It’s STILL The Great Santa Claus Switch

Published: December 21, 2023
Categories: Feature, Fun Stuff

On December 18, 2023, Julia Gaskill and her fiancée, Stephen, watched The Great Santa Claus Switch. Julia had not seen it since 2015. Stephen had literally never heard of this special. What follows is a (condensed) transcript of their conversation during their viewing.

Julia: Hey everybody, Julia and Stephen here, back for a viewing of another Muppet Christmas special. This one I’ve seen only once before and it’s been a while. Stephen, have you ever seen The Great Santa Claus Switch?

Stephen: Heck yeah.

J: … Have you actually ever seen The Great Santa Claus Switch?

S: I see it every day!

J: Okay, then can you tell me what The Great Santa Claus Switch is about?

S: Got two Santa’s. One of them’s great, one’s not so great. They switch it up.

J: What Muppets do you think we’re going to see in this?

S: Pretty much all of them. All of the good ones!

J: I think you’re going to be disappointed.

S: I mean, I’m here for Muppets.

J: Okay. I maybe have some bad news for you, from what I can remember about this special. Anyway, let’s do it.

S: Muppet Claus begins!

Ed Sullivan introduces the special to a gaggle of kids. He tells us about Fred.

J: There’s a Muppet.

S: That’s a Muppet. That’s Fred. Fred Claus. Vince Vaughn.

J: Ed Sullivan is not very charismatic.

Ed Sullivan introduces the Frackles and Cosmo Scam.

S: I mean, I love this.

J: I forgot about his hat!

S: And this is the introduction of the Fraggles.

J: Frackles. Fraggles are very different from Frackles.

S: Oh contraire!

The opening credits start rolling.

J: [reads] Starring Art Carney and the Muppets.

S: So there are Muppets in this!

J: Well, okay, there are definitely Muppets in this, but not most of the Muppets you know.

S: Who are the Muppets if they’re not the Muppets??

J: Like, Kermit and the gang.

S: Those are the Muppets I know!

J: They are MIA in this one. This is early era Jim. This one – we’ve got Vince Vaughn Muppet and all of these other elves, and then the Frackles. Do you know any of these Muppets?

S: I’m not as versed in Muppets as you. I recognize… well… I don’t know these guys.

The six elves all introduce themselves.

S: Now I know all of these guys. Skippity, Zippity, Happity, Happening, and Fred.

Santa shows off a bad coin trick to his elves.

S: Nice. Classic Santa. Just drop that coin.

J: Is this Art Carney or is the other guy Art Carney? Or are they both Art Carney?

S: If it’s the Santa Switch, they’re probably both Carney.

The elves sing about the one toy they’re each building.

S: So what I’m learning here is that only six kids get gifts on Christmas.

J: Although maybe this is what they do every single day of the year, but that would only be 365 days multiplied by 6, which is still not every kid on this planet… Also, I am slowly remembering why I never felt the urge to rewatch this.

S: Cause it’s great?

Fred, back turned to us, swivels his head around to look directly into the camera.

S: One of these elves, I think it’s Fred, has like the Exorcism syndrome.

J: He’s got an owl neck where his head can turn 180 degrees.

S: That’s right. It’s almost like he knows there’s a camera he’s got to look at.

Thig and Thog emerge out of a tunnel right by Santa’s Workshop.



S: Who’s this green dude? Green Thog?

J: I don’t remember his name.

S: I like this green guy.

J: Thog is in The Muppet Show.

S: Thog’s a classic!

J: There is going to be one more Muppet in this special who you’ll recognize.

S: Uncle Deadly.

Cosmos Scam finally makes an appearance. He has a giant spoon for whatever reason.

J: Wait. His name is Cosmo Scam??

S: Yeah, based on what I know of his voice stylings, this is definitely Art Carney.

J: That is a giant spoon.

S: This inspired Don Hertzfeldt.

Back to Santa’s Workshop, Santa messes up another trick.

J: Why is Santa so bad at magic?

S: I think Santa’s just bad at close up magic cause, y’know, he’s too compelling.

Thog and Thig watch Santa through the window.

S: I love green Thog! His name is green Thog! He’s great!

Fred sings a song about how much he wants to help everyone.

J: He’s like the opposite of Hermie the elf from Rudolph.

S: Aw, look at them, they’re going to do a background window dance to this song –

Thig and Thog come into the Workshop and kidnap Santa.

S: – or just walk right in –

J: Right through the door!

S: – super sneaky, as you do when you’re giant Muppets!

J: [searching Muppet Wiki] Do you know what green Thog’s name is?

S: Green Thog!

J: Thig!

S: Ah… Okay… Why didn’t Thig ever make it on The Muppet Show? Did he audition and he just wasn’t graceful enough?

J: So Thog moved on to The Muppet Show and Thig didn’t make the transition and “was never seen again”… which is all it says on Muppet Wiki, which is very cryptic!

S: Is this pre-Muppet Show?

J: Yup. This came out in 1970, so this is one of Jim’s earlier projects.

S: That’s why! That’s why when they said The Muppets you got weird about it! So this Muppet here [pointing out the Muppet he’ll later learn is named Lothar] is Uncle Deadly, just like in his first mutation!

Gonzo finally makes his first on screen appearance.

J: Who’s that, Stephen?

S: That’s Rizzo the Rat!

J: No! That’s a very early Gonzo! I think this is his first ever appearance in anything!

S: It’s like if Gonzo ate Rizzo and spoke with his voice. Brooklyn Gonzo is weird to me. Right now, my heart is burning for Thig.

Cosmo and Santa are showing off their magic spells to each other.

S: I feel like Santa’s just going to save Cosmo with the power of being kind of a chill dude who does magic badly.

J: Maybe they’ll just become friends?

S: They’ll have one of those Scott and Nega Scott moments where Santa’s like, “He’s actually pretty chill.”

Cosmo turns into a Santa replica. The two stand face to face.

J: He’s the Santa now!

S: Are they going to dance off?

J: What would a dance off in 1970 even look like?

S: A lot of pop lock stuff, mostly in the arms, maybe some top rocking.

Cosmo sings a song that contains the line, “I think I’d like to do something of lasting worth / so I made a vow to leave this earth / just a little bit worse than I found it” and also mentions how he wants to make “a billion bucks.

S: Classic Boomer! Okay, Boomer! I get it! You said this is in the 70’s? Boomers would have been in their 30’s at this time, so this makes sense!

J: The 1970’s version of a billion bucks with inflation over time… it would be so much more nowadays.

S: I mean, he’s like in the target zone of a Bezos. This is like if Santa actually used Amazon’s delivery service.

J: If they made this special now, would this character be Jeff Bezos?

S: He would definitely be a stand in for that guy.

J: But also, Santa doesn’t make money? Where is this billion bucks coming from?

Cosmo immediately discloses his plan to steal things in people’s houses because they trust Santa.

J: Oh. Never mind.

S: Classic! How do you not like this?

J: I’m not sure, I don’t remember much about it.

S: This one’s made for adults. It’s clearly not a kid’s Santa story.

J: Nah, it’s definitely a family Christmas special.

S: He’s basically an alternate Joe Pesci, y’know, instead of dressing as a cop he’s dressing as a Santa Claus. He’s laying eyes all over every home and being like “I want to steal it!”

A spider-y Muppet is shown in Cosmo’s lair.

S: I hate that one.

J: Ugh, that one sucks.

S: That’s like a young Joe, before he got old. [Julia laughs] That’s for the Muppet-heads out there!

J: Yes. They will understand.

S: Here’s the thing: their names are Frackles, they live in caves…

J: They are not Fraggles! Fraggles look different and also have a WHOLE other way of living! [Beat for some more Muppet Wiki searching] So I’m learning that Gonzo, in this special, is named Snarl. He was renamed for The Muppet Show.

S: Gonzo is a better name. What about Uncle Deadly? What did he get renamed?

J: That puppet is not the same as Uncle Deadly! You’re just saying that cause he’s also got a long snout, otherwise that looks nothing like him.

S: He’s in a fedora! He evolved!

J: Okay, first off, that’s a fez! And Uncle Deadly never wears either a fez or a fedora! According to the internet, this puppet’s name is Lothar.

S: He sounds like Rowlf.

Cosmo goes to Santa’s Workshop in his Santa disguise. All the elves leave, and Cosmo takes his beard off.

J: This guy is already giving himself away! He’s been here for two minutes!

Fred catches Cosmo. He threatens to beat him up.

S: Fred’s ready to throw hands!

Back in Cosmo’s lair, another green full bodied Muppet is on screen.

J: Wait, is this Thig?

S: This is what happened to Thig! He got fired, and this other random bird thing showed up and took his job!

Cosmo goes back to Santa’s Workshop, where the elves are singing their song but this time Fred has been replaced by a Frackle.

J: [laughing] I take back what I said. This is great.

S: This Fred rules! This is great!

One by one, as they realize what’s happening, more elves are replaced by Frackles.

S: I mean, this rules. These are some classic switches!

J: Cosmo is choking this elf – he’s been choking all of these puppets!

S: He’s a real Homer Simpson-esque character.

J: Cosmo Scam is bad at his one job.

S: I mean, he’s a guy whose name includes the word “scam.”

All of the elves have been replaced by Frackles.

J: I like how Cosmo’s just given up the game and is no longer wearing his beard. Also, I’m pretty sure that one is Droop.

S: One of them is named Hoppity, one is named Bippity, one is Bing, one is Bong, one is Fred –

J: No, the one with the long nose, I think that’s Droop, but I don’t see him listed on the Muppet Wiki… Okay, Snively was rebuilt to be Droop eventually. Mystery solved.

We see Ed Sullivan reading to the kids again from the story book.

J: Those kids look scared.

S: They are f***ed up right now! Those kids are sitting there like “how did this inept group of monsters like Thig and Thog kidnap Santa, WHO ONLY HAS SIX F***ING ELVES WORKING FOR HIM??”

Santa is in his cell talking to Thig and Thog.

S: This is why Thog made it into The Muppet Show and Thig didn’t. Cause Thig’s got a club.

J: And Thog seems way nicer. And look at those ears!

S: Exactly!

J: Thig really sounds like Chuck from Emmet Otter. Thig is the voice Frank channels when they do that special.

S: Hey, what was Art Carney known for? Cause I’m realizing I don’t know. I mean, his last name is apt for one of the characters he’s playing. But he’s like a triple threat here – he’s singing, he’s doing comedy, he’s dancing. He’s done two different voices, one of which is the Art Carney voice, and one of which is this Norman Rockwell painting come to life.

J: I’m pretty sure he did not do The Muppet Show. Internet says he gained fame on The Honeymooners – I don’t think he’s the one who always threatened to beat his wife. Oh! But he was in Muppets Take Manhattan, I forgot that! WHOA. He served in WWII and fought in the Battle of Normandy! That’s a thing that Art Carney did!

S: Buckwild. He’s a tough man.

J: That’s probably where he’s drawing from for Cosmo Scam.

S: I doubt it, Cosmo Scam wouldn’t have the balls to fight in WWII. That’s where he’s drawing from for Santa.

J: I meant more in the sense that Cosmo Scam seems like a guy who’s seen some things.

Cosmo Scam catches Santa trying to escape his cell. Locks Santa in again, this time with a giant padlock and key.

J: Why are all of his things so big? He’s got a HUGE spoon, and now a HUGE padlock and key. Also, is he wearing a whole lot of blue eye shadow?

S: Sure looks like it.

The elves all dress like rocks in order to escape. Fred makes a whole lot of rock puns.

S: This could just be a sketch on The Muppet Show.

J: It definitely feels like early era inspo for the Muppet house sketches.

Fred sings a song.

J: Should they not be trying to escape right now?

S: They started, but then they got overtaken by the power of the musical.

J: And the power of puns.

S: Yeah, you dress like a rock and try to not make puns. It’s impossible.

Back to Cosmo Scam, who is now suddenly wearing a T-shirt with his own name on it.

S: I like THIS outfit.

J: Does his shirt just say Cosmo on it? With a lightening bolt behind it??

S: I feel like I’ve gotta get this shirt. That’s a great shirt!

J: No one would get the reference.

S: I would get the reference, and that’s all that matters.

[UPDATE: We liked this idea so much, we made a “Cosmo” shirt design and added it to the ToughPigs TeePublic page! Buy one and impress your friends! –Ed.]

The elves are discovered sneaking out dressed as rocks by Cosmo and the Frackles. Cosmo chokes more puppets.

S: I feel like this is just how people used to talk to each other. It’s like when your parents say, “I say got hit as a child, and I’m fine!” That’s what they mean.

J: They mean “Art Carney strangled me as a child when he was trying to steal Christmas”??

S: One hundred percent!

Santa tells Thig and Thog that he can’t use his magic to open the lock of their cell.

J: So he can decorate the entire cave with Christmas décor, but he can’t unlock a padlock? Like, he can manifest physical items but not just undo a single lock??

S: It doesn’t work like that!

Fred falls through the ceiling of Santa’s cell.

J: How did Fred get up there when a second ago he was walking in the opposite direction??

S: Classic Fred!

Santa tells Fred to go stop Cosmo and that he’ll “think of a way” to do it.

S: [laughing] Santa’s really a delegator. Santa’s not like an idea’s guy. Any of the big thinking stuff Fred’s got to do. Thanks a lot, Santa.

Cosmo and Lothar are out by Santa’s sleigh. This is the first time we have really seen Lothar move around.


S: He flies!

J: – THE HECK! Lothar is like a ghost!

S: Yeah, Lothar is something else.

J: Is he… part bat?? He really looks like an alligator ghost now.

Santa uses his magic to make small Santa hats appear on all of the Frackles.

S: And now they’re all wearing – [starts cracking up]

J: They all have Christmas hats on!

S: They’re just like, “Aaaah, this is actually pretty cool, thanks Santa!”

J: Santa would probably treat them nicer, he would just subject them to bad close up magic. But he probably doesn’t strangle them, so that’s an upgrade.

Fred foils Cosmo’s scam and stops him from flying away. Cosmo uses his magic to attack Fred.


S: Daaaang! He blew him up!

Fred’s plan works. Santa reappears, and they all sing to Cosmo about Christmas.

J: The Christmas Toy came out sixteen years after this, which makes sense for the set, budget, and puppetry technology. But that one, which we watched last year, and this one, the songs are… lacking.

S: Look, these songs don’t have a lot of punch, but this special’s got pazazz. And razzle dazzle.

J: You’re just more into this one cause you really didn’t like The Christmas Toy. You hated Rugby the tiger.

S: He was a disaster! He was out there causing mayhem! He was the Cosmo Scam of The Christmas Toy universe!

J: Just without the weird magic.

S: The magic of animation, for being an inanimate object.

J: I think what this and The Christmas Toy have in common is that they don’t have Paul Williams writing the music. The best Muppet Christmas specials have Williams on the keys – or at least John Denver.

The special comes to its end.

S: I think this one’s great.

J: This one’s better than I remember it being. I wish there had been more of them switching places with the elves. I wish that had been stretched out a little bit longer cause that was my favorite part.

Credits start rolling over a shot of Cosmo moping outside the workshop.

J: Is that just Cosmo Scam sitting in the snow?

S: Yeah! He’s been scammed! [reading the credits] Jerry Juhl!

J: Jerry Juhl wrote the script for this.

S: And the music!

J: No, he wouldn’t have written the music.

S: He wrote the lyrics. That’s what it said. I think they’re going to invite Cosmo Scam into the workshop.

J: I don’t think that they’re going to.

S: Look! It’s Thog! And he’s going to be like, “Hey Scam, you’re looking pretty sad out here! Have some hot cocoa and come inside!”

J: It looks like Thog is going to give him a gift? What do you think he’s getting?

S: A throttle around the neck!

J: Are they… wait, are they actually letting him go back inside??

S: Yeah, they’re inviting him in!

J: That does not seem responsible.

S: The gift was probably that coin Santa kept dropping on the ground.

J: Whoa! Jerry Juhl did do the lyrics for this! Umm… here’s the thing, Jerry Juhl wrote a lot of amazing scripts and jokes and sketches. Based off of this, I do not think he is the best lyricist.

S: Oof. Coming for Jerry Juhl!

The credits end.

J: Okay, what did you think of this special?

S: It’s fine.

J: I wish we saw Cosmo wear this hat more. This boot hat. Where was this whole look? I guess he had to dress like Santa, and then he was kinda just Scam Santa for the rest of it.

S: Scam-ta.

J: But what a good look that is with the necklace and the cigar and the boot hat. Umm, anyway, it was fine, I liked it more than I remembered liking it the one other time I’ve seen it. But that’s kind of it.

S: As the preson who doesn’t watch this every year, your thoughts feel more valuable than mine. I’ve seen The Great Santa Claus Switch so many times!

J: Shut up. [Stephen laughs] It was fun. Like I said, I wish him taking over Santa’s workshop had been drawn out.

S: They had fifty minutes! They had to pack it all into fifty minutes!

J: But they shoved that part into five minutes!

S: Cause they had to do other things! They had to show you Santa doing magic! They had to show you that the elves sing the same classic work song every day and that’s the only reason they knew that Fred had been replaced! If they’re switching up the lyrics in the elf song then it’s called The Great Elf Song Switch and they’re never going to know who’s being replaced by who! Fred can be all kinds of Frackles! He could be anybody!

J: Yeah… I kind of just feel like the only characters who are going to stick with me are Cosmo Scam and Thig.

S: And Thog!

J: Well, Thog doesn’t need to stick with me cause I already associate him with the Muppets.

S: What about Lothar?

J: Lothar really only pops up as a background character in the future.

S: He’s a wild ride in this special!

J: He’s so strange.

S: What about Fred? You love Fred!

J: I do not love Fred.

S: Fred is possessed by the exorcism of Christmas!

A long pause.

J: Yeah, so it was fine. I don’t think it’s going to make it into my annual Christmas watching rotation.

S: I feel like this one’s better than some of the ones in your rotation.

J: Yeah, I mean, nostalgia does that to a person.

S: You watch Muppets Letters to Santa every year.

J: Hey! The songs in Letters to Santa are really good! Paul Williams!

S: And you’re over here smack talking The Great Santa Claus Switch!

J: I mean, Art Carney did a very good job acting as two incredibly different characters, I will give him that.

S: Yeah, he was [impression] “Cosmo Scam, see! I got ‘cha scams right here!” and then [other impression] he was also Santa Claus.

Another very long pause.

J: Alright. [Stephen laughs] This has been another year of us watching a Muppet Christmas special that Stephen has never seen. We only have, I believe, one Christmas special you haven’t seen left and also –

S: Don’t give it away!

J: – I haven’t seen it. I’m not! I’m not going to say what it is, I’m just teasing –

S: Cause you haven’t seen it!

J: – for next year. Well, I know what it is, I’ve just never seen it. I guess the hint is that it’s apparently very bad.

S: And Seth Rogen is in it!

J: … Is he?

S: I don’t know. I’m just assuming Seth Rogen will be there.

J: Alright, well presumably we’ll be back next year.

S: To talk about Seth Rogen in The Great Santa Claus Switcheroo!

J: Part 2: Electric Bugaloo. Alright, happy holidays, everybody! Same time again next year!

by Julia Gaskill and Stephen Meads

Click here to order your own Cosmo Scam T-shirt over on the ToughPigs Discord server!


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