To celebrate 40 years of The Muppet Show, we’ve asked 40 people for their favorite Muppet Show moment.
Dave Goelz – Muppet Performer
Dinner with Peter Sellers
When Peter Sellers was our guest star during the second season of the Muppet Show, our head writer Jerry Juhl called him a few weeks before his episode to discuss what Peter would like to do on the show. Peter thought it would be nice to work with Gonzo, who he felt was similar to Chef Inspecteur Clouseau, his character from the Pink Panther movies. They appeared together in the cold opening. Peter, as Clouseau, stands against a blank wall as we hear Scooter call “Peter Sellers, fifteen seconds to curtain.” We then see Gonzo, facing away from Peter, hurling a volley of knives while using a mirror to aim. Clouseau is spared.
But the real treat that week came after shooting, when Jim invited a group of us to have dinner with Peter at Pomegranate, a lovely restaurant on the Thames. This was the first time I had had dinner with one of our guests, and it was almost intolerably exciting for me because Peter was my all-time favorite actor. We had a small private room with a large round table. Warm lighting washed over olive gray walls. There sat Peter Sellers, in person. He regaled us with many stories and character bits. Jerry Nelson joined in with his own characters and bits. It was absolutely thrilling to see the two of them riffing together. I could not believe I was in that room.
Brian Jay Jones – Author of ‘Jim Henson: The Biography’
Lady of Spain
REALLY tough call. So many great jokes, songs, and sketches. And, as always happens with these things, I KNOW that the moment I choose one, I’ll immediate go, “No, wait!” It’s the reason why my list of my ten favorite movies has over 100 movies on it. But here’s the one I’ll go with today: It’s the “Lady of Spain” bit from Season 1, the first time we ever saw Marvin Suggs with his Muppaphone. It was not only funny, but it was SUCH an unexpected moment when he started whacking the Muppaphones with his mallet. Yeah, the “Witch Doctor” bit is probably funnier (and contains the line, “Modulate!” which still makes me laugh HARD), but “Lady of Spain” was first — and that hilarious ‘what the heck?’ moment is one I’ve never forgotten.
Joe Hennes – Co-Runner of ToughPigs.com
It’d be easy to choose a classic like “Happy Feet” or “Mahna Mahna” or even the Koozebanian mating ritual, but after a dozen viewings of The Muppet Show, my favorite moments tend to skew toward the obscure or, dare I say, forgettable. And sometimes the sketches that catch my eye are the ones that are simply… simple.
One of my all-time favorite Muppet Show bits is “Blue Skies”, as seen in the Roy Rogers & Dale Evans episode. The episode as a whole is pretty mediocre (the singing cowboy shtick didn’t date too well), but the opening number features a bunch of prairie dogs popping out of the ground to croon an Irving Berlin tune. And there’s so much to love about it.
There’s the choreography of the bit. The close harmonies. The adorableness of the prairie dogs. The scat verse. The fact that you can clearly hear the voices of Jerry Nelson, Steve Whitmire, Dave Goelz, and Kathy Mullen – 4/5ths of the Fraggle Five. And it’s just plain fun.
I could listen to the prairie dogs’ version of “Blue Skies” every day for the rest of my life, and it would never cease to bring a smile to my face. It’s pure Muppet joy, accomplishing more with some simple hand puppets and a bunch of holes in the floor than most anything else seen on the show.
Dave Hulteen – Muppet Artist
Statler & Waldorf: Steel Drums
The best part of The Muppet Show in general are the self-deprecating jokes as delivered by Statler & Waldorf, but if I had to narrow it down to just one moment, it’s from Episode 221 when, after a senior moment of poor hearing, we learn Waldorf is actually incredibly racists towards pigs.
STATLER: I like the steel drums
STATLER: The pigs’ steel drums!
WALDORF: I believe it! They’d take anything that’s not nailed down!
Matt Wilkie – ToughPigs Contributor
Lydia the Tattooed Lady
Lydia. Oh Lydia. That encylodipia. Maybe it’s because I love it when Kermit cuts loose and performs onstage, since it’s so rare and so wonderful every time. Maybe it’s because the song is goofy and silly and clever and catchy all at the same time. Maybe it’s because my dad loved Groucho Marx and Kermit the Frog in equal measures and would often sing this song around the house. Or maybe it’s just a darn good song with some darn good visuals and that’s all the reason I need! Look at that way that tattooed pig moves (with tattoos hand-drawn by Jim Henson himself!) and you’ll see why Kermit loves those porcine pretties. Lydia – The Queen of them all!
Julia Gaskill – Co-host of ‘Frog Kissin’ Gals’ Podcast
One of my all time favorite Muppet Show moments, hands down, has to be when Gonzo sings “My Way” in the Lola Falana episode. The muppets are so well known for their hilarity and gags, and when it comes to Gonzo you can’t help but think of his weird antics and complex stunts. That’s why this song has always stuck with me. It has such raw heart; it’s one of the tenderest moments of the show’s entire run. It grounds not only Gonzo, but the rest of the muppet gang as well. We’re reminded that, through it all, the muppets are a family not to be split up – even with the temptation of making movies in Bombay. Gonzo breaking near the end always moves me to tears as well. Not to mention this whole scene is beautifully shot with Gonzo standing solo on the large stage, truly emphasizing the tone of the song through smart camera work. Clearly a profound, important moment of The Muppet Show.
Kynan Barker – One of the Original ToughPigs
Pigs In Space: The End of the Universe
Maybe my favourite moment is the Pigs in Space sketch where the meaning and purpose of life is revealed but they’ve all gone to dinner and missed it. And then the announcer says “I know something you don’t know!” That whole end of the universe show is really funny.
Jarrod Fairclough – Owner of The Muppet Mindset
Though I adore ‘The Wishing Song’ and Animal playing ‘Fever’ with Rita Moreno, I can’t help but go back to ‘Hugga Wugga’ when I think of my favorite moment. Frank is in fine form with a Cookie Monster-esque voice, with Jerry Nelson’s dulcet tones serenading us. I love the layout of the set, with the alien background and the smoke that stays perfectly level (I have no idea how they achieved that). Hugga Wugga himself has an awesome design, with the palm fronds on top being unnecessarily hilarious.
The ending make me cry with laughter the first time I saw it, and I’m glad the Thingy Thing’s head grew back to its normal size before Constantine could offer it to Miss Piggy during ‘I Can Get You What You Want’
Our 39th moment comes courtesy of Mike Quinn. In his email, Mike cited a conversation he had with the late Richard Hunt in 1981 where Richard revealed his favorite moment from the series. Thanks so much to Mike for this information, it’s a privilege to be able to share Richard’s favorite moment.
Richard Hunt – Muppet Performer
For What It’s Worth
Perhaps lesser known is Richard Hunt’s favorite moment? He personally told me (probably around The Great Muppet Caper time) his was the song For What It’s Worth. His reasoning was because it had a message. I remember that surprising me at the time because it wasn’t your typical crazy psychedelic Muppet madness but a very thoughtful atmospheric piece.
Our 40th and final favorite moment is that of Muppets creator Jim Henson. In conversations with a lot of people that knew him while compiling this list, many of them stated that Jim’s favorite moment was ‘Turn the World Around’ from the Harry Belafonte episode. It’s with pleasure that we bring you this moment now. Thanks for everything, Jim. We miss you.
Jim Henson – Creator of The Muppets
Turn The World Around