Weekly Muppet Wednesdays: Mahna Mahna

WMW Mahna Mahna

Written by Ryan Dosier.


Performed by…Mahna Mahna
Jim Henson (1969-1976)
Bill Barretta (2001-present)

First appearance…
The Ed Sullivan Show (1969)

Most recent appearance…
Muppets Most Wanted (2014)

Best known role…
Vocabulary-limited lead singer of the song “Mahna Mahna”

Famous song(s)…
“Mahna Mahna”
“Minuet in G Major”
“Sax and Violence”

Sometimes confused with…
Bip Bippadotta

Mahna Mahna is a green, pink, and orange hipster-like Muppet who made a major splash by performing the song “Mahna Mahna” with the pink cow-like creatures called the Snowths. The song is simple… Mahna Mahna repeats the line “Mahna Mahna” after the two Snowths sing “Doo do doo do doo.” Mahna Mahna carries on with scatting and going about, finally winning over against the Snowths by the end of the song.

Mahna Mahna is often mistaken for/confused with the Sesame Street character Bip Bippadotta. Although the two characters do look very similar and share Jim Henson as an original performer, they are considered separate characters–perhaps long-lost brothers. Although Bip did perform the song “Mahna Mahna” on Sesame Street in the first season, the character Mahna Mahna is credited with ruling the song.

Mahna Mahna first debuted in 1969 when Jim Henson performed on The Ed Sullivan Show. It was there that he originally performed the song “Mahna Mahna,” alongside the two Snowths, which would later become a massive hit. Also on the show, Mahna Mahna was seen in the sketch “Minuet in G Major,” interrupting a classical performance with some rock and roll swing on drums–a very Jim Henson notion.

After performing the song on a few other variety shows (The Dick Cavett Show, Pure Goldie to name a few) and making a few background appearances, Mahna Mahna appeared on the very first episode of The Muppet Show performing the most famous and most definitive version of the song “Mahna Mahna.” The two Snowths and Mahna Mahna made an incredible impact with the novelty song pulled from a Swedish documentary, turning it into an immediate Muppet classic.

In the next episode of The Muppet Show, Mahna Mahna performed “Sax and Violence” with Zoot, being obnoxious on the triangle while Zoot tried to play. Although Mahna Mahna appeared numerous times in the background and in the audience on The Muppet Show, “Sax and Violence” was the last known time that Jim Henson performed the character. Mahna Mahna would go on to appear in the background of The Muppet Movie, The Muppets Take Manhattan, and The Muppets: A Celebration of 30 Years.

The character disappeared after this, even though the “Mahna Mahna” clip from The Muppet Show continued to appear on countless Muppet video tape collections and the Snowths appeared to perform the song with Sandra Bullock on Muppets Tonight. It wasn’t until The Muppet Show Live at the MuppetFest fan convention in 2001 that the character returned, as performed by Bill Barretta. In the show, Mahna Mahna and the Snowths performed their classic number again for the first time in 25 years. This time, instead of Mahna Mahna just running out of the theater, he tours Hollywood in a private car, gets some burgers, and finally returns to chime in with the last note.

Four years later, Mahna Mahna took center stage again performing a revised version of the classic song called “Bandanana” for the promotional campaign for CanTeen’s Bandana Week featuring the Muppets. In this version of the song, not only do the Snowths appear with Mahna Mahna, but Kermit the Frog, Rowlf the Dog, The Swedish Chef, Dr. Teeth, Janice, and Rizzo join in the fun as well. A year later, Mahna Mahna performed with the Snowths for the “Muppets Ahoy!” live show on the Disney Wonder cruise ship.

2010 was the start of a massive resurgence for Mahna Mahna as he played a major part in the “Bohemian Rhapsody” viral video made by the Muppets. Mahna Mahna appeared throughout the song singing his trademark line over and over. He returned in a brief appearance in “The Muppet Show Theme Song” music video with OK Go, and then came 2011.

In 2011, “Mahna Mahna” became a major part of the promotion for The Muppets. The song was heard in the first full-length trailer for the film, and Mahna Mahna and the Snowths played a big role in the “Never Ending Mahna Mahna Phenomena” on the Facebook page for the Muppets. Later in 2011, Mahna Mahna appeared and sang in the “Orange” commercial featuring the Muppets as well as performing the song live on Times Square with the Snowths, Kermit, Miss Piggy, Gonzo, and Camilla on Good Morning America. It all concluded with Mahna Mahna appearing in the very final shot of the “Mahna Mahna” medley at the end of The Muppets.

Mahna Mahna has appeared in numerous Muppet books, comic books, and more. He even appeared in toy form as part of Palisades Toys’ line of “Mini Muppets” figures. He is slated to be made into a figure int he upcoming line of Funko POP! vinyl figures and is rumored to be made again for series 3 of Disney’s Muppet Vinylmation series.

Do doo do doo do you really need to ask that question? “Mahna Mahna” is arguably the most catchy, popular song int he stable of Muppet songs… and what would that song be without Mahna Mahna singing lead? The Muppets need Mahna Mahna for every time that song is performed. It just wouldn’t be the same without him!

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

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