With studios looking to multiple platforms to gain maximum exposure for their intellectual properties (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Gotham), it’s a little surprising that Disney has not green lit a reboot of The Muppet Show. In 2011, the Mouse House reinvigorated Jim Henson’s beloved creations in a feature film that capitalized on the Muppets’ cross-generational appeal and absurd sense of humor. Grossing $165.1 million worldwide, The Muppets illustrated that there was still an audience for Kermit and the gang.
Running from 1976 – 1981, the original Muppet Show was a variety program that used comedy bits, musical performances, and sketches to entertain people of all ages (think of it as Saturday Night Live for the family). One of the key components of the show was the fact that each episode had a human guest-star to interact with Fozzie Bear, Gonzo, Miss Piggy, and several others. With this weekend’s Muppets Most Wanted once again bringing the Muppets back in the spotlight, we started thinking of celebrities we’d want to host The Muppet Show.
NOTE: For the purposes of our list, we settled on 20 names (roughly the length of a full season, give or take) and chose an equal number of men and women guests.
22 Dave Grohl
Anyone familiar with the Foo Fighters and their music videos knows that Grohl possesses a wacky comedic gene that would be right at home with the Muppets. As the front man of one of the biggest rock bands, he also has a number of catchy musical tunes (a must for The Muppet Show) that would be suitable for rocking out with the Electric Mayhem or slowing things down for one of the show’s more sentimental moments.
Before forming the Foo Fighters, Grohl was well-known as the drummer in Nirvana, and he remains one of the finest percussionists working today. Giving him an opportunity to unleash behind a drum set would be the ideal opportunity to recreate the classic skit where Animal took on Buddy Rich in a drum battle.
21 Blake Griffin
The Muppets typically had a famous comedian, actor, or music artist on their show, but we think they’d make an exception in this case. After all, Sylvester Stallone got a chance to box during his time as the guest (see the opening sequence of Rocky III for a brief clip). There is some precedent for a sports aspect.
Thanks to a collection of YouTube clips displaying his amazing athletic ability, Griffin has quickly become one of the most popular players in the NBA (you can picture a dunk contest sketch with Gonzo already). Plus, his Kia advertising campaign has shown off Griffin’s funny side, as the basketball star displays a mastery of deadpan humor. Seeing him do a riff of his “Griffin Force” persona with Fozzie’s “Bear on Patrol” would be a riot.
20 Hugh Jackman
One of the most charismatic actors working today, Jackman is an easy choice for our list. The consummate entertainer, he possesses a number of skills that would be valuable to a Muppet Show guest star. As he showed in his Oscars opening number, he can dance and carry a tune with the best of them, making him perfect for the program’s musical bits.
Of course, Jackman is best known as an actor, and his dramatic chops would come in handy as well. A Muppet parody of Les Misérables is begging to be done. It would be difficult for the writers to pass up a chance to do a Wolverine-centric sketch or a magic act bit (spoofing Jackman’s turn as Robert Angier in The Prestige).
19 Robert Downey, Jr.
Both the Muppets and Marvel Comics are properties of Disney. It makes perfect sense then, that Mickey Mouse would pull some strings and have fan-favorite RDJ take the stage with the puppets. Even without the Disney connection, the actor would still be a great guest thanks to his charm, comedic timing, and larger-than-life personality.
Downey is famous for improvising on set, which could potentially lead to some hysterical moments. One can easily see some humorous disagreements with Sam the Eagle (always a stickler for order) as Downey attempts to go off-script and infuse some anarchy into the happenings. Backstage, we could see some Muppets campaigning to be added to the ever-expanding roster of Avengers, begging to become a part of the global phenomenon.
18 Jerry Seinfeld
The original run of The Muppet Show saw comedy legends like Bob Hope, Steve Martin, and Peter Sellers appear, so it would make sense for the producers to invite one of today’s icons for a reboot. As far as comedy giants go, there aren’t many as big as Jerry Seinfeld. While his famous sitcom wrapped up in 1998, he is still very much in the public eye thanks to Seinfeld reruns (introducing the show about nothing to a new generation of fans) and his web series, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.
With Seinfeld on the show, the Muppets’ resident comedian Fozzie Bear would be able to receive some pointers, getting humorous lessons backstage on making fun of the little things in life as opposed to trying too hard to win over the audience. Plus, we’re guessing many would sign up to see a showdown between Seinfeld and hecklers Statler and Waldorf, the original trolls.
17 Bruno Mars
Music is such a big part of the Muppets’ identity that they’re always looking for top musicians to bring on board for an episode. Two-time Grammy winner Mars certainly fits the bill, as he is one of the most popular artists working today. Thanks to his catchy hooks and 10 million albums sold, we’re betting this hypothetical show would earn some major ratings.
Mars used his halftime performance at Super Bowl XLVIII to show why he’d be the perfect Muppet guest. A terrific showman, Mars displayed multiple talents (playing the drums, singing, and dancing). He knows how to have fun on stage, which would gel with the Muppets’ sense of entertainment and his knowledge of a variety of genres could lead to diverse music acts.
16 Tom Hanks
As he’s shown throughout his impeccable career, there isn’t anything Tom Hanks can’t do. While the two-time Oscar winner is known for his dramatic roles today, he was at one point more famous for his comedic talents. Hosting Saturday Night Live five times, he’s shown he is up for sketch comedy on numerous occasions and it would be great to see him slide back into the funny man he once was.
A running gag we’d love to see in a Hanks Muppet episode would be a “Disney executive” (played by a puppet, of course) badgering the actor about making Toy Story 4 (a joke that was briefly mentioned in a recent Muppets Most Wanted trailer). There would also be a golden opportunity to see Hanks recreate his classic big piano scene from Big, playing a touching duet of “Heart and Soul” with Rowlf.
15 Benedict Cumberbatch
The fan-favorite Brit is known for his leading role as Sherlock Holmes on the acclaimed BBC drama, Sherlock, but the actor also has a lighter side. This year’s Oscars was the coming out party for his penchant for photobombing and his video message to fans at Comic-Con 2013 showed that he’s always up for goofing around with props. Plus, he’s already visited Sesame Street, so he’s familiar with the world of Jim Henson.
Given his performance as Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness and the endless rumors of his appearance in the new Star Wars movie, we think the writers would have Cumberbatch channel his inner evildoer and be the villain tracking down the incompetent “Pigs in Space” crew. He also seems like he would be right at home with Sam the Eagle, humorously comparing the pros and cons of England and America.
14 Channing Tatum
As he looks to rebound from a lackluster 2013 (22 Jump Street and Foxcatcher should help), one way for Tatum to boost his career would be to guest star on The Muppet Show. A talented dancer, he’d fit right in with the music numbers. Plus, we envision some hilarious encounters with Miss Piggy as the “star” of the show tries to earn his affections.
Tatum illustrated in 21 Jump Street that he’s game for the outrageous physical comedy necessary to make the Muppets work. His fight scene with Jonah Hill during the Peter Pan play was basically a live-action Muppet skit. On top of doing stunts, he also showed that he possesses some genuine comedic timing and can knock any deadpanned line out of the park – so as he matter-of-factly delivers some classic Muppet puns to the camera, they’ll be even funnier.
13 Chris Pratt
Another member of the Disney/Marvel family, the ultra-likable Pratt is quickly becoming one of the biggest names in Hollywood. He’s done great character work in dramas such as Zero Dark Thirty, Moneyball, and Her, but it’s his role as man-child Andy Dwyer in Parks and Recreation that makes him the ideal Muppet guest. Throughout the show, Pratt makes it obvious that he gets oddball humor and the Muppets certainly specialize in that.
With his role as Star Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy set to expand his profile even more, there’d be another opportunity for the writers to incorporate the star into a “Pigs in Space” skit, as Pratt teams up with Link Hogthrob and crew to complete a thrilling space mission. Maybe a puppet Rocket Raccoon could cameo?
12 Melissa McCarthy
The star of network sitcom Mike and Molly has gone on to become one of the leading names in films. Earning a Best Supporting Actress nomination for her role in Bridesmaids, McCarthy was also one of the main draws in last summer’s action-comedy The Heat. With a reputation as one of the funniest and most popular comic actresses working today, she’d be a great choice to hang out with the Muppets.
McCarthy has shown throughout her career that she can deliver hilarious dialogue with the best of them (see: her constant pestering of Air Marshall John in Bridesmaids), so the show’s writers could come up with a variety of skits for her to do. She’s also a veteran of physical comedy, so the slapstick gags the Muppets are known for would be right in her wheelhouse.
11 Amy Poehler
An eight-time Emmy nominee, Poehler is one of the most famous female comedians working today. The star of Parks and Recreation, she made a name for herself during a very successful run on Saturday Night Live, where she was a cast member from 2001 until 2008. One of the more likable people in show business, Poehler is no stranger to hosting special TV events, as her hosting jobs (with close friend Tina Fey) at the last two Golden Globes have shown.
The Muppets occasionally will dive into pop culture parodies, which would make use of one of the number of impressions Poehler is known for. Given her well-received turn as a Weekend Update anchor (plus her ability to nail a great zinger), she could also give the Muppet newsman a run for his money by providing some insightful, hysterical commentary on the happenings in the Muppet world.
10 Julia Louis-Dreyfus
The woman who brought arguably the greatest female character in a sitcom to life would be a must for a Muppet guest appearance. During her prolific time as Elaine Benes in Seinfeld, Louis-Dreyfus displayed a wide comedic range, at times being the straight woman to the gang’s hijinks (“The Bizarro Jerry” episode) or being the cause for the hilarity herself (the time she overdosed on pain killers and kept yelling “STELLA!”), which could lead to a series of versatile sketches. The four main characters were essentially overgrown children, which fits right in with the Muppets’ shtick.
In her Emmy-winning role as foul-mouthed vice president Selina Meyer in Veep, Louis-Dreyfus has shown that she still has what it takes to make an audience laugh (there could even be a bit where Sam tries to get a piece of legislature passed). She can be both playful and intimidating, but she’s always funny. Louis-Dreyfus would be Queen of the Muppet Castle were she to appear.
9 Jennifer Lawrence
The Muppets are always after the biggest stars, and right now there aren’t as many quite as bright as Lawrence. The face of The Hunger Games film franchise, she’s also a three-time Oscar nominee (with one win) and is currently one of the most popular actresses around. From a ratings standpoint, she’d be a no-brainer.
Luckily, Lawrence also has qualities that would fit with the program’s content. As she’s shown in numerous interviews, she has a charming, self-deprecating sense of humor and a goofy personality that’s right in line with the Muppets’ routine. Not only do we envision the obvious Hunger Games spoofs, her presence backstage could lead to some amusing tension with Miss Piggy, as our favorite pig tries to outshine the movie star throughout the episode.
8 Lady Gaga
A Lady Gaga-centric episode of The Muppet Show would be weird, but that kind of goes along with the brand. The Muppets have never shied away from doing the absurd or bizarre. It’s actually easy to picture Gonzo and Gaga hitting it off as kindred spirits; bonding over their status as misunderstood artists and love for the strange.
While her electro-pop tunes would certainly be an interesting change of pace from the types of numbers the Muppets usually do, Lady Gaga has some musical talents that would work with the typical Muppet bits. Teaching herself to play piano at the age of four, she could easily crank out an emotional ballad to bring her episode to a close. If she were up for something a bit lighter, we’re sure Rowlf would sign off on a duet.
7 Kristen Wiig
Earning four consecutive Emmy nominations from 2009-2012, Wiig was one of the biggest stars on Saturday Night Live during her time as a cast member. Earning a large following thanks to her mastery of over-the-top humor, she could channel her zany nature into some hysterical bits on The Muppet Show.
During her time on SNL, Wiig portrayed a variety of characters, which would (like so many others on our list) give the writers an abundance of opportunities to take advantage of her many talents. Those who only know her as Kat from SNL’s Garth and Kat duo wouldn’t know it, but Wiig is also a very good singer, which would allow her to perform vocals during one of the many Muppet musical bits.
A more conventional music artist to have guest star, Adele has quickly moved up the ladder in popular music. Her 2011 breakthrough album, 21, sold over 26 million copies and won the Grammy for Album of the Year. In 2012, Adele capped off her meteoric rise to superstardom by winning an Oscar for the title song for the James Bond film Skyfall.
Adele’s songs typically deal with heavy themes like heartbreak and self-examination, which would be a stark contrast from the typically upbeat Muppet Show. However, Jim Henson always found a way to balance the bonkers with the emotionally touching, so if the producers wanted to bring the house down with a tear-jerking number, Adele would be the one to call.
5 Anna Kendrick
Filled with enthusiasm and a bubbly personality, the Oscar-nominated Kendrick would definitely be able to infuse some fun into the festivities. With roles in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, 50/50, and Up in the Air, she’s shown a keen ability to act in comedy (even those that are more dramatic) and has a likable screen presence that would go over well with the audience. She’s another female guest that Piggy could have a rivalry with.
Like some of our other women suggestions, Kendrick can also sing. Starring in the surprise hit Pitch Perfect in 2012; she’s set to appear as Cinderella in this December’s movie musical Into the Woods. She can carry a tune or two, and with the Muppets’ love for music, she’d fit right in with the group.
4 Emma Stone
Making a name for herself as a comedy actress, Stone has shown time and time again she possesses ideal comedic timing necessary to land some Muppet punch lines. As is the case with other names on our list, she’s also illustrated her knack for being a lovable goofball on a number of occasions and can liven up any environment. Her history with Saturday Night Live showcased Stone is comfortable with sketch comedy and would be up for anything.
Keeping in line with slapstick gags, Stone – thanks to her role in Zombieland – also displayed her action chops and has experience working in physical comedy. It’s easy to picture her in some kind of Amazing Spider-Man spoof (given her role as Gwen Stacey in Marc Webb’s reboot) serving as a damsel in distress for an inept Muppet hero.
3 Karen O
The lead singer of the group Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Karen O has gone on to transcend her status as an indie rock musician to become one of the leading female talents in the business today. Her band has been nominated for three Grammys and this past year, Karen O earned an Oscar nomination for writing “The Moon Song” from the film Her. At concerts, she’s shown she has the stage presence to energize the crowd.
A haunting rendition of “The Moon Song” would walk the fine line between weird and touching that the Muppets navigate so well. The Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ best known song is perhaps emotional love tune “Maps,” but their catalog is also full other powerful tracks like “Runaway” and “Cheated Hearts,” which would be great selections for a set piece. Like Lady Gaga (but not as notoriously so), Karen O is also famous for her fashion sense, so she could have some fun with the show’s costume department.
2 BONUS: Jason Segel and Amy Adams
The human stars of 2011’s The Muppets have already shown they have chemistry with the Muppets and can handle both the oddball humor and music numbers to go along with their brand of comedy. We’re picking these two for a more sentimental reason. Having Segel and Adams guest star would be a funny way to get the pair to reprise their roles as Gary and Mary, setting up a family reunion for new Muppet Walter.
This scenario would go right along with the Muppets’ more heartwarming side as Gary arrives to support (and surprise) his brother. Maybe the two could even bring back the hilarious “Man or Muppet” song from the first film. We’re betting it would be a fun and emotional episode.
1 Honorable Mentions
While we feel like these celebrities would give us some sensational, inspirational, celebrational, and Muppetational blocks of television, this only scratches the surface of who would be great on a reboot of The Muppet Show. Here are some honorable mentions that just missed the cut (maybe they can be on board for season two):
- Kevin Spacey: A master impressionist with a killer sense of humor.
- Rivers Cuomo: His band Weezer has a long history with the Muppets, as they covered “The Rainbow Connection” for 2011’s The Green Album and had the puppets appear in the video for their track “Keep Fishin’.”
- Neil Patrick Harris: He asked why he wasn’t hosting the telethon in The Muppets, and we have to agree this multi-talented actor would be a great guest.
- Tom Hiddleston: If Cumberbatch were unavailable, many would sign off on this fan-favorite Englishman taking the stage.
- Tina Fey: One of the funniest women in show business could parlay her Most Wanted role into a guest appearance.
- Zooey Deschanel: Her quirky girl-next-door shtick would work well with the Muppets and she’s one half of the musical group She and Him.
- Taylor Swift: Popular music artist who would earn ratings and provide catchy tunes.
- Mila Kunis: Showed off her comedic gene in Ted and is a well-liked leading lady in Hollywood.
As always, our list is not meant to be all-inclusive. There are enough celebrities perfect for the Muppets that we could fantasy cast 10 seasons worth. Be sure to include your favorite picks in the comments below and try to come up with a skit for your choices to act in.
Follow Chris on Twitter @ChrisAgar90.
Muppets Most Wanted is in now playing in theaters.
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