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Creator / Muppet Performers

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The main crew of performers from The Muppet Show era. Left to right: Frank Oz, Jim Henson, Richard Hunt, Jerry Nelson, and Dave Goelz.

The Muppet performers are a group of people who brought/bring Jim Henson's puppet characters (The Muppets and others) to life, on shows like The Muppet Show, Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, and many feature films. They usually did both the puppeteering and the voice of their characters.

  • Terry Angus: Mostly known for performing Storyteller Fraggle and other characters on Fraggle Rock.
  • Pam Arciero: Joining in 1982, her best-known role is Oscar the Grouch's girlfriend Grundgetta, whom she took over from Brian Muehl.
  • Billy Barkhurst: He performed Ernie on Sesame Street from 2014 to 2017.
  • Jennifer Barnhart : Joining in 2001, she is best known for her work on Sesame Street, being the current performer of Gladys the Cow since 2003, as well as taking over Mama Bear around the same time. She also took over the role of Zoe following Fran Brill's retirement. Outside of the Muppets, she's best known for portraying Cleo on Between the Lions .
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  • Bill Barretta: A performer since 1991, he is known for inheriting some of Jim Henson's deeper-voiced characters, like Rowlf, Dr. Teeth, the Swedish Chef and Mahna Mahna, as well as performing the body of Earl Sinclair on Dinosaurs and originating the roles of Pepe the King Prawn, Bobo the Bear, Johnny Fiama, Big Mean Carl, Clueless Morgan, Elmo's father Louie and others. He has also been a writer, director, producer and puppet captain for numerous Muppet projects. Outside the Muppets, Barretta voiced Jackie the Jackal and other minor characters on Kim Possible.
  • Camille Bonora: With a background in comedy improv, she was hired in 1985 despite no puppetry experience, but was mentored by Richard Hunt and quickly became a Sesame Street regular, doing fill-in work, taking over as Clementine (Forgetful Jones' girlfriend), originating the role of Mama Bear, and creating the characters Meryl Sheep and Ruby Monster. She also did a fair amount of work on The Jim Henson Hour and various other projects, and helped recruit Joey Mazzarino to the Muppets. She left the Muppets in 1997 and became an active religious publisher and philanthropist under her married name Camille Kampouris.
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  • Fran Brill: The first female Muppet performer (after Jane Henson), she joined the troupe in 1970, working primarily on Sesame Street. Her two most famous characters are Prairie Dawn and Zoe, whom she played until her retirement in 2014. Beyond that she did numerous one-off characters and small roles. Outside the Muppets, she worked as a voice actress on shows like Doug and Courage the Cowardly Dog, and had a steady string of live action TV and film roles (including Being There and the Frank Oz-directed What About Bob?).
  • Julianne Buescher: She has performed various background Muppets over the years, including Yolanda Rat, Denise Pig, and Beverly Plume. She is also a voice actress for various non-Henson cartoons, including being the English dub voice of Anko in Naruto.
  • Tyler Bunch: Joining in 1993, he got his first big break performing Treelo, Pop and Doc Hogg on Bear in the Big Blue House. He has performed various minor characters with The Muppets and on Sesame Street, most notably Elmo's father Louie, who he inherited from Bill Barretta. Under the pseudonym of H.D. Quinn, he also does anime voice acting.
  • Kevin Clash: Joining in the late 1970s, he is best known for playing characters such as Clifford, Polly Lobster, Baby Sinclair, Howard Handupme, Hoots the Owl, Baby Natasha, Kingston Livingston III, Wolfgang the Seal, Dr. Nobel Price and, most famously, Elmo. In addition, he worked as a director, producer and puppet captain for Sesame Street until 2012, when he resigned following allegations of sexual misconduct. He currently works as a puppeteer for The Jim Henson Company on other projects, including performing Lyle and Mr. Bumblypants in The Happytime Murders and the Skeksis Hunter and Aughra in The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance. The documentary film Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey is about his life and his most famous character.
  • Stephanie D'Abruzzo: Working for Sesame Street since 1993, she has performed Curly Bear, Elizabeth, Lulu and others, as well as taking over the role of Prairie Dawn following Fran Brill's retirement. Outside the Muppets, she played Lady Richington on Sheep in the Big City, Kessie on The Book of Pooh and Kate Monster and Lucy the Slut in the original Broadway cast of Avenue Q, for which she received a Tony nomination for Best Actress in a Musical.
  • Ryan Dillon: He began performing on Sesame Street in 2005 as he was leaving high school and is the current performer of Elmo since 2013.
  • Artie Esposito Largely only known for briefly being an understudy for Kermit the Frog, performing as him on a few occasions in the late 2000s. invoked
  • Dave Goelz: Originally an industrial designer, Goelz joined the Henson organization in 1973 as a puppet builder before becoming a performer, originating characters like Gonzo, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, Zoot, Beauregard, Boober Fraggle, Uncle Traveling Matt, Rugby Tiger, Stinky the Skunk and others. He also inherited Waldorf after Jim Henson's death. He is the longest-lasting original Muppet performer, still working with the franchise to date after all the others have left or passed away.
  • Louise Gold: Known for her singing voice, Gold was hired from England to work on The Muppet Show from its second season onward. She is best known for performing Annie Sue Pig, a role she reprised in Muppets Most Wanted. More recently, she has performed Funella Furchester in The Furchester Hotel and she was the only Skeksis performer of The Dark Crystal to return for Age of Resistance (as skekAyuk the Gourmand).
  • Stacey Gordon: She performs Julia, the very first Muppet with Autism, on Sesame Street.
  • Brian Henson: Jim's son and the current chairman of The Jim Henson Company. One of his first assignments was working on the complicated bicycle scene from The Great Muppet Caper and then went on to direct The Muppet Christmas Carol, Muppet Treasure Island and The Happytime Murders, as well as episodes of Dinosaurs, Muppets Tonight and Farscape. He also performed The Storyteller's dog as well as Sal Minella, Dr. Phil van Neuter, Seymour and others. He also played Scooter and Janice from 2002 to 2003.
  • Jane Nebel Henson: She met Jim Henson while attending the University of Maryland and became his partner on Sam and Friends and other projects, the two eventually marrying in 1959. She stopped performing regularly in 1961 to focus on raising their growing family. She succumbed to cancer in 2013 at the age of 78.
  • Jim Henson: The creator of the Muppets, he was known for playing Kermit the Frog, Rowlf, Dr. Teeth, the Swedish Chef, Waldorf, Link Hogthrob, the Newsman, Mahna Mahna, Ernie, Guy Smiley, Cantus the Minstrel, Convincing John and many others. He passed away on May 16th, 1990 at the age of 53.
  • John Henson: Jim's other son. He performed Sweetums from 1991 to 2005. He died of a heart attack in 2014 at the age of 48.
  • Richard Hunt: A Promoted Fanboy who was hired to join the Muppets right out of high school in 1970, he became a mainstay of the troupe, performing much-loved characters like Scooter, Janice, Beaker, Statler, Sweetums, Wayne, Gladys the Cow, Don Music, Placido Flamingo, Sully, Sonny Friendly, Forgetful Jones, Junior Gorg and many others. He was part of many memorable Those Two Actors pairings with Jerry Nelson and also mentored many of the newer performers who joined in The '80s. His death from AIDS in 1992 at the age of 40 was a big blow to the organization just as it was recovering from the loss of Jim Henson; some of his characters have never been recast, while others took a long time to find new performers.
  • Eric Jacobson: Joining in 1994, he is known for inheriting many of Frank Oz's roles, including Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Animal, Sam the Eagle, Marvin Suggs, Bert and Grover. He has also taken over some of Jim Henson's characters such as Guy Smiley and the Newsman. He also became Carroll Spinney's understudy for Oscar the Grouch in 2015, officially inheriting that role following Spinney's retirement in 2018.
  • Jerry Juhl: Best known for being Jim Henson's top writer, he joined in 1961, becoming the first employee of Muppets, Inc. when he was hired to replace Jane Henson on Sam and Friends, regularly performing until the early 1970s. The character he is most famous for performing is Taminella Grinderfall in Tales of the Tinkerdee and The Frog Prince. He succumbed to cancer in 2005 at the age of 67.
  • Peter Linz: Joining in 1991, he started out performing background characters on Sesame Street before taking on major roles like Tutter and Pip on Bear in the Big Blue House, Walter, Joe the Legal Weasel and others. Since 2017, he has been the performer of Ernie, Herry Monster, Statler, Robin the Frog, Link Hogthrob and Lips. Outside the Muppets, he performed Theo Lion on Between the Lions.
  • John Lovelady: Starting in 1970, he worked on-and-off on various Muppet projects for the next decade, as a performer and a puppet designer. He helped out on Sesame Street and was a cast member for season 1 of The Muppet Show, originating the role of Crazy Harry. He later worked on other puppet-heavy shows like The Great Space Coaster and DC Follies. Trivia note: Lovelady attended the same Mississippi elementary school as Jim Henson (but Lovelady was five years older, so they didn't know each other).
  • Drew Massey: Originally a background puppeteer, he became a main performer for the webseries From the Balcony, where he performed Statler, Pepe the King Prawn, Animal, Sam the Eagle and many others.
  • Joey Mazzarino: Joining in 1989, he performed primarily on Sesame Street, where he played Murray Monster, Colambo, Joey Monkey, Papa Bear and Stinky the Stinkweed, among others. He also served as a writer and director on Sesame Street, as well as co-writing the screenplays for Muppets from Space and The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland. He resigned from Sesame Street in 2015. Outside the Muppets, he was a voice actor on Sheep in the Big City.
  • Brian Muehl/Meehlnote : Joining in 1979, he focused most of his work on Sesame Street, performing Telly Monster, Grundgetta, Dr. Nobel Price and others, as well as being the first full-time performer of Elmo. Burned out with performing, he left in 1984 to focus on writing, with a few occasional return appearances in Muppet productions. More recently, Meehl has gained notice writing Young Adult Literature.
  • Kathryn Mullen: Joining in 1978, she was originally hired for The Muppet Movie and performed background characters on The Muppet Show and Sesame Street before becoming known for performing Mokey Fraggle and Cotterpin Doozer on Fraggle Rock. She also operated Kira in The Dark Crystal and assisted Frank Oz with Yoda in The Empire Strikes Back. Outside the Muppets, she played Allegra on Allegra's Window and Leona Lion on Between the Lions, the latter of which she co-created with her husband Michael Frith, Jim's former head designer.
  • Jerry Nelson: Having initially worked with the Muppets on and off throughout the 1960s, he joined the Henson organization full-time in 1970. Known for his vocal range, Nelson performed more characters than any other Muppet performer, including Count von Count, Herry Monster, Mr. Johnson, The Amazing Mumford, Mr. Snuffleupagus, Frazzle, Sherlock Hemlock, Simon Soundman, Farley, Biff, Sam the Robot, Little Jerry, Herbert Birdsfoot, Poco Loco, Floyd Pepper, Camilla the Chicken, Lew Zealand, Crazy Harry, Robin the Frog, Uncle Deadly, Dr. Julius Strangepork, Louis Kazagger, Slim Wilson, Pops, Statler, Gobo Fraggle, Pa Gorg, Marjory the Trash Heap, Featherstone, T.R. the Rooster, Emmett Otter, Blind Pew, Mad Monty, the Ghost of Christmas Present and many others. He also did some voiceover work and on-camera appearances in various projects. Though he retired from puppeteering in 2004, he continued to lend his voice to Sesame Street until he died in 2012 at the age of 78.
  • Frank Oz: An associate of Jim Henson since 1963, he is known for originating the roles of Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Animal, Sam the Eagle, Marvin Suggs, George the Janitor, Bert, Grover, Cookie Monster, Harvey Kneeslapper, Lefty the Salesman, Professor Hastings and many others. He was part of many memorable Those Two Actors pairings with Jim Henson. He retired from regular puppeteering duties around 2000 to focus on his career as a movie director. Outside the Muppets, he is known for performing and voicing Yoda in the Star Wars franchise and voicing Fungus in Monsters, Inc. and Subconscious Guard Dave in Inside Out.
  • Eren Ozker: The only regular female performer during the first season of The Muppet Show, she played most of the female characters, including Hilda, Janice and Wanda. She left after that season, but did some occasional Muppet work afterwards, along with a busy stage acting career. She succumbed to cancer in 1993 at the age of 44.
  • Karen Prell: Joining in 1979, she initially performed minor characters on Sesame Street and The Muppet Show before becoming best known for playing Red Fraggle on Fraggle Rock. She is also a CG animator, working first for Pixar on A Bug's Life and Toy Story 2 and more recently for Valve on Portal 2 and Half-Life: Alyx.
  • Martin P. Robinson: Joining in 1981, he is mainly associated with Sesame Street, where he is known for playing Telly Monster, Mr. Snuffleupagus, Slimey and others. He also played The Cat in the Hat in the second season of The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss.
  • Matt Robinson: Best known for playing human character Gordon in the first three seasons of Sesame Street, Matt created and voiced the character Roosevelt Franklin. He died in 2002 at the age of 65.
  • David Rudman: Joining in 1981, he is largely associated with Sesame Street, where he has performed Baby Bear, Chicago the Lion, Davey Monkey, Humphrey and others as well as being the current performer of Cookie Monster since 2001. He has also inherited many of Richard Hunt's characters, including Scooter, Janice, Beaker, Wayne, Sully and Sonny Friendly. He, along with his brother Adam, co-created various preschool shows, including Jack's Big Music Show, Bunnytown and Nature Cat.
  • Caroll Spinney: Joining in 1969, he played Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch on Sesame Street almost exclusively since the very first episode. In 2018, shortly after filming wrapped up on the show's 50th season, Spinney announced his retirement. He passed away from dystonia on December 8, 2019 at the age of 85. He is the subject of the documentary film I Am Big Bird.
  • Matt Vogel: Joining in 1994, he is known for inheriting many roles originated by Jerry Nelson, including Count von Count, Mr. Johnson, Biff, Floyd Pepper, Camilla the Chicken, Robin the Frog, Crazy Harry, Uncle Deadly, Lew Zealand, Dr. Julius Strangepork, Pops and others. He also played 80s Robot in the 2011 Muppets film, Constantine in Muppets Most Wanted and has performed Sweetums since 2009. On Sesame Street, Matt also works as a writer, director and puppet captain, as well as being Caroll Spinney's understudy (and eventual successor) for Big Bird. In 2017, he took over the role of Kermit the Frog following Steve Whitmire's ousting. Outside the Muppets, he played Wilkins in Alice Through the Looking Glass.
  • Steve Whitmire: Joining in 1978, he initially performed background characters on The Muppet Show before rising to perform major roles like Rizzo the Rat, Foo Foo, Lips, Bean Bunny, Waldo C. Graphic, Wembley Fraggle, Sprocket and others. After Jim Henson's death, Steve took over several of his roles, including Kermit the Frog, Ernie, Link Hogthrob and the Newsman and also took over Beaker and Statler after Richard Hunt's death and Jerry Nelson's retirement respectively. He was let go from the Muppets in 2016 due to various issues.
  • Victor Yerrid: Best-known for From the Balcony, where he performed Waldorf, Dr. Teeth, the Swedish Chef, Sweetums and many others. Incidentally, he voiced Kermit in various Robot Chicken sketches.
  • Bryant Young: A trained dancer who has performed the back end of Mr. Snuffleupagus on Sesame Street since 1979. He also works as a choreographer on the show.

The Muppet Performers and their works provide examples of:

  • Author Avatar: Most Muppets are based on a personality trait or flaw of their performer. For example, Richard Hunt based Scooter on his young self.
  • Man of a Thousand Voices: Most of them, but Jerry Nelson was particularly known for this. It has been commented that Robin the Frog's voice was closest to his natural one and therefore hardest to duplicate.
  • Passing the Torch: In cases when an older performer is in poor health or retiring, an effort is generally made to allow them to pick successors for their roles. Eric Jacobson has taken on most of Frank Oz's key roles, while Matt Vogel was selected personally to take over for Jerry Nelson and also understudied Big Bird with Carroll Spinney before fully inheriting that role. Averted in the cases of sudden deaths (Henson, Hunt), resignations (Clash, Mazzarino) and firings (Whitmire).
  • Scully Box: Fran Brill was much shorter than her male colleagues, so she wore huge-heeled platform boots in her performances.


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