They’ve kissed the Blarney Stone and they blessed our lives with the unofficial anthem of Ireland, giving us a guaranteed viral video to share every St. Patrick’s Day. Hey, let’s talk about “Danny Boy“.
Whichever Muppet Show writer had the brilliant idea to pair Beaker, the Swedish Chef, and Animal deserves all of the awards, medals, and cash prizes. It’s simple enough to team up the three gibberish-speaking Muppets, and the fact that they all happen to be fan favorites doesn’t hurt. “Danny Boy” wouldn’t have been the same if they added, say, Mahna Mahna or a Koozebanian. It had to be those three.
I love how the Swedish Chef kicks the song off, singing as if the song originated in his native tongue. There’s a peacefulness to his voice as he sings tenderly and from the heart. He does this strange thing with his hands, as if he’s pushing aside his happy thoughts so he can focus on wishing his son Danny good luck and well wishes as he’s sent off to war.
Animal takes the next verse, and at first we’re expecting an outburst of raw emotion. Why wouldn’t we? Animal is pure id, isn’t he? Not today – he trades in his gruffness for melancholy, casting his eyes downward with a sad acceptance. Fate has befallen Danny and there’s nothing we can do, so Animal tries to think fondly of him as he worries that he may never return home. Oh boy, oh boy indeed.
Beaker brings it home – no longer content with peace or compliance, his voice cries out in anguish! Beaker curses the gods for taking Danny. He has no bandwidth to mourn or hope any longer, but just a pure, unadulterated torment of grief. Not even the gentle moans of the Swedish Chef and Animal can soothe his soul, as the unlikely trio breaks down in tears as the pipes continue to call Danny Boy to his final reward.
Sorry… I think I got a little carried away. That’s what happens when you see this video over and over again every year.
In any case, I’m fascinated by the team-up of the cook, the beast, and the assistant. Even forgetting their speech patterns, it’s like they put together a B-team of Muppets that everyone loves, but can’t quite carry the A-plots usually driven by your Kermits or Piggies or Fozzies Bear. Just imagine if we got a song performed by Rowlf, Scooter, and Floyd – another unlikely grouping, but a guaranteed hit for the fans.
Of course, this isn’t the only time we’ve seen these three chaps together in some combination. Off the top of my head (and off the top of ToughPigs’ friend and Muppet Show expert David Beukema, who helped research this next bit), a few examples include Animal and the Swedish Chef singing “Happy Birthday” to Helen Reddy:
Beaker singing “Feelings”, with an assist by Animal:
A chance meeting from all three in an elevator:
“Ringing of the Bells” from an old Christmas viral video:
Another viral video with the trio singing “Habanera”:
And most recently, a pre-reunion from all three as babies, as seen in the series finale of Muppet Babies:
And that’s just a few examples! So what is it about “Danny Boy” that sticks out as the favorite? Beyond the obvious holiday connection, it’s funnier and more heartfelt than anything else on this page, with genuine surprises and belly laughs that take three simultaneous lightning strikes to get right.
So, why “Danny Boy”? Why not “American Pie” or “The Theme from Bonzanza” or “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant”? Could it have been the innately sad nature of the song? The pure randomness of it all? Or just an opportunity for the Henson Workshop to knit tiny green hats and sweaters? Surely it must be a combination of all of the above, as they’ve created a perfect storm of Muppetness that would someday be available to share and watch with a click every year on March 17th.
For as long as the internet exists, I’m sure we’ll be asking ourselves all of these questions and more every year on St. Patrick’s Day. But isn’t that what this holiday is about? Asking for guidance and understanding when all else seems unintelligible, looking for brotherhood and love amongst those who may be different from us?
No? It’s about snakes? Oh. Never mind then.
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by Joe Hennes – Joe@ToughPigs.com