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Zootfull
PERFORMER Dave Goelz
DEBUT 1975
DESIGN Bonnie Erickson designer
  Dave Goelz builder
Zoot

Zoot, as seen in Season 1 of The Muppet Show

Zoot and Rowlf

Zoot and Rowlf in The Muppets.

Mayhem-ZootCamera

Zoot with his trusty camera in The Muppets Mayhem

Zoot is the balding, blue-haired saxophone player for the Electric Mayhem. According to his performer and builder Dave Goelz, "Zoot is just a fifty-year-old burnt-out musician."[1]

Zoot first appeared with his bandmates in The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence before securing a regular gig on The Muppet Show, where he played both in the Muppet Orchestra and with the Mayhem. He also appeared in all of the Muppet theatrical movies. To date, he has been consistently performed by Dave Goelz with the exception of The Jim Henson Hour episode 112 (with Kevin Clash filling in).[2]

One of Zoot's trademarks is blowing small notes of music at a time. He notably blew the final note of "The Muppet Show Theme" in the closing credits on every episode of The Muppet Show (except episode 123), The Muppets Go Hollywood, and The Muppets: A Celebration of 30 Years. Although most of his appearances were with the Electric Mayhem, Zoot was more prominently featured as an individual in the early episodes, appearing with Juliet Prowse in a blackout in episode 101, and playing a reluctant duet with Mahna Mahna in "Sax and Violence" in episode 102.

Zoot was considerably more talkative during the show's first season. He demonstrated a worshipful love of influential saxophonist Charlie Parker during the "Sax and Violence" sketch, pleading for Parker's forgiveness over agreeing to perform the song. In subsequent seasons, he began speaking less, often expressing himself purely with music. Dave Goelz explained that "I found that when the writers gave Zoot lines to speak, I would always try to give them away to other characters because I didn't know what to do with him. Maybe that helped to define the character. Perhaps it's best that he's so non-verbal."[1]

Zoot became much more talkative on The Muppets, often making candid but humorous observations.

The Muppets Mayhem established Zoot's last name as "Zootowski."[note 1] In the show, he's the band's photographer and primarily uses a Polaroid camera (later revealed to be a gift from his bandmates, who hoped the pictures would help jog his often-hazy memory). When he's given his first smartphone, Zoot takes advantage of the digital camera and, as the band embarks on solo projects, becomes a well-respected photographer in the art scene. He is also accompanied by Jimmy Shoe, his personal talking footwear. The series also establishes that he has two bellybuttons (one an innie, and one an outie), and some degree of telekinetic powers.

Personal Life[]

Zoot-menorah

Lighting a Menorah in A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa

MrBlueSky8

Zoot in 2021's "Mr. Blue Sky" video.

Zoot is indicated to be Jewish in A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa, where Zoot wishes Kermit a happy Hanukkah when he and the rest of the Electric Mayhem arrive at the Christmas party, and in the extended DVD release, where he lights a Menorah.

Apart from his sax prowess and limited conversation, Zoot is rather spacy, having to be reminded of his own name and instrument by Floyd in The Muppet Movie. His personal habits and living situation sometimes appear to be sketchy. Near the ending of the "Bohemian Rhapsody" (Kermit's Commentary) video, Kermit finds Zoot in the phone booth. Kermit says he didn't hear him come in. Zoot replies, "Come in? I've been sleeping here for three months." The Great Muppet Caper reveals that he has only one pair of pants.

In the premiere of the 2015 series The Muppets, Zoot is strongly implied to be an alcoholic; told he's at a (writers) meeting, he stands up and introduces himself in the same fashion one does at an AA meeting.

Zoot's memory issues, in addition to his tendency to lose track of reality, became a major trait in The Muppets Mayhem. For example, he's consistently confused about the band's documentary project, not grasping that he'll be playing himself. He offers multiple casting suggestions but is unaware that his choices have died, including James Brown and Frank Sinatra.

Behind the Scenes[]

Goelz-Zoot

Dave Goelz and Zoot on the set of The Muppet Show

Evolution[]

Bonnie Erickson designed Zoot based on a sketch she'd done of Argentinian sax player Gato Barbieri.[3] Through the years, the Zoot puppet has been redesigned several times. His skin has changed from gray to blue to green, the texture from exposed foam to fleece and back again, and his nose from green to yellow. Consistent traits have been his bald spot, his trademark shades (which remained the same style until 2009), and his long, blue hair. See Zoot Through the Years to track his changes.

Performing Zoot[]

Dave Goelz has occasionally laid out certain frustrations he's had in developing and performing the character. In a 2000 interview, he lamented:

โ€œI was about 26-27, and we always conceived of him as a 50 year-old, burnt-out musician. Now I'm 53, and I still can't play him - probably because I'm still locked into the Zoot I played from the beginning. If I started fresh it would certainly be easier at this point in my life. Anyway, I had a conception of him as a guy who was totally into his music, who lived in a succession of hotels, who had never had a home... his life was just music. And he was just spaced out all the time. He had no ability to communicate with people using words. As a result, whenever they scripted lines for him, I tried to give them to Floyd. I was always trying to give away lines, because I didn't know how to do him. The irony was, after I did this for awhile and Zoot became established as a rather silent character.[4]โ€

He further expressed frustration with the static design of the puppet compared to characters such as Lips, whose hair allows for dynamic movement and can help enhance the manipulation of the puppet.[5]

When the opportunity came to expand on Zoot's character for his starring role in The Muppets Mayhem, Goelz proposed taking the character in a more surreal direction.

โ€œI pitched the idea, I said, "What if he's surreal? What if he's just like something from a Magritte painting and you can't explain him?" So we're putting some of that in this show...like he hands Cheech and Chong a dime and it floats out of his hand and they take it out of the air...things like that. There are all kinds of oddball things that you'll see Zoot doing that we're not going to explain.[5]โ€

Sax playing[]

Dave-ZootNotes

Goelz' self-produced sheet music for Zoot

For the run of The Muppet Show, Zoot's musical "voice" was Frank Reidy. His saxophone is designed to resemble an alto. However, the sound and range was usually that of a tenor, while sax player John Whelan played baritone sax for his deeper theme song notes. For The Muppet Movie, sax player David Garland played for Zoot.

When performing Zoot, Dave Goelz would listen to a prepared recording of the music track and then scribble out his own "sheet music" he can follow along with.[6]

Filmography[]

Minuet

Performing with the Electric Mayhem on The Muppet Show

TMS516-13

Zoot's sax solo for "I Heard It Through the Grapevine"

MCC-Screengrabs-EM05-a

Zoot playing the violin in The Muppet Christmas Carol

ZootS3Credits

Performing in the closing theme

Book appearances[]

Zootsax

Merchandise[]

Sources[]

Notes
  1. โ†‘ Tommy Chong calls him "Dave" in reference to the comedy album Cheech and Chong.

See also[]

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