While I wouldn’t necessarily call myself a Muppet “expert,” I’m certainly considered the go-to guy for Muppet information on the Symphony Space staff. I guess the stuffed dolls of Animal, Bert, Scooter, and Oscar on my desk gave me away. I have my mother to thank, who fed me a steady diet of Muppets all through my childhood in the late 70s and early 80s. I’m not ashamed to admit that I had a subscription to Sesame Street Magazine, and later graduated to Muppet Magazine. Here’s the cover of one of my favorite issues of Muppet Magazine, one that showed kids how to dress up like Michael Jackson, Boy George, and Madonna for Halloween, and gave us the hot-off-the-press lyrics to Weird Al’s “Eat It” and “I Love Rocky Road.” What exactly the Muppets had to do with any of this, I’m still not sure.
All through my childhood I had a blue poster on my bedroom wall featuring 8 or 10 of the most prominent Muppets (a poster I’ve been trying to track down on Ebay for years to no avail – help!), and the first movie I ever recall seeing in the cinema was The Great Muppet Caper. I thought that the accordian-shaped walls of the theatre were curtains that would at some point open, revealing a live set from The Electric Mayhem – what a disappointment!
But the movie that cemented my Muppet love was definitely The Muppets Take Manhattan, released in 1984 when I was 7 years old, prime Muppet-loving age. I taped the movie off of HBO and watched it over and over and over again. To this day, I have nearly every line of the movie memorized, from Animal’s college-coed-chasing chant of “Woman! Woman! Woman!,” to a producer’s suggestion to his son that he “put some Jello down your pants,” to Linda Lavin-as-nurse’s instruction to Kermit to hold his breath because “this WILL hurt” (emphasis added). Today in the office we were collectively cracking up over Mad Ave Advertising Agency’s failed product slogan: Ocean Breeze Soap – It’s just like taking an ocean cruise, only there’s no boat and you don’t actually go anywhere.
Of course, one of the greatest things to come out of The Muppets Take Manhattan was the spawn of Miss Piggy’s fever dream, Muppet Babies. It was never as witty and fun as the real Muppets were, but if I couldn’t have real Muppets on my TV every week, cartoon versions would certainly do! Does anyone else remember the short-lived “Little Muppet Monsters” that used to run after it on Saturday mornings?
Once I grew a little older and was able to appreciate the humor of The Muppets a little more, I quickly grew to love their first feature film, The Muppet Movie. This is one of those classic pieces where you can really feel Jim Henson and Frank Oz playing off each other and having immense fun beneath the screen. When I met the NY-based actor Austin Pendleton a couple of years ago and told him I recognized him from his role as Max in The Muppet Movie, he was shocked and slightly embarrassed. To me, he was a rock star.
I recently opened up our Facebook and Twitter pages for suggestions on the best lines from The Muppet Movie, and here were some of the fan favorites:
Kermit: Fozzie, I want you to turn left when you come to a fork in the road.
Fozzie: Yes sir, turn left at the fork in the road.
Fozzie, coming upon a giant table fork sticking out of the road: Kermit!
Kermit: I don’t believe that!
Kermit: Fozzie, bear left! Bear left!
Fozzie: Right, Frog!
Fozzie: Oh forget it.
Miss Piggy: Kermie, whisper sweet nothings into my ear.
Kermit, looking out the back window of the bus: Motorcycle cop.
Miss Piggy: Motorcycle cop is a sweet nothing?
Kermit: Motorcycle cop is chasing us!
Dr. Teeth, upon reading The Muppet Movie script: This is a narrative of very heavy duty proportions!
Fozzie: Hello, I’d like an ice cream.
Bob Hope as Ice Cream Vendor: What do you want? Chocolate, vanilla, coffee, peach, fudge, rum, banana?
Ice Cream Vendor: Honey? I beg your pardon, I hardly know you.
Fozzie: Ah! But seriously, I’d like a honey ice cream cone for me, and a dragonfly ripple for my friend the frog.
Fozzie, settling in for a road trip: Ah, a bear in his natural habitat…a Studebaker.
And perhaps the greatest lisp pun of all time:
Telly Savalas to Kermit: Did you make a move with my girl?
Kermit: No, sir.
Madeline Kahn: He did too. He touched me.
Savals: Ugh. Wash up, you’ll get warts.
Kermit: That’s a myth.
Savalas: Yeah, but she’s my “myth”!
Kermit: No, no, myth! myth!
Lisping passer by: Yeth?
Congrats to Samantha, who wins two tickets to see The Muppet Movie this weekend. Hope to see you all there!