On December 16th, 2018, Julia Gaskill and her boyfriend, Stephen, watched John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together. Julia had seen this production many a time and holds a place in her heart for “that lovely but really weird Christmas special.” Stephen had never seen it and didn’t know what to expect – outside of hearing the album, which he thoroughly enjoys. What follows is a (condensed) transcript of their conversation during their viewing.

Julia: Well… I guess I’m gonna intro us. [literally takes a six second pause] This was something I was bad at when I did Frog Kissin’. We were bad at doing the intros.

Stephen: “I’m your middlest brother, Julia Gaskill!”

J: Hi. We’re back. Stephen and Julia. Stephen is loudly chewing on some microwavable pizza bites, cause he’s a monster and I’m gonna have to listen to his chewing when I transcribe this.

S: [laughing] You’re gonna transcribe this part?

J: Last year we watchedIt’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie. This year we’re doing something not quite as awful, but still maybe a little weird, John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together.

S: I didn’t think there was anything awful about A Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie.

J: Do you not remember Scooter cage dancing?

S: Okay. There was one awful thing.

J: Stephen, have you ever seen this Muppet Christmas special?

S: Nope!

J: Do you have any expectations?

S: Nope!

J: Are you excited?

S: Nope! [laughs as Julia glares]

J: All right, I guess we’re gonna start this thing. Annnnnd… begin!

They start the YouTube video. ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ kicks off.

J: That’s John Denver!

S: It’s good so far!

J: This is really the only version of this song I can stand.

S: But this is not the way they do it on the record.

J: No, they definitely do mess with the order of the Muppets coming in. Except Miss Piggy, she gets to do “Five Golden Rings” on both.

S: Well she better! She’s got a voice that’s five golden rings!

J: Kermit’s the last one on the album.

S: Who does the first line?

J: John Denver does the first one on both of them. You’re familiar with the album, which does have some similarities and differences. We don’t see ‘Alfie the Christmas Tree’ in this special.

S: That’s a loss.

J: [so dumbly naive] No, that’s a blessing.

S: I do like John Denver’s hat.

J: I just like John Denver in this so much. He has so much fun with the Muppets.

S: I imagine they all got a Rocky Mountain High going on.

J: [laughing] I’m not doing this. No. [changing the subject] Fozzie keeps forgetting his line and it’s very good.

S: How come they don’t have more carols by The Electric Mayhem?

J: They do have one on the album.

S: Doctor Teeth doing ‘Zat You Santa Claus?’

J: No, that’s on Green and Red Christmas. They sing ‘Lil Saint Nick.’ They oddly don’t have a song in this special, they’re around though in the background.

S: They should be in the foreground. Big fan of Doctor Teeth. 

‘Twelve Days of Christmas’ ends. The introduction plays.

S: Floyd gets billed over Scooter???

J: Yes…?

S: What? Who knew that Floyd’s star was in ascendance!

J: He doesn’t really do much in this special.

S: Then why does he get billed over Scooter – and he was billed over Rowlf!

J: Scooter does have a song in this, so I don’t know. Rowlf also has a song.

S: I feel like Swedish Chef should get billed over Floyd.

J: Floyd’s awesome, man.

S: I like Floyd, but even Animal is more… they didn’t even bill Lew Zealand!

Floyd: “Long time no high C!”

S: Okay. That’s good. That’s a singing joke. But it could also be a juice box joke.

Miss Piggy gets flirty with John Denver.

S: Uh oh.

J: Oh yeah, she’s totally got the hots for John Denver the entire time.

The Muppets and John Denver debate the use of the phrase “Peace on Earth, good will to men… and women.”

Gonzo: “Just a minute. Why stop there?”

S: Leave it to Gonzo to crack open the gender binary in the 70’s!

J: I mean, he just says chickens.

S: Oh.

‘Pleasure of Your Company’ starts up.

S: Man, Denver’s still got those pipes. He can just go right into song. That’s what you get from spending five years in The Chad Mitchell Trio. Things I know about John Denver.

J: I know about John Denver and the Muppets hanging out together?

John Denver leaves the conference room to go out into the little town.

J: So yeah, here’s the weirdness of this special. There’s just long stretches where it’s only John Denver and no Muppets.

S: Budgetary stuff? Or John Denver dealing with his personal demons and inner turmoil?

J: No, I think cause it’s John Denver’s special so he kind of gets the limelight. There are parts where it’s mostly Muppets – mostly Miss Piggy.

S: I like how he just built this entire town with his mind.

J: Now he gets a bunch of dancing people!

S: This sequence could feature some people and also some of the larger Muppet performers. Obviously he wasn’t billed, but Sweetums?

J: Sweetums isn’t in this.

S: Boo! Sweetums is the ultimate Christmas Muppets! His name is Sweet-ums!

Muppets start popping up off to the side of the town.

S: There’s Muppets all over this town!

J: Yeah, I guess there’s more Muppets in this part than I remember, but it’s still mostly just a lot of John Denver dancing.

S: That’s good, you probably don’t want to see Muppets dance so much.

J: Unless, they’re Sweetums.

S: Or they’re in a gogo cage!

Link Hogthrob appears as a cop.

J: I like how Link Hogthrob got to be in this. This special feels like it’s only a handful of Muppets, and Link isn’t really a top-tier Muppet.

S: He’s a definite top-tier Muppet. He is the heartthrob of the Muppet universe. Look at those eyebrows!

Miss Piggy appears holding a dog.

S: There’s a dog!

J: Yeah, that’s Foo-Foo, Piggy’s pet dog. She’s been around for a while.

S: I didn’t know about that.

J: Things that Julia knows about Muppets that Stephen doesn’t know!

S: You know a lot about Muppets that Stephen doesn’t know!

John Denver kisses Miss Piggy on the cheek.

S: [quietly] Damn! He just gave Miss Piggy a kiss! What the…!

J: You have to talk louder into the mic.

S: I won’t. Not on that. I’m not trying to put Miss Piggy’s potential affair with John Denver on blast like this, but…!!

J: He just gave her a kiss on the cheek.

S: That time! That’s the second kiss! There’s already been some serious smoochums!

Miss Piggy flirts with John Denver to get a better part in his special.

S: It’s weird that she keeps calling him Johnathan. It’s just, you know, his full name is Jonolorado Denver. [laughter]

John Denver: “Miss Piggy! I’m a married man!”

S: He sure hasn’t been acting like it up to this point.

John Denver is suddenly out in nature.

J: [dawning realization] NO. I WAS WRONG. STEPHEN. I WAS WRONG. IT IS IN THIS.

And with that, ‘Alfie the Christmas Tree’ begins.

S: I love this.

J: I hate this. It’s… it’s a crime that in order to get to ‘It’s in Every One of Us’ you have to sit through ‘Alfie the Christmas Tree.’

S: The only crime in the song ‘Alfie the Christmas Tree’ is the historical inaccuracy.

B-roll footage plays, showing a deer.

S: Look at that deer!

J: That’s a real deer!

S: Or it’s a really good Muppet!

John Denver finally sings ‘It’s in Every One of Us.’

S: This is not a great song. Like… I feel like Denver has better songs on that Muppet Christmas album.

J: I’m not saying it’s the best one! I just like this song, and I have to fast forward through ‘Alfie’ to get to it every year!

S: … John Denver kind of has a turtle-like mouth when he’s really singing?

J: [laughing] That’s all I’m going to be able to see now.

S: They could’ve done a special where John Denver is dressed as a turtle and he hangs out with Kermit the Frog, and they reprise ‘It’s Not Easy Being Green.’

Kermit: “Poor little fella, he just croaked.”

John Denver: “He died?!”

Kermit: “No, he croaked. “Help! Help!” he croaked.”

S: Frog puns are the best.

‘The Christmas Wish’ starts.

J: This is my favorite song.

S: Yeah, this is a good song. Like, this one is a legit banger. This song slaps. This one acknowledges that there are other faiths.

J: Yeah, it’s a bit more…

S: It’s inclusive, and that’s what Christmas is about: including as many groups as possible in the worship of baby Jesus.

J: I love Kermit’s lil’ scarf. I think someone on ToughPigs already wrote the piece, but Kermit’s had array of great scarves over the years.

S: What’s impressive to me is that Kermit hasn’t allowed his body temperature to still to zero and freeze for the winter.

J: He froze in It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie.

S: Yeah. Winter is not a kind season for frogs.

J: Science!

‘The Christmas Wish’ ends. As the camera pans out, John Denver pets Kermit.

J: [laughing] Okay. That’d be less weird if he were petting Rowlf. Kermit doesn’t have fur.

Cut to Miss Piggy in her dressing room.

J: This song. Is. The. Slap.

‘Christmas is Coming’ starts up.

J: Where did Beaker get those maracas?

S: The Muppet Labs. Potentially, but you can’t see in this, because the camera angles, those maracas are grafted to Beaker’s hands in some sick experiment that Bunsen Honeydew is conducting.

J: They got welded to his hands. [laughter]

More Muppets dance and sing as the song goes on.

S: Man, it is Muppet chaos up in this spot.

Transition into ‘Baby Just Like You.’

S: That’s a nice coat.

J: It is… also… [sudden uncontrollable laughter]

S: … Yes?

J: I just… he’s got a turtle mouth… that’s all I see… [keeps laughing]

S: I just call it like I see it, Julia. He’s got a turtleneck and a turtle mouth, and he’s rocking them both. Plus he gutted a Muppet for that sick-ass coat that he’s wearing and that’s its own thing.

J: That’s why Sweetums isn’t in this.

S: [laughing] Oh man, now I just want Muppet Empire Strikes Back to happen. Sweetums is the tauntaun.

J: [literally almost spits her drink out from laughter]

S: Imagine Han Kermit trying to find Fozzie Skywalker and then cutting open the Sweetums he’s riding.

J: You should write for Disney, Stephen.

S: They can do it! They have both licenses! Oh my god, when are they going to make Muppets Star Wars? If they’re not going to make Muppet Chinatown they could at least make Muppets Star Wars. Orig Trig.

Rowlf and John Denver sing ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.’

J: This is maybe my favorite part of the special.

S: Rowlf is the coolest Muppet.

J: John Denver does so many costume changes in this special.

S: What you’re saying is that John Denver is the Lady Gaga of the 70’s.

J: I feel like there was probably someone more Lady Gaga-esque in the 70’s?

S: I mean, potentially Elton John.

J: I was going to say Cher.

S: No, I’m gonna say Elton John. I’m gonna say John Denver and Elton John. Elton John Denver. Singular. Lady. Gaga.

The big show stopping number, ‘Camaraderie’, begins.

J: So, the big ol’ number in this special is … weird … and maybe my least favorite part of the whole thing? It’s just a big dance number and then Miss Piggy comes in at the end.

S: Kind of like a Nutcracker ballet suite? That’s what I feel like we’re about to get into.

J: Kind of? Not really?

S: We went into the land of toys.

J: I mean, they’re all dressed as soldiers. So there’s that.

Basic, unimpressive dancing occurs.

S: This is before America’s Best Dance Crew, I take it.

J: It just would’ve been nice if the big final thing for this special had more Muppets in it.

S: How do you know that these other soldiers are not Muppets?

J: They don’t look like they’re made of felt.

S: There’s a question that has been raised in an Oscar-award winning song of whether or not one could be a man or a Muppet.

J: In the end, it’s decided that Jason Segel is in fact a Man, and Walter is in fact a Muppet. There’s a whole inner dialogue.

S: Well that’s just disappointing.

J: But! Jason Segel is “a Muppet of a man” and Walter is “a very manly Muppet.”

Miss Piggy sings her big number.

S: Has anyone in the ToughPigs-verse ever explained why Miss Piggy learned French pronouns but is otherwise not apparently fluent in French?

J: I mean… I feel like she peppers in other French words? I realize she uses “moi” and “vous” quite a lot…

S: It’s almost like she had a French au pair and the rest of the Muppets were just kind of left alone.

J: She probably thinks it makes her seem classier, I’m assuming. I don’t think it’s been written about on ToughPigs. At least not to my knowledge.

S: Somebody should investigate this.

J: I’m sure someone will get right on it upon reading this.

Cut to ‘The Peace Carol.’

S: John Denver’s Christmas special is very Santa-light, which is the opposite of my Christmas. My ideal Christmas is like Santa 24/7 and zero Jesus.

J: We should watch Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa, cause it’s all about Santa. And I am the only person who loves that special.

S: Jesus doesn’t have any superpowers, but Santa does.

J: This song is ‘Peace Carol.’ It’s a very nice Richard Hunt number.

S: I’m also surprised that Scooter got such a low billing, considering how Scooter is essentially the John Denver of the Muppets.

J: Cause of the glasses?

S: And the sweaters! Does Scooter wear t-shirts? John Denver wears T-shirts too.

J: Stop. Stop right there. I will drop a link to the photo you are talking about for everyone, but that’s it. Also, Scooter doesn’t wear a sweater, he wears his sweet green jacket all the time.

Reenactment of the Nativity story begins.

S: Do you think the Swedish Chef has already celebrated Christmas at this point and he’s just putting up with the rest of them?

J: [point at screen] Here’s some Muppets! We get the full-on Bible.

S: Well, I’m just saying in Sweden, as is tradition, Santa, Papa Yule, comes to your house on Christmas Eve –

J: You’ve been dunking on Jesus this whole time, and now you don’t want to dunk on these puppets?

S: No! Cause I’d rather big-ups Papa Yule, who is just another awesome version of Santa Claus. This one’s Swedish and he shows up at your house on Christmas Eve and just, like, throws a bunch of presents at you. He just walks up to your door, he doesn’t even mess with your chimney. This is because in Sweden very few people have chimneys – I don’t know if that’s factually true, but it makes sense to me.

J: Yeah, but that Jesus puppet is so creepy though!

S: Yeah, I’m ignoring this entire sequence. Let’s talk more about Swedish Chef and his traditions! [Stephen then rants for a solid minute longer about Swedish Christmases] But I’m just saying, Swedish Chef’s got to do double Christmas duty. He can’t have his day of chill enjoyment, cause the rest of the Muppets haven’t gotten to hang out with Santa yet. So he’s got to do it all over again.

J: Well, Santa is definitely not showing up in this special.

S: Also, you’ll notice how the traditional religious songs don’t slap.

J: “Baby Just Like You” slaps.

S: … WHAT?

J: The song “A Baby Just Like You.” John Denver sang it earlier, we talked over it the entire time, which is about his son, Zachary, and baby Jesus, slaps. I just chose very poor wording… Hey folks! We’re going into the last song of the special right now! Please ignore that I said “slaps” and “baby” in the same sentence!

John Denver and the Muppets sing ‘Silent Night’ in German.

J: I feel like there wasn’t enough Gonzo in this special.

S: There was not enough Gonzo.

J: Or Fozzie.

S: There were a lot of underrepresented Mups in this one.

J: It’s pretty short, and it’s very John Denver heavy.

S: I don’t mind that, but every single song could have been a duet.

Shot of Miss Piggy and Kermit on the couch, with Kermit’s neck angled weirdly.

S: What happened to Kermit in that shot? That was not a good look.

Camera pulls back to see children singing.

J: Look at all those kids singing along.

S: That one kid is trying to emulate that Kermit he saw.

J: These kids aren’t singing along very well.

S: These kids all look terrified.

Miss Piggy: “Merry Christmas, Johnathan.”

S: [whispers] It’s Jonorado Denver.

The special comes to an end.

S: Robin wasn’t in it enough. There was no Sweetums. Where was Uncle Deadly? Where was Crazy Harry? What about Beauregard?? Who’s gonna clean up the set?

J: Okay, well, that was John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together. What are your takeaway thoughts, Stephen?

S: Generally positive. Follows the structure of the album pretty well. Also, Santa Claus is amazing and I’m over Jesus.

J: What was your favorite song from the special?

S: The one that Kermit and John sing.

J: What’s your hard take on ‘Alfie the Christmas Tree’?

S: I’ve got no problem with Alfie. [Stephen then goes on, I kid you not, a three minute rant about religion and information in the modern era, and I love you ToughPigs readers, but I did not type this up, I’m sorry.]

J: All right. Well. This has been John Denver and the Muppets. We’ll see you all next year when we’ll do, I dunno, Christmas Toy or Letters to Santa or who knows what. Merry Christmas, y’all!

Click here to discuss your favorite festive Swedish traditions on the Tough Pigs forum!

by Julia Gaskill and Stephen Meads

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