The President of the United States is the chief executive of the United States of America. The office of President was established upon the ratification of the US Constitution in 1789, and the President serves as chief executive and head of the executive branch of the United States government. The President is also designated as the Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, and has powers to sign bills into law, grant pardons or reprieves, and appoint officers, ambassadors, and judges, amongst other powers. The White House is the official home and principal workplace of the President. To date, there have been forty-five individuals who have served forty-six presidencies; the current president, Joe Biden, took office on January 20, 2021.
The post of President has been a highly sought one since its inception. Candidates, in addition to politicians, generals, businessmen, lawyers, and other real-world figures, have included several fictional personages. From Pogo to Winnie the Pooh, colorful icons have tossed their hats into the rings, and the Muppets are no exception. The most notable candidates have been Big Bird and Miss Piggy.
Big Bird, average resident of Sesame Street, first ran for President in Episode 0797, and learned that being President is a big responsibility. The story was the kickoff for the show's Bicentennial celebration. Big Bird lost in that episode, despite having an elaborate campaign and even a presidential seal.
However, Big Bird's ambitions to become President were eventually fulfilled, albeit on a much smaller scale. In 1988, special elections were held for President of Sesame Place, with no age restrictions or pre-registration required. Big Bird was a leading candidate, with the slogan "Birds of a feather flock together." He faced stiff competition from Cookie Monster, Grover, Ernie, Bert, Prairie Dawn, and in an unprecedented attempt to launch a collective into office instead of an individual, the Honkers. Big Bird won, carrying 24% of the vote. Details of his administration and subsequent activities, and how much executive government a children's theme park would need anyway, remain undocumented. Back on the street, Big Bird later became an outspoken supporter of H. Ross Parrot.
In contrast to the unprepossessing, modest Big Bird, Miss Piggy has been far more open about her ambitions. In 1980, she graced the cover of LIFE magazine, openly announcing her intentions. Buttons were also distributed. Not long thereafter, a running storyline in the Muppet comic strip covered her campaign in great detail; Scooter served as manager. Though that bid was less than successful, Miss Piggy remained dedicated. In 1992, she again made a bid, facing off against Gonzo in a televised debate on Good Morning America.
It's possible that these ambitions may have occurred to Piggy in her formative years. The Muppet Babies episode "What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?," in a fantasy song sequence, depicted Baby Piggy as President (introduced by Baby Rowlf in Uncle Sam garb).
Many years later, appearing on The Last Leg in 2018, Piggy was asked if she was considering a run for the Presidency now that Oprah Winfrey was out. She responded, "Oh, no. No no no no. Politics is for people who are not good-looking or talented enough to make it in showbusiness."
The Bird and the Pig have not been alone in their politicking, however.
- Betty Lou fantasized about running for office in the 1993 book I Want to Be President. In her imagination, she made state visits, held press conferences, and hosted the Easter Egg hunt on the White House lawn.
- Kermit the Frog has never formally stumped for office. However, along with Mickey Mouse, he has frequently served as a write-in candidate. In Connecticut during the 1980 election, both Kermit and Miss Piggy received write-in support, alongside Ed Koch, Mickey, and Dr. Frankenstein.
- In 1999, pundit Gregory Freeman urged Kermit to run in earnest:
- In 1981, The Muppet Show Fan Club Newsletter, Vol. 3, no. 2, revealed that students from Frost Intermediary School in Fairfax, Virginia had campaigned to draft Floyd Pepper to run for President, since "he could easily handle the job as leader instead of bass." Touched by the support, the newsletter presents Floyd's political views on the draft (he prefers bottled beer), education (he talks about his van), the ERA (Equal Rights Amendment, but Floyd things its Earned Riff Average for musicians), nasal spray, chewing gum, and foreign affairs: "I wouldn't mind bettering relations in this area but I prefer American chicks."
- At least one Muppet has apparently succeeded in reaching the office, however. A Whatnot appeared as Mr. President in Muppets Tonight episode 202, undergoing therapy with Meepzorp in the Independence Day spoof "Co-dependents Day: CD4."
- The "shifty-eyed" variant of Sam the Eagle Action Figure Series 8 by Palisades Toys includes a book titled Strategies for the All-American Campaign: Sam the Eagle 2004. Inside the book is a draft campaign speech, a list of "Important people to mention in speeche (sic)" (including Wayne and Wanda), and a "Note to self: Remember to select a running mate." Furthermore, one of Sam's stickers reads "Sam the Eagle 2004" has the slogans "honesty, integrity, patriotism" along the circular border of the sticker.
- In the song "We Coulda," Biff states he and Sully could've ran for President of the United States had they not chosen to be construction workers. In his imagination, Biff is seen striking Richard Nixon's popular "V sign" pose.
- Elmo imagines himself as the first monster and youngest President of the United States in the "Elmo the Musical" segment, "President the Musical." He is aided by his "sheep-ret service" and his first, second and third ladies (caricatures of Michelle Obama, Nancy Reagan and Barbra Bush respectively).
- Meanwhile, in the realm of Creatures, the Dinosaurs universe sports the Chief Elder as president analogue. In the second season episode "And the Winner Is...," Earl Sinclair and B.P. Richfield enter a fierce political battle for office. Though Earl briefly leads, he ultimately sabotages his own campaign, for the good of the country, and voters instead elect political analyst Edward R. Hero, who was not in fact a candidate.
- Sue Snue imagines growing up to be President in The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss book Who Are You, Sue Snue?
- Grover attempts to run for President in a 2016 video for Khan Academy. He learns about the Electoral College process, which is explained in "chickens," and he proceeds to his latest rally, planning to "wing it" in front of his chicken crowd.
List of Individual Presidents
Of those who have served as President since 1789, twenty-two have either been depicted, referenced, or in some cases, personally interacted or collaborated in Muppet projects. These office-holders are listed below, with the dates of their terms.
- George Washington (1789–1797)
- John Adams (1797–1801)
- Thomas Jefferson (1801–1809)
- Millard Fillmore (1850-1853)
- Abraham Lincoln (1861–1865)
- Ulysses S. Grant (1869–1877)
- Grover Cleveland (1885–1889, 1893–1897)
- Theodore Roosevelt (1901–1909)
- Herbert Hoover (1929–1933)
- Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1933–1945)
- Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961)
- John F. Kennedy (1961–1963)
- Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969)
- Richard Nixon (1969-1974)
- Gerald R. Ford (1974–1977)
- Jimmy Carter (1977–1981)
- Ronald Reagan (1981–1989)
- George H. W. Bush (1989–1993)
- Bill Clinton (1993–2001)
- George W. Bush (2001–2009)
- Barack Obama (2009–2017)
- Donald Trump (2017–2021)
- Joe Biden (2021–)
The First Lady of the United States is the unofficial title of the hostess of the White House. The following First Ladies have worked with the Muppets.
- Pat Nixon (1969–1974)
- Betty Ford (1974-1977)
- Rosalynn Carter (1977-1981)
- Nancy Reagan (1981-1989)
- Barbara Bush (1989–1993)
- Hillary Clinton (1993–2001)
- Laura Bush (2001–2009)
- Michelle Obama (2009–2017)
- Jill Biden (2021–)
Several politicians who have announced their candidacies for president have also appeared with or been referenced by Muppets.
- Michael Bloomberg (2020 ran for the Democratic nomination)
- Cory Booker (2020 ran for the Democratic nomination)
- Joe Biden (1988, 2008, and 2020 ran for the Democratic nomination and won for the latter)
- Lincoln Chafee (2016, ran for Democratic nomination)
- Shirley Chisholm (1972, ran for Democratic nomination)
- Hillary Clinton (2008, ran for the Democratic nomination; 2016 Democratic nominee)
- Stephen Colbert (2008, attempted run for Democratic and Republican nominations in South Carolina)
- Christopher Dodd (2008, ran for the Democratic nomination)
- Michael Dukakis (1988, Democratic nominee)
- Newt Gingrich (2012, ran for Republican nomination)
- Al Gore (2000, Democratic nominee)
- Mike Huckabee (2008 and 2016, ran for the Republican nomination)
- Jon Huntsman, Jr. (2012, ran for the Republican nomination)
- Jesse Jackson (1984 and 1988, ran for the Democratic nomination)
- Ralph Nader (1992, write-in candidate; 1996 and 2000, Green Party nominee; 2004 and 2008, independent candidate)
- Pat Paulsen (while portraying an inept political candidate, appeared on primary ballots between 1968 and 1996, including 1992, Republican nomination, and 1996, Democratic nomination)
- H. Ross Perot (1992, independent candidate; 1996, Reform Party nominee)
- Scott Walker (2016, ran for Republican nomination)
- Mount Rushmore, featuring the likenesses of Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt, has been featured in multiple productions
- In I Love Liberty, in addition to Fozzie Bear as John Adams and Kermit the Frog as Thomas Jefferson, Miss Piggy appeared dressed as first Washington and then Lincoln.
- The first Great Moments in Elvis History sketch on Muppets Tonight featured Jefferson and Washington, along with John Hancock.
- The closing gag of Muppets Tonight episode 103 showed Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan (played by uncredited impersonators) as members of Billy Crystal's all-star band, detained by Bobo the Bear. Other members included Boris Yeltsin, Clint Eastwood, and Queen Elizabeth of England.
- Animated portraits of George Washington, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson appear on President Elmo's office wall in the "President the Musical" segment of "Elmo the Musical."
The figure of President of the United States, whether a portrayal of a historical president or a wholly fictional creation, has been prominently featured in countless film and television productions over the decades. Several Presidential portrayers have also worked in Muppet/Henson productions.
As real presidents:
- F. Murray Abraham played Abraham Lincoln in Dream West (1986, TV mini-series)
- Simon Russell Beale played John Adams in John and Abigail Adams, The American Experience (2000, TV)
- Robert Beatty played Ronald Reagan in Breakthrough at Reykajavik (1987, TV)
- Kenneth Branagh played Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Warm Springs (2005, TV movie)
- Billy Crystal voiced John Adams in Liberty's Kids (2002, TV Series)
- Henry Fonda played Abraham Lincoln in Young Mr. Lincoln (1939, film)
- Michael Gambon played Lyndon B. Johnson in Path to War (2002, TV movie)
- Paul Giamatti played John Adams in John Adams (2008, TV mini-series)
- Pat Hingle played John Adams in Independence (1976, film)
- Frank Langella played Richard Nixon in Frost/Nixon (2008, film)
- Tom Selleck played Dwight D. Eisenhower in Ike: Countdown to D-Day (2004, TV movie)
- Martin Sheen played John F. Kennedy in Kennedy (1983, TV mini-series)
- Ben Stiller voiced Thomas Jefferson in Liberty's Kids (2002, TV series)
- Robin Williams played Theodore Roosevelt in Night at the Museum (2006, film), Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (2009, film), and Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (2014, film)
As fictional presidents:
- Edward Asner played President Thomas D. Moss in Mars and Beyond (2000, film)
- Robert Beatty played the President in Superman IV: Quest for Peace (1983, film)
- Lynda Carter plays President Olivia Marsdin on Supergirl (2016-present)
- Dabney Coleman played President Richmond in My Date with the President's Daughter (1998, TV movie)
- James Cromwell played President Robert Fowler in The Sum of All Fears (2002, film) and President D. Wire Newman in an episode of The West Wing (2004, TV)
- Geena Davis played President Mackenzie Allen in Commander in Chief (2005-2006, TV)
- Charles Durning played President David Stevens in Twilight's Last Gleaming (1977, film)
- Henry Fonda played unnamed presidents in Fail-Safe (1964, film) and Meteor (1979, film)
- Morgan Freeman played President Tom Beck in Deep Impact (1998, film)
- John Goodman played Acting President Glen Allen Walken in The West Wing (2003, TV)
- James Earl Jones played President Douglass Dilman in The Man (1972, film)
- Ben Kingsley played President Gary Nance in Dave (1993, film)
- Kevin Kline played President William Harrison Mitchell in Dave (1983, film)
- Martin Landau played President Morose in By Dawn's Early Light (1990, film)
- William H. Macy played the President in an episode of The Unit (2007, TV)
- Bob Newhart played President Manfred Link in First Family (1980, film)
- Leslie Nielsen played President Harris in Scary Movie 3 (2003, film) and Scary Movie 4 (2005, film)
- Gregory Peck played the President in Amazing Grace and Chuck (1987, film)
- Kevin Pollak played President Walter Emerson in Deterrence (1999, film)
- Dennis Quaid played President Staton in American Dreamz (2006, film)
- John Ritter played President Chet Roosevelt in Americathon (1979, film)
- Joan Rivers played President Rivers in Les Patterson Saves the World (1987, film)
- Tim Robbins played the President in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999, film)
- Chris Rock played President Mays Gilliam in Head of State (2003, film)
- George C. Scott played President Samuel A. Tresch in Mr. President (1987, TV)
- Peter Sellers played President Merkin Muffley in Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964, film)
- Martin Sheen played President Josiah Edward "Jed" Bartlet on The West Wing (1997-2004, TV) and President Greg Stillson in The Dead Zone (1983, film)
- Loretta Swit played President Barbara Adams in Whoops Apocalypse (1986, film)
- Lynne Thigpen played President Marjorie Bota in Bicentennial Man (1999, film)
- John Travolta played President Jack Stanton in Primary Colors (1998, film)
- Jack Warden played President Roberts in Being There (1979, film)
- Fred Willard played President Garner in three episodes of Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (1997, TV)
- Robin Williams played President-elect Tom Dobbs in Man of the Year (2006, film)
- Presidents Day
- Kid President
- I Want to Be President
- United States Congress
- Supreme Court of the United States
- Wald, Matthew. The New York Times. December 7, 1980.
- Freeman, Gregory. "We Need Character, Not a Bunch of Characters, in the Race for President." St. Louis Post-Dispatch. October 10, 1999.