Weekly Muppet Wednesdays: Pops

WMW Pops
Written by Ryan Dosier.

Performed by…Pops
Jerry Nelson (1980-2002)
Matt Vogel (2008-present)

First appearance…
The Muppet Show Episode 501: Gene Kelly (1981)

Most recent appearance…
Muppets Most Wanted (2014)

Best known role…
Stage doorman for the Muppet Theater; owner/manager of the Happiness Hotel

Well known quote…
“Who’re you?”

Pops is the elderly, mustachioed stage doorman for the Muppet Theater throughout Sesaon 5 of The Muppet Show. Pops was usually unaware of the fame of the various guest stars coming on the show, and was fond of greeting them with a twangy “Who’re you?” Pops welcomed guest stars at the beginning of every episode of The Muppet Show in Season 5, making it the first time in three seasons that Scooter’s guest star dressing room cold open was not used.

Pops’ role on The Muppet Show also included a few onstage performance appearances. These included singing the song “Puppet Man” as Geppetto with Pinocchio in the Senor Wences episode, the UK Spot “Once in Love With Amy” with Fozzie Bear when Melissa Manchester was the guest star, and being hypnotized by Professor Salamander during Wally Boag’s episode. He also requested a song from Paul Simon backstage.

The biggest role in Pops’ career came with The Great Muppet Caper, where he played the owner/manager of the Happiness Hotel in London, England. He welcomed Kermit the Frog, Fozzie Bear, and Gonzo the Great to the hotel when they checked in. When they said they wanted to check in, Pops asked, “Really?” Later, he would explain the three methods of payment for the hotel: “A. Credit Card, B. Cash, C. Sneak out in the middle of the night.” Pops would also appear in the crowd in The Muppet Christmas Carol during the “Scrooge” number.

Pops was absent from Muppet productions for a decade, until he reappeared in 2002 in the TV movie It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Carol, selling tickets to many excited people wanting to see the Muppet Christmas Spectacular. Pops would continue his trend of only appearing in Christmas-related Muppet projects when he was seen briefly working at the post office in A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa in 2008. He appeared most recently in the music video for OK Go’s cover of “The Muppet Show Theme Song.” Pops actually spoke in a behind the scenes video on the making of the music video, for the first time since Jerry Nelson’s retirement, performed by Matt Vogel. Pops also had a brief speaking role in Muppets Most Wanted as one of the prisoners on The Wall at the Russian gulag.

Outside the world of onscreen Muppet productions, Pops made many appearances in Roger Langridge’s The Muppet Show Comic Book series, reprising his role as stage doorman and picking up new roles managing props and mail delivery. In 2004, Palisades Toys produced an action figure of Pops for the ninth and final series in their Muppet line. Pops included his Happiness Hotel desk, the Happiness Hotel check-in book, a fly-swatter, a desk lamp, a bell, and Gaffer the Cat.

Pops provides a new element to the Muppets… an old element. Yes, Statler and Waldorf provide the grumpy, mean, funny old guy perspective, but Pops is a kinder, different kind of funny. He’s more inept than anything else, due to his old age and presumably poor eyesight. Pops’ interactions with the various guest stars in the openings of The Muppet Show were always hysterical, and his goofy asides and remarks in The Great Muppet Caper were perfect. Who doesn’t at least grin when he says, “Ya can never find a cap when you need one!” after Beauregard’s taxi crashes through the lobby?

There’s really no clear-cut reason why the Muppets need Pops… but he’s a great foil to the other, more excitable Muppets and guest stars. A pairing that was hinted at once in The Muppets: A Celebration of 30 Years, but never fleshed out, was Pops with Statler and Waldorf. Three old guys just sitting around? What’s not funny about that? I would love to see these three get together and goof around in future productions… but I’d settle for just bring Pops back again to be old and funny… and old.

The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, ryguy102390@gmail.com

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