In case you’ve been living under a rock with no wifi, you’ve probably seen a ton of videos of people dumping water on their heads in the name of charity.  The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has been hugely popular in creating awareness of ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig disease), raising money for ALS research (over $70 million so far!), and giving people a reason to dump ice water on their heads.

The abbreviated version of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge is this: Someone gets challenged, and then must choose to either donate to the cause or make a video in which they dump ice water on their head and challenge three new people.  And many celebrities have been playing along and making their own icy, wet videos.  Including two celebrities of the felted kind.

As of right now, two Muppets have taken the plunge: Kermit the Frog and Cookie Monster.  Now, I’m sure it’s all good in the name of charity, but it raises the question: Is it okay to dunk a Muppet in water?  Not all foam and fleece and felt holds up under freezing cold water as well as skin and hair.  Our research tells us that this is far from the first time a Muppet has gotten splashed, submerged, or spritzed with water.

But before we get into all of that, let’s look at the trajectory that led to the Muppets (and their Muppet-related friends) taking the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge.

It started with WWE founder and CEO Vince McMahon, who challenged Kermit the Frog…

And here’s Kermit’s epic Ice Bucket video…

And then Kermit challenged Tina Fey…

Meanwhile, The Rachael Ray Show challenged Cookie Monster…

Followed by Cookie Monster taking the dunk…

Who then challenged Kid President…

…Sonia Manzano (aka Sesame Street’s Maria)…

…the one and only Neil Patrick Harris…

…and YouTube user, Muppet fan, and ToughPigs pal MarshalGrover (aka Shane Keating)…

Meanwhile, Muppet performer Matt Vogel took the challenge (which, sadly, is not embeddable) and challenged Bill Barretta…

And meanwhile again, Abby Cadabby’s pal Leslie Carrara-Rudolph (and her other pal, Lolly) got doused…

And (last one, we promise) even The Muppet Mindset’s Ryan Dosier got into the action…

(Nice try challenging Piggy, Pepe, and Walter, Dosier.)

But those are only the latest examples of drenched Muppets.  We looked deep into the history of Muppets getting wet, and we’ve made a pretty thorough list of almost all of the times we’ve seen the characters get damp, whether it’s just a spray or a full-on destruction of the puppet due to water-logging.  (I say “almost“, because you know there’s no way we caught them all over the past 60+ years.  I look forward to being corrected by some of the more fanatic Muppet fans out there.)

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The earliest examples of a wet Muppet I could find are some early Wilkins and Wontkins commercials.  In one, Wontkins gets sprayed with a fire hose, and in another, Wontkins is on the receiving end of an instant coffee-spraying phone call.  In both cases, Wilkins manages to stay dry.

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In The Frog Prince, Kermit celebrated his official reclassification from lizard to frog by spending a good amount of the movie in the water.  In fact, the first time we see him in the special, he’s in the pool, and then he spends the entire credits sequence under water.

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Fozzie Bear might have the honor of being the only Muppet to have water sprayed on him through the telephone twice.  The first time was during a particularly memorable running gag in the Rita Moreno episode of The Muppet Show, in which he receives a call from the water department.  Two seasons later, Fozzie makes a call to the fire department after the theater catches fire in the Roy Clark episode, and he’s rewarded with a face full of water.

One of the more ambitious characters of Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas is the pop-eyed catfish, performed by Dave Goelz, in the Riverbottom Nightmare Band.  He’s almost never seen out of the water: Once in a pool in the back of Chuck’s car, once in a bucket (which did not contain real water), and once on stage in a large vat full of water.  For that last one, Goelz had to sit behind the set on a forklift with his arm through a rubber glove, praying that the forklift wouldn’t give way, thus severing his entire arm at the shoulder.  Thankfully that didn’t happen, and we were rewarded with a fish in his natural habitat. A talent show stage.

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Kermit took another dip into the water in “Never Before, Never Again” in The Muppet Movie.  This is one of my favorites, because you can pretty much see Jim’s hand through Kermit’s head, as well as his little froggy feet kicking around.

Not to be outdone by Kermit’s brief dip in the lake, Miss Piggy showed us exactly what can be done with a puppet and a swimming pool in The Great Muppet Caper.  Do you think that when Jim Henson sprayed Wontkins with a fire hose, he ever thought he’d be filming an entire Busby Berkeley-inspired musical sequence by submerging his best puppeteer for a week with a puppet and 18 professional water ballet dancers?  I like to think that he did, if only because it was the ultimate in pushing the boundaries of what he could do with a puppet and a little bit of water.

Lubbock Lou and his Jug Huggers got caught in the rain in the Gene Kelly episode of The Muppet Show, singing (appropriately enough) about water.  The lead singer even chokes a little on the water, which is exactly why you should leave singing in the rain to Mr. Kelly.

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This next one is the example that inspired me to start this article in the first place.  Caroll Spinney once told us that in the old days of Sesame Street, whenever the Big Bird puppet was ready to be replaced, they would do something with the old one that they wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise.  In 1982, Big Bird went to summer camp, and he jumped into a lake to learn how to swim.  The water almost definitely ended up ruining the puppet, but that’s why you always carry a spare Bird.

The Skeksis are some incredibly impressive puppets.  So impressive, I’m a little surprised that Jim Henson and Frank Oz would risk ruining those elaborate creations with just a little moisture.  But I guess they’re covered in slime all the time anyway.  In the dinner scene above, you’ll see one of the Skeksis straight-up dip his face in a bowl of water.  And it’s one of the least gross things that the Skeksis do.

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Gonzo and Rowlf find themselves in the water in Rocky Mountain Holiday with John Denver.  In once scene, Rowlf is reading a book while floating on an inner tube on a lake.  Gonzo, for some reason, is jetting through the water, Jaws-style, and his nose punctures the inner tube.  And then you see Rowlf, fully in the lake, with a presumably soaked Jim Henson somewhere underwater beneath him.

And then, there’s Fraggle Rock, the prime example of wet Muppets.  One of the first things we even see in the series, right there in the opening title sequence, are Gobo and Wembley jumping into the pool.  That right there lets you know that this show will be pushing the boundaries of dryness, which we’d only seen a few times before from Jim Henson’s creations.  There are dozens of examples of wet Fraggles, but I’ll try and limit it to a few that really stand out to me.

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The episode, “Let the Water Run” is all about water, and how it ties the different Fraggle Rock species together.  And although Red does go for a swim in the episode, we also see Traveling Matt, still roaming around Outer Space, get rained on, thanks to the Silly Creatures’ invention (the umbrella) that pulls water down from the sky.

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In “We Love You, Wembley”, Junior Gorg drops Wembley into the well, thus making him lose his magic love potion.  But more importantly, it made his hair slick down, making him look super weird with a tiny head.

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Somehow I knew that Large Marvin would be the kind of guy to wear a t-shirt while swimming, as seen in his debut episode, “The Beast of Blue Rock”.

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Once again, Traveling Matt gets wet, but this time while riding on a kayak down some white water rapids.  I just hope the rest of Dave Goelz stayed nice and dry while crammed inside that kayak with his arm getting drenched.

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The apex of the Fraggle/water combination has got to be the Merggles, as seen in the episode “Beyond the Pond”.  They’re sort of like mermaids, but half-Fraggle instead of half-human.  (The bottom half, as you may imagine, remains part-fish.)  Not only do the Fraggles need to swim through the water to meet the Merggles, but the Merggles themselves spend most of their time in the water.  It’s fitting that this episode was near the end of the series, because that’s pretty much their final thesis.  I mean, when it comes to water stuff.

Try as he might, Gonzo wasn’t able to stay above the water line during his stunt show in Muppets Take Manhattan.  Personally, I blame Margaret.

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Also coming out of Muppets Take Manhattan, the music video for “I’m Gonna Always Love You” included a quick clip of Miss Piggy in a Flashdance spoof.  Water splashed down on her from the ceiling, she flipped her hair forward, which then inadvertently splashed all over her beloved Kermit’s face.  Definitely something Baby Piggy would not have been able to pull off.

It would’ve been mighty odd if The Jim Henson Hour did a water-themed episode and didn’t let any water get anywhere near the set.  Okay, it was still a little odd, water or no.  Thankfully, in the final segment of the MuppeTelevision half of the episode, the Ted Danson-voiced amphibian, is seen crawling out of the water, just as wet as we imagine our ancestors to have been.

Rizzo the Rat: Taking the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge over 20 years before it was invented.

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Also in Muppet Christmas Carol, we see the Ghost of Christmas Past, who is floating through the air as if she’s under water.  In fact, she totally is.  In the movie’s commentary, Brian Henson explained that they wanted to shoot the puppet in a vat of oil to give her an ethereal look, but when the oil deemed too expensive, they used water instead.  So while some shots still used the oil, most of the time you’re looking at an underwater puppet, hanging out in mid-air.  Trippy.

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Years after (or years before, depending on how you look at it) Kermit went for a swim in The Muppet Movie, he did the same in Kermit’s Swamp Years.  One of the few memorable things about that straight-to-video movie.  Less memorable: The way he vomits out the water directly from the back of his throat.

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The Word on the Street is: Soggy!  I think Murray is retaining water.

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To help promote The Muppets in 2011, Wired Magazine held a pretty impressive photoshoot with Jason Segel and the Muppets.  One of the images had Beaker cooling off in a bathtub full of ice.  Normally, we’d glance over this, as it’s easier for photographers to just get some fake ice, but you can see the moisture seeping up through Beaker’s lab coat.  So either they put a lot of thought into the physics of osmosis for the Photoshopping effort, or he’s actually in a tub of ice, slowly freezing while he waits for the camera to click.

But that’s not all!  There are a bunch of honorable mentions.  For example (the one you were probably expecting to see here), Ernie in his bathtub in “Rubber Duckie”.  Sadly (for our sake, not for the puppet makers’ sake), Ernie’s nowhere near any real water, just some soap suds.  The same thing was repeated for pretty much any time a character was in a bathtub (like Bert’s nephew Brad, The Two-Headed Monster, Mr. Snuffleupagus, and so, so many more).  But we’ll spare you the full list, because you’ve already been reading this article for far too long (for which we thank you).

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And then there are all the times when characters just look like they’re underwater.  Like in all three versions of “Octopus’s Garden”, “Friendship“, and the above image of that time Ernie forgot to turn off the bathtub faucet and flooded their basement apartment.

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And THEN there are all the fishy characters.  The goldfish and sharks and Lew Zealand’s fish and Cosmic Fish and Muppets Tonight theater owner Ernest Stavros Grouper, some of which are seen in the water, some walking around like people, and some inexplicably swimming on land.  Which is kind of the opposite of what we were talking about in the first place!  There’s also characters like Wanda Cousteau, who isn’t getting wet at all, but looks like she is due to a little water hidden in the glass of her helmet.

So as you can plainly see, the Muppets have had a long history with that life-giving liquid we call water.  They were getting soaked long before it was cool.  Or icy, as it were.  And they’ve proven that a little H2O doesn’t ruin a puppet, it just makes them look a little soggy.

And remember, if you want to learn more about ALS research or to donate to the cause, click here to visit the official website, and feel free to make like a Muppet and get drenched!  Come on, it’s for charity!

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Many thanks to Shane Keating and Chris “Smig” Smigliano for their additions to this article!

Click here to splash some water on your face on the ToughPigs forum!

by Joe Hennes – Joe@ToughPigs.com

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