Some of the things you’ll find in this blog series relate to what I love currently. But a few topics – especially this one – relate to what made me, well, me. Because sometimes it is important to reflect on the things that built your taste in humor, visuals, music, and everything in-between. So without further ado, it is time to play the music, and it is time to light the lights – let’s talk about The Muppets.
Having parents that were in their youth during the 70’s and 80’s, many of the TV series they presented to me were from those decades, and typically stood as an example of their own brand of humor. From Pee Wee’s Playhouse to The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Golden Girls, I clearly was only being shown the best of the best – but the one that really started it all for me was my introduction to a group of puppets with a ton of personality.
The first Muppets related thing I remember seeing was a music video of Kermit singing “Kokomo” that was on the end of some random VHS tapes, followed by the various fairy tale adaptations that Kermit took on, specifically The Frog Prince that involved Robin, Kermit’s nephew, as the title character. I was entranced by the silly voices, cute designs of the characters, and super catchy songs they all sang.
But as time went on, I eventually discovered who were my favorite members of the group, and how they were my guides into the shaping of both my sense of fashion and maturity in the world of comedy and music.
First, there was the Diva herself, Miss Piggy. She’s an entertainer, model, glamour queen, and karate champion. But what I love the most about Miss Piggy isn’t necessarily her career choices, but her confidence. From stealing a motorcycle to save her man (or frog, in this case), to owning the concept of a “Me Party”, Miss Piggy can really do no wrong.
But the best version of this icon (in my opinion) is the one shown in The Great Muppet Caper, aka my favorite Muppet movie of all time. You get to see all of the greatest (and flawed) aspects of her character, while also getting a whole synchronized swimming scene dedicated to her awesomeness.
Next on my list would be Gonzo. This strange non-conforming Muppet stood as the shining example of how I somehow embraced my quirks. He was always seeking adventure, and refused to adhere to societies rules (you know, like dating a chicken – what a rebel!) But my favorite moments with Gonzo involved him at his most vulnerable – like during the “I’m Going to Go Back There Someday” scene in The Muppet Movie. Underneath all of those antics and insanity, Gonzo is a down to earth kind of guy.
He also is smarter than a lot of the other Muppets give him credit for. The greatest example of this comes when Gonzo took on the role of Charles Dickens in The Muppet Christmas Carol – aka the greatest Christmas Carol adaptation to ever exist (in my view, anyway.) In it, Gonzo proves time and time again how well rounded and versatile of a storyteller, actor, and overall individual he is – especially when it comes to the tender moments of the classic tale.
But by far my favorite (and in my opinion, one of the most underrated) Muppet of all time, would be Rowlf …. Rowlf The Dog. For he not only is the first Muppet that the great Jim Henson created, but he’s just the best in so many ways.
An accomplished piano player, who sings of life’s ups and downs, Rowlf is the kind of dog who has seen it all. He will always listen to a friend and help them out during their troubles, but is never one to shy away from telling it to you straight. And as a kid who has had issues with confrontation, Rowlf was always the voice in my head to get me through those “less than happy” times in my life. “If Rowlf could handle telling the honest yet hard truth”, a younger me thought, “then so could I.”
I still deal with my issues of talking about tough stuff with people I love, but I’ve gotten better over time – and somehow, on most occasions, I’ve found myself looking up a clip of Rowlf to help me feel some sort of comfort and relaxation after those intense struggles. The best of these is when Rowlf accompanied Paul Williams during an early episode of The Muppet Show.
This leads into something that I really want to thank The Muppets for big time – introducing me to the music of Paul Williams – who has become my favorite songwriter of all time (followed up by Johnny Mercer, incase you’re curious.) If it hadn’t been for things like “The Rainbow Connection” leading me down the path to discovering other elements of Paul’s work (including my favorite movie of all time, Phantom of the Paradise) so much of my taste in music would be nowhere near as cool as people tell me it is.
The same goes with what makes me laugh. I honestly don’t think I would have ended up loving things like the shows my parents did, or Mystery Science Theater 3000, or anything really if it hadn’t been for the well crafted jokes and skits that came from Jim Henson and his team of writers and artists. From old pop culture references, to the brilliance of the Muppet cover of “Danny Boy” – nothing will ever make me laugh more than a perfect piece of Muppet history.
So to wrap things up, The Muppets have meant a lot to me. They formed me into a stylish, strange and humble human being, who loves the tunes of old and respects the artists/creatives that came before her. And I hope that other individuals of all kinds can eventually discover the wonder and joy that Jim Henson’s creations can bring to their lives. Yes, maybe they can be a bit corny and dated at times – but these puppets can still bring the magic they once did to generations of people, as they did me, and that should never be forgotten.