On Thanksgiving Day 1971—that would have been November 25—Dick Cavett featured Jim Henson and the Muppets on his ABC talk show. Indeed, they very nearly took the show over. The Muppets had recently become famous through the popular PBS educational program Sesame Street, but Henson wasn’t well known at this time; Cavett and Henson both remark on this. So it’s quite possible that this 90-minute show represented Henson’s proper introduction to the American people.
Kermit the Frog and Jim Henson
For anyone who is fond of the Muppets, the show is simply a delight. Henson is there, as is Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson and Caroll Spinney as the puppeteers and voice actors. More to the point, all of your favorite Sesame Street characters are there, including Kermit, Grover, Ernie & Bert, Cookie Monster, Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, as well as a whole bunch of other ones that are more ad hoc. The gang was there to promote The Muppet Alphabet Album as well as a TV special called The Frog Prince.
If you’ve ever wanted to see Henson and Oz show exactly how modular these puppets are by putting one through his paces (he becomes at least three different characters in just a few moments through the manipulation of eyes and headwear, Mr. Potato-style), this is the video for you. Kermit sings a song in drag (I swear to god this is true); well, just like any true drag queen, Kermit lipsyncs, in this case to Rosemary Clooney’s rendition of Lerner and Loewe’s “I’ve Grown Accustomed to Your Face” from My Fair Lady. Actually, that number turns out to be a little bit gruesome!
Kermit and some of his relatives
We get to meet a few Fraggles and a huge muppet named Thog. The Cookie Monster devours one of Cavett’s boom mics and then says, “The microphones on the Carson show—blech!” Grover tries to read the cue card to segue to an impending commercial but then admits he can’t actually read. My favorite bit of all involves Ernie and Bert. Ernie convinces Bert to talk more like a know-it-all hepcat because after all, they’re not on educational TV anymore, they’ve hit the big time of national TV on ABC! So of course by the time Cavett is ready for them, Ernie has shed his shades and beret and Bert is left looking like an insincere phony, which irks Bert no end. We also get a nice rendition of the “Mahna Mahna” song.
Dick Cavett and Thog
In addition to everything else, Cavett provided Henson with a forum to show off a fair number of his non-Muppet pieces, including “Youth 68” and a handful of Sesame Street shorts. Here’s a rough list of the segments; these are taken from the YouTube “About” sections but I’ve pruned the commercials away from the list:
1. Intro, Dick is comforted by Thog.
2. “I’ve Grown Accustomed To Your Face,” interview with Jim Henson, scenes from The Frog Prince
3. interview with Jim Henson, scenes from The Frog Prince
4. “Mahna Mahna,” more chat with Jim Henson and Muppets, Thog sings “Three Little Fishies”
5. Cookie Monster interview
6. Big Bird sings “Very Special Letter” (about the letter V)
7. Puppeteers interview, P Is My Favorite Letter, Oscar interview
8. Bert and Ernie
9. Grover interview
10. Demonstration of an anything Muppet, Sesame Street inserts, Bossman
11. Kermit Love interview
12. Visual Thinking
13. Jim Henson talks about film editing and shows a scene from Youth 68
14. Jim Henson shows a clip called “Susanne” and a scene from “Time Piece”
15. Glow Worm, Jim Henson talks about how Muppets work
16. Sesame Street merch plug, credits
The episode is broken up into six different videos—we’ve embedded the first, the other five shouldn’t be hard to find.