Weekly Muppet Wednesdays: Sam the Eagle

Written by Blake.

Performed by…
Frank Oz (1975-1999)
Eric Jacobson (2005-present)
Kevin Clash (2002-2003)

First appearance…
The Muppet Show “Sex and Violence” pilot (1975)

Most recent appearance…
Muppets Most Wanted (2014)

Best known role…
Patriotic American eagle; upholder of decency on The Muppet Show

Memorable quotes…
“You are all weirdos.”
“It is called ‘A Salute to All Nations, But Mostly America.’”

Sam the Eagle is the “keeper of the peace,” per say, of the Muppets and one of their funniest characters.  He generally disapproves of the various shenanigans that Kermit and company are up to and often tries his best to encourage the crew to maintain the dignity they have left.  He never personally ridicules anyone, he just doesn’t see eye-to-eye with most of the other Muppets.  This often inspires Sam to create segments of his own so that he can weave in at least a little bit of “educational value” into the show.

Sam is definitely proud of his American citizenship.  Many of his speeches and appearances have discussed his patriotism.  He just wishes that everyone else would show as much American pride as he does.

If Sam’s actions prove anything, it’s that he sure is persistent.  Many folks might give up on the tiresome task of trying to high-brow the Muppets, but Sam has remained loyal to them for 35 years now.  He must see some untapped potential in them that everyone else obviously doesn’t!

Additionally, while some (cough, cough, Miss Piggy, cough, cough) might blow their top when herding together such a rowdy bunch of characters, Sam has kept composure and poise in the midst of his many Muppet mishaps, even when everything seems to get chaotic.

Although it might be in Sam’s best interest to search elsewhere if he’s looking for scholarly, dignified performers, we sure are glad that he’s stuck around all these years so that we get to watch his unsuccessful attempts unfold.

Sam is occasionally paired with a Muppet here and there, but for the most part he tries to isolate himself from the rest of the gang.  However, that doesn’t mean that he’s friendless.

In The Muppet Show’s first season, Sam was very supportive of the singing duo Wayne and Wanda.  He very much liked their performances and viewed them as a quality act that deserved to stick around with the Muppets.  However, their songs often ended in mayhem.  Unfortunately, except for a few random appearances, Wayne and Wanda have not been a major part of the Muppets since The Muppet Show episode 124 (season one’s finale).

Without Wayne and Wanda, Sam thankfully still has someone to talk to when he feels like expressing himself.  He feels comfortable sharing his thoughts and ideas with Kermit.  Although the frog might be nice, he never manages to fit Sam’s grand ideas as they were intended into the Muppets’ productions.

Sam has been sporadically used throughout Muppet history in a variety of different types of roles.  He’s been a front-running star, a supporting player, and a brief cameo guest in a number of Muppet productions.

In The Muppet Show, Sam was most active in season one in the aforementioned Wayne and Wanda skits, as well as in several panel discussion segments.  From there, his appearances on the show were mostly restricted to several brief speeches.

Later on, Sam proved himself to be quite the versatile actor.  He’s performed a part in each of the Muppets’ “role-playing” movies: Scrooge’s teacher in The Muppets Christmas Carol, Arrow in Muppet Treasure Island, and an employee of Oz in The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz.

07741-mmw25In the summer of 2008, Sam joined YouTube under the pseudonym “patrioticeagle” and uploaded the Virmup (Muppet Viral) video “Stars and Strives FOREVER!” to much success. Sam also played a supporting role in The Muppets (2011), where he performed as part of the Muppet Barbershop Quartet. When the Muppets separated, it was revealed that he hosted his own cable political talk show. In 2014, Sam took a starring role in Muppets Most Wanted, playing a CIA agent at odds with Interpol agent Jean Pierre Napoleon (Ty Burrell). Together, they attempt to capture the nefarious Lemur and the World’s Most Dangerous Frog, Constantine.

Perhaps Sam’s most prominent and arguably best moments, though, are part of Jim Henson’s Muppet*Vision 3-D, an attraction that debuted at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World in 1991 and at Disney’s California Adventure in Disneyland in 2001.  Sam is one of the main stars of the attraction’s pre-show video, which includes several hilarious “opening acts.”  Later, just before guests head into Muppet Theater, Sam relays several safety instructions that include some very funny back-and-forth banter with Gonzo.  This pairing wasn’t used again to my knowledge, but it certainly works well here.  Gonzo’s wacky personality and Sam’s orderly behavior play off of each other very well and could definitely be used again in the future.  Once the main 3-D film begins, Sam delivers more hysterical remarks, some of which are highlights of the show amongst many park guests.

Everyone gets a little ticked off from time to time, and there are several specific issues that seem to get in Sam’s way.  Whenever a musical production number arises, Sam is the first to proclaim his disapproval.  “Bohemian Rhapsody” was simply an outrage as Sam sees it.  Crazy Harry has also recently been an annoyance to Sam, having twice caused a YouTube explosion that the poor eagle simply wasn’t fond of.  Generally, whenever a Muppet is doing something that he or she shouldn’t be doing (which is quite often), Sam becomes stressed.

As stated earlier, Sam is a proud American.  He feels that he should do his part to help others appreciate his nation and often stages patriotic odes to his country, none of which have been successfully performed in their entirety.  His three-hour “A Salute to All Nations But Mostly America” was degraded to a minute and a half (much to Sam’s horror), his viral Internet extravaganza didn’t go as well as he would have hoped, his speech at the 2009 D23 Expo was interrupted by several fellow Muppets, and his recent inspiring volunteer speech concluded with him being dropped to the ground.  Thankfully he has wings.

Sam’s specific role pertaining to the Muppets as a group is questionable.  Although he inputs many ideas and tries his best to keep things organized, he’s not really the “glue” that keeps the show on the road.  (That’s more the job of Kermit and Scooter.)  So in reality, it would seem as if Sam needs the Muppets more than the Muppets need Sam!  Without them, he’d have no one to concoct zany ideas for.  If he was surrounded by people similar to him, he probably wouldn’t stand out, though when he’s around his Muppet friends, he’s an original because he’s so much different than them.

Even though Sam may not be integral to the functioning of the Muppets in the grand scheme of things, he has definitely been the root of several of their biggest adventures.  Had he not let Dorothy and her friends into Oz, they would have never realized that what they truly wished for was with them all along.  Instead, their journey would have abruptly and prematurely come to a halt.  Additionally, if Sam had not been at the post office to inform Fozzie and Gonzo that opening Santa’s letters was illegal, there would have never been the crazy voyage to the North Pole (not to mention that Fozzie and Gonzo could have potentially gone to prison).

Sam the Eagle is one of the Muppets’ most memorable characters because he dares to be an original in a crowd of weirdos.  Usually he appears in random cameos, though that’s really what Sam is best at.  If he were overused, his comedic style wouldn’t read as funny as it does when it’s unexpected and quick.  That being said, when he does appear, Sam’s presence is a treat to enjoy as he inspires those around him to do good, have poise, and appreciate America.  Thank you.

The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, muppetmindset@gmail.com

5 thoughts on “Weekly Muppet Wednesdays: Sam the Eagle

  1. I agree with Sambo. Great insights and writing!! I never knew so much about any Muppet. All I remembered was Kermit and Miss Piggy. Now I'll pay closer attention and send my kids to read this before watching our Muppet video, which by the way they just watched again today!

  2. What a fantastic history Sam The Eagle has had and THANK YOU Blake for the eye-opening. I can think of several friends that fit this muppets personality but will keep that to myself lol! Great post…Donna D:)

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