Kermit introduces Peter Ustinov, who joins him on stage. And I really don’t have a choice but just to quote the whole dang scene.
Peter: Kermit, it’s a pleasure for me to be with you tonight. It’s my first experience in performing with, er — performers other than people, if you follow me.
Kermit: Oh. Yeah. Well, it takes some getting used to, I guess, but we’ve worked with humans before. So just relax, take it easy, and don’t sit on any of your fellow performers.
Peter: Well, I’ll try not to, but I was going to sit down on my dressing room chair, you know, and it walked away.
Kermit: Oh, well, that was a Muppet. See, that chair is married to the show’s writer.
Peter: Who’s the writer?
Kermit: The hatrack.
Peter: This show was written by a hatrack? Oh. Well. That’s extraordinary.
Kermit: Well, you see, anything can be a Muppet. In fact, in this next sketch, you are going to be a Muppet.
So then I’m sitting there, watching today’s episode, and I just know a hundred percent for sure that the next sketch is going to be funny. It’s a really neat moment, to watch an intro like that, and just be absolutely certain that the next thing I watch is going to make me laugh.
And this is the weird, split-personality thing about the first season. They recorded that dull, bland Lena Horne episode, and then the very next week, they went into the studio and recorded this lovely bit of nonsense about the hatrack. It’s uncanny. It seems like they’re just jumping from one show to the next at this point, and either the show clicks this week or it doesn’t — and if it doesn’t, then better luck next week.
So the way they turn Peter Ustinov into a Muppet is by putting him in a Muppet Labs sketch where they attach some wires to him and make him into the Muppet Labs Robot Politician. Bunsen fiddles with some dials, and Peter does his impression of a British prime minister, an American president, and a Russian premier. And yeah, it makes me laugh.
In fact, “anything can be a Muppet” is pretty much the extreme-sports challenge of the whole episode. The opening number is “An Evening at the Pops,” with a balloon-head conductor performing a classical piece by jabbing his baton into the balloons in his orchestra. It ends, of course, with the conductor’s head exploding. Then they do a great number where a woman sings “You Do Something To Me” while a sinister magician casts spells on her, turning her into a tiger, a bird and a singing potted plant. There’s also a gag on the fact that Kermit appears on television without any pants. You just can’t see this kind of stuff on any other show.
At the end of the show, there’s a panel discussion sketch, where Peter plays a German psychiatrist, throwing his hands around and spitting, rolling his RRRRRR’s and generally going on like the old-time comedy pro that he is. He tells Kermit that psychiatry has its own jarrrgon — terms like Complex! Sublimation! Rrrregrression! Gestalt! “Gezundheit!” shouts the panel. Then Peter demonstrates how primal scream therapy can get rid of all your problems — by shrieking at the rest of the panel until they all hide under the table.
And then, as if that’s not enough, Kermit goes out on stage and sings “Bein’ Green,” which is such an obvious thing to do that it’s amazing they waited twelve episodes to do it. He’s walking through a lush forest set while he sings, and he ends up sitting quietly by a lake, surrounded by foliage.
It’s beautiful, and they make it look so easy. Y’know, these guys ought to make a TV show; I bet they’d be great at it.
by Danny Horn