Pepe The King Prawn

Pepe the Prawn is one of the Muppets. He was first introduced in the 1996 TV show Muppets Tonight. At the time, he would sing along with his partner, Seymour the Elephant, although neither of the two had any real musical talent.

Pepe (full name: Pepino Rodrigo Serrano Gonzales) was born off the coast of Spain but moved inland to Madrid to further his dreams of a career in acting. He is very proud of being a king prawn, and takes great offense if anyone refers to him as a shrimp "I am not a shrimp! I am a king prawn!". Because of this accent, Pepe pronounces Kermit as "Kermin" as well as mispronouncing almost every name of the rest of the cast.

Pepe has been described as adorable without becoming annoying, hilarious without becoming un-hilarious, offensive without offending. He is smart and sexy "except when I have hat hair okay?"

Pepe's popularity and irreverence, along with Bill Barretta's improvisational skills, have resulted in Pepe's becoming something of a go-to character when it comes to DVD extra features. Pepe introduces much of the behind-the-scenes material on the DVDs for It's A Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie and The Muppets Wizard of Oz, while "Pepe's Profiles" of various Muppet characters are featured on the 'Kermit's 50th Anniversary Edition' releases of The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper, The Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island.

Career

Pepe the Prawn is a relatively new member of the Muppet family, where he was first seen in 1996 on the U.S. ABC TV variety show, Muppets Tonight. However he was not always an actor.

Early in his career Pepe was a chef in Madrid, Spain, however his boss did not like him singing in the kitchen, besides there were too many close calls "I was mistaken for an appetizer, okay". So Pepe left Madrid to look for a new life in Hollywood and follow his passion for acting (and possibly ballet).

Pepe teamed up with his sidekick Seymour the Elephant (Brian Henson) in his first role where they worked at the KMUP studios, home of Muppets Tonight. In the first season Pepe and Seymour were elevator operators; in the second season they ran the commissary. They fancied themselves performers, and found a way to get a spot on the show whenever possible.

When Muppets Tonight ended in 1998 Pepe ditched Seymour and went solo and Seymour has not been seen on the entertainment scene since.

It was around this time that Pepe moved into 44 Bronson Lane, the shared home for many other Muppets including Kermit, Fozzie, Miss Piggy, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker and the Electric Mayhem crew. With his previous culinary experience in Madrid, Pepe comfortably slipped into the role as a kitchen assistant to the Swedish Chef in the Muppet household.

Pepe's first big acting break occurred when he made his first acting appearance in 1999's Muppets From Space. It was this role that Pepe's true star power shone through.  He stole the comedic spotlight from his fellow Muppet co-stars where he instantly cemented his place in the hearts of Muppet fans everywhere. It was also in this movie his that Pepe made his now-famous memorable catch-cry: "I am not a shrimp, I am a King Prawn!".

In 2002 Pepe starred in It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie playing himself.  The Muppets inherited The Muppet Theatre from Scooter's rich Uncle, only to find it was severely in debt. When the theatre and its new owners are on the brink of closing down on Christmas Eve, the suave shrimp, sorry prawn, saved the day on the eleventh hour. See the review in Appearances.

2005 was a big year for the King Prawn. Firstly starring in the TV movie The Muppets' Wizard of Oz. Dorothy's yappy little dog, Toto, is quite rightly replaced with a prawn, and you-know-who is perfect in the role.

On February 25, 2005 a pilot was produced for Statler and Waldorf: From the Balcony, a web cast run biweekly on Movies.com which began in full flight on June 26, 2005. The two loveable old stalwarts of the balcony watch movie trailers the week, then heckle them. Pepe makes an occasional appearance. More on this later...

Pepe's Screen Test

Appearances

Television series broadly continuing from The Muppet Show, except this time The Muppets present their own variety show on TV channel KMUP. Pepe teamed up with Seymour the Elephant, and in the first season the two were elevator operators; in the second season they ran the commissary. They fancied themselves as performers, and did their best to weasel their way into any spot on the show.

Muppets Tonight 1996-1998

Television series broadly continuing from The Muppet Show, except this time The Muppets present their own variety show on TV channel KMUP. Pepe teamed up with Seymour the Elephant, and in the first season the two were elevator operators; in the second season they ran the commissary. They fancied themselves as performers, and did their best to weasel their way into any spot on the show.

Muppets from Space 1999

This movie tells the story of Gonzo, who is feeling alone and displaced after realising that he is the only one of his kind on Earth. After making contact with his own brethren from space, he attempts to summon them for a rendezvous on Earth. The plan goes all pear-shaped when Gonzo is captured by a secret government agency. Although Pepe plays a relative minor part in this movie, he is paired with Rizzo the Rat early in the movie, coaxing Gonzo to build a jacuzzi, and later grouping together with the rest of the core Muppet crew to try to rescue Gonzo from a secret Government agency.

It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie 2002

This was a made-television movie broadcast on NBC TV (U.S.) November 29 2002, telling the very touching story of what occurred on Christmas Eve of that year.

The Muppet Theatre is on the brink of closing down on Christmas Eve after the Muppets inherited the theatre (and its debt) from Scooter's Uncle. The owner of a bank, Miss Bitterman (Joan Cusack), wants to own the Muppet Theatre so she can build a trendy nightclub on the site.

Our suave prawn jumps sides and goes to work for the enemy Bitterman, lured by her charm (and the fact that "she's a woman, okay!"). After she tricks Pepe into giving her the only copy of the lease contract for the theatre, she alters the contract so the Muppets have very little time to pay a debt they owe. Meanwhile, the Muppets are trying to put on a Christmas show. After the Muppets are confronted by Bitterman, they make a lot of sacrifices to save up so they can keep the Theatre.

Meanwhile Pepe uncovers Miss Bitterman's unjust scheme, only to save the day, and the theatre, on the eleventh hour.

Includes "Inside Pepe's Studio", a 5 minute feature highlighting and discussing the deleted scenes from the movie with director Kirk R. Thatcher.

A short with Bill Barretta as a mock-up news report announcing that Pepe had escaped from prison (this is all in the alternate Kermit-less universe - watch the movie and it'll make sense).

There are Easter eggs on the region 1 and 2 DVD's, which have been striped from the region 4 version see the Muppet Central DVD review.

The Muppets' Wizard of Oz 2005

Dorothy Gale (Ashanti) lives with her Auntie Em (Queen Latifah) and Uncle Henry (David Alan Grier) in a trailer park in Kansas. Dorothy has dreams of becoming a famous singer, but when a tornado hits Kansas and Dorothy rushes to save Toto, her prawn (she couldn't afford a dog), she is whisked away to Oz where she meets the four witches (all played by Miss Piggy) and the Munchkins of Oz (the rats). On her way to see the Wizard, she meets the Scarecrow (Kermit), the Tin Thing (Gonzo), and the Cowardly Lion (Fozzie) who all wish to have something given by the wizard.

Management

Puppeteer Bill Barretta is Pepe's long time manager and muppeteer for the Jim Henson Company.

Bill has been performing since 1991, when he performed the body of family father Earl Sinclair on Dinosaurs (remember them!). He later developed several new characters on Muppets Tonight, including Pepe, Johnny Fiama and Bobo the Bear.

Bill's first performance was Clueless Morgan from Muppet Treasure Island. Since then, Bill had had several jobs for various Henson projects.

Bill was born in Yardley, Pennsylvania, USA.

Incidentally, Bill apparently based Pepe's accent on his wife's aunt, who is known in the family as "Maria Theresa Okay".

Awards

At present Pepe has not received any entertainment awards, although he is expecting some in the near future "I expect several (Oscar) nominations, okay. One for good looks. Acting. And choreography, okay!"

It is rumored Pepe is speaking with Miramax boss Harvey Weinstein on a remake of Don Quixote.

Interviews

In July 1999, Pepe participated in an online chat at TVGuide.com, where he spilled some of his deepest secrets:

On his climb to stardom: "Originally, my name was Pepino Rodrigo Serrano Gonzales. This is too long, okay. I started from the bottom. I was a chef in Madrid, Spain. But the boss didn't like me to sing in the kitchen, okay. So I left Madrid quickly, okay, looking for a new lifestyle in Hollywood. There were one too many close calls in the kitchen. I was mistaken for an appetizer, okay."

On his Hollywood future: "I expect several (Oscar) nominations, okay. One for good looks. Acting. And choreography, okay. And foley. Also, I am currently speaking with Miramax head Harvey Weinstein, okay, on a remake of Don Quixote. I love Hollywood, okay!"

Who are his influences? "Marlon Brando, Ruth Buzzi, Topo Gigio, Mighty Mouse."

On the inevitable comparisons to Ricky Martin: "Eh, si, I understand this is a handsome man. But perhaps one day we could meet. I understand he can sing. Ees this true? If so, maybe he will sing with me, okay. I challenge him to a sing-off!"

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The Private Pepe

Surprisingly little is known about Pepe's downtime. We can tell you he likes a good card game, poker being his choice of game. Pepe also holds on to his first love, cooking, assisting the Swedish Chef in the kitchen of the Muppet home.

Being a party prawn, Pepe likes to indulge in the occasional dip in a jacuzzi or hot tub, and gets the chance when Gonzo kindly builds one for his alien friends in Muppets From Space. It is rumored that Pepe has a love for Ballet but this has been denied.

Pepe is also the author of a best selling book okay.

Is Pepe your favorite Muppet? Tell us what you think here okay. 2 comments

dyonder profile image

dyonder 6 years ago from Colorado

As I haven't watched the Muppets since the 1980s I had not heard of Pepe until today. After having read of his illustrious rise to fame I shall avidly pursue his expoits and (hopefully) many accolades.


Glimmer515 profile image

Glimmer515 6 years ago from Never Never Land

I love pepe!! He i my favorite muppet since muppets in space came out! That Bonnie Hunt clip is Hilrious! Thanks for this hub!

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