It doesn't require a tremendous leap of the imagination to begin to wonder.
The Muppets may be the least divisive figures in the last half-century of American popular culture. A good friendship test, in fact, is to ask a new acquaintance to describe his or her stance on the Muppets. If it’s anything other than praise and adulation, the friendship test is immediately failed and you’ll probably want to forget that said person even exists at all. Jim Henson and his felt minions honed the perfect formula to draw a viewership of toddlers, tweens, and fully-formed humans alike: a recipe involving just the right amount of cute, a dash of snark, and a healthy dose of jokes that fly straight over the heads of Elmo-tickled tots to the delight of their Cabernet-clutching parents.
The Muppets Show and various movie specials are filmed on sets that mimic real world cities and towns, the fleecy-faced puppets regularly interacting with human actors. It doesn't require a tremendous leap of the imagination to begin to wonder which Muppets have what it takes to make it outside the walls of the Muppet Theater: to secure a job, support a family, or get top billing on the silver screen. In honor of the release of Muppets Most Wanted on March 21, here are 25 of the best-known Muppets, ranked from least to most likely to make it in the real world.
25. Robin the Frog
Kermit’s angel-voiced nephew is, in a word, pathetic. In one of his most famous appearances, he waxes philosophical about his favorite stair on the staircase, which he rather brilliantly points out “isn’t at the bottom” and “isn’t at the top.” His doe-eyed sense of wonder will be a one-way ticket to unmet expectations when he faces the harsh realities outside the Muppets studio. He has the self-esteem of a piece of burnt toast, threatening to run away because “no one cares about a six ounce frog.” He’s young yet, but if he can’t find self-worth from within, little Robin will never have the pluck to get himself a date or land a job that pays the bills.
24. Crazy Harry
Crazy Harry is the Muppets’ resident pyromaniac, complete with a wide-eyed maniacal laugh. He wears the expressionless grin of a guiltless, shackled convict being escorted out of the courtroom. And that’s exactly what he’s bound for. Unless he can land a gig as the pyrotechnics guy for the next Kiss tour (which his blatant disregard for safety guarantees that he probably can’t), he’ll be behind bars the moment his explosive experimentation extends to kittens and gerbils.
23. Marvin Suggs
With his exaggerated French accent and mariachi costume, Suggs plays the muppaphone, which is basically a xylophone made up of live, pom pom-shaped Muppets, each of which sings a different note when whacked on the head with a mallet. His entire career relies on animal cruelty. Enter PETA. Exit Suggs.
22. Dr. Bunsen Honeydew
At first glance, this guy has the appearance of a legitimate scientist: the lab coat, the wire-rimmed glasses, and the nasally nerd voice. But then you realize that he doesn’t actually have eyes, and every single one of his inventions is a complete failure if not a full-blown disaster. His gorilla detector fails to detect a gorilla until it comes close enough to make a meal out of him. Both his edible paper clips and his brand new element, Bunsonium, cause significant bodily harm. Also, he has no eyes.
21. Swedish Chef
Swedish Chef could go one of two ways. In the first scenario, his idiocy is mistaken for brilliance, and he becomes the head chef of an innovative Swedish-fusion restaurant where his circus-style cooking doubles as performance art. In the second, he’s living on the cusp of being fired from his job in a McDonald’s off of the interstate between nowhere and nowhere else. Realistically speaking, it’s 100 percent scenario number two.
We wanted to put Animal higher on this list, because who doesn’t love the guy? Just watching him attack the drum kit like one of those blood-hungry soldiers in the movie 300 is a cathartic experience. But many believe Animal to be based on some combination of real-life drummers Keith Moon of The Who and John Bonham of Led Zeppelin. Both drummers died at the age of 32. Animal lives hard, he plays hard, and it’s just not far-fetched to believe that, like his human models, he would die young.
The burnt-out, washed-up saxophone player in the Electric Mayhem, Zoot would end up playing for passengers in the West 4th Street subway station, a handful of quarters lining the velvet interior of his case. Though talented, he lacks the charisma of bandleader Dr. Teeth. He’d have enough royalties rolling in to maintain his rent-controlled Greenwich Village studio, a coffin-sized room with yellowing stacks of newspapers from his glory days in the ‘70s. Much of his money squandered on a now-kicked drug habit, he’d rely on the unfailing enthusiasm tourists seem to have for street performers.
Delicate, subtle, genteel: three words that don’t describe Muppets monster Sweetums. He’s foul-mouthed and foul-breathed. He threatens to feature an unsuspecting Cloris Leachman in a fancy fondue dinner – as the main course. He even ate his own dog. But underneath the gruff exterior lies an unexpected tenderness. Tell that to the presiding judge!
17. Mahna Mahna
Not just the name of a song, but the name of the Muppet who sings it, Mahna Mahna can only say his own name and scat nonsense. After selling the rights to Dr. Pepper for a 2005 TV commercial, he’ll no longer need to worry about his lack of communication skills.
It’s not easy out there when you’re shaped like a giant blue eggplant with disproportionately short limbs and the voice of a baby mobster. But Thog’s bashful first kiss with “real live girl” Mia Farrow is more swoon-worthy than any scene in The Notebook. His aw-shucks demeanor has the ladies flocking to him despite the likelihood that he’d crush them to death in an Of Mice and Men-style accident. Thog’s lumbering size would make him excellent at any low-wage job that requires lifting heavy things, and his lack of higher-order thinking would make the monotony bearable. That, and he’d still go out dancing with pretty ladies as soon as his shift was over.
15. Fozzie Bear
The Muppets’ hapless comedian, Fozzie lacks self-awareness, but in a good way. In real life, Fozzie would be a balding accountant who keeps his passion for comedy alive by performing at open mic nights on the weekends. His wife would know he’s hopelessly unfunny, but she’d never tell him, and not because she’s cruel. Just the opposite: he’s a good man, he works hard, and he deserves his little pocket of sunshine now and then.
Janice would have some trouble adjusting from the breezy lifestyle of the ‘70s, so she’d move someplace where it’s generally accepted to remain in the headspace of a previous decade. She’d run a B&VB (bed and vegan breakfast) in Santa Cruz, spending most of her time on the wraparound porch watering the hanging plants and entertaining guests with her acoustic guitar. She’d visit her psychic weekly, host a monthly drum circle in her backyard, and establish a hydroponic weed-growing situation in the basement. Her only reason to leave town would be to seek out the perfect nude beach.
13. Sgt. Floyd Pepper
A walking musical tribute — to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Pink Floyd (he’s pink and his name is Floyd) — Pepper is a man in charge. He’s Animal’s handler, he acts as front man to the Electric Mayhem even though it’s technically Dr. Teeth’s band, and he’s arrogant as shit about his own cool factor. But once ‘70s rock gives way to ‘80s punk, this beatnik-turned-rocker will protest the debasement of rock 'n' roll by hightailing it to California with his on-again, off-again lady-friend Janice.
Gonzo is a hipster sensation waiting to happen. He is known as the resident Muppet daredevil, but his stunts are not your typical X Games fare. With a flair for mixing the lowbrow with the high, he defuses explosives while reading from the works of Shelley and eats rubber tires while accompanied by “The Flight of the Bumble Bee.” After getting booed off the stage, Gonzo laments that the general populace just doesn’t get his particular brand of self-expression, scoffing, “What do they know about art?” He’ll succeed in that way that hipster performance artists manage to maintain their airy lofts despite having no known monetizable talents.
11. George the Janitor
George is your run-of-the-mill curmudgeon. Never lucky in love, the closest thing he has to a companion is his trusty mop. A lifelong, faithful employee of the Muppet Theater, George likely got in the janitorial game early enough to secure a pension that’ll allow him to live out the rest of his days in the relative comfort of a walk-up apartment with at least a basic cable package. If he’s wise enough to string together a sentence and willing to bite the hand that fed him, he might even have a chance at a book deal: The Muppets, Backstage: Soapsuds, Slander, and Seduction.
Scooter is the summer intern all the other interns love to hate: he got the gig through nepotism and he’ll probably get the promotion for the same reason. His uncle owns the Muppet Theater, so as the loyal backstage gofer he has to prove that he is more than his connections. It doesn’t matter how good a job the kid does, though, because hard work rarely lasts, but nepotism is for life.
The meeping Beaker made a name for himself as the unwilling guinea pig for Dr. Bunsen Honeydew’s Muppet Labs, “where the future is being made today.” Eliciting viewer responses ranging from sympathy to Schaudenfreude, Beaker regularly puts his body in harm’s way in the name of shoddy science. Despite his sheepish nature, Beaker’s got a few things going for him. First, he’s resilient, miraculously reappearing in one piece even after Honeydew’s nuked one of his body parts to high heavens. Second, he has a way with the ladies, cozying up to Czech model Petra Nemcova in 2008’s A Muppets Christmas. And finally, he and Petra will be able to afford a few yachts with the settlements from all the lawsuits he’ll file against Honeydew.
8. Statler and Waldorf
What are these two other than the world's first bloggers. They sit and watch the action and make bitchy commetns about it from on high, passing judgment on all the others and mining it for comedy. These two have a bright future ahead of them in content creation, like the new Perez Hilton times two. Oh, and like Perez, maybe they'll finally come out of the closet!
7. Sam the Eagle
Sam in real life is what would happen if the bald eagle flew directly off the presidential seal and took on the form of a human being. He would be the furthest-right member of the GOP, a regular spokesman for the Cato Institute, the NRA, and the American Family Association. His position as the head of the Muppets morality police would launch a political career that would have the man (eagle) as hated as he is loved, depending on political persuasion. He’d retire from politics to the cushy world of public speaking, landing him $50K a pop and allowing him to live out his years between his homes in Colorado Springs and Martha’s Vineyard.
6. Link Hogthrob
Link Hogthrob is one of those Muppets that’s going to be higher on this list than he should be. He’s a vacuous bimbo pig, a veritable Narcissus in love with his own hog-nosed image. But how many movie stars can you name who are rolling in dough, married to a hottie, and destined for posthumous idolization despite their inability to tell the difference between a hammer and a potato? Life isn’t fair, and Link is the burning proof.
5. Rizzo the Rat
Rizzo was inspired by his namesake, the character played by Dustin Hoffman in Midnight Cowboy. Things don’t turn out so great for the human Rizzo (spoiler alert), but we’ve got reason to believe things might be different for his vermin counterpart. As anyone who’s taken the New York City subway knows, rats are the invincible princes of the rails. They just don’t die. You could feed them poison, fry them on the third rail, and strap them to the tracks as an oncoming train enters the station, and they will triumph. No matter his fortes or faults, Rizzo will prevail forever.
4. Dr. Teeth
The leader of the Electric Mayhem, Dr. Teeth has been around the block a few times and seen the alleys behind more than a few seedy bars long past midnight. Based at least in part on New Orleans hoodoo-voodoo musical virtuoso Dr. John, Dr. Teeth has the same laid-back cool and flair for feathers as his human doppelganger. Were he to have a go at the real world, his mojo would have him playing everything from dive bars to Carnegie Hall, making bank, and banging the audience member(s) of his choice after every show. He’d be the kind of cool at 80 that you could only hope for at 20, and he’d die of a sex-induced heart attack — the coolest way to go.
3. Rowlf the Dog
Rowlf’s got a lot going for him. He was one of the first muppets. He’s Kermit’s bestie. He’s man’s bestie. He’s an easy-going music-lover. The Roots have been probably trying to get him into the Jimmy Fallon band for years now. Rowlf is a guaranteed success.
2. Kermit the Frog
Before he says, “I do” in the final scene of The Muppets Take Manhattan, Kermit pauses for a beat. The crowd holds its collective breath, silently wondering if he’ll once and for all escape the grip of domineering Miss Piggy, until finally, resigned, he seals the deal. Kermit’s love for Miss Piggy transcends logic, but for all his years as a stand-in father figure to the Muppets collective, the frog needs someone to put him in his place. Kermit’s only goal, as he states in the opening of 1979’s The Muppets Movie, is to make people happy. He finds a way to do this by diverting the majority of Miss Piggy’s earnings to a music program for tadpoles in his native Louisiana. Between his wife and the singing frogs in his hometown river basin, Kermit has succeeded on his happiness mission, and many times over at that.
1. Miss Piggy
Miss Piggy is a feminist pioneer. Sure, she’s a self-obsessed, passive-aggressive, pig-headed sow, but it's the perfect recipe for a Hollywood starlet. She’s notoriously difficult to work with, but as long as her headlining performances continue to reflect dollar signs in her producers’ eyes, this diva will work. She even passed as Editor-in-Chief of Vogue in the last Muppet feature. She’s found a method to weasel her way into top billing on any project she likes, and that’s through the universal likeability of her husband-cum-agent, Kermit the Frog. Though she's blissfully unaware that Kermit is Robin Hood-ing her earnings away, Miss Piggy is a happy camper as long as she's stocked up on boas and pearls and commanding the attention of every room she's in. Which, of course, she always does.