Weekly Muppet Wednesdays: Nigel the Conductor


Written by Michael Wermuth.


Performed by…
Jim Henson (1975)
John Lovelady (1976-1977)

First appearance…
The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence (1975)

Most recent appearance…
Muppets Most Wanted (2014)

Best known role…
Orchestra conductor; rejected host of The Muppet Show

Nigel was originally intended to be the host of The Muppet Show. He was the main character in The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence pilot, where he interacted with Sam the Eagle and Floyd Pepper in various meeting room scenes, playing games and telling each contestant in the Seven Deadly Sins pageant where to go. However, after the pilot was taped, Jim Henson had decided that Nigel was too wimpy a host, and when The Muppet Show became a series, Kermit became host and Nigel was demoted to orchestra conductor.

Nigel appeared throughout the run of the show, but he only had a handful of speaking roles on the show, all during the first season. His most notable speaking role came in episode 102, when he talked Zoot into doing the “Sax and Violence” number (by threatening to get a new sax player). In episode 123, it was revealed that Nigel had written the theme song, which the band wanted to quit over (he always thought of it as a hip tune).

In addition to conducting, Nigel often participated in group numbers, sometimes played instruments, and on two occasions showed off his whistling skills (for the songs “Big Noise from Winnetka” and “Sam’s Song”). After the show ended, Nigel occasionally appeared in the background. After being absent for a couple of decades, Nigel came back to conduct the orchestra in The Muppets and Muppets Most Wanted, and also appeared in OK Go’s music video of “The Muppet Show Theme.”

The Muppet Show may not have needed Nigel to be the host (Kermit pretty much proved that), but the orchestra does need a conductor, and that’s where Nigel comes in. It takes a level head to keep control over the Muppet orchestra, and Nigel does it very well.

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

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