The Top 10 Songs of: The Swedish Chef

The Top 10

Kieran Moore – swedish-chefEs I luoked it my snerkffleesk flet-peck celender zees murning I nuticed zeet zee-a feene-a cuountry ouff Svedee-a is ibuout tu gu intu a huleedey veekend. Felburgsmässuefftun, our Velpuorgees Night (in Ingleesh), celebretes zee-a irrifel ouff spring und ties in vit vhet vuould hefe-a bee-a Nuo Yeer’s Ife-a beck in zee-a MEEddle-a Iges. Festifities fery ill oufer zee-a cuountry, buot vhezeer yuou’re-a in Kristiuonsted our Kuruona yuou cuon be-a suore-a muosic, singeeng und fuod ire-a ill a mejur pert ouff zee-a celebretiun. Nu duoubt pickled herring feetuores heefily…

Und zees gut me-a zeenkeeng, suorely nuo is zee-a perffect time-a tu vrite-a a chert ill ibuout Luo Zeeluond! HEEs buomeruong feesh ict cuould prufide-a perffurmuonce-a und prufisiun in oune-a huondy peckege-a! Su illuo me-a tu present zee-a Tup 10 Sungs ouff… Ouh ilright, I’m duing Zee-a Svedeesh Cheff – buot yuou isked fur it!* Børk! Børk! Børk!  

*As I looked at my snarkflisk flat-pack calendar this morning I noticed that the fine country of Sweden is about to go into a holiday weekend. Valborgsmässoafton, or Walpurgis Night (in English), celebrates the arrival of spring and ties in with what would have been New Year’s Eve back in the Middle Ages. Festivities vary all over the country, but whether you’re in Kristianstad or Kiruna you can be sure music, singing and food are all a major part of the celebration. No doubt pickled herring features heavily…

And this got me thinking, surely now is the perfect time to write a chart all about Lew Zealand! His boomerang fish act could provide performance and provision in one handy package! So allow me to present the Top 10 Songs of… Oh alright, I’m doing The Swedish Chef – but you asked for it!

10 – Habanera – Muppet Viral Videos
What better way to start a top 10 list than this fun Muppet Viral Video?! Don’t answer that! The Swedish Chef has been an absolute gift to the makers of the Muppets’ online content and he appears very regularly. In fact, along with Beaker who is also in this clip he might be the most used viral character. I haven’t counted it up, but he’s got to be up there. I was thinking earlier about the Chef and his relationship with Beaker. They actually appear together on a pretty regular basis. They are partners in the Food Fight Muppisode, share a scene with Bunsen during Muppets at Walt Disney World and were two thirds of The Leprechaun Brothers, and that’s just for starters. For two seemingly unrelated characters they interact quite a bit. Musically they work well together here (with a cameo from Animal). Bill Barretta does a superb job with what can’t have been an easy part to sing.

9 – These Boots Are Made for Walking – The Muppet Show
I just can’t watch this scene and not laugh out loud! The Muppets did some outrageously silly stuff on The Muppet Show, but this is 30 seconds of sheer lunacy and I love it so much. Had this song gone on for another verse or two it would likely have been much higher on today’s list. I mentioned Bill in the previous entry so I must give some praise here to the Chef’s originator – Jim Henson. The story goes that Jim used to practice “mock Swedish” in his car on the drive into his office and the Chef grew from that. I can’t think of any other artistic creator that could have come up with something as daffy as the idea of a Swedish chef giving violent cookery demonstrations to an incomprehensible soundtrack. With all of that taken into account, this song might just be the pinnacle of the surreal world of Jim Henson and the Muppets…

8 – Gersberms – Nerdist Channel Video
One thing you’ll quickly notice as we go through this list is that the Chef is more often than not used for comedy and this is no exception. Muppets aren’t afraid of the odd cameo (see: pretty much everything), but this is definitely one of the best from recent years. Bill is back and being gloriously nutty and effortlessly cool as only he knows how. I’m often surprised this video doesn’t have more views – it’s on the Nerdist Channel, is based on a meme and features The Swedish Chef. It seems like it should be hitting the pop culture zeitgeist. I love the joke at the end as the Chef lands not one, but two girls and drives off into the sunset. If we didn’t know he was already married I’d like to imagine every day is like this for him.

7 – The Swedish Chef Theme (Børk! Børk! Børk!) – The Muppet Show
This is probably one of the most heard Muppet songs ever and yet it only runs to a few bars (as do I every time I hear it! Wocka, Wocka!) It’s hard to think of The Swedish Chef and not hear this song in your mind with its final refrain of “Børk! Børk! Børk!” I’m not sure if the lyrics are always the same, but does it really matter? I picked this particular sketch to feature today not just because it’s funny, but also because when I open up Muppet Wiki on my PC it takes me to the random Muppet page and lo and behold today my starting point was “Lobsters”. It seemed like fate and I knew I had to include this classic sketch. The Chef has a very patchy record when he takes on food. For every Japanese cake there’s a living dough to balance it out. It’s fair to say the lobsters get the better of him here!

6 – Christmas Smörgåsbord – A Green and Red Christmas
Funnily enough, the Chef sings about food much less than you might think, but here it’s front and center. I love a Swedish meatball, but I’m not so keen on the fishy side of Swedish cuisine – as this song states; the Chef’s marinated fish balls will keep you up all night! A Green and Red Christmas is one of my favorite Muppet albums. It’s a happy mix of original songs and tried and tested classic Christmas numbers. The originals (of which this is one) are all pieces that speak about the character(s) in question and don’t feel cobbled together just to get something out. This track is written by Ed Mitchell and Tom Armbruster. Both have worked for Sesame Street, while Ed has been the Muppets go to musical guy for years. This album feels like the Muppet special that never was, so I really want the original songs turned into viral videos for Christmas if you don’t mind, Disney.

5 – The Christmas Song – Muppet Family Christmas
It’s the duet no one knew they wanted until they heard it. Big Bird and The Swedish Chef are two of the most used Muppets around. Both have a huge list of credits for their respective franchises so it makes perfect sense that they’d spend a Christmas together eventually. The Swedish Chef really has appeared in a massive amount of Muppet productions. He’s one of the few characters to appear in all eight theatrical movies and has been seen in specials going all the way back to 1975. As already mentioned he’s rarely off YouTube and starred in The Muppet Show, The Jim Henson Hour, Muppets Tonight and The Muppets (2015). The list goes on and on and includes everything from commercials to music videos to theme park shows. That’s not too shabby for what is essentially a third tier character. This song is sweet and sincere and shows the Chef’s softer side – I guess we all need a little Big Bird every now and again.

4 – Yes! We Have No Bananas – The Muppet Show
I’m struggling to decide what to say about this number without using the word silly again, but it totally is! Silly, daft, nonsensical, I guess the term I’m looking for is, well, bananas. As Gwen Stefani sang this really is B-A-N-A-N-A-S! Except, according to this number we have no bananas so now I’m in a quandary. Would you accept a singing scallion instead? This song was performed three separate times on The Muppet Show and all of them involved singing fruit. Having them perform here in their own versions of what sound like various “mock” languages is a stroke of genius and gives this its unique selling point. The other USP here is the fact that this is filmed more like a music video and less like a sketch on a stage. It makes it stand out from the crowd. Finally, do you think Shredded Wheat and Heinz paid for advertising here?

3 – Rapper’s Delight – The Muppets (2015)
The karaoke sequence from The Muppets (2015) is one of the standout moments from the series for me. It brought us such wonders as Beaker and Bunsen singing “I Got You Babe”, Sam performing “The Wind Beneath my Wings” and this particular (Rapper’s) Delight. It also led to some of the show’s best jokes including the Beaker/Bunsen/Kermit exchange in this video and Scooter without glasses. All in all, it’s a classic Muppet moment and if you ducked out of the show early on it’s well worth finding. Aside from the music, I also like the neat character interactions between characters like Scooter and Miss Piggy. I wish they did more together… Anyway, I digress. As we’ve already seen, having the Chef rap is a thing of pure beauty and brilliance and after we get a real life Electric Mayhem album I want a collection of The Swedish Chef doing classic Hip Hop. Make it so.

2 – Danny Boy – The Muppet Show
Two things strike me as I watch this video. The first is that of all the classic Muppet gang the Chef is probably the one that looks most human. When combined with Animal and Beaker they look like the Muppet equivalent of an evolutionary chart. There are plenty of other Muppets that are almost there, but the Chef does seem to have the upper hand, which is apt really as it’s partly his hands that do it. The other thing I notice when watching this is that classic tracks sung unintelligibly will always be funny. We’ve seen so many examples here so far, but thanks to Beaker and Animal’s involvement this might be the gold standard that all other songs compete against. So why is it only number two?

1 – You’re Just in Love – The Muppet Show
You’re just in love – and that’s why Danny Boy is number two! Actually, I’m just in love with this song and that’s why it had to be number one. As I mentioned earlier, The Swedish Chef doesn’t have that many full musical performances on The Muppet Show so when he gets one as good as this it’s impossible to ignore. I think Cleo Laine made a fantastic Muppet Show guest. As this clip shows she was able to work very well with the Muppets and seems at ease throughout. Cleo is a wonderful performer; check out her version of “No One is Alone” from “Into the Woods” (I’ll wait ‘til you get back) – it’s truly incredible. Speaking of incredible, one thing I haven’t managed to mention yet properly is just how much of a phenomenon The Swedish Chef truly is. If we’re all honest on paper he should have been a one note character along the lines of Marvin Suggs or The Newsman, but thanks to the genius of Jim Henson he transcended that fate and became a pop culture icon. This, I guess, is down to a combination of his hilarious premise, Jim’s superb performances and the brilliant writing of The Muppet Show. The fact that I was able to use an online translator service to create the introduction to this chart says it all really…

By coincidence it’s also a holiday weekend here in the UK, but rather than lighting bonfires or having champagne breakfasts I’ll be observing our own national holiday tradition and visiting IKEA. As I tuck into a portion of meatballs in their restaurant I’ll be sure to imagine The Swedish Chef behind the swing doors playing tennis with my dinner and I’ll offer a moment of thanks to him for being such a superb ambassador for the Muppets. Thanks are also due to Jim Henson, Bill Barretta, and the rest of the gang who have performed him on one-off occasions (or even more critically become his hands for a scene or two). Without you guys Swedish tourists everywhere would be able to go about there business without people shouting “Børk! Børk! Børk!” at them. It must be nice to know you’ve made a difference to international relations in some small way…