It is a strange but wonderful thing, to talk to a Muppet — an experience I can now say I’ve had, thanks to Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem. As seen in the video interview above, the stars of The Muppets Mayhem were generous enough to answer a few questions via Zoom about their life prior to making the new Disney+ musical comedy series, confirming that you should never take Animal to an all-you-can-eat buffet, and reflecting on the magical time they’ve had performing on the road over the years.
In the series, it’s mentioned that the Mayhem were at Woodstock, but they have no memory of performing there. In fact, as they reveal to Consequence, the only festival they actually remember performing at during their long career is Outside Lands… which makes a lot of sense, given that The Muppets Mayhem owes a lot to the annual San Francisco fest: While The Electric Mayhem first began rocking in 1975 as the house band for The Muppet Show, in 2016 The Electric Mayhem made an unprecedented appearance at Outside Lands.
“I was amazed that people actually came to listen to us — 30,000 people showed up and I thought, well, maybe there’s something to the band,” veteran Muppets performer and executive producer Bill Barretta, the voice and hand behind Dr. Teeth, tells Consequence. “And so I started thinking, maybe we should take this show on tour, go to different festivals. And then I started thinking, maybe there’s a TV show about that.”
Barretta pitched that idea to Muppet Studios, and there was interest — but a changing of the executive guard meant it didn’t happen right away, and when he repitched the idea, he found out that eventual executive producers Jeff Yorkes and Adam F. Goldberg were also proposing their own concept for an Electric Mayhem series.
Yorkes’ background is in editing, and Goldberg credits him specifically with “helping showrunners sell shows by making sizzle reels. He did that for The Goldbergs, he did it for Cobra Kai, and he did it on his own where he sent me the Mayhem trailer.”
Why did Yorkes cut together a spec trailer to sell the idea of an Electric Mayhem series? As a former Henson intern, his answer’s simple: “I love the Mayhem. They were my favorite. They were their own subset of weirdos that just didn’t care, just did their thing — they just liked rock. I’m a big music fan, and I was just like, they don’t have an album. That’s crazy to me. So that’s sort of where the idea [for the show] came from — selfishly, I just wanted The Electric Mayhem to have an album.”
Barretta was on board to combine the ideas, thanks in part to Goldberg’s track record as the creator of The Goldbergs and other series: “I was like, ‘Ooooh, Adam Goldberg. He’s got a good show. That could be interesting.'”
The quest to create The Electric Mayhem’s first album drives the first season of the series — Goldberg confirms that this is not intended to be a limited series — “we know what we want to do” in Season 2, and even have ideas in the works for a third season.
As always, it wouldn’t be a Muppets project if the Muppets weren’t hanging around with human friends — in the case of The Muppets Mayhem, Lilly Singh stars as a young aspiring music executive who pushes the Mayhem to fulfill their contract for that long-overdue first album, with some help from her younger sister (Saara Chaudry) and The Electric Mayhem’s biggest fan (Tahj Mowry).
Singh says that she wasn’t the biggest Muppet fan prior to her casting, but watched every Muppet film and show she could in preparation for the show, focusing specifically on “how people interact with the Muppets.”
“After I booked the role, I had a meeting with all the producers to talk about what they were envisioning for the character,” Singh says. “And they made it very clear to me that you treat them like they’re humans. Don’t talk to them like they’re kids. Don’t look down on them, don’t talk to them like they can’t handle emotion. And so when I was watching different people act opposite the Muppets, that’s what I was trying to look for. Like, are they changing the way they’re talking because they’re talking to something that can’t comprehend emotions, or can’t comprehend what they’re saying?”
The thing is, though, that the Muppets (or their performers, anyway) can comprehend those things. “The Muppets can’t see, but you’ve still gotta give them facial expressions,” says Singh. “So I was really studying how to make sure that our relationship was believable because they’re not human, but they still have human tendencies and emotions and thoughts.”
Says Mowry, “They’re beings. Like, they’re real.”
Singh agrees. “They’re absolutely real. When I walk on set, I say hello to the Muppets performers and also the Muppets — because they’re different.”