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Mean Mama is a voracious brown monster who debuted on the "Beast of the Week" sketch on episode 201 of The Muppet Show, where she protected her baby from Don Knotts. She is one of the few explicitly female monsters on the show and has been performed by Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, Richard Hunt, Dave Goelz, and Louise Gold.
Mean Mama has been known to fans for years as "Big Mama," the name she was called in several UK publications, including the Muppet Show Annual 1979, The Muppet Show Diary 1979, and a December 1978 interview with Louise Gold in Look-in Junior TV Times magazine. However, her name was never used in a Muppet production, and internally, the Muppet Workshop referred to her as "Mean Mama".
Mean Mama is unique among the monsters in that she has appeared in both full-bodied and hand-puppet versions. She first appeared as a hand-puppet, with the full-bodied version debuting in episode 217.
Although Mean Mama is unquestionably female, her gender is sometimes emphasized more strongly, depending on the sketch. At times, she has been adorned with long eyelashes, a sundress, and bosoms (as in episode 318). In The Muppets Go Hollywood, she appears in the "Hooray for Hollywood" production number in a deep purple gown, with a matching bow in her hair and a feathery black fan. In other appearances, the puppet would lose all its feminine accoutrements and become more masculine in appearance and voice.
In 1977, Mean Mama made an impression at the Royal Variety Performance while greeting the Royal Family. Louise Gold was performing Mean Mama -- and instead of shaking hands with Prince Charles, she gave him a hug.
On Julie Andrews: One Step Into Spring she was named Big Mama.
In Mean Mama's final appearance on The Muppet Show, in episode 515, she appeared as an alien in a "Pigs in Space" sketch. At the end of the sketch, she swallowed First Mate Piggy whole -- but because the cast was in the middle of Gonzo's dance marathon, Piggy had to keep dancing while inside the alien's gullet.
- The Muppet Show
- Episode 201: Don Knotts (Beast of the Week sketch, performed by Richard Hunt)
- Episode 202: Zero Mostel (performed by Dave Goelz)
- Episode 203: Milton Berle ("Ugly," performed by Jim Henson)
- Episode 204: Rich Little (performed by Jerry Nelson)
- Episode 211: Dom DeLuise (Sheppard's Institute of Animal Protection sketch, performed by Richard Hunt)
- Episode 217: Julie Andrews ("I Whistle a Happy Tune")
- Episode 223: John Cleese
- Episode 301: Kris Kristofferson & Rita Coolidge
- Episode 307: Alice Cooper ("School's Out")
- Episode 318: Leslie Uggams (performed by Louise Gold)
- Episode 515: Carol Burnett (Pigs in Space, performed by Richard Hunt)
- Julie Andrews: One Step Into Spring
- The Muppet Movie
- The Muppets Go Hollywood
- The Ghost of Faffner Hall
- Royal Variety Performance
- Dog City