The Muppet Show: 40 Years Later – Dudley Moore

Published: October 25, 2019
Categories: Feature, Reviews

Original air date: October 25, 1979

Like any television show that lasts multiple seasons, The Muppet Show has its fair share of one-off characters. Sometimes they’re brought in to play to a specific story need; sometimes it’s because they want to see if they might work long-term; and sometimes it’s for a gag that none of the existing Muppets can fulfill. That last reason is what led to the creation of M.A.M.M.A. But for a one-off character, M.A.M.M.A. has done pretty well for itself. In honor of their one and only appearance on the show, let’s talk a look at our dear, ol’  M.A.M.M.A.

M.A.M.M.A. – the Music and Mood Management Apparatus – plays tinny electronic music in a variety of styles. It is brought into the theater by Dudley Moore, who apparently supports automation over workers’ rights, because he insists on using it instead of the Electric Mayhem during the show. Kermit makes the decision to replace all music that night on the show with M.A.M.M.A., leading to a show full of hilarious music cues. From a puppetry standpoint, M.A.M.M.A. has no exciting secrets – it’s got fewer movements than R2-D2 and basically just spins and beeps. It’s not revolutionary in any technical sense, with no character arc to speak of. It rides the fine line between a character and a prop. But even though it doesn’t have a voice, M.A.M.M.A. must have sentience because it picks its comedic moments well (During Pigs in Space, M.A.M.M.A.’s chosen accompaniment for Link is slightly predictable but still laugh-induing every time), really making for a fun subplot on this show.

Since its one and only appearance on screen, M.A.M.M.A. has made little to no cultural impact – however, aside from the episode, it has appeared in a cameo in the Muppet Show comic book, and as an accessory packed with Julius Strangepork’s Palisades Toys action figure, which is more than many other one-off Muppets can say. And maybe that’s not much. But I know plenty of people who would love to A) appear on The Muppet Show, B) appear in a comic book, or C) be turned into an action figure. And I know people who would kill to do all three. Those were pretty much all my dreams growing up. Heck, they still are today. So my hat is off to M.A.M.M.A. – living the dream while being unclassifiable as “living.”

Extreme Brian Henson Voice: Now see if you can spot M.A.M.M.A. in this episode of The Muppet Show!

Best Joke: Talking about M.A.M.M.A., Kermit and Dudley Moore have this exchange:

KERMIT: Gee, is it any good?
DUDLEY: Is it any good?!
KERMIT: Mm-hm.
DUDLEY: This is the the ultimate achievement! This is man’s synthesis of science and art! This is the Sistine Chapel of innovation!
KERMIT: It’s good, huh?
DUDLEY: It’s not bad.

Lamest Joke: I know At the Dance is always the go-to place for Lamest Joke, but Fozzie really earns the title this time with: “Why did the duck cross the road? Because he was tied to the chicken!” Groan city.

MVM (Most Valuable Muppet): MVM? More like M.V.M.A.M.M.A.!

Musical Highlight: My favorite gag of the episode: During his first musical number, Dudley tells the band that he doesn’t need them by just saying, “Take five.” So they begin playing “Take Five” by the Dave Brubeck Quartet. Just a solid gag, and one of my all-time favorite songs.

One More Thing…: In 1979, there was a strike by ITV union workers in the UK, causing many television channels to go off-the-air for about ten weeks. This was the first episode of The Muppet Show to air in the UK after the strike ended. I find it very fitting that this particular episode involved workers being replaced by machines who cannot do their job, highlighting the importance of those workers. People over profits! Muppets over machine!

One More One More Thing…: There’s a scene where Floyd and Animal go to Dudley’s dressing room to threaten him over his use of M.A.M.M.A. In his attempt to appear more menacing, every time Animal repeats something Floyd says, he adds a “Dudley” at the end. It’s so small, but so perfectly Frank Oz, and cracked me up hard every time I heard “Dud-leeeee.”

Click here to be replaced by a machine on the ToughPigs forum!

by Matt Wilkie

You May Also Like…

Written by Matt Wilkie

Read More by Matt Wilkie

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This