|DESIGN||Michael Frith designer|
|Mari Kaestle builder|
Lips is the trumpet player from The Muppet Show. The character was created for performer Steve Whitmire, to give him his own member of the Electric Mayhem. He debuted in the fifth and final season of the series, and played trumpet for both the Electric Mayhem and the orchestra. Lips also appeared as part of the Electric Mayhem in The Great Muppet Caper, A Muppet Family Christmas, The Muppet Christmas Carol and Christmas in Rockefeller Center. Lips had a special mechanism that allowed his eyelids to turn inwards. It was usually used when he blew into his trumpet.
Compared to the other Mayhem members, who participated in skits or the backstage action, Lips functioned primarily as a musician only (with trumpeter Tommy McQuater doing the hornplaying) and seldom even spoke. He did have trumpet solos in several episodes, most notably duetting with Hal Linden on "When the Saints Go Marching In" in episode 517. Steve Whitmire once commented upon Lips' silence:
- "I felt great whenever he played the trumpet, and I felt terrible whenever he spoke, because I wanted to do this Louis Armstrong kind of voice, and at that point and time, there was some question about whether or not we would offend African-American people by this white guy doing a black voice as a trumpet player... We might offend people who liked Louis Armstrong. We weren't sure. I never quite got anywhere with Lips. I'd probably be real comfortable with him now, but at that point I wasn't sure. I still wasn't ready to do a character."
Two rare examples of Lips speaking include "Barnyard Boogie", in which he sings a verse, and The Great Muppet Caper (yelling "Ding ding!" and "Let's hit the road! How 'bout a little travelin' music?" before "Night Life", and "And me!" during the finale). In A Muppet Family Christmas, after Doc accidentally slams a door into Lips' face, the latter can be heard shaking his mouth out due to the sudden shock. In The Muppets, when rehearsal for the telethon goes horribly wrong, Floyd tells Kermit that the orchestra can't keep time without Animal's drums (at which point Lips shakes his head and mutters "uh-uh") and that they need their drummer, with Lips nodding and saying "yeah" in agreement.
In a 2013 interview, Dave Goelz said of the character: "Steve Whitmire has been frustrated that for thirty years he hasn’t really found a character hook for Lips the trumpet player. Just last winter he had to say the line “but we don’t have any instruments.” In a gravelly voice, Steve came out with “Buh we don’ got no insuh-menz.” And the character was born after 30-odd years in labor. I love Lips, and am waiting raptly for his next line." It is not currently known which project this was (and the scene does not appear to have been released).
In 2009, Lips appeared with the rest of the Electric Mayhem in the NBC special Christmas in Rockefeller Center. This was his first appearance in over a decade. He appeared again in 2011's The Muppets, where he is seen performing in the orchestra pit as he did on The Muppet Show. He would later be seen as part of The Electric Mayhem again in Muppets Most Wanted and as a part of the house band for Up Late with Miss Piggy on ABC's The Muppets. For the latter, the puppet was completely rebuilt, as the original puppet actually came apart during a YouTube video shoot earlier in the year. He spoke his first full line in over thirty years in the episode "Hostile Makeover" of The Muppets, declaring, "And we love-a some gas station sushi!" He would later get more dialogue in "The Ex-Factor" and "Going, Going, Gonzo," and "Little Green Lie."
According to The Muppets Character Encyclopedia, Lips earned his nickname one cold day in elementary school when his lips got stuck to his trumpet while practicing outside.
- The Muppet Show
- "The Muppet Show Theme" (Season 5)
- Episode 504: Shirley Bassey ("Barnyard Boogie", "After You've Gone")
- Episode 505: James Coburn ("Roarin' Twenties" sketch)
- Episode 510: Jean-Pierre Rampal ("Rockin' Robin")
- Episode 512: Melissa Manchester ("Whenever I Call You Friend")
- Episode 513: Tony Randall ("Ti-Pi-Tin")
- Episode 514: Mac Davis ("I Believe in Music")
- Episode 517: Hal Linden ("When the Saints Go Marching In")
- Episode 520: Wally Boag
- Episode 524: Roger Moore ("How High the Moon")
- I Love Liberty
- The Great Muppet Caper
- The Muppets Take Manhattan
- The Muppets: A Celebration of 30 Years
- A Muppet Family Christmas
- The Jim Henson Hour (In monitor footage)
- The Muppets at Walt Disney World
- The Muppet Christmas Carol
- Christmas in Rockefeller Center
- The Muppets (film)
- Lady Gaga & the Muppets' Holiday Spectacular
- Late Night with Jimmy Fallon
- Muppets Most Wanted
- "Jungle Boogie" music video
- The Muppets (series)
- "Kodachrome" music video
- Jim Henson's Muppet Show Bill
- The Muppets Look at TV
- Muppet King Arthur Issue #4
- Muppet Snow White
- The Muppets Character Encyclopedia