ToughPigs Roundtable(?): Elmo’s Not-Too-Late Show

Published: August 12, 2020
Categories: Feature, Reviews

Way back in… oh gosh, was it really May?… May, Matthew Soberman and I encouraged you all to watch The Not-Too-Late Show With Elmo in our positive review of the first three episodes right here on ToughPigs. We thought it was a lot of fun, and possibly the closest thing to The Muppet Show any of the Muppets had ever done.

Well, it’s been over two months since then (geez), and the first season is now over. Usually, when a major new Muppet show reaches its series finale, we at ToughPigs like to do a roundtable recap. Except, oddly enough, it seems like I’m one of the only writers here who actually watched every episode of The Not-Too-Late Show. For one thing, a lot of them don’t have HBO Max! For another, I guess a lot of them hate fun and bedtime routines.

Fine, I thought. I’ll just invite the staff to my apartment to watch through the show together. But… wait. It’s a pandemic. I can’t do that. Elmo told me not to.

So how to do a roundtable? Well, I gathered all of my friends I could safely assemble, which was all the Sesame Street toys on my desk and bookshelf, and sat around a tiny table with them.

So here we go. A roundtable discussion on the first season of The Not-Too-Late Show.

What’s Working So Far?

Evan G.: As I said in the introduction, I really like The Not-Too-Late Show. Obviously, it’s cute, as you’d expect from any show starring Elmo, the patron saint of being adorable. But it’s got a clever setup that allows for some good Muppet and celebrity interaction, both in terms of simple jokes and musical moments. I’ve felt this has been lacking in the new Sesame Street format, so I appreciate that this show really allows for it. While the humor is often targeted at small children (obviously), it does have a lot of subtler jokes for adults. Also, not to sound like Quibi, but 15 minutes is a great length for a show.

Anyway, friends, what did you think?

Friends (Toys of Super Grover, Cookie Monster, Chef Gonger, Count von Count, Murray Monster, Bert (With Keytar), Rosita, and Oscar the Grouch):

What’s Not Working For You So Far?

Evan G.: Obviously, I don’t enjoy everything about The Not-Too-Late Show, but I am in my 20s and so I do not find knock-knock jokes as hilarious as the show’s target audience. As a whole though, I find it weird how unimportant each episode’s “theme” seems to be. Elmo will mention a part of his bedtime routine, but it’s rare that plays a role in any of the other antics. Is it too much to ask for a little thematic consistency now and then?

Also, I can’t stand it when a celebrity guest comes out and sings a nursery rhyme. It’s so much better when they sing actual classic Sesame Street songs, which are of course just… better songs.


What’s Your Favorite Episode?

Evan G.: I mentioned it in my initial review, but Episode 3, which guest-stars John Mulaney and Lil Nas X, is a highlight because of how natural Mulaney is with the Muppets and how catchy Lil Nas X’s version of “Elmo’s Song” is. Also great are the fourth episode (Batman & Pentatonix) and the eleventh episode (Andy Cohen & Josh Groban).


What Character is Best?

Evan G.: Obviously, Elmo and Cookie Monster are on fire throughout the show. Elmo works really well as a host in that he’s technically a straight man but inherently silly because of his childlike naivete. Cookie Monster’s bizarre chaotic energy is likewise peerless. Beyond the hosts, I think Rosita and Grover are the MVPs for the former’s great Scooter-esque energy and the latter’s wonderful confusion.


Chef Gonger Toy: (falls over)

Do You Have a Single Favorite Joke?

Evan G.: Cookie Monster reveals he owns a box set of Felllini movies.

But otherwise, it’s the show’s commitment to running gags and setup-payoff through multiple episodes. As an example, Rosita singing the closing song is only funny because we know how Elmo always does it. But even more elaborate is a joke about a sister HBO show that’s set up in the Andy Cohen / Josh Groban episode and doesn’t pay off until the final episode. In other words, yeah, it’s worth watching every episode.


Evan G.: You folks okay? Gonger, you’re looking a little worse for wear right now. I just…I thought you’d all have more to say about this show. I know you watched it with me.

How are the Guest Stars Working Out?

Evan G.: Some of the special guest stars are incredible. I find that comedians and children tend to be the better stars, because they roll naturally with the punches and interact well with Elmo’s jokes. This includes John Mulaney, John Oliver, Andy Cohen, Mykal-Michelle Harris, and (neither a comedian nor a child but still good) Olivia Wilde. Other adults have a hard time not talking down to Elmo. It’s a balance.

As I mentioned earlier, the musical guests who sing classic Sesame Street songs tend to fare better than those who sing nursery rhymes (though Sara Bareilles can do no wrong even with “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”). Towards the back half of the season, more of the musicians perform duets with a Muppet, and that’s where the show really shines. I hope to see a lot more of that in Season 2. If we get it! I hope we do.

Friends: … 

Any Last Thoughts?

Evan G.: This is a really fun, really cute show that reminds me of some of the most entertaining parts of classic Sesame Street. It’s absolutely worth checking out, especially because the entire thing can be binged in about three hours.

And probably someone in your family can lend you their HBO Max password.

Friends, any last thoughts?


Evan G.: I figured you’d say that. Well, another flawless ToughPigs roundtable! Good night, everyone! Good night, Baby David!

Click here to find knock-knock jokes hilarious on the Tough Pigs forum!

by Evan G

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