I have to admit, I’ve never actually seen 1776 (this may not be a point of contention for most of you, but there are several friends-of-ToughPigs who will utter in disbelief, “You’ve never seen 1776???“), so when the Continental Congress, the Declaration of Independence, or the American Revolution come up in conversation (as they so often do), I think of two things: The Muppets and Sesame Street.

Okay, so it’s no surprise that I think about Muppets and Sesame whenever any given subject comes up, but in this case, pretty much everything I know about how our country was founded stems from what I learned from the Muppet Show gang and the Sesame Street crew.

In 1982, a special called I Love Liberty featured a segment with the Muppets in which they put on a pageant of sorts as the Second Continental Congress, debating whether or not to declare independence from the British.  They’re also introduced by a surprisingly hilarious exchange between Big Bird and future President Martin Sheen.

A few years later, Sesame Street put together a similar bit, spoofing the Continental Congress as they vote on the most important issue of the national bird.

Since there are probably more folks like me who get all of their history from children’s television (what, Ben Franklin didn’t actually have a talking pet mouse???), I’m left wondering which version of the founding of our great nation is more accurate.  So we’re gonna go ahead and pit them against each other, just like two certain warring countries from the history books (Kyrgyzstan and Barbados).

Benjamin Franklin

I was shocked to see how perfectly Telly got Ben Franklin’s look down, despite the fact that Floyd went the extra length to bring a cane to compensate for his gout.  Still, Telly went the extra mile with the historical accuracy of Franklin’s well-documented love of the turkey.  Neither the gout nor the turkey are jokes.  (Why do I feel like I type that exact sentence at least once a week?)

Advantage: Sesame Street

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Both productions managed to nail the craziness of the debates, what with all the shouting and bickering.  The Sesame gang probably felt the need to play nice, especially since they were teaching the lesson of peace through democracy.  But the Muppet troupe added paper airplanes, which don’t technically make much noise, but it put them way over the top.

Advantage: Muppets

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Use of Characters

The Muppets really tried to cram a lot of characters into that scene.  I know, there were a lot of people at the Continental Congress, but weren’t you left wanting more of Statler and Waldorf, Rowlf, and Lew Zealand?  Fozzie and Piggy got most of the laughs, but for the most part, everyone else is just reading their lines.  Meanwhile, over in the Sesame Street timeline, Bert is still infatuated with pigeons, Oscar wants everyone to be miserable, and Telly is a neurotic mess.  It’s the perfect blend of non-fiction and yeah-fiction.

Advantage: Sesame Street

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Sesame Street Cameos

I know, one of these videos is too full of Sesame Street characters for any of them to constitute a “cameo”, but hear me out.  The Sesame video has a ridiculously sassy Big Bird appearance, well worth the entire video just for his punchline.  The I Love Liberty scene has a surprise appearance by Grover, Ernie, and Bert as The Spirit of ’76, which isn’t a joke or a particularly clever reference or even long enough to fully grasp.  It’s like they had the puppets on hand, so why not throw a bandage on Bert’s head and throw them into the scene?

Advantage: Sesame Street

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Continuity Errors

Okay, so neither of these are really errors.  But it’s my article, and I’m going to nitpick about things that only exist in my brain, so there.  The Sesame gang is voting on the national bird, but the eagle is literally the first thing we see in the sketch!  The decision has been made for us!  On the Muppets’ side of things, Kermit shuffles Miss Piggy out the door, not because there weren’t any women at the Continental Congress, but because there weren’t any pigs.  So, why did Link get to stay??  I’m calling shenanigans on history!

Advantage: Muppets

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As entertaining as both of these pieces are, only one of them has any sort of ending.  While Ernie and Elmo vote in the bald eagle as the national bird, we’re left wondering if Fozzie and Gonzo agreed on whether or not to break ties with the British.  I mean, I guess I could crack open a book or turn on the History Channel to find out, but who has the time?  I guess I’ll just wonder forever…

Advantage: Sesame Street

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Actual History Stuff

I guess this is the important one.  The Muppet version really does seem to teach the truth about what happened back in 1776, which you can tell because Gonzo is being serious and moody.  But the Sesame one took an obscure bit of American history that seems trivial today, the fact that we needed to select and vote on a national bird, and use it as an analogue for the founding of America.  I’m giving this one to the Muppets, if only because Kermit seemed so determined to keep Miss Piggy out of the room.

Advantage: Muppets

Of course, this extremely scientific study has come up inconclusive.  Thankfully, we’re all winners for having learned a little something about history, thanks to the Muppets and Sesame Street.  And also John Adams, Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and the rest of the National Treasure Crew.  Despite the fact that the Continental Congress wasn’t a bunch of monsters and frogs and bears and grouches, I think we all know exactly went on back then in 1776.  And it had something to do with a lady pig dressed up as Abraham Lincoln.

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by Joe Hennes – Joe@ToughPigs.com

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