Weekly Muppet Wednesdays: Uncle Deadly

Written by Ryan Dosier.


Performed by…
Jerry Nelson (1976-1990)
Matt Vogel (2011-present)

First appearance…
The Muppet Show Episode 119: Vincent Price (1976)

Most recent appearance…
Muppets Most Wanted (2014)

Best known role…
The Phantom of The Muppet Show; Tex Richman’s henchman

Memorable quote…
“Ah, what fools these Muppets be!”
“I may have a terrifying name and an evil English accent, but that does not preclude the fact that I am a Muppet, not a Moopet!”
Uncle Deadly is one of the more popular of the “fan-favorite” characters from The Muppet Show. This seems to be derived from his impressive puppet design and his performance by the great Jerry Nelson.
The phantom creature first appeared in the episode of The Muppet Show guest starring Vincent Price. Here, Uncle Deadly and Vincent Price meet vacationers Fozzie Bear and Gonzo the Great as they go to stay at a Transylvanian house. Deadly and Price attempt (and succeed) to scare the bear and the weirdo, thus Uncle Deadly’s mannerisms of being a spook were born. Uncle Deadly also performed “You’ve Got a Friend” with Vincent Price as the finale of the episode–unfortunately this performance was cut from the DVD release of The Muppet Show: Season 1 due to music rights issues.

Uncle Deadly received a proper introduction in the episode guest starring Twiggy. Here, the entire cast tells Kermit they’ve seen a phantom lurking backstage at the show. Kermit doesn’t believe any of them–that is, until the phantom appears behind him. Uncle Deadly threatens Kermit if he doesn’t stop doing the show at once. Kermit refuses, of course, and eventually Uncle Deadly explains that he died in this very theater during one of his brilliant performances. He played Othello until he was killed (by the critics).

He appeared once more during the run of the first season in the Broadway Medley with Ethel Merman, and then wasn’t seen again until “Consider Yourself” with Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy. His first solo number came in the form of the song “The Sheik of Araby.” Uncle Deadly played the titular sheik who welcomed a young Arabian girl into his tent for… pinochle. Yeah, let’s go with that.

In the third season, Uncle Deadly began to appear in “Muppet Melodrama” sketches with Miss Piggy and Wayne (of Wayne and Wanda fame). In each of these sketches, Uncle Deadly played the evil villain, Miss Piggy played the damsel in distress, and Wayne played the heroic hero. However, also in each of these sketches, Wayne and Uncle Deadly bonded over something (such as tap shoes) and ended with Miss Piggy still helpless and endangered.

Uncle Deadly did not have a leading or even supporting role in any of the Muppet movies, but he did appear in the finales of both The Muppet Movie and The Muppets Take Manhattan. He had a very brief cameo during Michael Eisner’s introduction to The Muppets at Walt Disney World where he assisted in ripping Eisner’s clothes.

Uncle Deadly will make a triumphant and unexpected return in November 2011 in The Muppets where he will play evil henchman and second in command to Tex Richman (Chris Cooper). This will mark Uncle Deadly’s first speaking appearance in over 30 years.

In 2000, there was a pitch for a Muppet “Goosebumps”-style TV show called Uncle Deadly’s House of Badness. The pitch was composed by Jim Lewis, Kirk Thatcher, and John Derevlany. It is unknown what role Uncle Deadly would have played or how the show would have been structured, as there is no knowledge of a pilot or even a completed script for the project.

In 2005, Palisades Toys released an exclusive action figure of Uncle Deadly. He came packaged with a Muppet ghost and a Muppet skull and came in three different paint variations: Classic, “Steppin’ Out,” and a completely white-washed semi-glow-in-the-dark version.

Uncle Deadly has also made frequent appearances in the Muppet comics by BOOM! Studios, and appeared briefly (and for the first time in full-body form) in OK Go’s music video for “The Muppet Show Theme Song.”

The Muppets need Uncle Deadly because he represents the scary side of the world that they can’t represent because they’re too… fluffy. If the rumored Halloween special next year gets off the ground, Uncle Deadly and the rest of the Muppet Monsters should play a huge part. Uncle Deadly could easily represent the leader of the Muppets Monsters.

It seems that Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller (with some help from director James Bobin) have figured out that Uncle Deadly would make an incredible evil sidekick to a Muppet movie villain. We’ll have to see how he does in The Muppets this fall.

The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, muppetmindset@gmail.com

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