Kieran Moore – In my mind there are 3 generations of Muppeteers; “The Oldschoolers” which includes anyone who was around before The Muppet Show, “The Inbetweeners” who are performers like Steve Whitmire and Kevin Clash that straddled both the pre and post Jim Henson eras, and then “The New Kids” who are the current crop of Muppeteers. Before anyone comments, there are a few exceptions like Dave Goelz and Carrol Spinney–they count as “Oldschoolers” as far as I’m concerned.
Today I’m paying tribute to one of the newer performers, namely Eric Jacobson. It can’t have been easy taking over such iconic characters as Miss Piggy, Animal, and Grover from Frank Oz, but Eric didn’t just rise to the challenge he soared above it. His performances don’t just pay tribute to the sterling work Frank did, they take the characters to new places. If working on this chart has shown me anything it’s that Eric is a first rate actor.
He also seems to be the Duet King. This chart includes more duets and collaborations than any other so far. I guess it proves that like Frank, Eric works best when he has someone to play off. What do you think?
10. Zanahoria – Grover
I’ve always had a soft spot for Grover (and not just because he shares a birthday with my Nephew). This song shows his fuzzy excitable side. It’s short and sweet (like most carrots), but it’s sung brilliantly. Grover has a great Spanish accident and the opening has echoes of the song “Venus” – both are plus points in my book. Well done to Luis Santeiro for coming up with so many rhymes for Zanahoria, I salute you sir!
9. It’s Raining Men – Miss Piggy
Let’s ignore the slightly dodgy back up singers and focus on the Divine Miss P for this one. This performance with the stars of America’s Got Talent is Miss Piggy at her sassy best. So often Miss Piggy is left to be the fall guy for a joke where her talent is shown up to be less in real life than it is in her head (Studio DC I’m looking at you) and I hate the way they do that. Here she is allowed to be good because she is. Miss Piggy really brings it in this number.
8. I Wish I Could Be Santa Claus – Fozzie and Gonzo
For years Muppet fans had been wishing for a Fozzie/Gonzo duet. It seems incredible that these characters haven’t sung together more in the past. Although there are many less than stellar elements to Letters to Santa this Paul Williams song is brilliant. Fozzie and Gonzo have such sweet souls that this song could be cloying, but it’s pitch-perfect to me. Although from a musical, this song has that special quality that comes around every so often where it could be heard completely out of context and it would still work. This song deserves to be a holiday classic and Eric’s performance as Fozzie is so special.
7. How Bert Rolls – Bert
I’m not actually sure if this song is called “How Bert Rolls” or “How I Roll”. The YouTube video is the former, but Bert sings the latter and there isn’t a Wiki page to verify it. Either way, this is a great rock number from Bert – who knew such a thing was possible? Actually, one of the things I’ve always enjoyed about Bert is how this straight-laced guy lets rip every now and again. It’s another example of how well-crafted these characters are that they can play against type and still be believable. You can tell that Eric is enjoying himself here. Let’s get Bert moshing next!
6. North Pole Comedy Club – Fozzie
Let’s be honest, on first play most Muppet fans were listening to “A Red and Green Christmas” to see how good the new recasts sounded (Is there too much Bobo in Rowlf? etc.) Let’s face facts: not every song on this album is a hit, but what I love about North Pole Comedy Club is that Christmas references aside it could very well act as Fozzie’s theme song. This catchy number encapsulates just about every Fozzie Bear comedy routine to date. Replace “North Pole Comedy Club” for “Muppet Show Tonight” and they could use this song every week in a revived TV show. Pepe’s asides are just an added bonus…
5. Super Grover with a G – Super Grover
Who doesn’t love a song you can march to? This rollicking, boisterous number is so much fun. Super Grover’s self-confidence is infectious and I think I might start using this song as my alarm tone. I think everyone would wake up in a better mood if they listened to this first thing in the morning! The clever lyrics are packed with lots of subtle “G” words which I love. Eric is brilliant here and I’m in awe of that final high note.
4. Red and Green Christmas – Miss Piggy and Kermit
Sorry for having a third Christmas song, but I had to include this one. For me the title track on the “A Red and Green Christmas” album was instantly one of the standout songs. Kermit and Piggy don’t get enough duets and I love the fact that this focuses on the sweeter aspect of their relationship. Let’s not forget that they do love each other. This is another song that could be lifted and played elsewhere. Sometimes Miss Piggy can be a bit shrill when she sings; here Eric really tones it down and shows her softer side. I think this song is incredibly pretty and oh so festive.
3. The Interrogation Song – Sam and Jean Pierre Napoleon with Muppet Cast
This is more of a group number, but I really wanted to include this song so I’ll admit I counted the number of lines sung by Eric’s characters to make sure they hit the required 50% and thanks to the Miss Piggy verse this just about makes it (especially so when Gonzo is cut). This song is so much fun. Sam’s relationship with Jean Pierre is just one highlight in a movie that has so many. It’s another example of Eric’s ability to work so well off of others and Ty is clearly enjoying playing off of Sam as well. Miss Piggy’s contribution is also great, I’m just surprised she put up with so many pig puns before she flipped!
2. I Need a Word – Grover with Dave Matthews
Who hasn’t felt the exact emotion that this song conveys? This number could just break my heart. When Grover says he’s sad like he’s on the verge of tears it just cuts through to my soul. Surely there’s nothing worse than a sad Muppet? Thank goodness this song has a happy ending. Without it, it might just be the bleakest Muppet song ever. As I said in another chart, I think via Kermit I’ve always had a special connection to the banjo so this resonates especially with me. I’d like to say a huge well done to Sesame Street for teaching kids about their emotions and not just the number 3.
1. Something So Right – Miss Piggy, Kermit, Celine Dion and Muppet Cast
Ok, I’ll admit. In the past I haven’t been a huge fan of Miss Piggy’s musical numbers. Never Before, Never Again was always the song on the Muppet Movie soundtrack that I skipped. Without the visuals it seemed shrill and badly sung, with the visuals it seemed played for laughs which did the Kermit/Piggy relationship a disservice. I consequently never felt any real emotion attached to that song. Something So Right is the complete opposite for me. Thanks to Eric’s amazing vocal performance I finally have a Miss Piggy song that I can’t wait to hear. It’s perfectly played. I feel for Piggy, I care about her plight. It’s also filmed on an epic scale. The outdoor scenes in London are beautifully shot. Even a random appearance from Celine Dion can’t ruin it for me (despite her best efforts). If this isn’t nominated for an Oscar at the very least I’ll send a plague of frogs to Disney HQ. Could this be the first gold statue that Kermit and Piggy have a personal flipper/trotter in? I hope so.
I always seem to end my charts with a thank you and this one is no exception. I want to say a huge thank you to Eric for doing such a great job on some iconic characters, especially Piggy. It might be sacrilege to say it, but I think I actually prefer Eric’s Piggy to Frank’s so thank you Eric for giving me a Piggy I can appreciate, root for, relate to and enjoy.