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Because, Talking Time. You are... A Top 50 Puppets Countdown

Lokii

Administrator
(He/Him)
Staff member
Moderator
Also, fun fact, his voice is the guy who also plays this guy in the same show and if the credits hadn't told me I'd have never ever guessed because wow that's some range!
latest

Wow I had no idea! Super cool.

Pilot and Fozzie were a couple of the last cuts from my list. Pilot is such an amazing bit of puppetry—what an incredible thing to build and execute! Puppets really are the best medium for cool space creatures.

Fozzie I agonized over, but my list was 90% muppets already, the deadline was imminent, and someone had to go. It was a bad cut tho; very hard. Fozzie is just as important to the dynamic as Kermit and the rest, an essential part of the muppet joie de vivre. Plus I figured he was a shoe-in and didn't need my help. Guess I misjudged there. He sure as heck deserves better than 39th; though come to think of it getting upstaged by magical punching Ghaleon is a strong Fozzie move.

Here's the erudite minds at NPR putting it better than I ever could:

Fozzie Bear's dreams of comedic greatness are unattainable, his optimism smacks of desperation and delusion, his jokes (such as they are) exist mostly to provide opportunities for Statler and Waldorf to perform windmill dunks at his expense, and his signature catchphrase ("wocka wocka wocka!") is a tragic cry for validation. He's all sweaty effort, all the time, in that way that so many of us get when we're pursuing the acceptance of others. So how do you make Fozzie lovable without also making him... deeply sad?

The secret lies, at least in part, in the aforementioned optimism: Fozzie is a dreamer, and a sweetly soulful one at that. If you can't be great, being liked is a hell of a consolation prize.

I think Fozzie has a lot to offer beyond the bad stand-up shtick, and his humanity is a big part of that. He might be clueless when it comes to comedy but he has a piercing insight into the tenderness of the soul. He embodies how to live with grace and meaning even when life perpetually dangles success out of reach.
 

Kirin

Summon for hire
(he/him)
Ahahaha, nice, if I’d thought of it I absolutely would’ve slipped PPG in as my #25 as well.
 

Violentvixen

(She/Her)
Aw, I'm so glad two other people voted for Daniel. An incredibly simple puppet but so well-used to make discussing emotions easier.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
I grew up being more of a Sesame Street kid but did watch Mr Rogers. Still I connected to Sesame's sense of fun than Rogers lessons in emotional growth. But as an adult I greatly appreciate everything Rogers is more than I did as a youth, despite fond memories of Mr. McFeely. Daniel Tiger and most of the Land of Make Believe's Puppets were fairly crude by comparison with its contemporaries but that's not the point with most of them (who arent the upsetting-looking Lady Elaine Fairchild), they are a perfect mirror of our vulnerabilities and humanity in much more down to Earth way than the muppets aren't always. The show still works; my niece loves it and has a book of Rogers' poetry.
 

Purple

(She/Her)
It is my greatest shame in life that I actually avoided preordering Lunar back in the day explicitly to avoid the awkward conversation of why I needed a lift to the mall to pick up a puppet.

I have of course abandoned all sense of shame.

Also gave away the pendant because I didn't think I was allowed to personally wear such things!
 

Issun

Avarice
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GREMLINS 2 GREMLINS

55 Points; 2 Votes; Purple (Greta #12, Brain Gremlin #25), Octopus Prime (Brain Gremlin #5)


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A New Batch


When Joe Dante finally made a sequel to beloved horror-comedy Gremlins, his thought process was "What if the original, but balls-to-the-wall silly?", and it was good. The opportunities were broadened, with super-intelligent gremlin, googly-eye gremlin, burlesque gremlin, bat gremlin, spider gremlin, and more. I can only imagine the fun everyone had, coming up with the sheer variety of what we would see on screen. The result was shedding almost all of the "horror" aspect and ramping up the comedy, but that wasn't necessarily a bad thing.


It's really hard to pick the best one here, but the consensus pick seems to be the "Brain Gremlin" (voiced by Tony Randall!), who turns the "vicious child" aspect of the creatures into a character that still has a cruel streak, but prefers to be civilized about it. Not unlike many leaders in government, the military, and the corporate world.


 

Issun

Avarice
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TIE: SIR DIDYMUS
55 Points; 2 Votes; Kirin [w/ Ambrosius] (#1), Issun (#16)


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Dog Quixote
Along with his faithful steed, Ambrosius (who also appears in puppet form for certain scenes), Sir Didymus guards the bridge in the Bog of Eternal Stench in the movie Labyrinth. He may not look as outrageous as some of the other creatures in Jareth's kingdom, but he may have, pound for pound, the most outrageousness in his character of anyone in the movie. He is the classic foil for the heroes turned ally, but no matter whose side he is on, Didymus will rush, proudly and recklessly, headlong into danger.

Didymus is a fun character, but he's also a great play on the fact that small dogs tend to overestimate their ability to take on larger animals. Didymus was designed by Brian Froud, built by Jane Gootnick, operated by Dave Goeltz and Davis Barclay, and voiced by David Shaugnessy (that's a lot of Davids!).

 

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
I think Fozzie has a lot to offer beyond the bad stand-up shtick, and his humanity is a big part of that. He might be clueless when it comes to comedy but he has a piercing insight into the tenderness of the soul. He embodies how to live with grace and meaning even when life perpetually dangles success out of reach.

This is really apt and I think all of the best Muppets characters embody complex character traits in a way that's deceptively simple.
 

Kirin

Summon for hire
(he/him)
Didymus kneecap'd 'im.

This is another list where my #1 could've gone a lot of ways, but man, Didymus is just so lovable. I have a plush of him literally five feet away from me right now.
 

Purple

(She/Her)
Sir Didymus came really really close to making my list. Would have been really high if I was voting strictly on personality.
 

Issun

Avarice
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TIE: ALF

55 Points; 2 Votes; JBear (#1), Torzelbaum (#16)



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a.k.a. Gordon Shumway


ALF was the first prime-time appointment show I ever had. The appeal of a wisecracking puppet to an eight-year-old is kind of a no-brainer, and I'm sure it was the same for a lot of us now in our 30s and 40s. Looking back, it's also held up a lot better than most shows from that era. Television in the 1980s was kind of a comedy wasteland, with The Cosby Show being the only show to be bigger than the seasons it ran, although now it's much easier to look back on that show with suspicion. It wouldn't be until the 1990s, with Seinfeld, Friends, and Boy Meets World finally rejuvenating the landscape.


Given all that, it wasn't hard for ALF to stand out, and it's still not great, especially when compared with the embarrassment of riches that is television in the 21st century. The family itself was pretty generic, but Paul Fusco managed to imbue the titular character with a charisma and cleverness that made the show something special. Unfortunately, the show's strength became its downfall, as due to ALF being stuck in the house, almost every episode was a bottle episode, and there was only so much that could be done. So here's to ALF: He made a bland era of TV somewhat fun. Just hide your cats.


 

Issun

Avarice
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DOMINAR RYGEL XVI
56 Points; 2 Votes; Purple (#3), Octopus Prime (#13)


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Deposed ruler
Again, I have zero experience with Farscape, so a wiki clip will have to do.

Standing all of 26 inches tall - when he deigned to stand at all - Rygel XVI was once the royal sovereign of more than 600 billion loyal (or so he claimed) subjects, the ruler of the Hynerian Empire. Unfortunately for him, none of them were with him in the Uncharted Territories (except Acquara, a small tribe without technology due to a device that drains all energy from any machines or technology requiring electrical power). Over 130 cycles ago, Rygel's cousin Bishan overthrew him and seized the throne and claimed Rygel was dead to the Hynerian Worlds. Rygel never discussed the political causes for the coup, though he intended to avenge himself as soon as he got the chance. Bishan turned the dethroned Dominar over to the Peacekeepers, who held him prisoner for more than 130 cycles. Rygel initially spent his confinement aboard the Peacekeeper command carrier Zelbinion, where he was regularly tortured and humiliated by the ship's captain, Captain Selto Durka. He survived, but grew to hate Durka and Peacekeepers in general because of it.​

Rygel was voiced by Jonathan Hardy.

 

Falselogic

Techno-Threadcromancer
(they/them)
Has anyone gone back and watched Alf? It certainly holds a place in my childhood memories but from what people say it is not good. And I was wondering if anyone here has an opinion that isn't only informed by them being an adolescent.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
I always felt tye dad truly hated ALF rather than merely being "oh, this guy" but tried his best to keep civil. Probably prompted by behindnthe scenes woes, sadly.
 

Dracula

Plastic Vampire
(He/His)
Has anyone gone back and watched Alf? It certainly holds a place in my childhood memories but from what people say it is not good. And I was wondering if anyone here has an opinion that isn't only informed by them being an adolescent.

I never watched Alf even in its heyday, but I do have a buddy 10 years my junior (he was not alive at the time the show was airing) who frequently quotes it. Though I've not been able to tell if he likes it in a more ironic sense or if he really likes it. This is a guy who's working on creating a podcast centered around the Andy Griffith Show.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Though I've not been able to tell if he likes it in a more ironic sense or if he really likes it
I suspect both. It's like A Team, cheesy show with a strong personality as an anchor. ALF could easily work as a character on a stronger written show. Also, they gave him a sad backstory which means all the characters we meet on the cartoon spin offs are dead
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
Rigel was my guy from Farscape, because he’s a sneaky little frog man on a hover chair who received commupence in nearly every episode and that’s just good TV
 

Lokii

Administrator
(He/Him)
Staff member
Moderator
Rigel was another near cut for me. Very impressive puppetry capable of a wide range of facial expressions and nuanced acting achieved through a high level of craft, but that's farscape in a nutshell.

 

JBear

Internet's foremost Bertolli cosplayer
(He/Him)
I was a die-hard ALF fan in my childhood. I watched the TV show, I watched the cartoon. I slept with a plush talking ALF doll ("Gimmie four! Let's throw a cat on the barbie!"). I had the full collection of Burger King ALF records. If it was ALF, I wanted it. That said, I've not revisited the show since I was a kid, and I don't really care to! The ALF that lives in my memories is good enough for me!
 

FelixSH

(He/Him)
Has anyone gone back and watched Alf? It certainly holds a place in my childhood memories but from what people say it is not good. And I was wondering if anyone here has an opinion that isn't only informed by them being an adolescent.
Not exactly that, but I still like to listen to radio tapes that contain the episodes, with a few lines from a narrator. It isn't great, basically decent comfort food. Part of that is nostalgia for me, but it is mainly a harmless sitcom, as long as you don't think too much about how the family suffers due to ALF being an awful person. The jokes are decent, sometimes you get a good laugh, often they are just there. On the whole, there is absolutely no point in watching this, with so many better sitcoms, outside of nostalgia. And even there, it is probably better to have a good memory of the show, than actually revisit it.

There are a handful of gems in there, though. I think the one with the giant insect, that gets bigger every time it gets sprayed, is neat and fun, and there is an episode where Willy and ALF spend most of their time riding a train ("Night Train", I think), and it is a very nice character piece. Not a funny episode, but one of the rare ones that actually work with the characters, and have them emotionally interact.

As far as I know, the actors all hated working on the show, after some time. Partly, because the stage was full of trapdoors, so that the puppet come out, and partly because their characters were always second to ALF, despite being main characters in their own right. But that is based on memory from years ago, so grain of salt.

What I definitely know is, that the actor who played Willy did, indeed, hate the show. It is very likely, that it shines through. I vaguely remember reading, that after the last scene was shot, he just stormed out, without saying goodbye to anyone, not even the other actors.
 

Issun

Avarice
Has anyone gone back and watched Alf? It certainly holds a place in my childhood memories but from what people say it is not good. And I was wondering if anyone here has an opinion that isn't only informed by them being an adolescent.

I watched a few clips before writing the entry, and as I said, it's better than the majority of the sitcoms from the decade. Of course, that's like saying I'm a better physicist than Donald Trump. I wouldn't recommend watching it unless you're that morbidly curious.
 

Purple

(She/Her)
Rigel was my guy from Farscape, because he’s a sneaky little frog man on a hover chair who received commupence in nearly every episode and that’s just good TV
Love me a regular character on a series whose decision making flowchart starts with "would this be a good time to stab everyone I know in the back and run?" followed by "what about stab everyone in the back and hide?"
 

Issun

Avarice
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WAYANG KULIT

57 Points; 2 Votes; Kirin (#7), Violetvixen (#8)



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Puppetry of the Gods


By far the oldest entry on this list, Wayang puppetry makes Punchinello look like a whippersnapper by comparison. It has been practiced in Indonesia for over 1,000 years, with the Kulit or "shadow" variation being the most well known outside of the islands. It features intricate, versatile puppets made of stretched hide (goat sometimes, though water buffalo is preferred) which is then decorated intricately, and manipulated behind a screen by the master puppeteer, or ghalan. tells epic tales over as many as nine hours, while a gamalan orchestra adds musical accompaniment. The tales on Bali often come from Hindu poetry, while Java, with the coming of Islam, tends more towards Persian mythology.


I had not heard of Wayang before this list, but the brief study I did for this entry was fascinating, and if I ever end up in Indonesia it will certainly be near the top of my list of things to see.


 

Issun

Avarice

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STATLER & WALDORF
59 Points; 2 Votes; Johnny Unusual (#2), Torzelbaum (#11 Waldorf, #12 Statler)


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The Ultimate Peanut Gallery
No episode of The Muppet Show was ever complete without the heckling of these two crusty old fogeys. Statler (the tall one) and Waldorf (the one with the moustache) were named after famous hotels, for some reason. Their main purpose on the show is to provide acerbic commentary on the various sketches, and to make Fozzie Bear's life miserable. Their schtick has become so popular that they have appeared on many other shows, from ESPN to Jimmy Kimmel.

Both Statler and Waldorf are voiced by Richard Hunt.

 
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