I’ve been waiting for this day since the moment Muppets in Space first disappointed me back in 1999, which was approximately three minutes into the movie: today’s the day a new Muppet movie is released! *Screams “yay” and flails arms like Kermit*
To prepare for the muppical extravaganza, written by Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller, I’ve been re-watching old episodes of “The Muppet Show,” which aired from 1976-1981. And I’ve noticed something that I didn’t pick up on when I was child watching reruns on the Disney Channel: “The Muppet Show” is often wonderfully inappropriate for children. There are sex jokes galore, and the writers never missed an opportunity to slyly use a curse word.
In celebration of The Muppets, here are 10 skits that prove the most sensational, inspirational, and celebrational show of all-time was secretly for adults, with nary a mention of Gonzo’s weird chicken fetish.
“You’re Always Welcome at Our House”
In 1962, the great Shel Silverstein released Inside Folk Songs, a 17-track collection arguably better than any of his more well known children’s book work. One of the songs on the album, “You’re Always Welcome to My House,” begins with a verse about a man going door-to-door selling books who gets hit in the head with a hammer and thrown into a closet, at “our house.” A lady arrives, and she’s served poisoned lemonade and hidden in a freezer. And so on. On “The Muppet Show,” the song is sung with dainty, oddly sexual glee by actress Marisa Berenson, who skips around the room in a short skit, singing merrily about sealing small children inside basement walls and throwing strangers into the oven until they’re “done.”
“Baby, It’s Me”
Raquel Welch is a decent enough actress and I’m sure a splendid person, but she’s famous for one reason and one reason only: she looked amazing in a bikini. Welch was the scantily-clad star of the otherwise terrible One Million Years B.C.. In the film, she wore a brown bikini made of fur, a bikini so famous that it has its own Wikipedia section. To the “Muppet Show” writers’ credit, they didn’t over-think Welch’s appearance – they just put her in revealing outfits, including in her opening number, where she sang and danced to “Baby, It’s Me” with a giant spider, and had Fozzie say “sexy” a lot. She returned the favor to the bear, calling him “sexsational” to boost his confidence. (According to Jim Henson, when Welch hosted, the set was crammed with “a good 150 guys from neighboring studios.”)
“For What It’s Worth”
A group of forest animals, seemingly hiding from a trio of gun-wielding hunters, sing the Buffalo Springfield classic “For What It’s Worth” on “The Muppet Show” in 1977, and 34 years later, a YouTube argument breaks out over what the segment really means. The song is repeatedly broken up by the hunters aimlessly shooting their guns, and it’s not until the end that we realize they’re not hunting animals, but automobiles.
YouTube commenter andrea123lc writes, “The hunters in this video shoot down a motorcycle and a cement truck. Watch it to the end, that’s the point. Henson got that sprawl was the real enemy of the natural world…but it appears that some that are watching today still haven’t figured that out.” To which supergamerskingdom deftly responds: “shut up gay ass.” They both make good points.
“You and Me”
In 1977, the year before he appeared on “The Muppet Show,” Alice Cooper was a drunk who consumed two cases of Bud and a bottle of whiskey every day. Though Cooper had sobered up by the time he arrived at Muppet Theater (and would soon release an album about his time spent in a sanitarium), he was still no one’s idea of a kid-friendly celebrity – except for Jim Henson & Co. The entirety of Cooper’s third season episode would terrify even the most thick-skinned of children, but the creepiest segment of them all had the singer getting Miss Piggy to sell her soul to the Devil, before she realizes it’s not worth looking like Beakie in order to gain notoriety and fame. The song he serenades Piggy with, “You and Me,” also contains the line, “I like to hold you and squeeze you ’till the passion starts to rise.”
“Time in a Bottle”
The episode of “The Muppet Show” hosted by Edgar Bergen (and by extension, Charlie McCarthy) is one of the show’s weakest – ventriloquism wasn’t funny then and it’s not funny now, even if the dummy can do the hully guy and imitate Vin Scully – yet it contains one of my favorite segments. A scientist is seen fiddling around in his laboratory, singing “Time in a Bottle” by Jim Croce (who made Jackson Browne seem cool by comparison), as he gradually grows younger from the potion he’s drinking. The song’s about saving “time in a bottle” to “go through time with you,” and the skit seems to be leading towards a happy ending, with the man spending the rest of his eternal life with his true love. But with only 10 seconds left, the experiment backfires and the scientist returns to his elderly state, proving you can’t actually beat time and must accept your mortality. Jesus.
“The Windmills of Your Mind”
The way Dusty Springfield sings her well-known version of “The Windmills of Your Mind” is very different from the one that’s sung by Screaming Thing. It’s slower, something like a torch song, while on “The Muppet Show,” every verse is faster than the one before it. It’s meant to showcase the mind of someone who appears calm on the outside but is actually going crazy on the inside, about how they can’t help but think about how the world’s like an apple whirling silently and continuously in space, and it does just that. Once the song’s over, the insane Screaming Thing throws himself off Statler and Waldorf’s balcony, horribly injuring himself.
“Dirty Ol’ Egg-Sucking Dog”
Johnny Cash singing “Dirty Old Egg-Sucking Dog” while an increasingly pissed off Rowlf accompanies him on piano is dark comedy enough (in the song, Cash threatens to stomp the dog’s head in the ground and get his rifle and send him to the chicken coop in the sky), but what would really make today’s censors say no to the segment is the Confederate flag in the background. Here’s a fun game to play: imagine this was a new episode (ZOMBIE JOHNNY CASH) and it aired exactly like it did in 1980. Which group would protest the episode first: the Black Panthers or PETA? For once, my money’s on the Panthers.
Rowlf and Sam the Eagle are two of the most adult characters on “The Muppet Show,” so it’s no surprise that they would sing a song called “The Tit-Willow” together. Originally written by Gilbert and Sullivan, Rowlf tricks ultra-conservative Sam to sing the giggle-inducing song, which also contains the equally humorous “dicky-bird” phrase. (There’s a verse that got cut out of the “Muppet Show” version, too, about the “dicky-bird” committing suicide.) The whole segment’s just an excuse to get Sam to drolly say “tit” and “dick,” and midway through, he even asks out of the skit, wondering if someone off stage could take over for him.
When you’re making your turkey tomorrow, remember this scene from a Season 4 episode of “The Muppet Show,” where the Swedish Chef attempts to skewer an unsuspecting turkey. The turkey’s still alive when the Chef shows the audience how he’s going to do it, pantomiming a long metal rod going into the turkey’s ass and out of his mouth. The turkey gets wise to the plan and ends up kicking the sh*t out of the Chef, but this image…
…remains stuffed in your mind for some time.
As a five-year-old, you don’t quite pick up what’s really going on in the “Pennsylvania 6-5000” skit, featuring Bobby Benson and his Baby Band. “Hahaha,” you think, “that cigarette-smoking, sunglasses-wearing balding man in the purple jacket did a wonderful job teaching those six babies how to play instruments.” Then, when you watch it again as an adult, you think: “OH GOD. That man shouldn’t be within 500 feet of those small children!” Though it’s pretty impressive he got the drummer to keep time at such a young age. In the fourth season of the show, Bobby Benson was briefly arrested, before getting released on a technicality. He’s set to appear in The Muppets to terrorize another generation of adults.