Today marks the first of our guest Weekly Muppet Wednesdays articles. Today’s is written by our good friend and frequent contributor Michael Wermuth, Jr. If you would like to submit an article for Weekly Muppet Wednesdays, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
The Muppet Show Episode 501: Gene Kelly (1980)
Most Recent Appearance…
Muppets Most Wanted (2014)
Best known role…
Trumpet player for Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem; trumpet player for the Muppet orchestra
WHO IS LIPS?
Lips was a trumpet player who was added to the Electric Mayhem band in season five of The Muppet Show as the honorary “sixth member.” Appearance-wise, he had yellow skin, wild yellow hair, closed eyes, a pink nose, and a small goatee, and generally wore a big white shirt with many colors over a long-sleeved black shirt (though he wasn’t seen in his “regular attire” as much as his purple tuxedo… Many of his appearances outside the orchestra required him and the rest of the band to wear costumes).
Unlike the other members of The Electric Mayhem, who at times were seen playing different instruments in addition to their main instruments, Lips only played the trumpet. He was quite skilled at playing the trumpet, but did very little else. It’s a shame he never got his own solo number.
LIPS AND STEVE WHITMIRE
Lips was created especially as a way to give performer Steve Whitmire his own musician for Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem. It has been said that Steve Whitmire is shy, and the same can probably be said for Lips. When not playing the trumpet, Lips looks like the type who’d be shy… Rarely saying anything, just blending into the crowd. Steve Whitmire had wanted to give him a Louis Armstrong-type voice, but due to concern of offending African Americans by doing a black voice for a trumpet player, he was rarely given any dialogue.
Most of Lips’ moments are with Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem. Pretty much all of his appearances on The Muppet Show were instances where a trumpet player was needed, though after the show ended he was seen among the gang more, in such productions as The Great Muppet Caper and A Muppet Family Christmas.
Still, one of his greatest moments was his line in the song “Barnyard Boogie”. Another great moment was his presence in the song “Whenever I Call You Friend”, despite being more of a duet between guest star Melissa Manchester and Floyd Pepper. The song starts with those two singing, before they get joined by a group of Muppets providing back-up. Lips is the only one of them to do anything more significant, namely provide a very great trumpet solo. In addition to that, with the exception of Floyd he’s the only Muppet to be seen in front of Melissa Manchester and the piano, while all others are behind. And the number ends with Melissa patting Lips on the head… It’s such a sweet moment.
In addition to the above-mentioned solo, Lips was given trumpet solos in most of the numbers he participated in. Among his other great solos have been in the songs “Rockin’ Robin”, “Night Life”, and “Jingle Bell Rock”.
And of course, who can forget that classic moment in A Muppet Family Christmas in which Doc opens the door and accidentally crushes Lips? Very funny, and I think he was the only member of the band featured in that scene.
WHY DO THE MUPPETS NEED LIPS?
Okay, so the Muppets don’t really need lips. In fact, very few Muppets have l…. Oh, right, the character Lips….
Well, Lips is such a minor background character, and there are hundreds of characters. Without minor Muppets we’d only have major Muppets, and the Muppet cast (no, not the podcast) would be very small. While he’s the least important member of The Electric Mayhem, he does have the coolest look. And music is an important part of the Muppets, and the Muppets need all genres of music, and that includes jazz, and being a trumpet player Lips can provide plenty of jazz. Heck, if I had to learn to play an instrument I’d probably choose trumpet because of Lips. He doesn’t need to have many lines, or be expanded as a character… Just let him play the trumpet, and hang out with the main characters more.
In fact, just look at the movies… Not counting The Muppet Movie (made before the character was created), he didn’t appear in the last two theatrically-released movies… Muppets From Space did the most poorly at the box office, and in my opinion Muppet Treasure Island isn’t as good as The Muppet Christmas Carol… on the other hand, Lips was only seen at the wedding in The Muppets Take Manhattan, and many fans consider that to be the worst of the movies Jim Henson worked on. Coincidence? I think not!
Heck, I was disappointed that in It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie, they added a few generic whatnot musicians in the orchestra, yet didn’t include Lips in any of the orchestra scenes. In my opinion the Muppets don’t need very many new characters… If any of the main characters can’t be used then just expand the roles of Lips and other minor characters. A few new characters here and there would be good, but I’d much rather see Lips get used.
The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, email@example.com