When I think of the current generation, and it dawns on me that they were raised without the infinite joy that The Muppet show provided, I feel sad for them. While Sesame Street was educational, The Muppet Show was pure mirth, aimed at everyone in the audience. From Pixar to Adventure Time, a good deal of the shows and movies you may enjoy today that cater to the humor of both adults and children, have Jim Henson and The Muppet Show to thank.
Though it could easily be passed off as a kids show, clearly, it was not. Though children did love it, between the celebrity guest stars (often lampooning themselves) and the inside references to things that kids would clearly not understand, this is the show that truly brought families together on Sunday nights, long before The Simpsons. Here are just a few irreverent moments from the show the offer insight into just how self deprecating some stars were willing to be for Jim Henson, and also show us how wacky and wonderful the show really was.
Kermit Bites Vincent Price
This scene is a pitch-perfect example of just how spot on the writers were for appealing to all demographics. Vincent price was a legend from the classic days of Universal horror films ( think Werewolf, Mummy, Dracula ), so to have him come on a show this lighthearted and be able to make fun of what ultimately made him famous just showed you how genuine and warm he really was as a person, and how widely appealing the show truly was.
Adults laughed because they were surprised by the moment. Kids laughed because it was awesome, it is that simple.
No hecklers will ever be as effective as these two.
And it should be noted that Vincent Price was very scary to children at this time, because all kids associated him with horror, so to have the tables be turned and to have him be the one being bitten (by Kermit the Frog no less) brought him down to a far more human level for the kids watching it, and also reiterated the fact that no celebrity was above a good laugh at their own expense if it involved Muppets.
Raquel Welch and Miss Piggy Sing “Woman”
Here is another great example of a celebrity playing up and image all while satirizing it. To understand how truly great this moment was, you need to understand that this took place on television during the heart of the Gloria Steinem feminist movement of the seventies.
And here we have Raquel Welch, one of the biggest sex symbols of the time, singing about being a strong, empowered woman next to a singing pig. And it just so happens that this song was written by Dusty Springfield and Peggy Lee, so it is not some song thrown together for a skit. This is an established, pro-woman song. Being sung by a sex symbol and a Muppet. Awesome, much?
An anthem for woman of the time, if I may be so bold, and here we have it being sung by Raquel Welch, and well, a singing pig who is openly shallow, but defiantly strong as well. It works on so many levels, it is almost daunting to think about it.
Note the Jim Henson Muppet under the title.
I know I will catch heat for this, but Miss Piggy is still my favorite example of an empowered female celebrity. Her love for Kermit is not something I see as a weakness. Moreover, I see her heart as resilient, but I digress lest you people tear me asunder in the comments.
Alice Cooper Sings Welcome To My Nightmare With Monster Muppets
No, you did not just eat some bad mushrooms. What you just watched really happened. And on a “kid’s” show, no less.
The whole entire episode featuring Alice Cooper is so chock full of mindf**k moments, it is difficult to choose one. I would have to say the live version he does of Welcome To My Nightmare takes the cake, though. Only because I still (ironically) have nightmares about it.
For most of the episode, it is another example of a celebrity sort of playing up their famous personalities. From the skits, to a killer version of School’s Out, you can tell Alice Cooper is having a blast doing this, and for that reason alone, the whole episode shines. And it was another example, much like when Vincent Price was featured, when kids who were watching it sat up and suddenly realized this guy was not NEARLY as creepy as he portrayed himself.
The flesh colored Muppet in the middle is quite freakish.
Then the Welcome To My Nightmare scene happens, and everyone is just kind of sitting there in awe. Parents don’t know what to say to kids, kids don’t know what to think. It is very low budget, but that somehow makes it even creepier. Now, as an adult, I watch this and laugh. Not because it is so bad, though, but because you can sense Jim Henson, just off camera, giggling to himself about how awesome he KNOWS this is.
One thing can be said, Jim Henson never compromised himself, and that defines a true artist.
Rita Moreno TRIES To Sing FEVER With Animal
Another example of a sex symbol having no problem whatsoever with being the butt of the joke if there are Muppets around. This show is a perfect gauge for just how humble some celebrities of the time were.
Here, we have the sultry Rita Moreno trying to sing Fever, in her typical, sensual style, and wouldn’t you know it, Animal (the id of the Muppet world) will have no part of it. There is something so wonderfully simple about this idea, yet it works so well.
Fact: My ADD was so bad, my parents used this as an example, and bought me a drum kit in the second grade. FACT!
It always blew my mind how the celebrities never seemed like they were “acting” to me when they were on the Muppet show. They never talked AT the characters, even though they were lifeless. They always talked TO them. I watch episodes and still see that, and this sketch is a perfect example. And it still makes me laugh to this day. Speaking of Animal…