Why am I a Muppet Fan? It’s a question that I’ve always been asked. Back when I was a kid, everyone liked the Muppets. I was in elementary school during the heyday of The Muppet Show and The Muppet Movie, and it was weird if you didn’t watch the Muppets — but even then, I liked it more than everybody else did. When we did a mock United Nations in elementary school, I represented Sweden, and I screwed up the whole thing by ranting in mock Swedish about chickens going booma-booma. And I remember choosing Sweden, and everyone in my class just nodding and saying: Of course Danny will be Sweden, and of course he’s going to talk like the Swedish Chef the whole time. What else would Danny do?
Now I’m an adult. The rest of the world has moved on. Now they’re all watching CSI and having babies and running the world. And, of course, Danny spends his free time writing about Muppets. What happened to me? What chord did Miss Piggy strike in me as a kid, that she still has power over me even now?
What got me thinking along these lines was a recent conversation on the Tough Pigs Forum message board. People started sharing their memories of being Muppet Fan kids, and when I read them, I got this sudden shock of recognition. It was amazing, like deja vu in reverse — I recognized these memories that weren’t actually mine.
They gave me some glimpses of what the Muppets meant to us, and why there are Muppet Fans today. Here’s some of those memories. Maybe you’ll recognize some of them too.
Muppets as Comforting Fantasy
Emmy: I once tried to run away to Sesame Street.
Carolyn: I remember the rainbow with all the stars’ heads on the back of The Muppet Movie video case.
Jogchem: I remember being afraid of Gonzo when I was two, specifically during an act with a Dancing Chicken. I had nightmares about Gonzo standing in a tree, and scaring me with a song of some sort. Then Piggy appeared and knocked him out of the tree.
Carolyn: I remember singing “C Is for Cookie” with the C. Monster doll my babysitter had made for me. He went at least half the places my favorite teddy bear went.
Emmy: I spent a lot of time in my basement pretending that I lived in Fraggle Rock. I would wear my mom’s old green robe and pretended that I was Mokey, and I called my dog “Sprocket”. Ah, the good old days…
Muppets as a Tool for Acting Out Family Dynamics
Jogchem: I drove my parents nuts by playing my cassette of my favorite Muppet Show songs over and over and over during Summer holidays.
Carolyn: My mother made the same mistake other mothers made in the early 80’s and rented The Dark Crystal. The dying emperor sent my sister and I running, and one or the other of us latched on to poor mom’s leg.
Emmy: I loved to listen to the record of Scooter telling the story of The Muppets Take Manhattan. It drove my younger brother nuts.
Julia: I remember seeing Labyrinth in the cinema. I really wanted to see that one, so I went with my mum and a friend, and we loved it. I’m not sure why I wanted to go so badly — might have had something to do with Bowie, not the Muppets…
Danny: I used to tape Muppet Show episodes on my portable tape player off the TV speaker. I made mixed tapes of my favorite Muppet Show songs by taping them from one tape player’s speaker into another’s microphone. It was the 70’s and this was my only option technology-wise. The results were unearthly. I would carry them around and listen to them on long car trips, and it drove my older brother nuts.
Kynan: My all-time favorite: My mum — who is the shyest, quietest woman in the world — used to read me The Monster at the End of This Book. And she used to do Grover’s voice. I’ll treasure that one.
Muppets as a Creative Outlet
Jogchem: Wanting to be a drummer like Animal… Wanting to be a comedian like Fozzie…
Kynan: I hijacked an end-of-year school concert by insisting on performing “The Rainbow Connection” with a store-bought monkey puppet, despite there being no other solo performances in the concert and my total lack of singing ability.
Ryan: I used to make audio tapes all the time, pretending I had my own radio show. On one of these I announced that I was inviting the Muppets to be on the show. Then I recorded from the speaker of our 8-track player while playing the Muppet Movie soundtrack and singing along. I tell ya, if you didn’t know any better, you’d swear the Muppets were right there in the room singing with me.
Zack: I put on Muppet puppet shows with my younger brother in our basement. We had a whole stage and backstage and everything, blankets hanging from the ceiling, Christmas lights, a snack bar, taped Muppet music — the works! Only at the time I didn’t have any Muppet puppets or dolls, only Kermit and he wasn’t a puppet. So we used the puppets we had, which were a dog, a monkey, and a wolf… My brother was always the guest star, and I did all the puppet work. And she — yes, she — was always the same guest star, named Mrs. Hogbottom… My brother wore a white wig, a dress, and my mom’s old high heels. What a hoot! I miss those days…
Danny: This one proves that I have not changed substantially since elementary school. When I was 8, I decided I was going to write a book about the Muppets. I did research by listening to all the episodes I’d taped, and taking lots of notes. My big insight was that both Scooter and Bunsen had glasses, but Scooter had eyes on the outside of his glasses, and Bunsen didn’t have any eyes at all. I was going to build a whole chapter around that. Fifteen years later, I published MuppetZine, and seven years after that, I started Tough Pigs — and in my dark moments, I fear that I’m only doing the grown-up version of my Glasses chapter.
Okay, This One Is Just Amusing
Ryan: My little brother and I used our puppets of Bert (his) and Ernie (mine) to do shows in which we had the puppets lip-synch to a tape I had compiled from various Sesame Street records. The night the first show opened, every seat in the house was packed… meaning my parents occupied both of the two chairs we had set up. The special guest was my sister, who would have cried if we didn’t let her participate. I made her a very crude paper bag puppet and she used it to lip-synch very badly to a song by Lena Horne, from a record that had Sesame Street guest star appearances.
The one time my brother did a puppet show without me was with a friend of his, and it was actually a Bert, Ernie and Lambchop show. The very strange plot concerned Bert going trick-or-treating (without a costume), eating his candy too fast and getting cancer from it. At the end my brother explained to us the moral: Don’t do drugs! Ahh, kids are funny…
Muppets as Non-Violent Resistance
Ryan: When I was in kindergarten, there was a kid who was obsessed with dinosaurs, and always played these violent dinosaur scenarios on the playground. I formed my own little group for less aggressive people who wanted to play Fraggle Rock at recess.
Muppets as a Way of Seeing the World
Ryan: Sometimes when my mom made tacos I would pretend I was Animal and take a big bite out of the taco shells like Animal did with cymbals.
Zack: I used to go through my coloring box and name certain colors after Muppets — like Kermit the Frog Green, Miss Piggy Pink, and Rowlf the Dog Brown.
Ryan: I just thought of another Fraggle Rock one. When I was a little kid and I ate Cheetos, I would divide them up by size as either “Doozer Cheetos,” “Fraggle Cheetos” or “Gorg Cheetos.”
Jogchem: I called everything beautiful “Miss Piggy” when I was two, because I loved her so. For example, a nice warm soft fur coat on a really fat lady in the grocery store. My mom still talks about that.
I love these. Reading them on the message board made me feel warm and good. It just feels good to read them and say, Yes! That’s how I felt, too.
Something happened to us when we were kids. We didn’t just like the Muppets. Somehow, we connected with the Muppets.
We were inspired by Muppets. We wanted to be comedians and drummers and radio stars. We didn’t want to play violent dinosaur games; we wanted to play peaceful Fraggle games. We wanted to sing and dance and make millions of people happy.
We were protected by Muppets. When we wanted to run away from something, we would go to Sesame Street, or Fraggle Rock, or the Muppet Theater.
Muppets got into our heads, into our hearts. We saw the world in Muppet terms. Little things were Doozers. Big things were Gorgs. Green things were Kermit. Beautiful things were Miss Piggy. Taco shells were cymbals. The world was big and beautiful and funny.
The Muppets became our iconography, our shared mythology. They got inside us, and they’re still in there.
And I have to say, for myself, that I’m glad. I’m glad the Muppets got inside me. I think they made me bigger inside. I still think the world is big and beautiful and funny. I think the Muppets gave me that. I don’t ever want to lose it.
Thanks! to the folks on the Tough Pigs Forum message board for posting their memories and for graciously allowing me to quote them here. If you’d like to come share your memories, please join us!
by Danny Horn – Danny@ToughPigs.com