Jerry Nelson (July 10th, 1934 - August 23rd, 2012) started his puppeteering career working for Bil Baird. In 1970, he joined the company & began working regularly on Sesame Street. Since then, Nelson has performed as a principal puppeteer in numerous Muppet productions including the Muppet movies, The Muppet Show, Fraggle Rock, & various TV specials.
Jerry Nelson's characters on The Muppet Show are, Crazy Harry, Floyd Pepper, Robin the Frog, (the nephew of Jim Henson's Kermit the Frog), Pops, Lew Zealand, Emily Bear (mother of Frank Oz's Fozzie Bear), Camilla the Chicken, & several others. It was he who originated the role of Statler to Jim Henson's 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, Jerry became the new Statler.
Early works with Henson
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 Nelson's 1st major roles was Featherstone in Hey, Cinderella! & The Frog Prince. In the early 1970s, 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 Frog's nephew Robin the Frog for the 1st time; however, in that appearance, although Robin's voice & personality were the same, the character was actually a prince who was turned into a frog. Nelson also performed T.R. & Caleb Stiles in The Muppet Musicians of Bremen, Scred on SNL, & Emmet Otter in Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas.
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 who Nelson performed was Big Bird's best friend, Mr. Snuffleupagus, but he retired from that character due to schedule conflicts with The Muppet Show, & that part was eventually taken over by Marty Robinson. Other notable characters in Nelson's 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. David Rudman took over for both Sully & Richard's half of the Two-Headed Monster not long after his death.
The Muppet Show
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 Jerry's characters, Robin the Frog, (the nephew of Jim Henson's 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, Nelson chose to spend some time with 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 he retained his other characters (Floyd, Droop, etc.) from previous productions. Nelson didn't 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 Nelson's 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 soon became a recurring character. Beginning in season 2, Nelson took over 2 of John Lovelady's roles: 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 his regular characters, such as Floyd & Slim Wilson, were musicians & sang 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 Fishies". 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."
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 Nelson's life & his entire family. Christine, his daughter, tragically passed away.
Jerry, not long after Richard Hunt's 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 Fozziwig's mother), Floyd, Robin (as Tiny Tim), Mr. Applegate, & 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. Robin was seen in the opening of this movie but it is unknown whether or not Jerry gave him any lines to say.
He 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 as well as both the Grouch Mayor & the Grouch Cop in the 1999 film, The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland.
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 to Steve Whitmire starting with the "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 provided the voice of Lew Lealand, but the voices of the announcer, Robin, & Floyd were looped by Nelson himself. Nelson also continues to voice his Sesame Street characters, including Count von Count & the Amazing Mumford, although Matt Vogel performs the Muppetry of said characters. Vogel, by 2008, had fully assumed most of Nelson's primary Muppet Show characters as well.
It was long rumored that health issues were beginning to limit Nelson's involvement in projects as the aging puppeteer continued to stay active in the ranks of the Muppeteers. 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." Nelson continues to perform on Sesame Street & has participated in exclusive DVD interviews for the 1st 2 seasons of Fraggle Rock & Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas.
- The Muppet Show: African Mask (Fire), Albert Flan, Angus McGonagle, The Announcer (1977 - 1981), Automatic Wastebasket, Bagpipes (520), Baskerville the Hound (106, 116, 208 & 216, 308), Beakie (412), Behemoth (202), Benny, Big Tiny Tallsaddle, Bruno, Burlington Bertie, Bust of Beethoven, Camilla the Chicken (1978 - 2003), Cheesecake, Chuckie, Crazy Harry (1977 - 2002), Dancers, The Dancing Clown, The Devil, Doglion (209), Dodo (415), Dracula, Droop, Eel (417), Emily Bear, Eric the Yodeling Clam, Featherstone, Female Koozebanian Creature, Fleet Scribbler, Floyd Pepper (1975 - 2005; 2008), Forcryingoutloud Bird (309), Fozzie Pig, Fred, Reggie, Fuzz Brother, The Gambler, Geri & the Atrics tambourine player (517), Gingerbread Man, Gorgon Heap (201), Granny the Gouger, Gnu, Harold, House #1 (107), House #2, Humpty Dumpty, Irving Bizarre, J.P. Grosse, Jar of Orange Marmalade, Jerry, John Cleese's Agent, Dr. Julius Strangepork, Koozebanian Phoob, Lenny the Lizard (episode 107), Dancer, Lew Zealand (1978 - 2003), Louis Kazagger, Sundance (416, 505), Luncheon Counter Monster (occasionally), Mean Mama (occasional), Merdlidop, Mickey Moose, Miss Mousey, Mulch (509), The Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly, Opossum, Paul, Paul Revere, Pierre LaCousse, Pops, Prince Rudolph, Punching Bag, The Queen (episode 121), Quongo (513), Robin the Frog (1971 - 2003), Sacrificial Idol, Salzburg Sauerkraut Singer, Sarchophagi, Scotsman, Shark (417), Screaming Thing, Shouting Lady, Singing Owl, Slim Wilson, The Sphinx, Statler, (1975; 1992 - 2002), Statler's Grandson, Super Sheep, Talking Machine, Thog, Thudge McGerk, Tom, Uncle Deadly, Vendaface, Vendawish, Whaddayasay Bird, Whatnot Monster, William Tell, The Witch Doctor, Yellow Creature, Yorick, Zelda Rose (218)
- Sesame Street: Adam T. Glaser, Al, Andy, a banana from "Bilingual Fruit Song" (speaking voice only), Barry Rhymie, Bad Humor Man (3085), Bennett Snerf (monster version), Biff, Big Barney, Big Jeffy (in a sketch where Grover & the Monotones demonstrate the word "Walk"), Bill Compton Muppet, Bill Smith, Billy, Carlos, Charlie (occasional), Chester O'Leary, Christopher Columbus, Chunky Cheese, Clam, Cookie Hood, Cookie Monster's Pop & Sister, Corny the Corn, Count von Count, Cousin Monster, Cyranose de Bergerac, David Finch, Dr. Livingstone, Dr. Snuffleupagus, Baby Monster, Ernest the Grouch, Farley, Farley, Felix the Grouch, Fico, Football, Frankie Monster, Frazzle, Fred the Wonder Horse, Frog ("We Are All Earthlings"), The Genie (1976), George, George Washington ("News Flash"), Granny Grouch, Green "Fat Cat" performer, Green Ed, Guntag Gelman-Jones, H. Ross Parrot, Harvey Monster, Herbert Birdsfoot, Herry Monster, Hickory Dickory Duck, Hopalong Hamster, Humpty Dumpty, I. M. Pig, J Friend, Jack Be Nimble, Jackman Wolf, Japanese Storyteller, Jerome, Joe, Kathleen the Cow, Kermit the Forg, Kermit the Gorf, Kermit the Grof, King Wasteful V, Leo Birdelli, Leonard Birdseed, Leonard Wolf, Little Bo Peep, Little Jerry, Lord Hog, Mad Man, Marty, Mary Rhymie, Maurice Monster, Mean Manny, Middle, Mike, Elmo (1970s), Monster Cookie, Mr. Chatterly, Mr. Foot, Mr. Ice Cream Cone Man, Mr. Johnson, Mr. Lucky, Mr. Snuffleupagus (1971 - 1978), Natalie, Nick Normal, Noel Cowherd, Number Guy, Oak Tree, Old King Cole, Pamela, Parker Monster, Phil Harmonic, Pierre, Piper Piper, a potato from "Low Grow High Grow Low", Prince Firstly, Professor Nucleus Von Fission, Pumpkin Monotone (in the song "Proud"), Ricardo Monsterban, Rick, Rocky, Rocky, Rodeo Rosie, Ronnie Trash, Sam the Robot, Sammy, Sammy the Snake, Sergeant Thursday, Sheriff Shrimp, Sherlock Hemlock, Simon Soundman, Sir John Feelgood, Slimey, Smart Tina, Sneaky the Elf, Sullivan ("Numerical Correspondence"), Teeth, The Amazing Mumford, The Big Bad Wolf, The Country Moose, The Emperor, The Fastest Person in the Kingdom, The Gonk, The Great Fentini, The Hare, The London Frog, The Miller's Daughter, The Royal Barber, Angry, Drippy, Snookey, Sparkey, The Smartest Person in the Kingdom, The Sun, The Young Man Who Lives in a Glove, Tina Twiddlebug, Tony (1970), Tony, Tornado, Tough Eddie, Trevor Trout, The Two-Headed Monster (left head, 1980 - 2002), Uncle Louie, Vern, Vidal Spittoon, Walter, Walter, Witch, Xaiver, Yip Yip Martians, Zizzy Zoomer, The Oat Bran Zydeco "Je Ne Sais Quoi" Band Lead Singer, various announcers & others
- The Jimmy Dean Show (1965 - 1966): Rowlf the Dog's right-hand
- Commercials: Assisting for Southern Colonel, Nutty Bird, & others.
- The Ed Sullivan Show: Clam, Lead Violinist
- The Great Santa Claus Switch: Thog, Zippity, Snivelly, Green Scoff
- Tales from Muppetland: Featherstone, Caleb Stiles, Rover Joe (puppet), Stepsister # 2, Sweetums (Muppetry), T.R.
- Muppet Meeting Films: Announcers, P. Fenton Cosgrove
- One to One: The King of Phumph
- Saturday Night Live: Scred
- The Muppet Valentine Show
- The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence: Floyd Pepper, Statler, Envy, Gluttony, Gene Shalit Muppet, Thomas Jefferson, Statler, Yellow Stalk
- Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass: Miss Piggy, Beautiful Day Monster (voice only)
- Peter Alexander präsentiert Spezialitäten #10: Ernie
- Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas: Emmet Otter, Doc Bullfrog, Melissa Rabbit, Stanley Weasel, Yancy Woodchuck
- Christmas Eve on Sesame Street: Count von Count
- The Muppet Movie: Floyd Pepper, Lew Zealand, Crazy Harry, Robin the Frog, & Camilla the Chicken
- The Great Muppet Caper: Lew Zealand, Floyd Pepper, Pops, Louis Kazagger, Dirty Bird
- The Dark Crystal: SkekSok and SkekZok (voices only)
- Fraggle Rock: Gobo Fraggle, Marjory the Trash Heap, Pa Gorg (face & voice), Architect Doozer, Archbanger Fraggle (Pipebanger), Balsam the Minstrel (occasional), Feenie Fraggle, Fishface Fraggle, Mervin Merggle, Rudy Vallee Doozer, Uncle Gobo
- The Muppets Take Manhattan:, Pops, Floyd Pepper, Lew Zealand, Crazy Harry, Robin the Frog, Camilla the Chicken, Bear
- Follow That Bird: Count von Count, Herry Monster
- The Christmas Toy: Balthazar
- Little Muppet Monsters
- A Muppet Family Christmas: Floyd Pepper, Robin the Frog, Camilla the Chicken, Emily Bear, Count von Count, Herry Monster, the Two-Headed Monster, Gobo Fraggle
- The Jim Henson Hour: Beard, Orange Extreme, Jo-Beth Garfdoohoo
- The Muppets at Walt Disney World: Floyd Pepper, Robin the Frog, Camilla the Chicken, Emily Bear
- The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson: Lew Zealand, Floyd Pepper, Robin the Frog
- The Muppet Christmas Carol: The Ghost of Christmas Present (face & voice), Mr. Applegate, Father Mouse, Pig Businessman, Rat Bookkeeper, Statler (as Jacob Marley), Penguins, Inkspots, Emily Bear (as Ma Fozziwig), Singing Food, Floyd Pepper, Robin the Frog (as Tiny Tim), Lew Zealand
- Billy Bunny's Animal Songs: Cecil Bear, Raccoon 2, The Turtle, Frogs
- The Secret Life of Toys: Balthazar, Bratty Rat, Dinkybeard
- Muppet Classic Theater: The Big Bad Wolf, Loyal Royal Advisor
- Muppet Treasure Island: Monocled Pirate, Calico, Blind Pew, Mad Monty, Sal Minella, Island Heads, Floyd Pepper, Lew Zealand, Statler (as Figurehead of the Hispaniola), Inkspots, Octopuses, Skulls, Jacques Roach (Cabin Fever), Spotted Dick, Singing Food
- The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss: The Snoozer
- Muppets Tonight: A. Ligator, Baby Jerry, Clarissa, Dr. Watson, Eggheads, Elvises, Ernest Pleth, The Head of the Network, Indiana Rat, The Irish Rodents, Jowls, The Mad Bomber, Mama Fiama, Moo-ing the Merciful, Percy, Phil, The President, The Rock Lobsters, Rob Reiner Muppet, Robbie, Robot Abraham Lincoln, Statler, Stosh, Taylor the Turkey, Torisho, & The Two-Headed Comic (Left Head).
- Muppets from Space: Robin the Frog, Floyd Pepper, Lew Zealand, Statler, Ubergonzo
- The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland: Count von Count, Pestie, Grouch Mayor, Grouch Cop
- Muppet RaceMania: Statler, Floyd Pepper, Robin the Frog
- It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie: Statler, the Muppets announcer, Robin the Frog & Floyd Pepper
- Muppets Party Cruise: Floyd Pepper, Statler, Dr. Julius Strangepork, Lew Zealand, Crazy Harry, Camilla the Chicken
- Abby in Wonderland: The Counterpillar
- Studio DC: Almost Live: Floyd Pepper (voice only)
- Families Stand Together: Mr. Jerry
- The Best of Elmo 2: Dr. Sigmund Sillystuff
- Fair is Fair: Timothy Grouch
- Nelson's daughter Christine, who was dying of cystic fibrosis, made a cameo appearance with him in The Great Muppet Caper. Jim Henson graciously gave Christine a few brief lines of dialogue, so she could become an official member of the Actors' Equity Association.
- Elmo and the Orchestra: Leonard Birdseed
- It's Not Easy Being Green audio book: Performed quotes from Dr. Teeth, Fraggles, Doozers, the guitarist from The Cube, & others
- Muppets Inside CD-ROM: The Newsman