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Lips blue
PERFORMER Steve Whitmire 1980-2016
  Peter Linz 2017-present
DEBUT 1980
DESIGN Michael Frith designer
  Mari Kaestle builder
Lips-Trumpet
Lips

Lips, sitting in with the orchestra.

Frith

Michael K. Frith's original design.

Lipscloseup
Lips GMC

Lips in The Great Muppet Caper

ChristmasInRockefellerCenter2009-Zoot&Lips

At Christmas in Rockefeller Center in 2009

ObscureMuppetMovie

In The Muppets (2011)

Episode107 (2)

Lips, rebuilt for ABC's The Muppets in 2015

Lips2016

Lips at the Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival from 2016.

Lips-TED

Lips delivering a TED talk in The Muppets Mayhem

Lips is a trumpet player who joined the Electric Mayhem in season five of The Muppet Show. He continued to appear sporadically with the band in the years to follow, seldom having a major role. He eventually received some fresh characterization for the 2023 series, The Muppets Mayhem.

Lips has a special mechanism that allows his eyelids to turn inwards, usually used when he's blowing into his trumpet. He has an additional mechanism that allows his fingers to press on his trumpet's valves. 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. Behind-the-scenes, Lips was named after the imagery used to promote The Rocky Horror Picture Show, one of performer Steve Whitmire's favorite movies.[1]

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 2010.

Debut[]

Lips first appeared in the fifth and final season of The Muppet Show, as a way of giving rising performer Steve Whitmire his own member of the band. In addition to the Electric Mayhem, he also appeared as a part of the Muppet Orchestra (earning a brief solo during the theme song).

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 horn playing) and seldom even spoke. He received a single, solo singing line in "Barnyard Boogie," and had 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:

β€œI 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.[2]”

Films and Specials[]

Following The Muppet Show, Lips made his first appearance on the big screen in the Muppets' next big project, The Great Muppet Caper. He joins the Electric Mayhem as patrons of the Happiness Hotel, and is given a small amount of dialogue (yelling "Ding ding!" and "Let's hit the road! How 'bout a little travelin' music?" before "Night Life," and "And me!" during the finale). Although the Electric Mayhem appears as a unit in the following film, The Muppets Take Manhattan, Lips is not present in the group (but makes a cameo in the wedding scene).

Lips appeared with the band in various TV specials throughout the decade, including The Muppets: A Celebration of 30 Years and A Muppet Family Christmas. He made one more appearance in The Muppet Christmas Carol, playing in the band at Fozziwig's Christmas Party, before fading offscreen.

Return[]

In 2009, Lips made his first appearance in nearly two decades with the rest of the Electric Mayhem in the NBC special Christmas in Rockefeller Center, playing his trusty horn for a performance of "Run, Run Rudolph." He returned to the big screen soon after, rejoining the Muppet Orchestra in the 2011 film, The Muppets. In the 2014 sequel, Muppets Most Wanted, he appears once again as a part of the Electric Mayhem and was retained in many productions since.

Reflecting on the production of the film in 2013, Dave Goelz said of the character:

β€œSteve 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.[3]”

During the shooting of "Kodachrome" in 2015, the puppet (the same one used since The Muppet Show) finally came apart,[4] necessitating a rebuild. A fully rebuilt version of Lips debuted that fall on the ABC series, The Muppets, playing in the house band on Up Late with Miss Piggy. He spoke his first full line in over thirty years in the episode "Hostile Makeover," declaring, "And we love us some gas station sushi!" He would later get more dialogue in "The Ex-Factor," "Going, Going, Gonzo," and "Little Green Lie."

Following the season, Lips joined the band for their live performance at the 2016 Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival, which would end up being Steve Whitmire's final performance as the character. In the live shows to follow β€” The Muppets Take the Bowl in 2017, and The Muppets Take the O2 in 2018 β€” the character was performed by Peter Linz, who continued to perform Lips (a non-verbose character once again) in subsequent appearances.

The Muppets Mayhem[]

In The Muppets Mayhem, Lips has his biggest role to date, as the series centers on solely the members of the Electric Mayhem as they produce their first album. For the show, Lips now speaks in mumbles intelligible to primarily the other band members and Moog. He's also established as being very well-connected with various high-profile celebrities for various reasons (such as serving as Sofia Carson's manny, or inspiring the Bangles' hit song "Walk Like an Egyptian"). He is also the only member of the band to have a smartphone (at first). He has a minor arc during the season where, after a hallucinogenic experience involving expired marshmallows, he is convinced he has to save the world somehow and presents a TED talk about the subject in the season finale.

Linz partially based the voice on a mechanic he knew in Georgia.[5] Prior to the series' debut, this new take on Lips was first seen publicly during the Electric Mayhem's live appearance at the D23 Expo 2022.

Filmography[]

Print appearances[]

Sources[]

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