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cher1-0From Television City in Hollywood, CBS presents Cher!

And with those words, The Cher Show begins.  Not many people remember The Cher Show, which is not to be confused with the iconic Sonny and Cher Show that ran from 1971 to 1974.  The duo divorced in 1975, thus ending their variety show partnership, and Cher took another stab at her own series with The Cher Show.

So, why are we talking about The Cher Show on a Muppet fan site?

Hardcore Muppet fans (and probably a lot of casual fans too) will recognize two memorable clips from various documentaries and compilations: Kermit and Ray Charles singing “Bein’ Green” and Kermit flirting with Cher.  But haven’t you ever wondered where they came from?

We’ve known for a while that they were seen on The Cher Show, but since the program never made it to home video or syndication, we’ve never been able to see it for ourselves.  Until now.

Thanks to a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend, we obtained both episodes of The Cher Show featuring the Muppets.  The episodes appear to have been filmed in between Sex and Violence and the first season of The Muppet Show when Jim Henson was still trying to pitch the idea of a Muppet series to the networks.  They needed to build their visibility and resume with some hip stars and adult audiences, so a show like Cher’s was perfect for them.

Unfortunately, we’re not able to upload the videos to YouTube ourselves (as you can see, the images all have a time stamp on them), but we’re doing the next best thing: recapping and transcribing both episodes!  Starting with the first one, right now.

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The episode begins with a Cher song.  She begins with a soft intro of the Carole King song “Where You Lead”, which then segues into the more upbeat “How Sweet It Is to Be Loved by You”.  Cher monologues about her summer, and hints at a busy one.  I guess if we’d been reading the tabloids at that point, we’d know that she had just married her second husband Greg Allman.  She introduces her lineup for the evening: Bill Cosby, The Smothers Brothers, and of course, The Muppets.  Now that’s a promise for a pretty impressive hour of television.

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We start out strong!  Cher and the Electric Mayhem are in the recording studio singing the Rolling Stones song, “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”.  From what I can tell, the band had only been seen in full once before, in the Sex and Violence pilot, so this was only the second time folks at home ever caught a glimpse of Floyd and Zoot and Animal.  Janice, who would eventually be performed by Erin Ozker on the first season of The Muppet Show, is played by Richard Hunt (who, as we all know, would take over the character in season 2 until his passing).  He performs her with a falsetto, as the valley girl voice wouldn’t come until over a year later.  The rest of the band, however, is exactly how you remember them.

(Cher and the band are playing “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”.)

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Bill Cosby: Cut cut cut! What is the matter? Speaking as the impresario in charge of this production it is my opinion that the quality of the sound on the previous take was sub standard and inefficient and very very ppfffft.

Dr. Teeth: In other words, you didn’t like it.

Bill Cosby: No other words, exactly those words.

Cher: Can we just get finished with it, man?  ‘Cause I’ve got to go.

Dr. Teeth: Listen, I’ve got to split myself, I’ve got to drive Animal to Bakersfield.

Animal: Yeah! Yeah!

Dr. Teeth: He’s in the California All-Cymbal Orchestra, you see.

Animal: Cymbal!  (Bangs on drums.)

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Cher: Wait wait wait! If somebody can just tell me what I’m doing wrong, I’ll do it right and we can get out of here.

Dr. Teeth: You’ve got no soul

Zoot: No rhythm.

Floyd: No feeling.

Animal: No cymbal! (Bangs on drums.)

Bill Cosby: You’ve got to feel pain, you’ve got to project pain, and you don’t even know what pain is.  That’s what the problem is right there.

Cher: I’ve been working with these turkeys for the past three-and-a-half hours, I know what pain is, believe me!

Bill Cosby: That is not pain. Can someone tell her what pain is?

Dr. Teeth: Sure, sure.  This is pain.  (Bites down on his own hand.)

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Zoot and Floyd: This is pain!  (They headbutt each other.)

Animal: Pain! Pain! (Hits himself in the head with his drumstick.)

Bill Cosby: (Handing a mallet to Cher.) Give yourself a few hits on the forehead, you’ll feel some pain.

Cher: I’ll try anything.  (Hits herself on the forehead.)

Dr. Teeth: Harder.

Cher: (Gives Dr. Teeth a dirty look.  Hits herself again and goes cross-eyed.  She sings:)  I can’t get no satisfaction…

Floyd: She’s got it!

Animal: No, don’t like it!

Floyd: If Animal doesn’t dig it, it’s got to be good!

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Bill Cosby: All right now, if you ladies and gentlemen will consent to reiterate the previously enacted melodic syncopation, I believe everything wil be copacetic.  (The Electric Mayhem shows signs of confusion.)

Cher: He said we’ve got to hit it again.

Bill Cosby: That’s right.  On four… Four!

(Cher hits herself in the head and sings “Satisfaction”.)

Cher: Wait a minute!  I’ve had it!

Bill Cosby: No, we were cooking!

Cher: No man, my head is killing me, my throat hurts, I’ve been here for three-and-a-half hours, it sounds terrible!

Bill Cosby, No, it sounded good!  Now can you get any other disease?

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Cher: But I can’t finish the record.

Dr. Teeth: But listen man, you don’t have to.  See, that’s enough.  I can see it all now: Cher sings on the world’s smallest album.

Bill Cosby: Yeah, that’d be like licorice Life Savers.

Cher: Wait a minute, you guys are weird.  You’re whacked out.  You’re a bunch of bananas.

Floyd: Thank you, your hipness.

Janice: You’re not so bad yourself, honey.

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Brewster: (Enters from offstage, as if he’d been there the whole time.) Well sirbob, here’s your record (hands Bill Cosby a tiny record.)

Dr. Teeth: Hey man, I love ya to death, but with that little beauty, we’re gonna bend the record industry out of shape!

Cher: Just like you guys did with my head.  I’m getting out of here.  You guys just carry on. (Cher gets up and leaves.)

Animal: Where woman go?  Me want woman!

Bill Cosby: Forget it! Consider her like an empty bottle of Ripple.  No laughs, no fun, no deposit, no return.

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Dr. Teeth: We don’t need her anymore because we got that record.

Bill Cosby: What do you think of it?

Janice: I think it’d make a nice earring.

Dr. Teeth: Show it to Animal, he’s a nice judge of music.  What do you think of it, Animal:

Animal: (Bill Cosby hands the record to Animal, who promptly eats it.) It a hit!

Bill Cosby: All right!  On three… Three!  (The band plays on.)

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The next sketch features quite possibly the most unlikely of comedy duos: Tommy Smothers and Rufus the dog.  Rufus had been seen previously in Hey, Cinderella and The Muppets Valentine Show (another Muppet Show pilot), as well as various TV appearances.  It certainly seemed like Rufus was destined to become part of the Muppet crew, especially when he was performed so brilliantly by Frank Oz.

In the sketch, Tommy Smothers is sitting at a bar, singing “The Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” while smoking a cigarette.  For those of you who know The Smothers Brothers, There’s almost no dialog in the sketch, so you’ll have to settle for my long descriptions instead.

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Tommy smokes while singing “The Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”.  Rufus climbs up to the bar, looks impatient.  Rufus begins to howl along with the song.  Tommy signals to the bartender to bring Rufus a drink.  Rufus gladly and quickly swigs the drink down.

Rufus hiccups and chokes on the strong drink.  Tommy lights up a cigarette. Rufus smells at it, so Tommy offers it to him.  Rufus mistakenly sticks it in his ear, and then takes a long toke.  A billow of smoke pours of out of his mouth, as he chokes on it.  Rufus angrily throws the pack of cigarettes on the ground.

Throughout the sketch, Rufus chokes, gags, and hiccups while Tommy continues to lightly sing behind the audience’s laughter.

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A puff of smoke wafts up from where the puppeteers are hidden.  Rufus looks around confused, and then shares a glance at the camera and looks embarrassed.  It’s an obvious mistake, and they’re owning up to it.

Tommy: Hey, wanna come home with me?  Come on, I’ve taken home a lot worse dogs than you.

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Next, we find Bill Cosby, wearing a fake nose, fake teeth, and a Fat Albert shirt, backstage.  He approaches a stagehand to ask if he can meet Cher.  He represents Dr. Fung, a plastic surgeon.  And that’s funny, because he’s horribly ugly.  And Cher is a beautiful woman who doesn’t need plastic surgery.  The lolz write themselves.

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Cher brings the mood down a bit by singing “Send in the Clowns” in front of a portrait of herself.  Thankfully, that’s a lot less weird than singing “Send in the Clowns” in front of some actual clowns.

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The Smothers Brothers finally get a chance to do something funny.  They sing a song about a yo-yo man while Tommy does yo-yo tricks.  There isn’t enough yo-yo humor on television nowadays.

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Okay, enough of that.  Back to Muppets.  Cher sings the Beatles song “Something”, as Sweetums stumbles into the room.  If my math is right, this is the first time that Sweetums had been seen since his debut in The Frog Prince several years earlier.  So for many people, this was their introduction to everyone’s favorite ogre.  But the most jarring thing is that Sweetums is performed here by Jim Henson.

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While Cher croons the Beatles song, Sweetums ambles around in the background, knocking over pedestals and set pieces.  He joins Cher for a few lyrics, like when she sings, “Something in the way he woos me,” he responds with “Woo woo.”  When she sings, “You’re asking me will my love grow,” he thoughtfully replies with “I don’t know.  I… don’t know.”  They even have some very simple choreography as they cross their legs in sync.  Jim’s Sweetums is much creepier and more stand-offish than Richard’s, which makes for a great juxtaposition against the beautiful and elegant Cher.  But more than anything, it’s just weird to see Sweetums, but not really Sweetums.

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The next sketch is my least favorite of either episode of The Cher Show.  It’s a fake game show called The Pain Game.  Dick Smothers is the host, and the contestants are a husband and wife played by Tommy Smothers and Cher.  Tommy is taken to the “torture chamber” while Cher answers incredibly difficult questions.  For each incorrect answer, Tommy is forced to endure some sort of excruciating pain.  The sketch ends with Tommy being brutally executed.  Are you laughing yet?

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The remainder of the show is dedicated to fitness.  Leotards, medicine balls, sweat bands, and aerobics flood the screen for the next few numbers.  We begin with Cher, the Smothers Brothers, and Bill Cosby singing “Shake Up America” while using various exercise equipment.  It’s pretty awkward, since neither Cosby or the Smotherses are dancers, and they’ve probably never seen a medicine ball in their life.

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We then segue to Cher dressed as a suburban wife, working out in her living room with an exercise program on her TV.  The Smothers Brothers are stereotypical convicts, wearing masks and carrying sacks, who break in to rob the place.  The exercise program tricks the Smotherses to think they got caught by the police.  You know, “Put your hands up!” and that sort of thing.  It’s a brief sketch, which is good, because it’s a brief joke.

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The next bit in the fitness motif is a song sung by the Smothers Brothers about karate, and it’s kinda racist.  A whole lotta kung fu with a side of egg fu yung, if you know what I mean.

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It has been far too long since we’ve seen a Muppet on this show.  Thankfully, Sweetums stars in the next sketch, alongside Bill Cosby.  But unlike Sweetums’ appearance earlier in this episode, he’s now performed by Richard Hunt, making it possibly Richard’s very first appearance as this character.  Meaning that it’s the first time that Sweetums was Sweetums.

In this sketch, Bill Cosby plays a crazed-looking doctor, while Sweetums enters for his appointment.  And our scene begins…

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(Bill Cosby is performing a checkup on the table.)

Bill Cosby: Patient is responding much more satisfactorily than yesterday.  (He taps the padding.)  You’re getting a little soft around the middle there.  Stay off the fatty foods!

Sweetums: Doctor!

Bill Cosby: Come in!

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Sweetums: Sweetums!

Bill Cosby: My boy, I’m glad you came this early.  I think we can stop it and clean it up right here.  I’m going to write you a few things to take before breakfast with bananas…

Sweetums: No! Sweetums come for annual checkup!

Bill Cosby: Checkup!

Sweetums: Checkup!

Bill Cosby: Checkup! Boy, you should’ve bathed before coming here.  I can’t put my instruments on these things.  What time is it?  (Puts his stethoscope up to his ear.)  12:30.  I’m going to lunch.

Sweetums: No no no.

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Bill Cosby: Lift your left leg.  (Sweetums lifts his right leg.)  Boy, you’ve got big trouble.  You’ve got two right feet.  Lift your right leg now.  (Sweetums lifts his right leg again.)  Good.

Sweetums: Good!

Bill Cosby: Now roll your eyes around.

Sweetums: (Sweetums rolls his eyes until he gets dizzy.)  Ohhh… brain hurt!

Bill Cosby: Brain hurt?

Sweetums: Brain hurt!

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Bill Cosby: I’ll write that down.  Brain hurting.  Now your problem is you’re covered from head to toe in dandruff.

Sweetums: Sweetums know.  Have to be followed around by snowplow.

Bill Cosby: It’s nothing a little Head and Shoulders can’t cure.

Sweetums: Sweetums try that.  It not good enough.

Bill Cosby: Well, have you tried Wrist and Ankles.

Sweetums: Bad joke, bad joke.  Brian hurt, brain hurt!

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Bill Cosby: Of course, I can solve your problem.  I suggest that you wear some shoes.  Perhaps a nice pair of hush puppies?

Sweetums: Sweetums try hush puppies.  Too small.  Need Saint Bernard!

Both: Bad joke, bad joke.

Bill Cosby: Well, you seem to be in good physical shape.  There’s nothing more I can do for you.  If you’ll just pay this check, take it right over there and give it to the nice lady.

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Sweetums: (Sweetums looks at the bill in shock.)  Hundred and fifty dollars!?

Bill Cosby: That’s correct.  You see, it’s very seldom I get a monster for a patient.

Sweetums: At these prices, no wonder!  Bad joke, bad joke.  Brain hurt, brain hurt!

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And now we’re back in the exercise room with Cher, Bill Cosby, and the Smothers Brothers, but this time Sweetums is with them.  They sing another chorus of “Shake Up America” while pretending to exercise.  Sweetums mostly runs in place and exhausts himself.

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For the final goodnights, Jim Henson (wearing an incredibly ’70s leisure suit) joins the other stars on stage.  Strangely, there’s no credit for the other puppeteers who worked with Jim on this show, and Cher Show viewers will have to wait decades before being able to look that information up on the Muppet Wiki.

And thus concludes the first episode of the Muppets on The Cher Show!  Tune back in to ToughPigs in a few days for the second installment, in which you’ll see Kermit flirt with Cher, have a staring contest with Chastity, and sing a classic duet with Ray Charles!

Click here to learn what pain is on the ToughPigs forum!

by Joe Hennes – Joe@ToughPigs.com

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