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PERFORMER Steve Whitmire
DEBUT 1980
DESIGN Michael Frith designer
  Mari Kaestle builder

Lips, sitting in with the orchestra.

Michael K. Frith's original design.

Lips in The Great Muppet Caper

At Christmas in Rockefeller Center in 2009

In The Muppets (2011)

Lips, rebuilt for ABC's The Muppets in 2015

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

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 went on to appear as part of the Electric Mayhem in The Great Muppet Caper, A Muppet Family Christmas, The Muppet Christmas Carol and more. Lips had a special mechanism that allowed his eyelids to turn inwards, 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 horn playing) 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:

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.[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 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 β€œbut we don’t have any instruments.” In a gravelly voice, Steve came out with β€œBuh 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."[2] It is not currently known which project this was (and the scene does not appear to have been released).

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, 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 production, the puppet was completely rebuilt, as the original puppet actually came apart during a YouTube video shoot earlier in the year.[3] He spoke his first full line in over thirty years in the episode "Hostile Makeover" of The Muppets, 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." Lips performed with the band again in The Muppets Take the Bowl and The Muppets Take the O2, now performed by Peter Linz.

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.[4]

Casting History


Print appearances