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Jerry Nelson

The Great Jerry Nelson (RIP).

Jerry Nelson Steve Whitmire playing music

Nelson w/ Steve Whitmire playing music together on their guitars.

Jerry L. Nelson (July 10th, 1934 - August 23rd, 2012) began his Muppeteering career working for Bil Baird. He officially joined the company in 1970 & he began working regularly on SESAME STREET. Since then, Nelson had performed as a principal Muppeteer in several other Muppet productions including the Muppet movies, The Muppet Show, Fraggle Rock, & various TV specials.

Jerry Nelsons most famous characters on The Muppet Show are, Crazy Harry, Floyd Pepper, Robin the Frog, (the nephew of Jim Hensons Kermit the Frog), Pops, Lew Zealand, Emily Bear (mother of Frank Ozs Fozzie Bear), Camilla the Chicken, & several others. It was he who originated the role of Statler to Jim Hensons Waldorf, but he soon passed it on to his very good friend Richard Hunt, with whom he was paired on several occasions. Then, after Hunt sadly passed away, Nelson became Statler again. He'd also voiced a number of GROUCHES over the years.

In 2004, Nelson announced he would be moving away from performing his classic Muppet characters, citing health reasons.[1] However, he continued to voice his characters on SESAME STREET. In 2005 Nelson was 1 of the narrators on the audiobook version of It's Not Easy Being GREEN, displaying his vocal versatility by reciting most of the quotes from Muppet characters, including Dr. Teeth & the Doozers.

In late 2009, Nelson released his debut (& tragically his only) album Truro Daydreams.[2]

Early works with HensonEdit

Jerry Nelson 1st worked with Jim Henson in 1965 when Frank Oz got drafted & Henson needed somebody to perform Rowlf the Dog's right hand on The Jimmy Dean Show. However, Frank Oz failed his draft physical, but since Nelson had just gotten his job, Oz chose to take some time off from performing & thereby let Nelson stay w/ the Muppets.

1 of Nelsons 1st major roles was Featherstone in Hey, Cinderella! & The Frog Prince. In the early 70s he also performed a full-body monster named Thog who appeared in The Great Santa Claus Switch & various variety show appearances. In The Frog Prince, he performed Kermit the Frogs nephew Robin the Frog for the 1st time; however, in that appearance, although Robins voice & personality were the same, the character was actually a prince who was turned into a frog. He also performed T.R. & Caleb Stiles in The Muppet Musicians of Bremen, Scred on SNL, & Emmet Otter in Emmet Otters Jug-Band Christmas.

SESAME STREETEdit

Leslie Carrara-Rudolph with Jerry Nelson

Leslie Carrara-Rudolph with Jerry Nelson

Jerry Nelson became part of SESAME STREET during season 2. In this season alone he was given many new characters, including Herbert Birdsfoot, Sherlock Hemlock, Herry Monster, The Amazing Mumford, Little Jerry, Simon Soundman, & Farley. In 1972, he was given the character who is perhaps his best-known character, Count von Count.

Another well-known character Nelson had performed was Big Bird's best friend, Mr. Snuffleupagus. However, most sources (including SESAME STREET UNpaved & SESAME STREET: A Celebration - 40 Years of Life on the STREET) state that strain placed on him by the large puppet eventually hurt his back so much that he had to stop performing the character (although Nelson continued to supply the voice only for a time). In a 2009 interview Jerry Nelson gave a different explanation for giving up the role: "I was not loath to give that character up. But the reasons for giving it up were because at that time we were doing The Muppet Show & he was a real part of the show, & they needed his presence. So they asked if I'd mind giving it up."[3] He also did announcer voices very often, including the announcers for the SESAME STREET News Flash & Super Grover openings

Other notable characters in Nelsons repertoire included Mr. Johnson, Frazzle, Sam the Robot, & Fred the Wonder Horse. He also performed the horns up part of the Two-Headed Monster.

Nelson was often paired w/ performer Richard Hunt. While goofing around on the set 1 day, they acted like a 2-Headed Monster, & inspired by this, a Two-Headed Monster character was created for them. Jerry Nelson performed the left half of the monster, & cause of this, had to perform the character's head w/ his left hand. (Most performers use their right hands to perform the heads of their characters.) They would also alternate in performing the character Rodeo Rosie. NELSON & Hunt also performed a construction worker duo known as Biff & Sully. Muppeteer veteran David Rudman can been seen & heard taking RICHARD HUNTs place in these 3 pairings Hunt originally made with NELSON before he passed away:


39 Years on a 40 Year Street: An Essay by Jerry NelsonEdit

"Today marks the 40th anniversary of SESAME STREET. Other than the news, historically the longest running show on television. Well, with the possible exception of a soap opera or 2. Still in all, it is humbling to have been a part of something so significant in the history of the media that was born in my lifetime.

Forty years, seems like a lifetime. Over half of my 75 years on this planet has been spent being what has been referred to as a Muppeteer. It's funny when I think about it because at least 20 of those years I denied being a puppeteer. I was an actor who was working with puppets until a film or stage job came along & all I really wanted to do was sing.

My grandparents used to give me a quarter to learn & sing songs when I was a sprout about 5 years old. "South of the Border" was maybe the 1st of a long list of tunes & I'm still learning them & singing them & will until the day I die. I don't know if they knew the extent of what they were doing & how they were prepping me to have a way to get along in the world, but I like to think so.

I guess everything you observe & do & experience in life adds to that oneness that makes each of us so unique & at the same time makes us an everyman that shares the human condition in the most fundamental ways.

Working with the Henson organization was like working with your family & when I started working on SESAME STREET that was another extended family so now the family was immense. The idea behind this SESAME STREET project was to use the tool of television to teach underprivileged preschool children, but what happened was that the show charmed, taught , & brought love & laughter into the hearts & minds of children & adults all over the world.

Chance, dumb luck or destiny? Who knows the controlling force that chooses where & how we find our lives manifest?

I can only say I have traveled through the breathtaking up & down melody of a lifetime that , I studied & trained for, wandered the paths of least resistance (following my water nature) to, & that I am either blessed & 1 of the luckiest bozos walking this planet or both. In any case:
Yeehaw, Hot Dawg, you old mustang you & Boy Howdy, today Im celebrating by getting all my chores done for once! (Oh, didn't I tell you? I'm also the laziest man on Earth.)

Norman Stiles, who was the 1st writer to write for Count, sent me this yesterday:

'It's a beautiful thing. Happy Birthday! Let's put 40 candles in the cake! Then let's light 40 candles! Then let's blow out 40 candles! Then we must take 40 candles out of the cake! Then it will be time to lick the icing off of 40 candles! Then we'll eat the cake, taking 1,000 tiny little bites! & then we will Count the burps! Ha, ha, ha!'

Norman, obviously hasn't lost it but.... I wish I'd said that!"
Jerry Nelson [5]

JERRY NELSON/RICHARD HUNT Muppet PairingsEdit

Richard Hunt Jerry Nelson Janice & Floyd Pepper
Jerry Nelson Richard Hunt Herry Monster

Jerry Nelson, with the assistance of Richard Hunt, his best friend, performing Herry Monster

The Muppet ShowEdit

Jerry Nelson Floyd Pepper

Jerry performs Floyd Pepper.

Jerry Nelson Lew Zealand

Nelson with Lew Zealand.

Robin the Frog & Jerry Nelson

Nelson with Robin the Frog

Jerry Nelson performed in both of the Muppet Show pilots. In The Muppets Valentine Show, he returned to the role of Thog, & also performed Droop & Miss Mousey. In The Muppet Show: Sex & Violence, for the very 1st time, he performed Electric Mayhem bass player Floyd Pepper. In that special he also performed Statler, Dr. Nauga, Gluttony, Envy, Sloth, the Yellow Stalk, Whaddayasay Bird & the Gene Shalit Muppet. Also in season 1, another of Jerrys characters, Robin the Frog, (the nephew of Jim Hensons Kermit the Frog), would make rather frequent visits to the Muppet theater in order to spend more time with his Uncle Kermit.

When production began on The Muppet Show as a series, Jerry chose to spend some time w/ his daughter Christine, which meant that he couldn't perform in every 1st-season episode. As a result, he gave the role of Statler to Richard Hunt, who would soon become Jerry's best friend, but for the most part Nelson retained his other characters (Floyd, Droop, etc.) from previous productions. Nelson didnt perform in episodes 101 - 103 & 111 - 115. However, when the 1st 2 episodes were reworked later in season 1, Nelson performed Floyd in a segment that was added to episode 102.

None of Nelsons characters were as central to the show as characters like Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, & Scooter & therefore Nelson often played major 1-shot backstage characters, such as Irving Bizarre, Big Tiny Tallsaddle, & Angus McGonagle. His notable recurring characters included Camilla the Chicken, Pops, Louis Kazagger, & Dr. Julius Strangepork. 1 such character, Lew Zealand, was originally intended as a 1-shot, but became a recurring character. Beginning in season 2, Nelson took over 2 of John Lovelady's characters: The announcer & Crazy Harry. Nelson went on to perform nearly every Muppet announcer in a major Henson production until 2002. He was also given such rarely-seen recurring characters as J.P. Grosse (the uncle of Richard Hunt's Scooter & the owner of the Muppet theater), Fleet Scribbler & Uncle Deadly.

In addition to his versatility at character dialects, Nelson was an accomplished vocalist & often received showcases on The Muppet Show. Some of Nelson's regular characters, like Floyd & Slim Wilson, were musicians & sang very often. Many of his other characters have displayed their musical talents, whether it was Robin the Frog singing "Halfway Down the Stairs" or "I'm Five", Thog singing "Oh Babe What Would You Say" or Pops singing "Once in Love with Amy". Nelson has also performed many songs as 1-shot characters including "All of Me" "The Windmills of Your Mind" & "3 Little Fishes". In addition to very frequent pairings with the characters of Richard Hunt, (a partnership that was the best in the entire business next to the partnership Jim Henson had with Frank Oz), Nelson was also often paired with Louise Gold in musical numbers, such as "Henrietta's Wedding" & "Your Feet's Too Big".

On his characters, Jerry Nelson was quoted in a 1978 Muppet Show "Fan Club"newsletter: "Each 1 of them is an aspect of my own personality. The Muppets are roles I assume, rather than puppets I manipulate. Robin, for instance, is an undersized metaphor for my own insecurities. He has a childlike curiosity about how things work. Uncle Deadly is the greatest ham actor of all time; Floyd is my laid-back, mellow side - cool. & then there's Crazy Harry, whose ultimate trip is spontaneous combustion. An analyst told me I should develop that side of my personality. I don't think he meant I should go around exploding everything -- just that I should give my emotions more freedom."

Nelson continued to speak fondly of his performance opportunities in later years: "I feel blessed to have worked on something that's become such an icon of the times. I've certainly always thought I've been really lucky in that respect. I enjoy singing & I get to sing a lot. I get to be in a band (the Electric Mayhem) without really being in a band. All of those things make me say, 'Well, that's 1 blessing. That's another blessing."

1980sEdit

Jerry Nelson Gobo Fraggle

Nelson & Gobo Fraggle

On Fraggle Rock, JERRY NELSON performed the show's lead character, Gobo Fraggle. He also performed Marjory the Trash Heap & Pa Gorg, w/ Richard Hunt voicing the character of Junior Gorg. JERRY NELSON was 1 of the few Muppet performers to perform voices in The Dark Crystal, performing the voices of the Skeksis Dying Emperor & the Skeksis High Priest. In The Christmas Toy, he performed Balthazar, who he would regularly perform on The Secret Life of Toys. He also performed many characters on The Jim Henson Hour, though his only recurring character on that show was Beard. However, in 1982, a terrible tragedy had struck NELSONs life & his entire family. Christine, NELSONs only daughter & child, passed away due to complications of cystic fibrosis.

1990sEdit

JERRY, not long after RICHARD HUNTs sudden, tragic death in 1992, which had robbed JERRY of his best friend, once again performed Statler, who he originally performed. He also performed Emily Bear (as Fozziwigs mother), Floyd, Robin (as Tiny Tim), Mr. Applegate, (as Jacob Marley) & the Ghost of Christmas Present in The Muppet Christmas Carol as well as Statler (as a figure on the Hispanola ship). Floyd, Mad Monty & Blind Pew in Muppet Treasure Island.

NELSON performed many minor characters on Muppets Tonight & occasionally performed on The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss. He performed his regular characters as well as Ubergonzo in Muppets from Space & he performed Count von Count & both the Grouch Mayor & Cop in the 1999 film The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland.

2000sEdit

Jerry Nelson Steve Whitmire Gobo & Wembley

Nelson with Steve Whitmire work together on the Fraggle Rock set performing Gobo & Wembley.

Beginning around 2001, Jerry Nelson began to phase out of performing his primary Muppet Show characters; citing health reasons. Many of his characters drifted to silent background roles & several were recast (Statler was handed to Steve Whitmire starting with 2002's "Keep Fishin'" music video; Floyd to John Kennedy, & then Matt Vogel, who also took over for Robin, & his half of the Two- Headed Monster to Joey Mazzarino in 2001). For the 2002 TV movie It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie, Bill Barretta performed the Muppetry & voice of Lew Lealand, but the voices of Maxine, Pops, Statler, the old Announcer of the Muppet Theater, Robin the Frog, & Floyd Pepper were actually looped by Nelson himself. Nelson also continued to voice his SESAME STREET characters, including Count von Count & The Amazing Mumford although Matt Vogel performed the Muppetry of said characters. Vogel, by 2008, had completely assumed all of Nelson's primary Muppet Show characters as well.

It was long rumored that health issues were beginning to limit Nelsons involvement in projects as the aging Muppeteer continued to stay active in the ranks of all the other Muppeteers in the business. Beginning around 2001 complications from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease & prostate cancer limited Nelson's involvement with the high-demanding Muppet projects. Nelson openly stated in August 2006 that "It is long & boring but I have had health issues for a couple of years now. Different ones...I do intend to work with my old friend Count Von Count again this next season."[1] Nelson continued to perform on SESAME STREET & had participated in exclusive DVD interviews for the 1st 2 seasons of Fraggle Rock & Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas.

2010sEdit

Jerry & Robin the Frog & Floyd Pepper

Jerry w/ Robin the Frog & Floyd Pepper

Jerry Nelson headshot

Nelson, although he was uncredited, actually did reprise his role as the Announcer during The Muppet Telethon in 2011's The Muppets. Audio clips of his original introductions to the Pigs in Space & Veterinarian's Hospital sketches & are also heard in the film when Kermit 1st walks into the Muppet Theater. Nelson also served as Announcer for JIM HENSON's Musical World in 2012.

Nelson suffered from prostate cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease & emphysema.[7] Nelson, for the last 6 years of his life, required an oxygen tank to assist his breathing.[8]

Then, on August 23rd, 2012, most, most, unfortunately, Muppeteer Veteran Jerry Nelson passed away at his Cape Cod home after years of COPD complicated health issues. Among Nelson's latest performances for SESAME STREET's 43rd season include the song "Five By" as the Count & "The Coffee Plant" as Mr. Johnson (which would be the last time where Jerry Nelsons Mr. Johnson would be partnered with Frank Ozs Grover), & a Word of the Day segment as Humpty Dumpty, & the street story of episode 4401 as the Count & the street story of episode 4411 as the Count also. Nelson also voiced the Count in the 1st installment of Kinect SESAME STREET TV & the Universal Studios Singapore attraction, Spaghetti Space Chase (as well as the SSNN announcer in the pre-show). Nelsons later work for SESAME STREET will continue to air into Season 44.

Nelsons introductory voice-over role as announcer from The Muppets was re-used in Muppets Most Wanted. The film was dedicated to him & JANE HENSON.

Muppeteer CreditsEdit

Jerry Nelson Count von Count 1
Jerry Nelson Count von Count 2
Jerry Nelson Mr. Johnson
Jerry & Jerry Nelson
Jerry Nelson 600
Jerry Nelson Floyd Pepper from The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson

Predecessors/SuccessorsEdit

NotesEdit

Audio creditsEdit

TriviaEdit

ProofEdit

  1. 1.0 1.1 Jerry "Twiddlebug" Nelson, Muppet Central Post August 22nd, 2006
  2. ToughPigs: Jerry Nelson - The Album, 1/13/2010
  3. Nelson, Jerry Tough Pigs interview with JERRY NELSON
  4. Studio DC Almost Live Hosted by Dylan & Cole Sprouse (I know the voices of the Muppets incredibly well & Jerry Nelson was totally doing the voice of Floyd but Matt Vogel performed the Muppetry). I would NEVER doubt Matt Vogel's word, but it sounds more like Jerry than Matt to me.
  5. JIMHENSONlegacy.org
  6. The Muppet Movie credits alternate audio
  7. 'Sesame Street' puppeteer Jerry Nelson dies
  8. Remembering Muppeteer Jerry Nelson
  9. The Big Bad Wolf's casting history

External linksEdit

Jerry Nelson records for Fraggle Rock

JERRY NELSON records forFraggle Rock.

Special extra picturesEdit

See alsoEdit

Page NavigationEdit


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