re in. Some of them are one-note, one-gag characters that tell the same tired joke over and over again. Some of them were created after the death of Jim Henson, who apparently took many of the secrets behind what it takes to make the Muppets not terrible to his untimely grave. The one thing they share in common: they?re awful.
Nobody?s going to argue that over the years the Muppets haven?t gradually lost a lot of the satirical and sarcastic edge they had in the ’70s and ’80s, and nobody is a better bellwether for that than Robin, Kermit the Frog?s nap-inducing, obnoxiously sincere nephew whose primary purpose is to kill time or sing some kind of bizarrely sugary song that seems out of place. The fact that Robin has never once appeared in a funny sketch and has always felt out of place among the rest of the show?s cast due to a total lack of sarcastic humor and yet has appeared more and more in films and television specials as the years have gone by definitely illustrate how obnoxious sincerity can completely destroy any notion of ?edginess?. Remember, the Muppets were once considered cutting-edge enough to appear on Saturday Night Live. Not so much anymore. Robin has to be at least partially to blame for that.
Janice started out okay?a hyper-stylized Janis Joplin/Mick Jagger mash-up with a stereotypical valley-girl voice. Over the years she?s mutated into being particularly freakish; each design revision makes Janice look worse, and she?s contributed little more than her ?fer sure, really!? catchphrase, which wasn?t really even funny in the late ’80s when people would actually say that. What?s worse, the repeated changes to Janice?s look are obviously designed to transform her from a ’70s rocker into an annoying pastel-colored ’90s valley girl stereotype.
It seems pointless for an adult to complain about Elmo, since he?s on a show clearly designed for preschoolers, but given that since Elmo?s inexplicable rise to power in the late 90?s his dead gaze and ear-piercing voice are inescapable inside the U.S. border, it seems fit to have him here. Elmo made the transition from childlike supporting cast member on Sesame Street to unstoppable bloodthirsty global marketing juggernaut some 12 years ago with the staggering popularity of a doll based on his likeness that vibrated erotically when prodded. Now, Elmo?s mug can be found on literally every single commercial product known to man and even appeared in his own intolerable theatrical film, The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland, (alternately titled The Final Nail in the Coffin for Mandy Patinkin?s Flagging Career). Plus, he?s pretty much made Grover obsolete on Sesame Street, which is a shame considering Elmo is basically a tremendously annoying and substantially less endearing version of Grover.
7) Kermit the Frog in The Muppet Christmas Carol
Anyone who?s sat through The Muppet Christmas Carol will agree that while this film features a frog puppet named Kermit, it bears little resemblance to the beloved, easily-irritated host of The Muppet Show. This film was the first Muppets production after Jim Henson?s untimely death, and also the first time Kermit was voiced by Steve Whitmire, whose voice really just doesn?t cut it. He sounds like he?s being voiced by someone doing a terrible Kermit the Frog impression, with about a mountain of saccharine sincerity heaped on in place of Kermit?s usual pragmatic-but-irritated demeanor. It doesn?t help that the movie itself is terrible, the songs are awful and the whole thing looks and feels like an elaborate soft-focus McDonald?s holiday commercial. Whitmire improved in later (but still inferior) Muppet movies, but this one stands as the worst version of Kermit ever.
Some people like Animal. Those people can usually be found wearing an XXL t-shirt with a bad drawing of Animal drumming wildly with the slogan ?I?m an Animal!? on it. They can also be found at Wal-Mart on the weekends buying bulk beef jerky and yelling at their ten children.
Animal has one gag: he?s a feral drummer who chases women around while yelling ?WO-MAN?, presumably to satiate his craven lust for rape. That?s it. There?s nothing else to him. Yet he appears in nearly every Muppets-related production ever committed to film or television, maddeningly popular for no apparent reason. Every time he?s on screen you?re waiting for him to not be on screen anymore so they can move on to something that might be clever or funny. Also: Animal was the worst Muppet Baby. And that?s saying something, since they were all pretty bad.
5) Waldo C. Graphic
Waldo?s career hasn?t been very long but he?s managed to be useless and unfunny the entire time. First seen on the now-forgotten Jim Henson Hour back in 1989, Waldo is the first (and last and also completely unnecessary) 3D Muppet character. A crude, goofy-looking fish thing that looks like it were ripped straight from the portfolio of an untalented Art Institute grad, Waldo can transform into anything, to no comedic effect at all. He plagues the Muppet*Vision 3D show at Walt Disney World and Disneyland, which features awesome animatronic versions of Statler and Waldorf but still manages to kinda suck thanks to Waldo. He hasn?t appeared in anything since, mostly because his character was designed entirely as a gimmick to promote Jim Henson Studios? ?Waldo? technology, which has long been made obsolete thanks to advanced motion capture techniques. That makes his inclusion on this list akin to peeing on his grave, but he deserves it.
4) Rizzo the Rat
Having become one of the principal cast members in any Muppet-related production since the early ’80s, America doesn?t seem to have realized yet that Rizzo?s entire shtick is mugging at the camera and saying unfunny things in a labored Brooklyn accent, usually making some kind of reference to his being a rat. That?s pretty much it, and yet he?s a major supporting character in almost every film or television special made since 1980, when he first appeared mugging for the camera in a distinctly non-entertaining way. Since the ’90s they?ve had him wearing a hat and a jacket with his name on it, and his tired ?I?m a rat from Brooklyn! I?m sarcastic and I overreact to things!? routine has been amped up to previously unheard levels of awful.
3) Pepe the Prawn
Pepe the Prawn is one of the many bad characters added to the Muppets cast since Jim Henson?s death. The character is exactly like Rizzo, except instead of being a rat from Brooklyn he?s a prawn from Spain, right down to the ?one-note sidekick character with annoying gimmick? thing Rizzo is routinely used for. He has a few unpopular catchphrases and lame one-liners that get repeated whenever he appears (he?s from Spain so he unsuccessfully tries to seduce women and he was once mistaken for an appetizer! Ha ha! GET IT, HE?S A GODDAMN SHRIMP, ISN?T THAT FUNNY). Since his first appearance on the little-seen Muppets Tonight show in 1996, he?s been a staple of Muppets films for no discernable reason and appears more and more frequently as the years go on. If those aren?t enough reasons to hate Pepe, just remember that he appears in a song-and-dance number alongside Ricky Martin in the 2002 Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie. Seriously.
Clifford is the only Black Muppet. He started out as a bit player on The Jim Henson Hour, a sunglasses-wearing bass player who was reportedly ?hip?, although nothing at all about Clifford appeared to actually be ?hip? other than his being an obvious caricature of what white middle-Americans probably think of when they think ?hip?. For some reason, Clifford was the host of Muppets Tonight, and managed to make the show boring whenever he appeared on screen by virtue of having no personality other than ?hip black guy who looks like a catfish, which might be racist but let?s not go there?. His repeated insertion into any and all new Muppets projects further illustrates the Jim Henson Company?s insistence on struggling to make any of their new characters work in spite of most of them being terrible, rather than just sticking to the ones people actually like from the ’70s.
1) Miss Piggy
It is impossible to find someone who legitimately likes Miss Piggy (Charles Grodin is obviously the exception that proves the rule). She has never been funny. A stuck-up, shrill bitch with a one-dimensional personality (that being ?stuck-up, shrill bitch?) who manages significant screen time, not to mention melodramatic reveals in every single Muppets production ever made, Miss Piggy has a legacy of being terrible that goes all the way back to 1976, when she first bludgeoned Kermit for resisting her unwanted advances, a gag they?re still relying on today (and one that nobody has laughed at since roughly 1984). Miss Piggy also suffers from the same lazy-ass ?I?m a pig? jokes they recycle for characters like Rizzo or Pepe the Prawn, where someone will make some kind of comment about bacon or ham and she?ll get upset. People claim that Miss Piggy is popular, and it?s really difficult to see why, considering no evidence that anyone has ever actually liked her has ever been collected. More disturbingly, she dress like she’s on Sex and the City, wearing low-cut dresses or body-hugging spandex, which no human being should ever have to see on a felt pig. Perhaps one day, many years from now, they?ll wise up and re-release the entire Henson catalog, scrubbed free of Miss Piggy. Until then, we can all be thankful for the fast forward button.