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Your Thoughts: Howard Tubman

Discussion in 'Classic Muppets' started by GelflingWaldo, Dec 28, 2008.

  1. GelflingWaldo

    GelflingWaldo New Member

    His name has come up in several other discussions, but I don't think we've ever had a thread solely dedicated to the pig... so here it is.

    Howard Tubman (performed by the wonderful Bill Barretta) first appeared on "Muppets Tonight" in 1996. He starred in his own recurring sketch entitled "The Tubmans of Porksmith" (the ongoing saga of America's oldest and fattest family) which featured Howard along with his butler Carter. There were six sketches produced over the two seasons – although I think most (if not all) of them were used as the UK sketches in their respective episodes, so sadly American audiences did not get to see much of Howard back then.

    Here is a collection of all six of Howard's appearances in "The Tubmans of Porksmith" on "Muppets Tonights": Volume 1 | Volume 2

    Howard reached wider audiences when he was cast as the Muppet Theater's choreographer in "It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie". Howard was shown helping choreograph the theater's dance numbers, and in the world in which Kermit was never born he conducted the Electric Mayhem's river dancing.

    So what are people's thoughts on Howard Tubman? What do you like about Howard? Do you think he's a good character or a bad character? Would you like to see more of him? Or do you think we've seen more than enough? Your thoughts...
  2. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    I have to say, I like those sketches... especially the line "I taped it to the small of your back, sir." As an American Muppet fan, I have only seen him as the stereotypical "gay" choreographer, and not the odd, gluttonous, New England turn of the 19th century stereotype that he was meant to be... and in all honesty, I find that a lot funnier than his role in VMX... not that I didn't like that, mind you.

    But a lot of the character's humor lies in his chemistry with the Butler... a lot of Muppets lend their appeal to being comedic duos, not solo characters (Ernie and Bert did sort of transcend that, but the duo sketches are by far the best). If I were to see more of Howard, I would wish to see his man servant right next to him, feeding him straight lines (with clam sauce).

    I also like how lyrical the food items are... Yankee Pot Roast... Colonial rum cake... it really adds a nice tang to the jokes (and fat jokes are the oldest jokes in the world, frankly) the way that just obvious and funny sounding foods would never be ab;e to do... almost a Monty Pythonic word play if you will.

    I think that I like how they called them "Boarshead Revisited" much better than "The Tubbmans." I don't see why they call it "America's oldest and Fattest family" if all you see is Howard.


    But I must also add, it isn't so much I wouldn't want to see these again, so much as I'd rather see segments like The Chef, Muppet Labs, and Pigs in Space reappear first.
  3. LamangoNumber2

    LamangoNumber2 Active Member

    Howard's puppet was in Treasure Island. He's older than you think!
  4. GelflingWaldo

    GelflingWaldo New Member

    I agree 100%. The interaction between Howard and Carter is great - especially Howard's dry and unquestioning delivery to Howard - such as when Howard asks Carter to tear the place apart to find the applebutter.

    I know his effeminate and somewhat flamboyant personality has caused a stir among Muppet fans that have jumped to conclusions about this Muppet's assumed sexuality. I like the diversity of personality and spirit he brings to the troupe - and don't really think about (or care about) what could or could not be a part of his hypothetical off-camera personal life.

    I liked his addition to the Muppet theater staff and thought he made a great choreographer for the theater (surprising they didn't have one before, especially given the amount of dancing the show had).

    I know what you mean, and I agree. There are a lot of characters that I would like to see get attention before they revist Howard Tubman. And I would hate to see Howard take screen time away from what I would consider to be the more essential areas (such as Muppet Labs, the Swedish Chef, Fozzie Bear, The Electric Mayhem, Gonzo's stunts, Pigs in Space, etc).

    However I feel Howard is one of the few Muppets Tonight characters that would not mind seeing again - his small part in It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie was a treat. There are some characters (like Pepe, Johnny & Sal, Bobo) that have lasted past the series and I really enjoy; and some that have thankfully have not (Bill the Bubble Guy, Mr. Poodlepants). Howard is one that I would not mind seeing show up from time to time (even if just in crowd scenes). I don't think he should be forced into the group just for the sake of it, but if the right part comes along I would not mind seeing this puppet come back to fill it.

    I do think he is a great looking puppet (too bad he was never really popular enough for Palisades to do a figure of him) and Bill provides a wonderful performance (as always).
  5. MWoO

    MWoO Active Member

    Why?

    Those sketches were great on TMS but why do we need to revisit them? Was there something left undone with them? jim Henson knew to move on from the old with the Jim Henson Hour. There was only one Muppets Labs sketch I know of and one Swedish Chef segment as well. It's time to move on from the old and find new classics. There is room for old skits, but I don't think they should be priority over new.
  6. Beauregard

    Beauregard Well-Known Member

    He certainly seemed to have lost a little weight by the time he got to choreographing!

    I've never seen all the clips in a row, I'm always surprised by how few there are of things like this and Tales From the Vet. I guess the series never lasted very long, and the sketch wasn't in every episode.
  7. GelflingWaldo

    GelflingWaldo New Member

    I agree. There are some fans out there that want the Muppets' next television series (whatever and whenever that is) to essentially be a sixth season of The Muppet Show. They want it to use the same cast and the same format as the original Muppet Show. I would much rather have their next television venture be something new and original - yet featuring the cast of Muppets we've all come to know and love (plus develop and add new characters too). It's a tricky balancing act to be fresh and new while still delivering the good ol' fashioned classic Muppets that people would expect to see on a "Muppet" show. I think Muppets Tonight (and even The Jim Henson Hour) struggled somewhat with the balancing act – pushing the characters people were expecting and wanting to see to the back while thrusting brand-new ones to the forefront.

    I hope, for example, that Bunsen and Beaker continue to be part of the Muppet troupe and appear in any new show. Now will they appear in the same kind of Muppet Labs segments that they did on the Muppet Show? Probably not, but they should still have some part to play with their inventions and mayhem. Same should apply to the Swedish Chef, Fozzie's comedy act, Gonzo's stunts, Statler & Waldorf's comments, and even the Newsman. And I would also hope that they add new recurring characters and segments as well and continue to build the troupe. I mean Pepe, Bobo, Johnny and Sal are some of the greatest Muppet characters – and we never would have gotten them if the Muppets Tonight writing staff stuck with just using the classics.

    So (returning to the topic at hand), if/when the Muppets return to regular TV, I would not be opposed to seeing Howard Tubman be a part of the show (whether it's as a bloated and bumbling turn-of-the-century twit, or as the troupe's flamboyant choreographer, or perhaps in some other role); however I wouldn't want his return deprive audiences from what many would consider to be the more essential Muppets (Kermit, Piggy, Fozzie, Gonzo, Rizzo, Pepe, Bunsen, Beaker, Statler, Waldorf, Sam, Rowlf, Scooter, the Chef, the Mayhem Band) nor would I want to see him get in the way of new characters being developed either. Basically I wouldn't want Howard (or any Muppet for that matter) to dominate or take over the show.
  8. MWoO

    MWoO Active Member

    Howard Tubman is the perfect addition to the cast of characters. He fits in perfectly with the muppet show format. If the muppets do another variety show type thing in the future he should absolutely be the dance choreographer. If they go in another direction, I'm not sure what part he should play.
  9. GelflingWaldo

    GelflingWaldo New Member

    Yeah, it is surprising. Muppets Tonight was just too short-lived I guess (only 22 episodes -- that's less episodes than just one of The Muppet Show's regular season runs of 24 episodes). Plus the format of Muppets Tonight featured fewer skits and recurring segments per episode than the Muppet Show. Muppets Tonight spent more screen time on backstage stories, and many of the on-stage skits were simply longer than the bits on the Muppet Show (leaving less room for packing in and developing recurring sketches).

    However of the few recurring segments that Muppets Tonight did feature, I think "The Tubmans of Porksmith" was one of the better ones. Since the comedy of the segment was mostly character-based (playing off Howard and Carter), the skits' premise or gag didn't get stale or worn-out; and I'm sure they could have continued, developed and kept the duo going strong (if only the show hadn't be canceled); whereas I think some of the other recurring bits the show had would have gotten (and possibly did get) old and tied.
  10. GelflingWaldo

    GelflingWaldo New Member

    Well I hope that singing and dancing (and making people happy) will continue to be part of the Muppets repertoire in the future. So hopefully there will be big musical numbers in a future Muppet show for Howard to choreograph. ;) But I do agree that he fits in with the group just fine.
  11. RedPiggy

    RedPiggy Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the link, as I had never seen them. To be honest, I thought Howard in VMX was Bobby Vegan. Considering how Howard is in those clips, maybe the writers or Bill got confused too. I like Muppets Tonight Howard and I'd be amused to see Bobby-Howard.
  12. frogboy4

    frogboy4 Inactive Member

    Howard is alright by me. I see potential in him if they can expand the humor beyond his girth and gayness. Of course those elements are part of him, but I think his bits are missing that extra layer of humor that even seemingly one-note Muppets like Animal and Swedish Chef have.

    Also, of course Howard is gay. He's the prototype for Tinseltown's Bobby Vegan. He's not the same puppet, but similar in voice, look, tone and is also performed by Bill Barretta.

    Muppets Tonight got off on the wrong foot, a crummy Urkel-adjacent Friday night time slot (when teens and college kids break free from the confines of home) and consisted off too many new characters competing against one another for screen time while the classic Muppets audiences tuned into see were far in the background - if at all. The new cast introduction was aggressive. New Muppets must be phased in the mix. Who knew Pepe would be the break out star? Unfortunately few other characters held his initial magic and appeal.

    I can sum up Muppets Tonight's collapse with one main flaw:
    Retiring Kermit and resigning him to a sort of apathetic role with the Muppet gang just doesn't work. Clifford received all the hate for that and it wasn't his fault. Kermit is always the heart of the Muppets. MT forgot that and never had the chance to recover after all the on again-off again fits and starts.
  13. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    Another nail hit squarely in the head. Not to mention the fact the writers themselves admitted to not having a solid direction for the show until it was just about to be canceled .

    And a lot of the characters didn't mesh... we had basically a bunch of random Pigs trying to fill the Miss Piggy void, and having them become one note jokes, and poor ones at that. Andy and Randy were basically the standard dumb guys, and Spamela Hamderson and David Hasslehog were characters that only turned out to be caricatures and little else.

    And looking back on it, there were a lot of good segments in MT, but seems like the best stuff went to fill in the UK spots, while everything else was just a parody of a TV show trying to disguise itself as an old time Muppet Show segment.
  14. Ruahnna

    Ruahnna Well-Known Member

    I know this is a discussion about the characters as they actually appeared, but please let me (apologetically) jump in as a fanfic writer and say something about Howard and some of the other Muppets Tonight characters: I didn't know how much I liked some of the characters from MT until I began to use them regularly in my fanfics. I reallyl like Howard--he has great emotional capacity and seems like a natural fit alongside the older muppets. It isn't hard to imagine him as Piggy's frequent co-conspirator, and his tough-love choreography with the chorus girls made me like him in spite of his fussiness. I also found myself warming to Johnny and Sal, who's sadly unequal friendship is great fodder for plots and jokes alike. Clifford was asked to fill enormous, um, flippers on MT and the failure of that effort was not a reflection on his worth or popularity as a character. All of these characters added a richness to the tapestry of characters that would be lacking otherwise.

    But looking at these characters and this particular thread, I have to say that I believe that there is a lot owed to It's A Very Merry Muppet Christmas. VMX sort of "codefied" the characters for most of us--writing character traits in stone that had only be touched on in short segments from MT. Also, seeing the characters as part of a larger plot--instead of in a series of one-shot scenes that are the heart and soul of any variety show--helped establish the keepers. After VMX, it was hard for me to remember TMS without thinking, in the back of my mind, that Pepe was probably there the whole time--just unseen and underfoot--and that Clifford was working some angle in the business office the whole time. Without the bridge of VMX, I don't think some of these characters would have become fixtures as they have done. (Let's face it--if we're craving a "muppet-fix" we're much more likely to put in a muppet MOVIE than a muppet episode (of ANY sort) to feed it.
  15. minor muppetz

    minor muppetz Well-Known Member

    Man, I watched those clips, and they were great. It's a shame that they were hardly ever shown in the american portions (though Carter did make a cameo in Martin Short's closing number). it seems, however, like they were playing roles. I wonder if Howard would really be rich if he appeared outside of those sketches. And with that it makes a bit of sense that he had a different role as choreographer in It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie.

    The best one was the one where Carter hid the jar of apple butter. I also like the explosion one.

    It would be great if they appear in the new movie (if it gets made) and any new series, but I'd stillr ather see the return of characters like Lips, Digit, Bill the Bubble Guy, Leon, Lindberg, Seymour, Nigel (both Nigel's), and Lubbock Lou and his jughuggers.
  16. minor muppetz

    minor muppetz Well-Known Member


    I think you do have a bit of a point. After reading this, I though *** might be nice if the Muppets did maybe a summer series in which the Muppets work at a summer camp. Have Kermit be in charge of the camp, have Fozzie, Piggy, Gonzo, and a few other established characetrs be counsilors, have others teach certain classes and activities, and then introduce several new child characters for each main character to lead, and also include Robin, Bean, and Andy and Randy Pig, and maybe also reuse several generic frogs, chickens, rats, and random monsters (after all, an idea like this would probably have too many characters to develop). Maybe a new Muppet character could be created as a counsilor. My idea is a female dog counsilor, for Miss Piggy to compete with and maybe be a love itnerest for Rowlf.
  17. frogboy4

    frogboy4 Inactive Member

    I still miss the old vaudevillian aspect of the Muppet Show and the theater. If there were ever to be another Muppet television show I'd hope that it would still be set around the theater, yet not have it take "center stage" as it once did. Muppets Tonight's KMUP TV station setting seemed odd because it could have easily been the Muppet Theater. The set resembled it so the change really wasn't all that necessary.

    I'd like to see a Muppet Show that focused on life after the show where the classic Muppets would meet up with new Muppets, humans and celebrities in everyday life outside of the show. The credits could show the characters ending their day at the theater. After that they could drop by the grocery store or a restaurant where they could see Howard and/or any number of celebrity guests. Just thinking - old meets new cast.
  18. minor muppetz

    minor muppetz Well-Known Member

    That's be good, too. A sitcom where the theater is present, but it's not a variety show format. With more plot focus, and maybe having the characters living at either the boarding house or apartment.
  19. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    I think that's one of the main problems with MT... they clearly wanted it to be sort of a Jay Leno meets SNL type deal that was too hard to mix together..... Of course, I really liked how The Jim Henson Hour "Muppet Central" segment was set up. They run a TV station of sorts that shows all sorts of quick shows from other parts of the universe and like that. And stuff happened in between the shows that reflected the theme, or even caused problems in the show itself.

    But if a new Muppet show happens, I definitely want to see a return to the Muppet Theater... I mean, VMX did it, and so didn't the Weezer music video... it's just their iconic niche.... it would be like taking Bid Bird and the rest off of Sesame Street and put them in a pretend live studio audience....
  20. dwmckim

    dwmckim Well-Known Member

    I remember an interview (though don't recall who it was with - Brian or more likely one of the writing staff) talking about how it wasn't until the very end of Muppets Tonight when they did the "Johnny Fiama Leaves Home" episode (the last episode before the Best Of) that the creative staff really figured out what the show was really best suited to be in terms of style - that they really loved how more than just being a variety type show with a backstage plot, that episode was more its own story that just happened to involve the people at the studio and took part some inside it and also outside of it. But by that time it was too late to do more since that was the end. But i've sensed that if there was another Muppet television series, it would basically be a sitcom (for lack of better word) that showed the Muppets having adventures both inside and outside the theatre). There would be lots of scenes of acts and musical numbers being performed but it wouldn't actually be a variety show format. So yeah - very much like VMX as a weekly series.

    I would very much love to see this. But then again, i'd also be just as happy with a full resurrection (ie season six) of The Muppet Show. Or even better (to me at least if no one else) something under an umbrella like "Muppet Madness" where you'd tune in one week and see basically a new episode of The Muppet Show, another week would be a sitcom type story that takes place outside the theatre - another just random bits of Muppet humor and mania - think of just a bunch of short skits like what's been on muppets.com - kind of that anthology/something different every week feel that was planned for JHH but solely in terms of the Muppets)


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