Kieran Moore – There are a handful of big name Muppets that I’ve been wanting to write a chart for since I first started this character-based series. Top of the list is “That furry, fuzzy funny-man; fabulous, free-wheeling, fast and frantic – Fozzie Bear”
But, it’s been an interesting chart to prepare. I took a straw poll of the Muppet fans I know in real life, asking them to name their favorite Fozzie song and almost universally the answer was “um, err, um…” At this point I usually proffered “Movin’ Right Along” and we moved on to an easier subject like world poverty. You see it’s not that Fozzie doesn’t sing and it’s not that he’s bad – he just seems to be lacking that signature song that most of the main Muppets have. Kermit has lots to pick from; Piggy has “Never Before, Never Again” or “What Now My Love?”; Gonzo has “I’m Going to Go Back There Someday” or “The Wishing Song”; Rowlf has “You and I and George” (I once had a non-Muppet fan sing the whole song to me word perfect at the mere mention of the canine keyboardist) – even Scooter fares better. A look at the “Muppet Show” albums from that era shows that Fozzie has no solo songs included and he barely scrapes an additional line here or there. For what is arguably the second/third biggest character on the show that seems very odd.
So let’s see if we can’t even things up a bit…
10 – The Pig Got Up and Slowly Walked Away – Fozzie Bear – The Muppet Show
Apologies to the song “I’ve Got Rhythm”, which despite my best efforts came in at 11th place. I’m really genuinely sorry not to be presenting it as part of this chart because it’s a brilliant moment from the Muppets. Speaking of which, this song comes from the Madeline Kahn episode of The Muppet Show which is littered with brilliant, quintessential Muppet moments including “Happy Feet”, “The Wishing Song”, “New York State of Mind”, Lobster Banditos, a Muppet Newsflash and memorable moments from Rowlf and “Pigs in Space”. In fact if you only ever watch one episode of The Muppet Show you could do worse than making it this one. It’s a hilariously funny piece that suits Fozzie well and has that time-honored trope of offending the audience with your act (“How fat was he?”). A true gem.
9 – Good Day Sunshine/Dancing in the Dark – Fozzie Bear and Chorus – The Muppet Show
This number is a real treat for the eyes with its fun set and costumes. It has a simplistic, storybook look that goes really well with the first half of the song and I love seeing the cast re-imagined as flowers. I particularly like how they’ve matched the colours to the characters. It really feels like they have magically transformed rather than just changed clothes. Then we get the inspired, Muppety twist of the lights going out (poor old Fozzie rarely catches a break) and things take a 180° turn. As Dancing in the Dark kicks in I must admit my eyes do roll, but not in a negative way more in a “How-could-it-be-anything-else-way”. The dark set with the flashlights and half lit Muppets looks completely different from how the number started, but makes a neat visual contrast that helps this sketch stand out from the crowd.
8 – Top Banana – Fozzie Bear & Milton Berle
I think the Milton Berle episode of The Muppet Show might be one of my favorites so I was a little surprised to find this song at number eight. One thing that you’ll note as this chart goes on is how often a Fozzie song breaks off for a comedic interlude. This has one of the best. Milton and Fozzie have a great rapport and when they stop the music to tell their final joke the comedy timing is as good as you’ll ever see. I don’t know how much of that moment was scripted, but it feels fresh like two comic masterminds at the top of their game. Speaking of which, I have to mention Frank Oz at this point. He is truly the great comedian of the Muppet performers in my opinion. From Miss Piggy to Sam Eagle and Bert to Grover his characters are all hilarious.
7 – Limbo Rock – Fozzie Bear and Chorus – Muppet Beach Party
I’m sure for some this will be a surprise entry, but I’m happy to defend it. First, Fozzie sings this really well. I truly think it’s one of his best ever vocals. The song itself is a lot of fun and (in a rare departure for Muppet Beach Party) is sung fairly straight with minimal interjections from random characters. On the odd occasions when they do happen they fit with the song and add colour rather than take it away. I especially enjoy Robin’s contribution at the end. Muppet Beach Party is often criticized and truthfully I’m not here to defend the whole album as some parts are indefensible, but songs like this and “Kokomo” prove that even the worst Muppet productions have something to recommend them. Still, it’s hard to get your head around the fact that this album was released just six weeks after the brilliance of “Ol’ Brown Ears is Back”. On the subject of Limbo Rock, I’d have loved to have seen something like this as a sketch on “Muppets Tonight”. Maybe if they’d continued moving away from the studio eventually they’d have produced a beach episode…?
6 – Wot Cher! (Knocked ‘em in the Old Kent Road) – Fozzie Bear with Statler and Waldorf – The Muppet Show
This is another song that I’m surprised didn’t crack the top five. (Note from the editor – How can you be surprised when you wrote the list?) This number always reminds me of my brother as when we were in primary school (ages 5-11) we always had an annual “Old Time Music Hall Evening” and one year he sang this. My big performance was “If You Were the Only Girl in the World” with my (girl)friend Jennie. (Yes folks, when I was a school me and Jennie were like “peas and carrots”. It’s genuinely tragic…) The Muppet Show, thanks to its British roots and need for UK skits, often featured traditional “Music Hall” songs and the Muppets even had a top 20 hit with an EP of them here in Blighty. This is probably Statler and Waldorf’s biggest contribution to this chart so I’d like to give them a quick mention. They have a somewhat odd relationship with the Muppets at the best of times, but poor old Fozzie really “bears” the brunt of it. “The Muppets (2015)” has delved a little into their relationship, but I’d like to see that expanded in season two (hint, hint). I don’t want them to suddenly become best friends, but there’s definitely a story to explore there.
5 – Sleigh Ride – Fozzie Bear & The Snowman – Muppet Family Christmas
Muppet Family Christmas is one of the very best things the Muppets have ever done and this song is one of the very best things in it. It makes me sad that it is usually cut out of home video releases due to song rights issues. Thankfully it’s on my VHS copy that I watch without fail every Christmas. It’s probably a bit disrespectful to say it on a chart for Fozzie, but the main reason I love this song is The Snowman played by Richard Hunt. I think he’s a great character and steals every scene he’s in (The Snowman Who Stole Christmas?) Of course, it helps that he sounds a lot like Scooter who is my personal favorite, but Richard brings such a lot of humor and vitality to the role that I just find him irresistible. I also like the fact that he makes Fozzie funnier. Even the corniest, most tired material feels brand new! Richard Hunt and Frank Oz don’t seem to have had a classic pairing of characters like Frank did with Jim Henson or Richard did with Jerry Nelson, but based on this they should have.
4 – Green Door – Fozzie Bear – The Muppet Show
I like this song for lots of reasons (hence its position at number four). Musically it’s a great number that feels very Muppet Show with its jazzy instrumental break and bluesy bass line and Fozzie does a superb job with it. Who else can play paranoid like he does? It’s perfect for him. I especially enjoy the Rex Harrison-esque spoken singing that he does in the verses – it makes it more of a dramatic performance rather than just a musical one. Which brings me to my next point – this is actually quite creepy, especially for a Fozzie Bear number. When he bursts into the club to find it deserted and full of cobwebs it appears his paranoia is exactly that and not founded in any kind of reality. That’s pretty deep, especially, as I say, for a Fozzie Bear number. It adds an extra layer that thus far has been missing from the songs on this list making it extra special. There are a lot of theories about what the “Green Door” is actually a reference to so if you want to go all Sherlock Hemlock and try to work it out for yourself head over to Wikipedia for more information.
3 – Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee (An Actors Life for Me) – Fozzie Bear and Rowlf the Dog – The Muppet Show
Fozzie and Rowlf pair up several times on The Muppet Show and every one of these occasions is a bona fido (pardon the pun) classic. It’s obvious here that no matter which characters they are under, Frank and Jim just work together (I mean of course they work together, but they also work together too!) As I said earlier I was very disappointed not to have “I’ve Got Rhythm” in the top 10. Perhaps I need to look at my scoring system… Anyway, this song is funny. Properly funny. Not pretend “there’s canned laughter so I should be laughing too” funny. It’s the genuine article. The jokes are cheesier than a fridge full of gorgonzola, but thanks to Rowlf and Fozzie they land every time. Rowlf’s sarcasm combined with Fozzie’s puns is a great juxtaposition and pure genius. This is The Muppet Show at its best.
2 – Play a Simple Melody – Fozzie Bear and Jean Stapleton – The Muppet Show
As regular readers will know I love a song with counterpoint and this is one of the finest examples of that genre. Written by Irving Berlin, it combines good old fashioned Rag (which is another favorite of mine) with, quite literally, a simple melody. It’s a brilliant composition that has a fantastic sing along chorus. On most any other chart this would be a shoo-in for number one. I find it impossible to watch it without smiling. It’s just so upbeat and joyous. The introduction to the piece with Jean talking to the band and then the view of the audience really give this a sense of being a live performance. With some of the more elaborate songs and sketches on the show what you gain in the visuals department you sometimes lose in terms of believability, but this piece has no such worries. This song would fall apart very quickly if sung by two performers who didn’t have the “chops” to carry it off, but Jean and Fozzie prove here that they have what it takes. I love, love, love, love, love this.
1 – Movin’ Right Along – Fozzie Bear and Kermit the Frog – The Muppet Movie
And here we have it – arguably Fozzie’s biggest musical moment! I did sort of give away what number one was going to be in the opening paragraph, but I suppose it could have been a double-bluff. It makes me kind of sad that as far as Muppet movies go his big musical moments are this, admittedly amazing duet and “Rainbow Connection” from “The Muppets (2011)”. I guess you could include “America” from The Muppet Movie as well, but compared to “I’m Going to Go Back There Someday” or “Can You Picture That?” it’s pretty small potatoes. Anyway, let’s dwell on the positive. As with all Muppet Movie songs this is brilliantly written by Paul Williams and Kenny Ascher, fantastically performed with impeccable timing by Frank Oz and Jim Henson and is about as Muppety as a song gets. It’s also my favorite song that name checks Saskatchewan! From the fork in the road to the sun in the west it’s the perfect road trip song and I’m actually a little surprised with the current proclivity for including old songs in new projects that we haven’t heard it in a newer form recently. With updated lyrics it could easily have been sung as the gang packed up for their European tour in “Muppets Most Wanted”.
In terms of finding Fozzie a signature song (as mentioned at the start of this article) there are lots of possibilities within this list, but “Movin’ Right Along” is a very strong contender. It’s funny (like Fozzie), a little unsure of itself (like Fozzie), partial to wordplay (like Fozzie), full of heart (like Fozzie) and brilliantly musical (like Uncle Deadly [Just kidding!]) In the end, I’m not sure I’ve definitively found “the one”, but I’m not sure I want to. That’s Fozzie’s job I think.
This chart has been a joy to compile and hopefully you’ve enjoyed reading it and watching the videos just as much as I’ve enjoyed putting it all together. It’s impossible to watch Fozzie and not be entertained. Almost every number is knockabout fun and while Fozzie has previously bubbled around as my 5th(ish) favorite Muppet, this chart has made me rethink that. So it only remains for me to say thank you to Fozzie for keeping me entertained, for being a great friend to Kermit and for being what I truly consider to be the heart of the Muppets. Thank You.