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Lips

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Performer:
Lipscloseup

Lips, the 6th member of the Electric Mayhem.

Design Team:
Michael Frith • (design)
Mari Kaestle • (builder)
Lips

Lips, sitting in with the orchestra.

Frith.lips

Michael K. Frith's original design.

Lips GMC

Lips in The Great Muppet Caper

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. [1]

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 Muppetswhen 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.

Despite the character's obscurity, Palisades Toys released a Lips Action Figure in 2004. A Lips costume was released as part of the Xbox Live Marketplace.

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 appears 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.

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.

Filmography

Print appearances

References

  1. Plume, Kenneth Muppet Central interview with Steve Whitmire

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