Who is Kermit the Frog? He’s often described as the glue that holds the Muppets together. When Jim Henson’s colleagues are asked which character Jim was most similar to, the frog is often the first one name-checked: He was the guy making everything work, a straight man in the middle of a throng of eccentrics.
All of which is great, but you know when I really love Kermit? When he freaks the hell out. One complaint fans have of recent Muppet projects is that Kermit just doesn’t lose his temper like he used to, which is a valid point. He’s supposed to be a funny character, and he’s never funnier than when he loses his cool.
A few years back, I posted an article here on Tough Pigs listing some of my favorite instances of Kermit losing his composure. Back then, not all of the clips were available for viewing online, so the article had a few holes in it. But now we’re living in the glorious era where everything is on the internet, so I’m very happy to now present a revised version. There’s even a new freakout to talk about! As before, each moment is rated on a scale of 1 (lowest) to 10 (highest) I’m calling the Freakout Scale.
Grover Sells Sunglasses
On Sesame Street, Kermit is free of the insanity of The Muppet Show, but he still gets to play straight man to some crazy characters. Kermit was often paired with Grover to great effect, including a series of sketches in which Grover is a salesman trying to sell Kermit products he can’t really use. I guess these sketches wouldn’t really work as well now that door-to-door salesmen are a nearly extinct species, but I think we can all absolutely identify with Kermit here, as he struggles to keep his temper right up until the moment when he chases Grover out of his house.
On the Freakout Scale: 3
“I wish I’d never been born!”
Freakouts are seemingly rarer in Kermit’s Steve Whitmire era, but Whitmire showed us he could bring the frantic with Kermit’s Christmas Eve rant in It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie. The Muppet Theater has been lost to a greedy corporate type, and Kermit blames himself. His self-loathing diatribe to Daniel the angel (which mostly consists of variations on the theme of “I WISH I’D NEVER BEEN BORN!”) is really just a device to steer the movie into the “world without Kermit” sequence, but it manages to be sad and hilarious at the same time.
On the Freakout Scale: 9
Cookie Monster and the Mystery Box
Kermit was paired with Cookie Monster much less frequently than with Grover, but here we see that Cookie is just as skilled at pushing the frog’s buttons. In this sketch, Kermit is frustrated by Cookie’s willful, persistent ignorance. I think most of us know people like that, so we can sympathize with Kermit here.
On the Freakout-o-meter: 6
“Who hired this crew?”
No doubt most Muppet fans would consider it to be a minor entry in Kermit’s history of rants, but this Whitmire-era freakout from Muppet Treasure Island deserves an honorable mention. After the roll call scene establishes that the Hispaniola’s crew is full of unsavory characters, Kermit’s Captain Smollett demands to know: “Who hired this crew? This is undoubtedly the seediest bunch of cutthroats, villains, and scoundrels I have ever seen, so who hired them?!” It’s slight compared to some of these other moments, but I’m pretty sure this was the first time we saw Steve Whitmire’s Kermit lose his temper, so it was like a sweet reunion with an old, beloved, yelling friend. (By the way, it was Mr. Bimbo, the little man who lives in Fozzie’s finger. He hired the crew.)
On the Freakout Scale: 2
The Wonderful World of T-shirts
All Kermit wants is a T-shirt with his name on it. No big deal. Everyone owns personalized clothing, right? But if Kermit got what he wanted, we wouldn’t have this Sesame Street sketch, with appearances by Kermit the Forg, Kermit the Grof, and Kermit the Gorf — and the inclusion of Kermit’s exasperated line “I’m Kermit the Frog and I told you I want my Kermit the Frooooog t-shirt!” To which Frank Oz’s shopkeeper Muppet responds, “No need to get emotional!” Left unanswered: Why Kermit is already wearing a Kermit the Frog t-shirt when he arrives at the store. How many does he need, anyway?
On the Freakout Scale: 6
Kermit insults Piggy’s heritage
I debated whether to include this one, because it’s not really Kermit getting mad so much as Kermit being mean to Piggy. In the John Denver episode of The Muppet Show, Kermit is chagrined to find that none of his fellow Muppets are looking forward to their camping trip to the swamp. Piggy is particularly unenthusiastic, and when Kermit figures this out, he gets a little testy: “We don’t have to go to the swamp. We can go back to where you were born — the sty! You know, where your roots are! Where pigs eat swill and wallow in the mud!” This does not persuade Piggy to change her mind about the swamp.
On the Freakout Scale: 2
Kermit’s Telephone Demo
So we’ve seen Kermit abused by Grover, Cookie Monster, and a t-shirt salesman. Now how about America’s dumbest urban cowboy, Forgetful Jones? In this Sesame sketch, Kermit tries to teach Forgetful how to use the telephone, and of course everything goes smoothly and Forgetful gets it right on the first try and nothing funny happens whatsoever.
On the Freakout Scale: 3
Piggy is fired
This is the one, right here. In the Loretta Swit episode of The Muppet Show, Miss Piggy leaks a story to a tabloid that she and Kermit are secretly married. To say that Kermit is unamused would be a vast understatement. “I will not stand around while you do dumb things like that!” he snaps, and when she asks what he’s going to do about it, he has an answer: “I’ll tell you what I’m going to do, Piggy, I’m going to fire you! Piggy, you are fired! You are fired, Piggy! You are fired! FIRED!” And he fires her! But of course she’s back by the end of the episode. You know, sometimes when I watch this stuff it really hits me just how dysfunctional Kermit and Piggy’s relationship is.
On the Freakout Scale: 10
“Go ahead and walk!”
In The Great Muppet Caper, Kermit confronts Piggy at a duck pond in the park, the day after she tricked him into believing she was Lady Holiday. This scene is really more about Kermit and Piggy snapping at each other…
PIGGY: I’m playing over 800 different emotions here!
KERMIT: Well, why don’t you try playing one of them right?!
PIGGY: I have a career of my own! I don’t need this lousy duck pond!
KERMIT: Okay, sure, go ahead, walk! Walk! Go ahead and walk!
…than a rant from Kermit, but it’s entertaining as always to see him make scrunchy faces and breathe heavily. Naturally, this scene of Kermit and Piggy screaming at each other is immediately followed by the most romantic scene in the movie, the “Couldn’t We Ride” number.
On the Freakout Scale: 5
Here’s another classic Kermit/Piggy scene that shows us that, for these two crazy lovebirds, yelling is like foreplay. in this bit from The Muppets Take Manhattan, Kermit’s just discovered that Piggy (whom he thought was far away at a new job) has been spying on him and his new friend Jenny. If she’s just a friend, Piggy demands, why were you giving her “the huggies?” And then:
KERMIT: Jenny and I were hugging because we’re friends! That’s what friends do! Friends do not spy!
PIGGY: I spied because I care!
KERMIT: I care too!
PIGGY: Well, why don’t you say so?!
KERMIT: I JUST DID!
PIGGY: ALL RIGHT!
So the only thing that can come next is a romantic carriage ride around Central Park.
On the Freakout Scale: 8
You kidnapped Jack Black?!
In the earlier version of this article, I expressed the hope of Muppet fans everywhere that we’d get to see Kermit lose his cool again soon in a new production. It took a few years, but we got a nice little moderate freakout in 2011’s The Muppets. Kermit has just about given up on the telethon to save the Muppet Theater because they can’t find a celebrity guest, so Piggy takes matters into her own gloves and leads a mission to kidnap Jack Black. I saw the movie three times in its theatrical release, and Kermit’s reaction to the news got consistently big laughs every time.
On the Freakout Scale: 3
So there you have it. Long live Kermit, and long may he make scrunchy faces!
Click here to spy because you care on the Tough Pigs forum!
by Ryan Roe – Ryan@ToughPigs.com