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Janice, an intimate portrait

By Byron Summers
April 12, 2001

ROWLF: Good evening, everyone. This evening we take a look at one of the few females in the family of "The Muppet Show" characters. She's a terrific musician, a comedic talent, and a beloved character of Muppet fans the world over. Join me, Rowlf the Dog, as we spend an hour with an intimate portrait of... Janice.


Janice was created by Henson sometime in the early 1970s. A born musician, she found her niche in the Muppet family in 1974's "Sex and Violence". The show proved to be a success, and was the precursor to the biggest time in Janice's career, "The Muppet Show"...

(Janice is seated in the front row of the auditorium in the Muppet Theater for her interview)

JANICE: "We all hoped 'Sex & Violence' would be a rully big hit on TV. It was good enough to develop into 'The Muppet Show', and, like, *wow*... we never dreamed the show would get as big as it did!"

R: Yes, "The Muppet Show" ran for 5 full seasons on television. As part of the Muppet family, Janice soon found her place within the series and its crazy characters, especially when it came to her musical ability...

KERMIT THE FROG: "I hired Janice as part of the Dr. Teeth band. She was great on guitar, and was featured in several of our musical numbers. Sometimes the band would perform by themselves on stage, and even though she was around three other guys a-and Animal, she fit in really well with them and always played her best."

DR. TEETH: "Mm-hmm. Janice knows how to play a guitar because she *knows* the guitar. When she played for us to join the band, I said, 'All *riiiight!*'... "

J: "Oh wow, I loved playing music on 'The Muppet Show'. I always had a great time with the guys in the band...we were good friends on stage and off. And Animal was never *toooo* much trouble."

ZOOT: "She's good, man... real skiddely-bop-fantastic *good*... "

R: Early in the show's run, Janice and Zoot got kinda close with each other. But soon her attention turned to bass player Floyd Pepper...

J: "Zoot and I are still good friends. We just knew that we weren't rully meant for each other, so just hung out as pals after that. But Floyd, oooh, he's my honey!"

FLOYD: "Janice is my woman, man...great player, great singer, great actor...great gal for Floyd! Heh, heh, heh...she is *def*initely my one groovy chick."

R: With her status as a member of the band, Janice got to play musical backup for many popular guest stars on the show, such as Lou Rawls, Linda Lavin, and Elton John. She also showed a talent for instruments such as the tamborine and banjo.

Janice also proved to be a talented singer, and got to display that talent of hers on several occasions. Not only would she sing with the band, but she got to sing a couple of solos, such as "Rockin' Robin" and "I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends".

KERMIT: "I felt I could trust Janice if I wanted to give her a song to do. She always knows her material and performs well...and she doesn't hog the spotlight or make a mess of things, like the pig."

PIGGY (offstage): "What?"

KERMIT: *gulp*

J: "Kermit was rully nice to give me those songs. Like, he knows how much I love oldies, and I had such a groovy time singin' those classics. I felt, like, sorta honored by getting to sing those, too!"

R: Janice was particularly grateful to be a big part of the show when one of her favorite stars guested . . . Linda Ronstadt.

J: "Oh, *wow!* When Linder was on the show, it was *rully* wonderful...not only did I get to play guitar for her on 'Blue Bayou', but I got to have a scene with her in her dressing room! Wow...we sang 'The Shoop Shoop Song', and we had such a fun time with each other. She rully knows how to work those pipes!

R: But Janice wasn't strictly a musician on "The Muppet Show". She also had a flair for comedy, and for the full run of the series she was a regular in the "Veterinarian's Hospital" sketches, where she co-starred as Nurse Janice with Miss Piggy as Nurse Piggy and me as Dr. Bob.

J: "I was rully lucky to be a part of 'Vet's Hospital'...doing those sketches was a highlight of the show. Rowlf and I played rully well off each other. Piggy and I did too, but we always had Rowlf in between us, so he and I usually had more lines together."

MISS PIGGY: "Moi just loved 'Veterinarian's Hospital', though sometimes moi had to be the one to keep things in line. Rowlf was notorious for getting off the subject...but I guess a dog can't be expected to handle such comic flair as well as a pig. Hmph!"

R: Or maybe the dog handled it *too* well and the pig coudln't take it. Heh, heh, heh...

M P: "Janice was usually pretty good in the sketches. She could lose her head and get into Rowlf's ramblings sometimes, but she knew her lines and everything. She got some fan mail, but of course, not *nearly* as much as *moi*...

J: "We, like, tried to stay with the scripts, but sometimes we would get off onto other jokes. But no matter what happened, it was always rully fun. That's one of the things I miss most about the show, is 'Vet's Hospital' with Rowlf and Piggy..."

R: Coming up, Janice gets busier than ever with her Muppet family, and the "big screen" beckons...


R: We now return to an intimate portrait of Janice.

In 1979, during the run of "The Muppet Show", Janice and the rest of that family filmed "The Muppet Movie". The film would prove to a major success for the Muppets, and a beloved classic. It was unique in that it told the almost accurate story of just how we Muppets came together to do the show... and I loved that piano I got to play in the bar scene...

J: "Fans had asked me a lot just how I got on 'The Muppet Show' and all that. Well, when we did 'The Muppet Movie', they finally got to see. I think they saw just what a close group of pals the guys and I were in the band. "Can You Picture That?" is always one of our most requested songs when we play, and we had a *rully* great time in our scenes there. Painting the car was sooooo much fun! Wow..."

R: "The Muppet Movie" spurned on the ever-growing success and popularity of the Muppets. That same year, Janice was included among the core group of "Muppet Show" characters to record a Christmas album with John Denver.

J: "We've always loved John. He, like, rully understands the Muppets and loved to work with us. We couldn't wait to do the Christmas album, especially when Kermit told the Electric Mayhem we would do a cover of 'Little Saint Nick'! Oh, *wow*, that was rully groovy..."

R: The Muppets went on to record another album with John in the future, along with filming two specials based on the albums. Back on the televised side of things (hey, nice segue), "The Muppet Show" came to a close in 1981. It was a bittersweet time...

J: "Like, when we heard we wouldn't be doing 'The Muppet Show' anymore, it was rully sad. But we also felt that we had 5 great years, and lots of rully good memories... as for the band, like, we just weren't sure what kinda gig we would find next."

R: As it turned out, Janice wouldn't have to worry about finding another gig. The Muppet family stayed together. In 1981 the Muppet Show group filmed "The Great Muppet Caper", and we hit theaters again in 1984 with "The Muppets Take Manhattan".

GONZO: "The movies were really good for us. Janice and I had a lot of fun in some scenes. Like in 'Manhattan', we got to start a fight! How wonderful is *that?!* And I still think exploding socks would have won us an Academy Award..."

J: "I loooved doing those movies. I got to play and sing in all of them, and my fans rully love some of the lines I had. It was great to be a member of that group who got to jump from the show into the flicks. When we did 'Manhattan', we were in the mid-80s, and I cut my hair and wore it in a, like, new style. I figured the long, groovy hair was good for the '70s, and just felt like a change for the new times."

R: In the early 1980's, Janice and Miss Piggy got to do an interview with three of the four girls from the TV show "The Facts of Life". It was a happy time for both.

J: "Piggy came out to visit me, and I took her out for pizza... it was rully good, even though Piggy was a little overdressed. We had a great time with the girls, and learned a lot about the show."

M P: "When Janice said we were going out for Italian, I wore pearls and my best heels for 'Italian'...not for *pizza*. But it tasted okay, and it was fun getting to know the girls from the show. Their show wasn't as popular as *mine*--er, *ours*, of course. Oh, I just love my modesty... (yells offstage) DON'T VOU, KERMIE?! Ah-ha, ha!"

R: Janice was also busy filming television specials here and there.

J: "We filmed 2 specials with John Denver, and one about our favorite movies, and a Christmas one in 1987. That was a rully great one. We got to go to Fozzie's mom's house with the gang from 'Sesame Street'! *To*tally groovy! And playing 'Jingle Bell Rock' was a rull highlight for me."

R: Coming up, Janice loses two important men in her life... yet the show must go on...


R: We now return to an intimate portrait of Janice.

In 1990, we Muppets got to go to Disney World and film a special. The Electric Mayhem was fortunate enough to sing a new song in World Showcase.

J: "Oh, Disney World was *rully* fun! We got to, like, dress up in costumes from different countries and sing 'Rockin' All Around the World'... and it was sooo groovy to have the fans there be in the taping and support us with their enthuuusiasm!"

R: The special was a great time, yet shortly after, Janice and the others heard of the passing of Jim Henson...

J: "I never rully knew who Mr. Henson was. We all knew that he was important to us and our careers, and Kermit seemed to know more about him than the rest of us. But there *was* this, like, air of sadness when we heard..."

R: As a tribute, the Muppets filmed a special to honor the man who figured so prominently in their lives. Yet the loss wasn't over for Janice. Two years later, Richard Hunt also passed away...

J: "Richard and I were *rully* close. I didn't know him in a face-to-face way, but I always felt his presence. It was, like, he was always there...always near me. I felt, like, different after he left..."

R: Since Mr. Hunt's departure, Janice hasn't done as much for the camera. Will she return to the light she was once in?

J: "I did some backround things for 'Muppets Tonight', 'Muppet Treasure Island' 'Muppet Christmas Carol', and the recent space movie. But I just haven't felt like my old self for a while to *rully* be back in the acting light. I would like to return someday, and we'll see what works out."

R: In the meantime, Janice's fans have been long-starved of her charismatic screen presence.

BYRON SUMMERS: "Janice is the best there is. Ya gotta lover her! I know *I* do...not to offend Floyd or anything, but I would sure appreciate Janice if she were mine. I just wish she'd be able to make more appearance and have LINES in movies! And an ALBUM and TOUR with the band! MORE JANICE!! I CAN'T GET ENOUGH, I WANNA O.D. ON JANICE!

*sigh* I wish she knew that I existed..."

R: Does Janice have any musical plans?

J: "The band and I are still together. Like, we looove to play whenever we can. A tour would be rully groovy, but, like, we'd have to get sponsors and things first. If not, at least an album might be a tubular idea. The future is just kinda strange in the Muppet world right now, but we all have our memories, we all have each other, and we hope to stay together for, like, a long, long time..."

R: Janice, though not one of the *most* prominent members of the Muppet family, certain has her own following. From what she says, it's hard to discern just what exactly the future holds for her, but fans can only wait... and hope. I'm Rowlf the Dog, I play the piano, and this has been an intimate portrait of Muppet girl... Janice.




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