Jarrod Fairclough – When the Kieran is away, the Jarrod will play! Yes, Kieran Moore, our usual ‘Top 10’ guru is not in this week, as he’s off galavanting in Los Angeles, rubbing shoulders will the stars, like Kirk Thatcher (that’s actually true. Well, they hung out, I don’t know if they literally rubbed each other’s shoulders).
Therefore I am stepping in, and giving this whole ‘Top 10’ list thing a go. I’ve chosen a topic Kieran and I have discussed a few times over the past 12 months, that is – One-off characters from The Muppet Show. I’ve cheated a little, in that some of these characters made appearances in the background of other episodes or productions, but made no other significant contributions to any sketch/episode. Also, this is way harder than I thought it’d be, so there’s a few at the beginning here that are pretty much just there to make up the numbers! Let’s begin, shall we?
10 – She Loves You – The Bug Band – Season 4, Episode 7
The first one here was a last second addition, when I couldn’t be bothered searching high and low anymore for one-off characters! It’s always a pleasure hearing The Beatles sung by Muppets, which has been done a lot over the years in both The Muppet Show and Sesame Street. It’s also always great hearing Steve Whitmire sing. He’s got a decent set of pipes on him, and any time we hear him sing as himself (or close enough to it) it’s always a treat. They’re interesting puppets, the Bug Band, I’m not sure what could have been done with them besides this song.
9 – I’m So Happy – Gloomy Whatnots – Season 5, Episode 23
This song might be the only official one on this unofficial list, as it was the only one Kieran suggested be added. Two doomy gloomy and pretty creepy Whatnots sing a song about happiness, while covered in dust and cobwebs, a little like my Grandmothers attic. Jerry Nelson takes the lead here as the grey Whatnot, and it’s such a pleasure hearing that voice again. Jerry was the best singer the franchise has ever had, and if you haven’t listened to his album Truro Daydreams, then you’re missing out! You can still purchase it now on iTunes and Amazon.
8 – The Windmills of Your Mind – Screaming Thing – Season 2, Episode 1
I love second seasons of shows. Don’t you love second seasons of shows? I sure can’t wait for the second season of The Muppets on ABC that hasn’t been announced yet but should because we all know it deserves it. This song is actually the first of two from this episode in this list, and another Jerry Nelson song! My favorite part about this song is the puppetry of the spinning legs. It’s such a simple gag, with three bent legs spinning at full speed. I also love those quick lyrics, reminiscent of a Gilbert and Sullivan song. How many times do you think Jerry had to record without accidentally mucking it up? My guess is one, because the man was the ultimate professional!
7 – Sweet Gingerbread Man – The Gingerbread Men – Season 2, Episode 1
And here’s the second song from that episode, featuring large dancing Gingerbread Men, and a cute little Gingerbread puppet, performed by Frank Oz. The Muppet Wiki article for this song states that it’s the only time Frank sang lead vocals for a one-off character, but I disagree, and you’ll see more on that at my Number 1 song! It’s an interesting voice that Frank uses for this song, it’s almost a little child voice, but I still wonder if it’s actually how Frank sings in real life. I can’t imagine those Gingerbread Men costumes were much fun to dance in.
6 – Gargling Gershwin – Angus McGonagle – Season 4, Episode 17
How could we talk about one-off characters and NOT mention Angus McGonagle, the Argyle Gargoyle? My predecessor, Ryan Dosier, had a strange fascination with this guy, one that even he couldn’t explain when I asked him to. He appears in our websites current header, and Ryan’s constant pestering even had Angus added in to some of the Muppet comic books a few years back. Introduced as the original guest star for this episode, he is quickly replaced by the cast of Star Wars, until Luke’s cousin Mark Hamill agrees to gargle Gershwin with him! He’s a great Jerry Nelson character, the fourth so far on this list, but not the last!
5 – Time In A Bottle – Chemist – Season 2, Episode 7
Our first Jim Henson song on the list! This is such a sweet song, about the passing of time, and wishing there was more in this life. It’s quite poignant seeing as Jim passed away at such a young age. The Chemist pulls a Benjamin Button as he ages backwards, starting as an old man, eventually becoming a young teenager, but one potion too much destroys the process, reverting him back to old man status. We get a bunch of different Jim voices in the number. As the age varies, so does the voice. It’s very effective. This song is currently used in an ad here in Australia, and every time I hear it I think ‘I prefer Jim’s version’…
4 – Pachalafaka – Tourist – Season 1, Episode 3
The earliest song on our list, this is another great Jim Henson number. He plays a tourist who travels all over Turkey, meeting gorgeous women, all who whisper ‘Pachalafaka’ at him, even though he has no idea what the heck it even means. Of course, our one reader in Turkey could probably tell you that it means nothing – it’s a nonsense word. There’s some debate online that it probably means ‘transvestite’, because of the revelation at the end that the girl he’s been singing to is in fact a man. It certainly would make sense, but a Google search doesn’t yield any results. Jim sounds so happy and natural in his voice, and as this was one of the first episode to go in to production after the series had been picked up, the excited nature Jim had comes across.
3 – Turn The World Around – African Masks – Season 3, Episode 14
Although this song is actually performed by Harry Belafonte, the African Masks add a lot to the number, and were designed and used for this song alone. This is one of the most important songs in Muppet history, and is often cited as one of the best moments in the franchises history. The amazing non-Muppety-looking Masks are so effective, and the puppetry is just incredible. Jim Henson loved this song so much that Harry Belafonte sang it at his funeral. The song talks about the reliance we all have on each other in this world, and it’s something that a lot of people in this world need to hear.
2 – For What It’s Worth – Opossum & Wildlife – Season 2, Episode 21
This song might just be one of my favorite Muppet songs ever. Jerry Nelson does such an amazing job with this small voiced creature, but it’s so powerful. The puppets used for this range from realistic to slightly cartoony, and the hunters are typical over the top Whatnots, contrasting nicely between the real world and the artificial (that’s so deep – why couldn’t I be that deep in Literature class in high school?). I’m a staunch believer in Animal Rights, perhaps that’s why this song hits home so much. I associate (loosely) with a friend who hunts, and it makes me sick every time I hear about it. I might be turning in to Ricky Gervais… I am an atheist, after all…
1 – Hugga Wugga – Hugga Wugga, Iggy Wiggy & Thingy Thing – Season 1, Episode 18
One of my absolute favorite Muppet clips from all time is this one – Hugga Wugga. It’s the song I requested when I guested on The Muppetcast a few months back, and it’s the song I listen to when I don’t know what to listen to. It’s also where my query with Frank Oz’s one-off lead character comes from, as mentioned in Number 7. Frank plays Hugga Wugga here, who is obviously the lead character, therefore making the Muppet Wiki article on ‘Sweet Gingerbread Man’ wrong – Can someone smarter than me edit that?. This is also the only appearance of John Lovelady on the list, and possibly on any Top 10 list (I could be wrong). John was a great performer who was around a lot during Season 1, but then left to work on other projects. Also, the Thingy Thing is actually known as ‘Happy Yellow Creature’ officially, but due to his appearance in Constantine’s ‘I Can Get You What You Want (Cockatoo In Malibu)’, he’s always going to be known as the Thingy Thing. He’s also another Jerry Nelson character, and a great little puppet. Hugga Wugga might be one of my favorite designs though, with his smoking nose and giant eyes. Whoever designed him with those palm tree fronds had clearly inhaled too much of that smoke from his nose!
So there we have it! An unofficial Top 10 list of one-off characters from The Muppet Show. Let’s look at some stats like Kieran sometimes does, shall we?
Jerry Nelson performs in 7 of these songs. It could be because he played so many Whatnots, due to his lack of main characters.
Jim Henson sings in 2, as does Frank Oz.
So all that’s left to do is thank the performers, like Kieran always does. Thanks guys, for bringing to life so many wonderful one-off characters over the years, and for introducing us to some songs that we otherwise probably wouldn’t have ever heard otherwise!
Kieran is back next week (I think) to continue on! Thanks for letting me sub in just this once – it was a lot of fun!