Rizzo the Rat
The Muppets character
Rizzo in A Tail of Two Piggies episode of The Muppets
First appearanceThe Muppet Show (episode 418; 1980)[1]
Created bySteve Whitmire
Jim Henson
Voiced byBen Diskin (Muppet Babies)
Performed bySteve Whitmire (1980–2016)
In-universe information
SpeciesMuppet rat

Rizzo the Rat is a Muppet character from the sketch comedy television series The Muppet Show, created and originally performed by Steve Whitmire until 2016.

He is a fictional rat who appeared on The Muppet Show and numerous films, with a starring role in the 1992 film The Muppet Christmas Carol.

The character is particularly associated with Gonzo the Great, with the two sharing a double act since 1992. Whitmire based the character on Ratso Rizzo in Midnight Cowboy and performed him until 2016.


Rizzo is a streetwise and sarcastic rat with a New Jersey accent.[2] He is a self-proclaimed acrophobe.[3] His humor can be risqué, as in the TV series The Muppets he was given the line, "Is ABC going to be OK with 'Mother Teresa on a stick'?" To avoid potential difficulty with real-life censors, alternative lines were filmed.[4]

Rizzo's family has been mentioned in Muppet media. He has 1,274 brothers and sisters, as told to Gonzo in The Muppet Christmas Carol. In 2016, Disney claimed that Rizzo came from a family of pizza makers as part of the backstory of the new PizzeRizzo restaurant at Disney's Hollywood Studios.[5][6]


Steve Whitmire was Rizzo's creator and original performer.

Rizzo's name is derived from Dustin Hoffman's Ratso Rizzo character in Midnight Cowboy.[7] Steve Whitmire created the character,[8] based on rats he had previously made out of bottles.[7]

Rizzo first appeared in episode 48 of The Muppet Show, as one of many rats following Christopher Reeve backstage.[7] He can be seen mugging and reacting to practically every line of dialogue. He remained a scene-stealing background figure through the final season, occasionally performing with Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem.[7] By the time of The Muppet Christmas Carol, Whitmire had been performing Rizzo for around 12 years.[8]

After the series, he appeared in The Great Muppet Caper as a bellboy in a fleabag London hotel. He has appeared in most later Muppet projects, including The Muppets Take Manhattan[9] and Muppets Tonight. In The Muppet Christmas Carol, he developed a double act with Gonzo,[10] with director Brian Henson and the crew envisioning Rizzo as "pain-in-the-neck sidekick."[8] The characters narrate, break the fourth wall, and Rizzo challenges Gonzo's claims to be Charles Dickens.[11] The Gonzo and Rizzo partnership was continued in Muppet Treasure Island, with Rizzo again offering a humorous critique of the handling of the story,[12] and in Muppets from Space. Along with Kermit and Gonzo, Rizzo gave an audio commentary for the Muppets from Space DVD.[13]

Rizzo appears as a background character in the 2011 film The Muppets, without a spoken dialogue, although he is seen singing along during the finale, as well as the scene in which Kermit the Frog addresses a large crowd of Muppets. In Muppets Most Wanted (2014), and the short feature Rizzo's Biggest Fan on the Blu-ray release, the character calls for more screentime.[14] Rizzo returned to prominence in the TV series The Muppets, where he was on a writing crew with Gonzo and Pepe the King Prawn.[15]

In October 2016, Whitmire was dismissed by Muppet Studios.[16] [17] While Benjamin Diskin took on the role of baby Rizzo in Muppet Babies, no replacement performer for adult Rizzo has been announced as of 2024.[18]



  1. ^ Shemin, Craig (2014). Disney's The Muppets Character Encyclopedia. New York: DK Publishing. p. 151. ISBN 9781465417480.
  2. ^ Swank, Nathan (November 19, 2011). "Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie and our Top Ten favorite Muppet characters". Flix 66. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  3. ^ Brian Henson (Director); Jerry Juhl (December 11, 1992). The Muppet Christmas Carol (Motion picture). There are only two things... I hate: heights, and jumping from them
  4. ^ Jurgensen, John (September 10, 2015). "The Muppets Grow Up and Go Back to Prime Time". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  5. ^ Niles, Robert (October 2016). "Walt Disney World's PizzeRizzo to open on November 18". Theme Park Insider. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  6. ^ Busdeker, Jon (July 18, 2016). "PizzeRizzo pizzeria to open at Disney's Hollywood Studios". WESH. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  7. ^ a b c d Conradt, Stacy (February 10, 2009). "Surprising stories behind 20 Muppet characters". CNN. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  8. ^ a b c Beaumont-Thomas, Ben (December 21, 2015). "How we made: The Muppet Christmas Carol". The Guardian. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  9. ^ "'The Muppets Take Manhattan' production designer Stephen Hendrickson to visit Dietrich Theater for free film showing". Dallas Post. July 11, 2017. Retrieved July 14, 2017.
  10. ^ Dale, Timothy; Foy, Joseph, eds. (July 15, 2015). Jim Henson and Philosophy: Imagination and the Magic of Mayhem. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 233. ISBN 978-1442246652.
  11. ^ Glavin, John, ed. (2017). Dickens Adapted. Routledge. ISBN 978-1351944564. Retrieved July 14, 2017 – via Google Books.
  12. ^ Addison, Heather (2000). "Children's Films in the 1990s". Film Genre 2000: New Critical Essays. SUNY Press. p. 182. ISBN 0791492958.
  13. ^ "Muppets from Space". Billboard. 2 October 1999. p. 32.
  14. ^ Dellamorte, Andre (August 27, 2014). "MUPPETS MOST WANTED Blu-ray Review". Collider. Retrieved July 14, 2017.
  15. ^ Zhu, Danielle (September 14, 2015). "The Muppets season 1 study guide: Everything to know about the revival". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  16. ^ Dab, Sopan; Haigney, Sophie (July 17, 2017). "Kermit the Frog Performer and Disney Spar Over an Ugly 'Muppet' Firing". The New York Times. Archived from the original on July 17, 2017. Retrieved July 17, 2017.
  17. ^ Bruner, Raisa (July 12, 2017). "Former Kermit the Frog Puppeteer Speaks: 'I Am Devastated'". Time. Retrieved July 12, 2017.
  18. ^ Petski, Denise (25 July 2019). "'Muppet Babies' Lands Early Third Season Renewal At Disney Junior". Deadline. Retrieved 11 December 2023.
  19. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p "Voice Of Rizzo the Rat". Behind The Voice Actors. Retrieved 2014-04-10.