Hi, fellow Muppet fans! For today’s Tough Pigs post, I’m going to hand things over to a friend of mine. His name is Harvey Harmonium, he’s been kind-of, sort-of a fan of the Muppets for his whole life. He’s never read any Jim Henson biographies or any other books about the Muppets, but he’s pretty sure he knows all about them, so he asked me if I would publish this “History of the Muppets” he’s been working on. I haven’t actually read it myself, but I hope you enjoy it!
The Muppets were invented by Jim Henson in the 1960’s. The first thing they ever did was some coffee commercials where Kermit the Frog keeps murdering another Muppet who doesn’t want to drink coffee. These would never be allowed on TV today.
Kermit was the first puppet Jim Henson made. He made Kermit out of his mom’s old coat. She wasn’t wearing it at the time.
The next thing they did was when Jim Henson had the idea of using TV to teach kids numbers and letters, so he created Sesame Street on PBS. He came up with characters like Ernie, Bert, Big Bird, and Miss Piggy. He wrote so many songs that we now know as classics, like “C Is For Cookie,” which was sung by Cookie Monster. Cookie Monster was voiced by Frank Oz, the guy who voiced Yoda in Star Wars. Before Sesame Street, there were no shows for children on television (except Mr. Rogers), so it was a big hit. There was also Oscar the Grouch, a children’s character who is mean to everyone! This would never be allowed on TV today.
The next thing they did, sometime in the ‘70s, was The Muppet Show! They filmed it in London because it was cheaper. It was a show where the Muppets are putting on a show, and every week there’s a guest host. Most of them were people who were really famous back in the day, like Johnny Cash. Some of them are still famous, like Steve Martin and Elton John.
The Muppet Show also introduced the world to several Muppet characters, like the Dr. Teeth band, with Animal (who was based on Keith Moon) and the other guys, and the scientist and Beaker, and Statler and Waldorf, the old men in the balcony. I met somebody once who told me either Statler or Waldorf was based on their grandpa, and I’m pretty sure they were telling the truth. The Muppet Show had so many great skits, like “Piiiiigs iiiiin Spaaaaace!” and the Swedish Chef. It wasn’t intended for kids, so there was a lot of adult content. This would never be allowed on TV today.
Unfortunately, the show eventually got cancelled, but that was OK because the Muppets started making movies. The first one was The Muppet Movie, which Jim Henson wrote and directed. It’s about how Kermit met all the Muppets, and Mel Brooks is in it. It famously includes the song “Rainbow Connection,” which was written by Paul Williams all by himself with no help from anyone else. This is well-known as a song that the Muppets could do a million times without it ever getting old. It also has a scene where Kermit rides a bike, and to this day, nobody has ever figured out how they did that.
The next movie was The Great Muppet Caper. It’s about Kermit and Fozzie as reporters solving a mystery, and Miss Piggy riding a motorcycle. The VHS tape came in one of those big plastic clamshell cases. The next movie after that was The Muppets Take Manhattan, which is the one where Kermit and Miss Piggy get married. It also has a scene where the Muppets are babies, which gave Jim Henson the idea to make the cartoon Muppet Babies. Did you know Muppet Babies has never come out on DVD? And that Skeeter has never been in any other Muppet things?
Meanwhile, there were also some Sesame Street movies that came out. Follow That Bird is about Big Bird running away from a really scary bird lady named Miss Finch, and there’s also one where they all go to a museum.
Also, at some point in the ‘80s, Jim Henson made Fraggle Rock on HBO. It’s pretty good. And The Dark Crystal, which was the first movie ever made with no humans in it, and Labyrinth, which is the movie where everyone always talks about David Bowie’s crotch. Both of these movies were all puppets with no CGI. This would never be allowed in movies today.
Jim Henson passed away in the early ‘90s, right after making the Muppet 3-D movie at Disney World. But some other people kept making Muppet movies, like Muppet Christmas Carol and Muppet Treasure Island. At first, Jim Henson’s son voiced Kermit, but then a different guy took over. They also made a TV show called Muppets Tonight where Kermit sang “Once in a Lifetime” by the Talking Heads.
Meanwhile, some other people kept making Sesame Street too. They tried to change Cookie Monster to Vegetable Monster, but everyone got mad so they changed him back. They also created Elmo, and he became the star of the show. They sold a whole lot of Tickle Me Elmo dolls in the ’90s. I don’t know how many, but it was a lot.
In the 2000s, Disney bought the Muppets, but other than making two movies and a TV show, they haven’t done anything with them. The first movie was The Muppets Movie with Jason Segel, about the Muppets getting back together and losing their theater. Bret from Flight of the Conchords wrote the songs. The second one was Muppets Most Wanted, and it was about a weird Russian frog who looked like Kermit. Nobody liked it. Then they made a TV show that was a lot like The Office for some reason, and Kermit and Miss Piggy got divorced.
Also, HBO owns Sesame Street now, and they never show the old skits anymore.
What will the Muppets do next? I don’t know, but I’m certain I’ll have a lot to say on Twitter when it’s announced and then I’ll forget to watch it. I can’t wait!
And that’s my History of the Muppets! Thanks so much for reading, guys. Don’t forget to rate, share, subscribe, and become a member of my Patreon!
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by Harvey Harmonium