It is the opinion of this writer that “Muppet Beach Party” is terrible, awful, stinky, and downright no good. After Ryan Roe’s review last week, it was decided that a counterpoint needed to be heard. In Ryan’s opinion, Muppet Beach Party was not great, but tolerable. In the following article, you’ll find a very different opinion.
The conversation below takes place between ToughPigs writers Joe Hennes and Anthony Strand who, risking certain disappointment and personal anguish, actually listened to the entirety of Muppet Beach Party. Thankfully, the cameras were rolling.
Anthony: I guess we should do some set-up first.
Joe: So, Ryan posted his Muppet Beach Party review last week, and you and I are both notorious for despising this album.
Anthony: Yep! That’s us! I love Ryan like a Leprechaun Brother, but I can’t imagine how it’s possible for an actual Muppet fan to enjoy this record.
Joe: Same here. I remember being really excited about Muppet Beach Party when it came out, buying the cassette tape (yep, I’m old) and being horribly disappointed. I don’t think I listened to it again for a few years after that first time.
Anthony: I never heard it until around 1999, shortly after the first real blossoming of my Muppet obsession (I was a pretty cool 8th grader). I was a much less discerning Muppet fan then than I am today – I adored Muppets from Space for example, but even then I thought everything about “Beach Party” was just a little bit off.
Joe: I have to be honest, I’m a little nervous about listening to it today. It’s been a while since I’ve heard the whole thing, and I’m not looking forward to finding one more Muppet thing to hate. Then again, I’m more afraid of actually liking it.
Anthony: Because if you like it, it will destroy everything you think you understand about yourself?
Joe: Yes. Also because it means that I like garbage.
Anthony: And with that, let’s go ahead and put on some trash.
Joe: Sounds good. Godspeed, Mr. Strand.
Anthony: And to you, Mr. Hennes.
Joe: The album starts with the sound of a bus pulling up, and all the Muppets getting ready for the big beach party. Man, this is gonna be exciting! All of our favorite Muppet pals, all together for an epic beach adventure!
Anthony: I love the Muppets! I love it when they do funny things! Unfortunately, we start off right away with non-jokes. Everyone’s just listing beach items because they can’t think of anything to say.
Joe: It’s weird that they’re trying to fill in some sort of storyline, as if they needed to excuse the fact that they’re just singing a bunch of random beach songs.
Anthony: Yeah, it’s a strange conceit.
Joe: And we’re supposed to just play along with the stuff Kermit and Clifford see in the ocean, like the surfing rats. It makes me miss, y’know, puppetry.
Anthony: Me too! My fiancee just said, “That’s really lame” when she heard that dialogue, in fact.
Joe: Did I ever tell you how much I hate it when Clifford calls Kermit “Kerm”?
Anthony: You didn’t, but I don’t blame you.
Joe: Most people don’t like uninvited shortenings of their names. Isn’t that right, Thony?
Anthony: That’s right, J-MAN!
Joe: Oooh, I kinda like that.
Anthony: Well I’m glad Muppet Beach Party is bringing one of us some enjoyment.
Anthony: Well, I was gonna say about the album halfway attempting to have a story – the big problem is that it won’t commit. It would be much better if it had an actual story that allowed for some real jokes instead of just Clifford saying “I got mine on” when the lyrics mention sandals. But it also would be much better if it was just an album of cover songs that didn’t have a silly theme
Joe: Absolutely. I mean, I like the idea behind Kermit Unpigged, with the Muppets all getting separated in a recording studio. But that one works because the idea lends itself to celebrity cameos, random songs, and an incredibly loose definition of “plot”.
Anthony: Right, just like The Muppet Show!
Joe: This one just falls apart 10 seconds into the album.
Anthony: It does, right around the time Robin says, “The Frog Scouts all have their flippers. Flippers. That’s a joke.” No Robin, it isn’t. Not really.
Joe: It also tells us that we should keep our ears peeled for another appearance by everyone’s favorite characters, The Frog Scouts, later in the album. [Spoilers: They appear later in the album.]
Joe: The next sand-and-surf inspired jam is Wooly Bully. Because nothing says “Day at the Beach” like being chased around by a furry ovine with a penchant for dancing.
Anthony: Good call, guy. This song doesn’t even really fit the album’s theme. Too bad this isn’t Muppet Novelty Songs Party.
Joe: In which the Muppets spend an afternoon in an Irish pub?
Anthony: Yes. With Dr. Demento.
Joe: One thing I like about Wooly Bully: They repeat all the little asides from the real song, like the “Hear it come, hear it come!” and “Watch it now, watch it!” I mean, not like they need more asides…
Anthony: Some of that stuff works pretty well, but some of the material is just so incredibly lazy. Like when Rizzo says, “Let’s not be L-7” and all Fozzie can think to say in response is, “L-7?” As though pointing out that it’s a weird term is enough of a joke.
Joe: Oh, absolutely. But if this one had been on the Muppet Show, it would’ve had the exact same dearth of jokes.
Anthony: Yeah, that’s true.
Joe: But it also would’ve been appreciated as a song, rather than the sideshow the Muppets tried to be in the 90s.
Anthony: Right. On The Muppet Show, the song would have been done straight, or there would have been funny action of some kind.
Joe: Maybe they would’ve built a giant Wooly Bully Muppet. Like, a hairy cow monster. Man, now I’m disappointed that we’re not watching The Muppet Show.
Anthony: Me too!
Joe: Is the album over yet?
Anthony: Nope! Just 10 more songs to go!
Joe: UGH! I hate everything!
Under the Boardwalk
Anthony: The next song is “Under the Boardwalk,” a cover of the Bruce Willis cover of the Drifters’ original.
Joe: Bruce Willis is my favorite Muppet.
Anthony: “Under the Boardwalk” is actually a song I really love.
Joe: I’m assuming you mean the real version, and not the “Surf Rat” version.
Anthony: I do, although I think Kevin Clash really gives it his all here.
Joe: That’s true, though he hardly even sounds like Clifford anymore. Which, I guess, is just fine with me.
Anthony: I’d buy “Kevin Clash Sings the Super Hits of the ’60s”. The harmonies from the rats are fun too. If the whole album sounded more like this – Muppeteers singing good songs well – I’d enjoy it a whole lot more.
Joe: Yeah, good call. I’d also like it a lot more if the instrumentals were actually instrumentals, rather than an opportunity for the rats to try way too hard to be funny.
Anthony: Yeah, I can’t make any sense of that dialogue. It just sounds like muttering to me.
Joe: Yeah, it’s probably best to just drown it out.
Anthony: So hey, do you think the asides on this CD were scripted?
Joe: I hope so, if only to give me a little faith in the creativity of the Muppeteers.
Anthony: Yeah, if they’re ad-libbed, not one of the Muppeteers is on his game. And if they are scripted, someone didn’t do their job.
Joe: Maybe Jerry Juhl was at the beach that day.
Anthony: Next we have “Sugar Shack,” the original Jimmy Gilmer version of which is my absolute least favorite song of all time.
Joe: It’s a good choice for your least favorite song. What with all the terribleness.
Anthony: Yeah, the lyrics are uniformly nonsensical. Which means it fits right in on this album.
Joe: Rizzo is in rare form here too. By which I mean he WON’T SHUT UP! He literally talks between every single one of Gonzo’s lines.
Anthony: Yeah, usually if I don’t like a song, a Muppet version will always work better for me (“Little Saint Nick” and “New York State of Mind” are good examples). This is not only somehow worse than the original, but the constant asides are making me hate Rizzo.
Joe: By the way, I’ve gotten a little tired of Rizzo’s main characteristic being the fact that he likes to eat.
Anthony: Yeah, I greatly prefer the amoral, scheming Rizzo.
Joe: It’s not exactly a defining characteristic for any three-dimensional character. And by this point, that’s exactly what he’s been boiled down to. Rizzo: (RIZ-so) n. 1. Rat. 2. Gonzo’s friend. 3. Likes food.
Anthony: Well, what’s really sad is that this came out on the heels of his brilliant performance in Muppet Christmas Carol. He eats a lot there, but he’s also genuinely funny and likable. Here he’s just Chuck E. Cheese. He is just ATTITUDE.
Joe: That backward baseball cap has gone to his head!
Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini
Anthony: Next is “Itsy-Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini,” which is our first major appearance from Piggy. Who does NOTHING at all interesting. And here’s my question – Why did they choose this song for a Piggy number?
Joe: Because they got the rights to a song about a woman wearing a bikini, and it was either her or Camilla.
Anthony: I suppose, but it’s a song about a woman who is shy and doesn’t want to be seen in her skimpy outfit. That doesn’t sound like the Piggy I know.
Joe: Nope. That pig loves showing off whatever latest fashion she’s got on.
Anthony: Yeah, so they should have at least given her material about how the lyrics weren’t true. Instead she just sings absent-mindedly. You can almost hear Frank Oz checking his watch.
Joe: And Kermit, as always, is carrying the weight. This has never made more sense than it does now.
Anthony: Yeah, Steve Whitmire kind of spends the whole album working overtime trying to make up for everyone else.
Joe: Which is also good, because people still hated him at the time for being a poor imitation of Jim’s Kermit.
Anthony: It doesn’t always work (see: Rizzo in the previous song), but Frog bless him, he’s trying.
Joe: In retrospect, he’s actually pretty great at being Kermit in such tumult times.
Anthony: Oh, for sure. That Whitmire guy, he’s all right.
Joe: Let’s keep him!
Joe: Next up is Limbo Rock, which is neither about the afterlife or geology.
Anthony: This is another song that, like Ryan mentioned in his piece, doesn’t really work when it’s audio-only.
Joe: Not in the least. I want to see Muppets doing things! Why is that so difficult??
Anthony: That makes me wonder yet again why they thought this would be a good theme for an album. Was there a surfing craze in 1993 that I forgot about?
Joe: Fozzie is just naming characters who we’re supposed to assume are dancing under the limbo stick, and then everyone’s going “wwwooooOOOOAAHHH!” There’s nothing funny or interesting or captivating or WHY ARE THEY DOING THIS???
Anthony: It’s just 2 1/2 minutes of Muppets making noise.
Joe: Why isn’t the whole album just sounds of Muppets screaming? It would be just as entertaining.
Anthony: And at least you’d know what you were getting! Although there is one thing in “Limbo Rock” that really intrigues me. Floyd suggests a forklift to get Piggy up to do the limbo (which is actually an okay little gag). But then Kermit says “How about a porklift?” Kermit is making fun of Piggy for being a pig now? Has Kermit secretly reverted to being Philip Phil?!
Joe: That would explain so much! No wonder he’s so boring! The only thing missing is some of his overly-obvious product slogans. “Muppet Beach Party: For People Who Like Things That Stink”.
Anthony: “Muppet Beach Party Will Baffle and Confuse You”.
Joe: “Muppet Beach Party: It’s Like an Ocean Cruise, Except There’s No Water and It Doesn’t Actually Go Anywhere”.
Anthony: So basically this whole album should just be duets between Kevin Clash and Philip Phil.
Joe: “Should be”? Isn’t it already?
Anthony: Wow, yeah. It is. Maybe the next song will have some Muppets Doing Funny Things in it!
Joe: I hope it does!
Papa Oom Mow Mow
Joe: So much for that! This next song has some of my favorite Muppet performers: Scott Leonard, Sean Altman, Elliott Kerman, and Barry Carl! Better known as Carmen Sandiego’s own Rockapella.
Anthony: Rocka – what the aitch?! I mean, I love that Christopher Eccleston-looking Rockapella guy as much as anyone, but what are they doing here?
Joe: They were SO famous! For a whole hour!
Anthony: I loved that Folgers commercial.
Joe: DO IT ROCKAPELLA!
Anthony: Okay, I don’t understand why Rockapella are guest-starring on this album in the first place, but why do Kevin and Phil call them “clams”? Why bother with the charade?
Joe: This is the “funniest sound [Kermit] has ever heard”. The guy who’s interviewed Koozebanians.
Anthony: Everyone knows the funniest sound Kermit’s heard was the Galley-Oh-Hoop-Hoop. I will say, though, that this song is perfect for this stupid album. Because it’s just a bunch of random noises.
Joe: It’s senseless, not funny, and involves lots of screaming.
Anthony: Which is kind of the theme here.
Joe: Yep, that’s Muppet Beach Party!
Joe: Okay, let’s keep moving. What’s next??
Anthony: Oh good, it’s “Kokomo”.
Joe: The worst Beach Boys song ever!
Anthony: Yes! The Beach Boys recorded so many great songs! How much better would this album be if it had Floyd singing “Feel Flows” or Gonzo singing “Here Today” to Camilla? But nope – we just get crummy old Kokomo instead.
Joe: And the worst part is, we can’t even escape this album by going to Kokomo. The Beach Boys made it up! Buncha jerks. Though if Kokomo did exist, this song would’ve ruined it.
Anthony: Yeah! Mike HATE is more like it! (Original joke.) (I made that up myself.)
Joe: (Well done.)
Anthony: I will say that this is actually one of the more pleasant songs in the album.
Joe: Yeah, they take a little break from the puns and asides. That’s nice.
Anthony: I’ll repeat that: Kokomo, hands down the worst-ever hit song by a once-great band, is one of the best things about this piece of junk.
Joe: That’s so sad.
Anthony: Isn’t it? But this is definitely one of those covers where I like the Muppet version better than the original.
Joe: You know what my favorite part of this song is? When the Inkspot says “Bahamas”. I always thought it was funny how he only says that one word in the chorus. That’s it for compliments about this song.
Anthony: Yeah! That’s such a great Steve voice! Once again, he’s everything good about this album.
Joe: It is! It’s like Steve was the only guy who actually showed up to the studio for the entire week. And even Kokomo’s instrumental is better; Kermit croons along rather than letting someone else come in and talk over the music.
Anthony: Yeah, it’s nice. It’s a thoroughly pleasant song. “Kokomo is adequate” – Philip Phil.
Joe: It’s all downhill from here, folks!
Joe: Next up is “Surfin'”, which is not to be confused with “Surfin’ USA”. This song knows no boundaries.
Anthony: It’s the third Beach Boys cover! Of four!
Joe: Good grief, it’s a running gag.
Anthony: I get that there’s only so much material for the theme, but seriously, guys – that’s a sign that your album is a bad idea
Joe: So, is this supposed to be Rizzo? Or just a random Surf Rat?
Anthony: I think it’s gotta be Rizzo. It’s his voice exactly, and he’s the leader of the rats.
Joe: Doesn’t he introduce himself as a Surf Rat earlier in the album?
Anthony: He does, he just says, “We’re the Surf Rats”.
Joe: Yeah, to Clifford, who would probably know who they are already.
Anthony: Well, considering that Muppet Beach Party takes place in a world where Piggy is too shy to limbo or go out in public in a bikini, I don’t think it’s a stretch to assume that Rizzo would re-introduce himself as “A Surf Rat”.
Joe: Right, it doesn’t matter who the rat is, all that matters is that this album is a genuine mess.
Anthony: Man, it really is. So why do you think Buzz the Wharf Rat asks for a glass for milk at the end? Because for the life of me, I can’t figure out what that’s supposed to mean.
Joe: People who don’t know this album are going to think you made that up. But no, Buzz the Wharf Rat (who is introduced at the beginning of the song) asks for a glass of milk. And then they LEFT IT IN THE ALBUM.
Anthony: That’s what passes for humor in this sub-Rocky Mountain Holiday travesty.
Joe: Wow, strong words, Anthony.
Anthony: Well, there aren’t a lot of Muppet things this bad. When I encounter one, I don’t hold back.
Joe: Rightfully so.
Anthony: Will say, though, that one of the Rats in this song sounds exactly like Elmo for some reason. I like that about it.
Joe: Maybe it’s this guy:
Anthony: Dorothy is imagining Elmo asking for a glass of milk.
Joe: What is going on in this album??? Let’s ask a baby. Because the baby wrote the script.
Anthony: On the next song, the Muppets will sit around saying, “Look at Mr. Noodle. He’s surfing! Now he’s drowning! Ha ha ha! Silly Mr. Noodle!”
Joe: I wish. Then this thing would be over. Speaking of which, let’s get the next song over with.
Anthony: Only three songs left! We can make it!
Walkin’ On Sunshine
Joe: “Walkin’ on Sunshine” sounds painful. The song, not the act of actually walking on the sun. Though that may be preferable.
Anthony: Embarrassing admission: I was actually kind of obsessed with the original Katrina & the Waves version of this in junior high.
Joe: And you got beat up how often?
Anthony: I was fortunate to live in a town of 700 people! My tormentors were few!
Joe: Lucky you!
Anthony: Anyway, here it’s sung by Clifford, which just really makes me miss Richard Hunt. A Janice-led version of this song would be amazing. I firmly believe that.
Joe: Oh man. You’re 100% right. Now I’m going to freely sob through this entire song. Okay, so Clifford is saying that he’s nervous about Gonzo and Rizzo playing percussions.
Anthony: Because Gonzo and Rizzo are irresponsible children. Makes perfect sense.
Joe: That may be the correct reaction if they were, say, handling loaded weapons or racecars or spring-loaded cannons. But man… they’re just cowbells and steel drums.
Anthony: Yeah, but you’re right – he keeps acting like they’re distracting from his song when really they’re just playing the actual rhythm part.
Joe: Right! They’re plenty obnoxious aside from their percussionism.
Anthony: Yeah, that’s true! At one point, Clifford says, “Hey, I’m trying to sing over here!” and Gonzo says “Sorry”. For what? They were playing the song! It’s like they planned to go back there and put in a bit where Gonzo does something crazy. But then they just forgot to, because even the producers don’t care about Muppet Beach Party.
Joe: To be fair, if I produced this album, I wouldn’t care either. Also, I’ve noticed that pretty much abandoned the “plot”. Like, Clifford just comes in to sing his song, then get right back off the record.
Anthony: That’s true. It’s never feels like an actual party. There’s no sense of the characters spending an afternoon together.
Joe: They tried a few times, like when Kermit and Clifford are walking down the beach, or Gonzo and Rizzo are looking for food. But here, Clifford just sings a song and emotionally spanks Gonzo.
Fun Fun Fun
Joe: Next up is a song with three lies in the title: “Fun Fun Fun”.
Anthony: Our last Beach Boys cover! I will say, up front, that it’s so incredibly wonderful to hear Jerry Nelson get a lead vocal. This is my favorite of the Beach Boys covers by far, because it’s just Robin singing his heart out.
Joe: Why didn’t the Muppets ever release an album of all Jerry songs? Because that would pretty much be the best thing to ever happen to anyone at any time.
Anthony: Oh, absolutely. This song shares a lot of the album’s common flaws. It’s full of worthless chatter, and it takes place in a reality where Robin can drive a car, but I just don’t care. When he says “She forgot all about the lah-brary like she told her old man, now” it just fills me with happy.
Joe: It would’ve worked on The Muppet Show!
Anthony: It totally would have!
Joe: And that’s good enough for me.
Anthony: Yeah, me too.
Joe: And oh boy, it’s the Frog Scouts!
Anthony: Yep! There they are!
Joe: We were promised Frog Scouts, and by gum, this album has delivered.
Anthony: They were accurately boreshadowed.
Joe: It’s also worth noting that this song, as well as most of the others, have the exact same orchestration as the originals, making them pretty predictable and dull. Like, why have Muppets cover a song if they’re not going to make it their own?
Anthony: That’s a good point. They’re not creative or innovative in any way.
Joe: It might as well be a Beach Boys Greatest Hits. Just throw some stupid Rizzo lines in there between every other lyric and you’ve got Muppet Beach Party.
Anthony: Again, I actually think “The Muppets Sing the Beach Boys” would be so much better, because it would have forced them to get a little bit deeper into the catalog.
Joe: That may be true. And it would’ve given them a more interesting hook than “Muppets go to the beach, but not really!”
Anthony: Yeah, it’s just an ill-conceived project all around. Especially following Muppet Christmas Carol so closely, which proved that the Muppets could still do quality work without Jim. And then in 1993, it was this and “Billy Bunny’s Animal Songs”. Like you mentioned, you and I were just kids at the time, but it must have been so depressing for adult Muppet fans
Joe: It was pretty tough being a Muppet fan in the 90s.
Anthony: Yep. And this is one of the most painful relics of those dark days. Which brings us to the last song, “Wipe Out”
Joe: Which is what I plan to do once it’s over.
Anthony: You’re going to remove the album from your memory?
Joe: I was going to collapse into a heap on the floor, but your idea sounds nice too!
Anthony: Well, here we go. Animal screaming over an exact reproduction of the Surfaris’ original song. I love Animal like I love my own mother, but there’s just nothing here.
Joe: Less than nothing. It’s Frank Oz screaming the song’s title over a MIDI file. And the music video was just as uninspired.
Anthony: Yeah, it was just Animal superimposed over old surfing footage.
Joe: Animal and his drum set perched precariously on the edge of a surfboard. For two and a half minutes.
Anthony: Yep! TV’s lovable Muppets, everyone! 1993!
Joe: And then the album just… ends! No goodbyes, no packing up the beach party to go home. No big ensemble number.
Anthony: Right. That’s another thing Ryan mentioned, and he’s completely correct. It’s yet another sign of the incredible sloppiness of this record.
Joe: It’s like they (understandably) left the studio a day early. Which is fine with me, since it makes for less album for us to review.
Anthony: They had to get to work on Muppet Classic Theater, probably.
Joe: Ah, that makes sense. They had to put their crap on hold to make uber crap.
Anthony: Yeah. So is there any reason for anyone to listen to this album?
Joe: I want to say “Kokomo” and “Fun Fun Fun”, but that’s only because they’re the best of the worst.
Anthony: I’d add “Under the Boardwalk” to that list, which is also okay. I’d consider putting those three on a Muppet Mix CD. And that’s the highest praise I have for this album – 25% of the songs are tolerable.
Joe: You wouldn’t add those to any mix CD. They still pale in comparison to the rest of the Muppets’ music library. There’s nothing funny or toe-tapping or, really, anything that could possibly elicit any sort of positive response.
Anthony: That’s true. But I’d *consider* it.
Joe: It’s all either bad or mediocre, and I can’t think of anything that even the most die-hard of Muppet fans wouldn’t want to miss. Not even the screaming hordes of Rockapella fanatics want this album, and those guys love crap!
Anthony: My fiancee is a huge Muppet fan. The type of person who casually references Doglion in conversation. And she left the room after 9 songs because she couldn’t take it anymore.
Joe: I’m surprised she lasted that long.
Anthony: Well, this is a woman who loves Muppet Classic Theater. So her tolerance level is high.
Joe: Okay, so: Final thoughts?
Anthony: Hmm. I guess I should try to end on something positive.
Joe: Good luck with that
Anthony: “Muppet Beach Party is better than Mr. Willoughby’s Christmas Tree.”
Joe: “Philip Phil shouldn’t quit his day job”
Anthony: Yeah, that just about says it all. The only way to get any enjoyment out of this CD is by referencing other Muppet stuff.
Joe: Or by using it as a Frisbee.
Anthony: That would be a much better day at the beach, yes.
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by Joe Hennes and Anthony Strand