Weekly Muppet Wednesdays: Bobo the Bear

WMW Bobo

Written by Ryan Dosier.


Performed by…Bobo 2
Bill Barretta

First appearance…
Muppets Tonight Episode 101: Michelle Pfeiffer (1996)

Most recent appearance…
Muppets Most Wanted (2014)

Rentro (Muppets From Space)

Best known role…
Bumbling bear security guard; lover of Cindy Crawford; assistant at C.O.V.N.E.T.; Tex Richman’s henchman; exercise enthusiast

Memorable quotes…
“The goat?!”

“Have a good day, sir!”

Bobo is a large bear whose puppet design first appeared in The Muppets Take Manhattan with the bears hibernating alongside Fozzie. Bobo did not become Bobo, however, until Muppets Tonight, where in the very first episode he was performed by Bill Barretta and given a voice and a personality that was allowed to develop in the short span of the series. Bobo acted as the security guard for the KMUP television studio–albeit not a very good one. He has notably refused to grant entrance to everyone from Johnny Fiama, to Larry King, to President Ronald Reagan, to President Bill Clinton, to Queen Elizabeth II.

Arguably Bobo’s most memorable role from the Muppets Tonight days was in the episode guest starring Cindy Crawford, in which he falls head over heels for the actress and tries his best to impress her. His efforts include recruiting Rizzo to help him talk to her (in which he asks, “Hey, those are some nice balloons ya got there. Maybe you’ll let me play with them later?”) (long story) and ruining a musical number by tossing Kermit out of the scene and stealing Cindy’s attention instead. After all of his effort, Bobo found that Cindy was attracted to his bear-ness all along… he just needed to be himself. No word on whether or not Bobo and Cindy Crawford are still romantically involved.

Bobo was also a member of various sketches on the show, including “The Real World: Muppets” where he, Rizzo, Clifford, Bill Bubble Guy, and other Muppets lived in a house together, and “Fairyland P.D.” where Bobo and Clifford played cops solving fairy-tale related crimes. Unfortunately, Bobo dressing up as Goldilocks was not considered a crime.

After Muppets Tonight went off the air, Bobo’s focus turned to feature film roles. In 1999’s Muppets From Space he portrayed Rentro (essentially himself), Jeffery Tambor’s bear assistant at the alien detection agency, C.O.V.N.E.T. Even though it wasn’t the greatest job in the world, Bobo seemed to make the best of it. Enjoying jokes with Rizzo, eating marshmallow sandwiches, wiping his fingers on Jeffery Tambor’s shirt, and mishearing the word “remote.”

After Muppets From Space, Bobo made a few cameos here and there in It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie (2002) where, dressed as Santa Claus, he invited all the Muppets to come outside caroling, The Muppet Show: LIVE at MuppetFest (2001) where he informed Brooke Shields that Paul Williams was threatening to leave if she “did any further damage” to “Never Before, Never Again,” and Statler and Waldorf: From the Balcony (2005) where he auditioned for Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith and tried out for the roles of Chewbacca and Yoda (“Careful you must be when sensing the future!’ Geez, what is this guy, dyslexic or something?”).

Bobo returned to the spotlight when the Muppets took over Today in 2009, once again reprising his security guard role. He has appeared fairly consistently since then, with substantial roles in A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa alongside Nathan Lane, “Bohemian Rhapsody” where he chanted “Galileo,” “Bohemian Rhapsody: Kermit’s Commentary” where he joined the other Muppets in talking over the video, and on Muppets.com where he starred in two short videos with Beauregard called “Better Living with Bobo.”

Bobo’s also appeared with Rizzo in the first LOST Slapdown video on YouTube. In the video, Bobo and Rizzo lead a group of tourists to the offices of LOST writers and producers Damond Lindelof and Carlton Cruse. In The Muppets (2011), Bobo played one of Tex Richman’s henchman alongside Uncle Deadly. Bobo had a very happy ending surrounded by glittery chorus girls. Bobo also flirted with Kristen Bell in Lady Gaga & The Muppets: A Christmas Spectacular (2013) and helped Uncle Deadly play the organ in Muppets Most Wanted (2014).

Bobo is an odd beast in the Muppet universe (and that’s saying something). He doesn’t have any real outstanding, defining characteristics other than that he is a bear and he is large and he isn’t very bright.

Yet, somehow, Bobo is so much more than that. He is hilarious, he is caring, he is fierce (when need be), he is dopey, yes, but his heart is always in the right place. Bobo’s characterization, I think, must have come directly from Bill Barretta. Even as writers have changed countless times throughout the years and various productions, Bobo has remained a consistently funny character. Who can forget the laugh out loud moment of Bobo shouting, “THE GOAT?!” in Muppets From Space? Or his hysterical outtakes with Nathan Lane on the DVD of A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa? Left to his own devices, Bobo is one of the funniest and most under-appreciated Muppet characters out there–and he really doesn’t even have to try to be.

Bobo doesn’t need to be anything more than a bear, content with life and just doing his job. According to Bill Barretta, that is essentially Bobo, “I would have to say that Bobo is probably the most like me out of all my characters. Content with being content and grateful that people have allowed him to exist outside of the zoo.” The beauty of Bobo is that he doesn’t need a gimmick (e.g., diva pig, comedian bear, spicy king prawn) to be funny. He just is. And, I think if we asked Bobo his philosophy on all of this he would probably agree: He just is. There’s no real reason that the Muppets need Bobo… but he sure is fun to have around.

The Muppets

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

2 thoughts on “Weekly Muppet Wednesdays: Bobo the Bear

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