Jim Henson and Muppets’ 1971 appearance on ‘The Dick Cavett Show’ is a sheer delight

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.

via Classic Television Showbiz

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
The Muppets in a hostage situation
10:58 am



Poor Beaker being brutalized by balcony-sitting curmudgeons Statler and Waldorf on TV for all to see. I wonder what message they were trying to get out to the general public? I guess we’ll never know… 

“The Hostage Situation” also titled “The Art of Heckling - Part 2” is by Matthias Weinberger.

Posted by Tara McGinley | Leave a comment
Sex & Violence: the first ever ‘Muppet Show,’ 1974

An interesting curio from the back catalog of the Jim Henson estate here - the first ever (pilot) episode of The Muppet Show, which was recorded late in 1974 for broadcast in 1975. From the Muppets wikia:

The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence aired on ABC on March 19, 1975, and was shot on December 10-16, 1974.

It was one of the two pilots produced for The Muppet Show. The other pilot, The Muppets Valentine Show, aired in 1974.

In this half-hour variety special, the Muppets parody the proliferation of sex and violence on television.

Subtitled “An End to Sex & Violence,” this first ever episode of the world’s favourite puppet theatre seems a bit racy for a supposed family audience. However, watching this pilot it’s clear that Henson and co. were aiming for a more adult-orientated, risqué edge to the material, akin to the sketches they provided in the very early years of Saturday Night Live (and which were deemed, in the end, not to work.)

Obviously some more fine tuning was needed on this material before it became the international hit we all know and love. Not least a honing of the format and pacing of the show. This early version is a lot more fast-moving, with quicker cuts between multiple sketches, which we return to numerous times. The show had also yet to make musical numbers its main focus, perhaps explaining the later decision to constrain the sketches to single slots allowed to play out in full.

That’s not the only thing that’s disconcertingly different though: the usual Muppet Show host Kermit is relegated to just a bit part, even though by this stage he had become well known through appearances on Sesame Street. Sam the Eagle has a lot of screen time, and an early variant on Miss Piggy makes a brief appearance.

The main presenting duties go to a humanoid Muppet called Nigel, who is backed up by right hand man by Floyd Pepper, better known as the bass player in Dr Teeth’s Electric Mayhem and the popular character Janice’s main squeeze. The main Muppets’ to-camera addresses are a lot more knowing and audience-literate than Kermit’s let’s-get-this-show-on-the-road style, again hinting at the influence of a more grown-up, hip comedy aesthetic influenced by Lorne Michaels and even Monty Python.

Still, flawed as it may be, this is well worth a watch for Muppet fans and even the more curious viewer. Below is part one, while parts two and three are after the jump:

The Muppet Show: Sex & Violence Parts 2 & 3 after the jump…

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
The Muppets karate chop Fox News

Kermit the Frog by supajoe
Jim Henson’s Muppets have been in London this past week for the UK premiere of their new movie, simply called The Muppets. On Thursday, Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog gave a press conference at the May Fair Hotel, and one of the questions raised was how they reacted to the recent claims by Fox News’ Epic Trolling Eric Bolling that the Muppets “brainwash children” with a “dangerous liberal agenda”.

Kermit answered the question reasonably, but as usual it was left to Miss Piggy to strike the fatal blow, with a swift and simple rebuttal. Fox “News”, indeed - if you are interested in seeing the original idiotic anti-Muppet outburst by Trolling, then you can go here - but I am not sullying the beautiful countenance of Dangerous Minds by embedding that shite here.

What an insanely delusional world these people must live in if even the goddam Muppets are somehow seen as a dangerous Communist threat. Speaking as a non-American, the work of Jim Henson was fundamental in inspiring a view of American society in my generation that was founded on the tenets of diversity, equality and opportunity. Beautiful ideals that could never be associated with those Pox News sock puppets. Fox has done more than any other media outlet in destroying the United States’ reputation around the world. All this despite the fact that Bill O’Reilly’s sagging face looks more and more like Kermit by the day - and even then, Kermit made the better reporter.

Murdoch’s cronies obviously don’t understand that some cultural artefacts beyond their ken are as sacred as Jesus and money, especially those associated with happy childhood memories. To condemn as being part of some imagined “problem” is a big mistake. Have at ‘em, Piggy:

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
Jim Henson blows Middle America’s mind on Carson in 1974

Did Johnny Carson know what he was getting into when his producers asked Jim Henson to perform without Muppets on his show in February 1974?

By the time of the clip below, Henson and his Muppets Inc. crew were five years into what was becoming a hugely successful partnership with the Children’s Television Workshop on the show that would raise Generation X, Sesame Street.

What better time to do something like, say, adapt electronic music pioneer Raymond Scott’s highly trippy piece, “The Organized Mind” as a short live multimedia stage performance? (By the way, the film playing in the background is apparently Henson’s film adaptation of the same piece of music.)

Previously on Dangerous Minds:
Cookie Monster helps train IBM sales staff (1967)
Jim Henson’s “Time Piece”

Bonus clip after the jump: “The Paperwork Explosion” another 1967 Henson/Scott collaborative film for IBM…

Posted by Ron Nachmann | Leave a comment