The following article was written by Whitney Grace. If you missed her previous installments of “The World of Muppet Crap,” click here to read about a one-of-a-kind Muppet tree, a strange Big Bird eggbeater, Skeksis-inspired clothing, and more. Thanks for your dedication to weird Muppet stuff, Whitney!
Welcome the wonderful world of Muppet crap! One of the things I do to keep my motivation up when I write is to listen to music. Many authors, including Stephen King in his book On Writing, agree that the right soundtrack sets the mood for clacking away at a consistent speed on the keyboard. I’ll admit that when I was in college I wrote a lot of essays to the Backstreet Boys and Starlight Express CDs. (The Backstreet Boys made the essays quit playing games with my heart, but I’m still waiting for the Starlight Express to come and bring me back before daylight.) Yes, there were MP3 players and iPods, but they were expensive and I like owning physical copies of items.
When the boy bands and Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals didn’t cut it, I would tune into Muppet Central Radio over at Live 365. For some reason whenever I listened to Muppet Central Radio, they always played the “The Toileteers” from Bear in the Big Blue House. If you haven’t guessed, it’s a song about potty training. But on the odd chance, I would sometimes get a cover of “Mahna Mahna.” Whenever that song blared through my speakers, I dropped my mouse, grabbed my cat and dogs, and reenacted the original Muppet Show skit. It got to the point where I made sweaters and horns for my poor animals. They still flinch whenever my phone rings (because obviously, “Mahna Mahna” is my ringtone).
“Mahna Mahna” is a catchy little ditty of nonsense words and scatting. If you’re a hardcore Muppet fan (and why else would you be reading ToughPigs.com?), you’ve probably seen a version of this classic Muppet skit based around the song. There are several versions, but these are my three favorites:
The first is from vintage Sesame Street, but instead of Mahna Mahna we have Bip Bippadotta and two Anything Muppet girls.
The second is the most famous version from the Juliet Prowse episode of The Muppet Show. The “ba bip-a bippy’s” have been replaced with the standard “doo doo do-do doo’s,” along with the Snowths and the cool Mahna Mahna making their first appearance on the show.
The last is from Muppets Tonight when Sandra Bullock was the guest star. Mahna Mahna doesn’t make an appearance, but the Snowths do and the words “mahna mahna” are replaced with “phenomena.”
I assure you that if the Snowths actually appeared when I said “phenomena” I would abuse the privilege and use it whenever I wanted a quick giggle, to escape from a boring meeting, or in the middle of the night to scare my roommates.
“Mahna Mahna” is a nonsense song that originated from a 1968 Italian documentary called Svezia, Inferno e Paradiso or Sweden, Heaven and Hell, about the different types of… I’ll let Wikipedia explain that again:
“The film which is made up of nine segments focuses on different aspects of sexuality in Sweden such as lesbian nightclubs, porn films, swinging lifestyle of married couples and sex education of teenagers. The film also examines drug addiction, alcoholism and suicides in Sweden.”
So not things you would usually associate with the Muppets. The documentary is readily available on YouTube and I’d post a link to it, but it ain’t child friendly. The first clip I watched from Svezia, Inferno e Paradiso had a bunch of nude Scandinavian women running around in the snow.
Now you’re going to go look for it.
Welcome back to the wonderful world of Muppet crap! I hope the Swedish nudes were all that you expected. Now let me ruin it for you! All of those women are probably in their sixties by now. Unless they’ve been exercising or had plastic surgery, nature isn’t kind to the human body.
This documentary makes me wonder how Jim discovered this song. Did he watch the documentary? Did one of the other Muppeteers or crew watch it? Were they traveling in Europe and caught it at a youth hostel? Was it on late at night when Jim had an insufferable case of insomnia? We certainly can’t blame the Internet, because it didn’t exist in 1968.
I do know that Jim used to lip-synch many of his early skits to records, so I wouldn’t doubt that Jim was browsing through a record store and was intrigued by either the album cover or someone just picked it out for him. We do know that he became aware of it quite soon after the documentary’s release, because it first appeared on Sesame Street in 1969, one year after the film’s premiere.
This brings me to today’s item.
It’s a record of “Mahna Mahna!”
Remember when CDs were really big and you would go to the store, there would be displays of collected music from various artists? They still advertise for these CD collections on late night TV or during programs on air TV. They did the same thing with cassette tapes and apparently records.
On the cover, we see a delightful, mass produced puppet available at most Spencer Gifts, Hot Topics, and county fairs. It doesn’t bear a strong resemblance to a real Muppet or the Snowths I’m assuming it aims to replicate. I’m guessing that the company who smushed the record together found a random puppet, photographed it, and plastered it on the cover. There wasn’t a lot of effort put into it. They didn’t even try to make it a wacky pose, just stuck someone’s hand in the puppet and cocked its head.
Now gaze upwards on the title: “Mah·ná Mah·ná.” Why are there accents over the a’s? The “Mahna Mahna” we know doesn’t have accents! Here, in the US, our words don’t have fancy doohickeys over letters.
Upon further research, the original version of the song did. Curses to Europeans with their accents, umlauts, and extra letters that don’t belong in a word (you know I’m talking about the French language).
Note also the sticker that says, “as heard on Sesame Street,” but it doesn’t have the official Sesame Street logo but they’re trying to imitate it. Yet again a sloppy copy job.
We hope you and the whole family enjoy our album-we really had fun recording it. Every time we hear hear “Mahná Mahná” on Sesame Street, we get out our kazoos and play along. Why don’t you do the same?
We love you…Mah-ná Mah-ná.”
Who is this Mah-ná Mah-ná? It is the green fur mop on the back? No, it’s actually the production company who made the record. If you look at the fine print on the bottom it says “produced by Mah-ná Mah-ná Inc. for GRT Records.” Okay, never heard of either of them and I will probably never see another record by them again. What I find really hilarious is that they attempted to make the green generic mop puppet have some form of character by taking more photos and splicing them into TV frames. Once more they have the least amount of expressions possible with the green sock and just change the camera angle.
If the sock puppet and a production company named Mahná Mahná Inc. wasn’t random enough for you, so is the track list: “Mahna, Mahna,” (well, duh!) “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town,” “Before I Sleep,” “Whispering,” “Melody Man,” “Mississippi Mud,” The Thought of Loving You,” “Peg O’ My Heart,” “Corky,” “Zip-a-Dee Doo-Dah, and “Marmalade.”
More than half of these don’t sound like they are for children. It’s like they were only able to pay to the licensing fees for the real kids’ songs and filled the rest with melodies from the early twentieth century or tunes those nude Scandinavian women might recognize. The strangest song I find on this entire collection is that they include a random Christmas carol on it. Why? I don’t know. While kids love Christmas carols, usually they include them on a collection of Christmas carols and not as a random track on a record. It doesn’t make sense!
This is the most random, weirdest item I have seen that is trying to ride on the success of Sesame Street. There aren’t any attempts to make it original or even disguise that it’s ripping off the beloved children’s program.
If you come across this record at a garage sale or used record store, run away. Run away quickly! All I’ve learned from researching this item is about Swedish sexual habits and dismal puppet photo shoots. I can tell you that even though an Italian guy made the documentary, it shows Sweden and it appears to be a weird country. After all, the most recent export we have from there is Pewdiepie and he’s so odd he could pass for a Muppet.
That will be $150.
by Whitney Grace
Click here to focus on different aspects of sexuality in Sweden on the Tough Pigs forum!