What the Muppets taught me

Why listen to your parents when you can listen to talking puppets? Loren Javier via Flickr

This may be just a children’s show, but it taught me a lot

“The Muppet Show” is a beautifully satirized children’s show that incorporates themes of a late-night, interview, theatrical, comedy television network. It is performed by puppets whose mantra is “the show must go on” despite all the shenanigans that happen on stage and behind the scenes. The Muppet Show is a treasure and is the origin of the disaster show, where something always goes wrong in the middle of one of the acts. Host Kermit the Frog constantly copes with the disasters that occur on the show by scheduling different scenes or performing them himself. The combination of unique characters with various absurd talents makes for a perfect satirical show.

What really makes the Muppet Show tick is the humility within each of the characters. Whether that be Fozzie Bear’s dad-joke fuelled stand-up routines or Gonzo blowing himself through the roof, all the Muppets come together at the end of the episode for a musical number about friendship. It’s nice seeing a bunch of goofballs come together to have a laugh at their screw-ups and then sing about it at the end of the day. It shows you can still be appreciated without being perfect. Perfectionism is impressive, but your mistakes are what makes people fall in love with your character. Humility cannot necessary extend to Miss Piggy, but the Muppets exemplify a hodge podge of critters and creatures that come together to laugh at one another’s mistakes before they head onto the next act.

As a kid, I was first introduced to the Muppets through the song “Mahna Mahna” sang by two pink puppet back-up dancers and their lead singer, a jazzy Muppet who looks like early interpretations of Animal from Electric Mayhem. The song was a funny little tune that only has a few words the entire time. That might sound bland to those who have never heard or seen the segment, but it shows how words can be influenced through presentation and speech. The linguistic approach throughout the song shows happiness, sadness, frustration, and silliness all together by the performer. I still cackle at the Muppets throughout the segment showing that they interpret themselves however they wish.

The panel discussion segment reoccurred frequently during the first season of the

original Muppet Show due to its popularity which poked fun at philosophic questions. All the debates began with a pretentious question such as “Is the art of conversation dying?” or “What is the meaning of life?” Proper gentleman, Sam the Eagle, was a frequent guest on the segment. Sam was a favorite Muppet, embodying the stereotypical patriotic American who was comparable to a firm, uptight, military general. Often moderated by Kermit the Frog, the panel always erupted in chaos by the end with hilarious gimmicks and mix-ups. As I grow older and started watching political leader debates, I cannot help but notice how similar they have become to the Muppets. These political leader debates are often bang-on resembling Muppet satire – which is incredibly troubling to think that we have political party leaders comparable to Muppets. The ridiculousness of the Muppet discussion panel translates across a multitude of platforms – especially now that everyone has a podcast. The number of podcasts I have listened to that could have been a FaceTime call is growing like a wart. The moral of the lesson I have learned is that we need restrictions to own a microphone.

Fozzie Bear’s bad comedic routines have been a staple to his character from the beginning. Fozzie’s routines normally end with the jeering of Statler and Waldorf, the two resident geriatrics with permanent booth tickets to the Muppet Show. I firmly believe that my dry sense of humour has stemmed from the heckling that came from the two men in the booth. I can’t help but think that if Statler and Waldorf were in the stands of a Dave Chapelle show, maybe he would finally shut the fuck up. The two are never nice – which is something that can come into great importance in many situations. I do not think that kindness is a sign of weakness. However, in terms of having told off people who cannot take no for an answer, I think that it is incredibly beneficial to channel the energies of Statler and Waldorf.

The comedic stylings of Wayne and Wanda shows a couple performing a theatrical number that is beautifully rehearsed. Unfortunately, their number normally ends in some freak disaster relating to one of the lyrics in their song. For example, in a song about the weather, they reference a storm where it automatically begins to hail on them. The bad luck that these two have is uncanny, but it also presents the opportunity that you really do get what you put out. As a Journalism student, I know that at some point I will probably have to cover on-scene weather conditions. The amount of YouTube complications that exist of journalists being blown away in the wind or getting hit with the run-off from snowplows is numerous. Always be prepared for disaster, but do not handle it like Wayne and Wanda.

Another famous segment of the show is the ballroom segment showing many of the Muppets at a dance where they make ridiculous puns as the camera flips between the different partners. Say what you want about puns, but they always get a little giggle out of someone who is standing nearby. The jokes are typically made at the expense of people who just do not get it. People who just do not get it are quite a broad group of individuals, but as I would like to describe it, they are people who have been “Dick Cheney’d.” Getting Dick Cheney’d is being sacrificed in the pursuit of economic value or power. One of the best lines in the At the Dance segment goes like this; Mildred Huxtetter says, “I hear the president says not to worry if you don’t have a job,” to which George the Janitor responds, “Easy for him to say, he has a job.” The moral of the story is to avoid being Dick Cheney’d at all costs


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