Original air date: November 22, 1980
There are some Muppet characters who are generally beloved and invoke warm feelings. When the audience encounters Kermit the Frog, Fozzie Bear, or Scooter, they’re happy to see them and they look forward to being entertained by them.
There are also some Muppets who immediately get the audience excited for something funny that’s about to happen. When the audience encounters Statler and Waldorf, the Swedish Chef, or Animal, they smile because they’re anticipating a laugh.
And then there’s Beaker, who’s in a category all his own.
If you’re watching Muppet stuff with a casual fan and Beaker shows his face, chances are they’ll start laughing before he even does anything. He probably has the funniest design of all the most prominent Muppet Show regulars. With those bulgy eyeballs, that permanently anxious expression, and that mouth that opens like one of those foot-pedal trash cans, Beaker is a sight gag every time he’s onscreen. The bizarre fact that he communicates only in “mee-mee-mee” sounds only heightens the surrealness of this strange fellow.
So what could be funnier than Beaker? Answer: Two Beakers. What could be funnier than that? Answer: Four Beakers. And what could be even funnier than that? Answer: Even more Beakers!
That’s what we get in the Mac Davis episode, in which Beaker falls into the Muppet Labs copying machine and Bunsen presses the button, causing the machine to pop out several copies of his hapless assistant. This “storyline” carries through several scenes, and every scene plays out pretty much the same way: The Muppets and/or Mac Davis are proceeding with the show, and then a bunch of Beakers show up and it’s funny. And it is funny! Every time!
If this had been an episode about a band of Miss Piggys, a troupe of Gonzos, or a herd of Zoots running around the theater, it would not have been nearly as funny. But watching this roving mob of staring, squeaking Beakers cause chaos and confusion is never not amusing. It also makes me wonder about the process of building the seven Beaker clones. A couple of them look a little smaller and flimsier than Beaker-Prime, so I wonder if they were thrown together with slightly less than the usual care and precision given to Beaker-building.
It’s also fun to see the tables turned on Bunsen. He cowers in fear from the flock of Beakers, hiding in the Swedish Chef’s cooking pot and wearing an unconvincing disguise. “Why are all of him mad at you?” Kermit asks, and Bunsen says, “I don’t know. I’ve always been a regular sweetie to each of him.” Man, that guy just doesn’t get it.
There’s not really a conclusion to the “multiple Beakers” story. The show ends with Mac Davis (a warm and pleasant guest star) doing a number with the Muppet Show orchestra, and by the end of it every musician has been replaced by a Beaker. This continues through the closing theme song, so presumably somewhere out there there’s still a horde of extra Beakers roaming the Earth.
Most Classic Moment: “Another Opening, Another Show,” in which a sextet of Muppets attempt to do an opening number, but they’re repeatedly obscured by a seemingly endless barrage of closing curtains. In the Muppet Show documentary Of Muppets and Men, there’s a scene where the writers debate the feasibility of this gag – how can they make it happen? Is it too expensive? Is it logistically impossible? It must have taken a lot of time and money for just over two minutes of screen time, but I’m so happy they decided to go through with it. The end result is seamless, and it keeps getting funnier as more and more curtains come in.
And then Fozzie pops up in Statler and Waldorf’s box and keeps trying to sing until they yell at him, and I crack up all over again.
Best Joke: When Mac Davis calls for a round of applause for the band and all their great work, it’s followed by this…
Floyd: “It’s nice of you to notice!”
Animal: “Nice Mac! Nice Mac!”
Zoot: “Yeah, it’s mighty big of you.”
Animal: “Big Mac! Big Mac!”
Lamest Joke: After Mac Davis’s underwater number…
Waldorf: “Was that a topical song?”
Statler: “No, topical fish!”
MVM (Most Valuable Muppet): I’m having a hard time choosing between Beaker, Beaker, Beaker, Beaker, Beaker, Beaker, Beaker, and Beaker.
Joke I Don’t Understand: After ruining Rowlf’s solo by getting a feather duster stuck in the piano, Beauregard runs off shouting something. According to Muppet Wiki, it’s “I’m going to Oxford!” What does that mean?
Coolest Puppetry Effect: At the beginning of the UK spot, Rowlf lights a candelabra on his piano… and then blows out the match. How did they do that?!
Musical Highlight: “I Believe in Music.” I always love when the Muppets join a guest star for a good ol’ sing-along, and this one is uplifting even as it’s overrun by Beakers.
Adultiest Content: When Mac Davis sings “It’s Hard to Be Humble,” he includes the line “I must be a hell of a man.” Later in the song, all the Muppets sing it with him!
One More Thing…: During “I Believe in Music,” there’s a shot of the theater audience “singing along,” but their mouths aren’t synchronized to the song at all. I don’t recall when this shot was first used, but it’s been recycled in a few episodes since then, and it’s hard not to notice that it doesn’t line up.
The producers probably should have banked a few different options for future episodes: The audience singing quickly, the audience singing slowly… Actually, they should have just had the audience sing every song ever written. Then they wouldn’t have to worry about it.
Okay, One More Thing…: You know how sometimes we like to overthink things around here? Well, how about this: In the “Bear on Patrol” sketch, Patrol Bear tries to book Beaker at the police station, and he and Link are stunned when several other Beakers pop up.
We know that “Patrol Bear” is a sketch that Fozzie and Link perform in on The Muppet Show. Does this mean the multiple Beakers weren’t in the “script” for this week’s installment of “Bear on Patrol?” If not, what was the original premise of the sketch? Patrol Bear books Beaker and puts him in a cell? That’s not a very eventful sketch, or a funny one. Or maybe the original sketch just had a completely different punchline. We’ll never know!
Thanks as always to Muppet Wiki for image help! And thanks to Tough Pigs’ own Shane Keating for research assistance! Click here to open your mouth like one of those foot pedal trash cans on the Tough Pigs forum!
by Ryan Roe – Ryan@ToughPigs.com