Friday, February 20, 2015

My Favorite Muppets, Part 4: Jerry Nelson

Now let's take a look at Hunt's standard puppeteering partner, Jerry Nelson.  I wrote a tribute to him back in 2012 after he passed, where I noted that despite his lack of "huge" Muppet characters, he had more than his share of signature roles that showed his heart and humor.  Read that article if you haven't, as I don't want to repeat myself too much.

Nelson was great at the "sweet" character.  The little guy who only wanted to succeed in life, yet was crushed at every turn (physically or metaphorically).  Although he's not on this list, some honorable mentions would go to Emmett Otter, who was the star of his own tragic Christmas special and Mr. Johnson, the put-upon everyman who was constantly abused by Grover's incompetence.

But Nelson was never one to complain.  He remained loyal and supportive as long as his energy would allow him.  His last major performance was in The Muppets where he reprised the role of the Announcer.  He clearly still loved his work, even if it was hard sometimes.

__________________________________________________________________

10) Herry Monster - Sesame Street


Herry was definitely more prominent in the '70s and '80s than he was in the '90s when I was introduced to Sesame Street, so I feel like he was often overlooked when it came to the core characters.  But he proved that even though a monster may look big and scary, they can be really sweet when you get to know them.  Sometimes he made mistakes and messes, but he always apologized and try to fix his errors.  And he sleeps with a dolly.  How can you not love Herry?
__________________________________________________________________

9) Female Koozebanian Creature - The Muppet Show


Of the core five puppeteers, Nelson had the best "female" voice.  It came in a few varieties and it was mostly used for elderly women, like Fozzie's mother, or chickens, like Camilla.  But I chose the Female Koozebanian Creature because her giddy laugh is so infectious and it makes the sketch that results in her mating ritual sacrifice all the funnier.
__________________________________________________________________

8) Count von Count - Sesame Street


Before the Count, children would count to 20 without Transylvnian accents and maniacal laughter.
__________________________________________________________________

7) Floyd Pepper - The Muppet Show


Floyd was Nelson's choice as the character he identified most with, allowing his philosophies and interest to shine through in the character's dialogue.  I personally like the groovy strutting that Floyd did whenever he walked from place to place.
__________________________________________________________________

6) Dr. Julius Strangepork - The Muppet Show


Man, I wish they had used Dr. Strangepork a lot more than they did.  An elderly German scientist is already great to have in your team of loonies, and the pig element only adds to the visual humor.  In fact, call me crazy, but I think I would have preferred it had Dr. Strangepork replaced Dr. Bunsen in the "Muppet Labs" segments.  Not only would it have paired Nelson with Hunt again, but it would have allowed for more zaniness.  Strangepork usually played the straightman in the "Pigs in Space" segments, and he was sometimes given the opportunity to play a Dr. Frankenstein like mad-scientist, but he always struck me as more endearing than Bunsen.  He's a pig I wouldn't have minded accidentally watching torture poor Beaker.  Bunsen just comes off as a creepy, heartless jerk.

But mostly, I just want more people to know who I'm talking about when I mention Dr. Strangepork.
__________________________________________________________________

5) Gobo Fraggle - Fraggle Rock


With The Frog Prince and Emmett Otter, Nelson proved he could play the lead character without issue.  Fraggle Rock was very much a belated gift to the man who deserved star treatment.  Gobo isn't just a generic "leader."  Like many adventurers and heroes before him, Gobo is the small man who comes into greatness.  He is the Frodo of Fraggle Rock.  He's a positive force to all those around him, but he also makes mistakes and gets in over his head.  But he yearns to experience more, even when he fails.  He is one of my few puppet role models.
__________________________________________________________________

4) Scred - The Land of Gorch (Saturday Night Live)


I've already discussed the rise and fall of the first attempt to bring the Muppets to an adult audience with the SNL misstep, "The Land of Gorch."  But leave it to Nelson to create the breakaway character from the sketches.  The sly and sarcastic Scred probably dealt with more shady dealings than all other Muppets combined, be he was just so lovable as a character.  Apparently, Scred was the inspiration for the Skek-Sis villains of The Dark Crystal (and Nelson even played the eldest Skek-Sis emperor who dies at the beginning, which leads me to believe that he is just and older version of Scred).
__________________________________________________________________

3) Thog - The Great Santa Claus Switch, The Muppet Show


While many of the giant Muppet monsters tend to blend together, the warm-hearted Thog is worthy of iconic status.  He was the only surviving character of the lackluster early Muppet Christmas Special The Great Santa Claus Switch, despite being part of a duo.  His main shtick then involved dancing to romantic ballads with female guest stars because he was basically a big blue teddy bear.  For anyone who has trouble believing that Nelson was just a big softy, look no further than Thog.
__________________________________________________________________

2) Robin the Frog - The Frog Prince, The Muppet Show


I've already said so many wonderful things about Robin, but what I like the most is that he is inspired by Kermit.  Like Nelson to Henson, Robin observed the trials that Kermit underwent to become the star that he became today.  He was the first frog to leave the swamp and make a name for himself.  Robin wants to similarly be like Kermit.  But he isn't a copycat, nor is he overbearing.  He is timid, but self-aware.  He knows that he is smaller and less noticeable than the rest and is therefore unlikely to stand out, so he uses that to his advantage, singing songs that show the power one small individual can have.
__________________________________________________________________

1) Uncle Deadly - The Muppet Show


And while Robin is a perfect choice for the best Nelson character, my own personal favorite would have to be Uncle Deadly.  As I said with Link Hogthrob and Sam the Eagle, part of it had to do with the fact that I was more familar with The Muppet Movie than The Muppet Show and these awesome looking creatures with hidden backstories would stare at me from my Muppet memorabilia.  When I learned Uncle Deadly's story, I thought he was just the coolest.

The closest thing that the Muppets could have to a villain (besides general critics/man-eating monsters/squares) was this former star, feeling that that Muppets were disgracing his stage with foolish antics.  He was a thespian of old and he commanded dignity.  But unlike Sam the Eagle, who just complained a lot, Deadly's dignity was well-earned.  He carried himself with grace and his beautiful voice was haunting in all senses of the word.

I wish he had become more of a hit amongst the fans, because I'd like to have seen what else he could have gotten up to.  I'm glad he resurfaced in The Muppets, fulfilling the role he was meant to play, but by then, Nelson was no longer at the helm.

Like Deadly, Nelson was a talented man.  He was strongly devoted to his craft and he held out for a long time, even while others moved on.  He lived to perform and he will forever be remembered for it.  And it goes to show that even though giant talents can make one a monster, one can use those talents to showcase a more sensitive side.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

My Favorite Muppets, Part 3: Richard Hunt

My my, where does the time go?  Let's see...where was I?

Oh yes, my favorite Muppets!  Today I wanted to look at Richard Hunt.  I've discussed this puppeteer at length in my posts on Scooter as well as the failed series Dragontime, but I never actually nailed down who his greatest characters were.

The important things to know about Hunt were that he was born to be a puppeteer.  He never truly felt as free or as outgoing as he did when there was a puppet attached to his arm.  Through his characters, he showed his childlike wonder, his boundless energy, and his array of funny voices.  He loved to help others.  He was often found performing as the extra arm for a live-hand puppet, meaning he'd be right up alongside Henson, Oz, or Nelson as they performed their iconic roles.

But most importantly, he loved to make people laugh.  He was the puppeteer who would most likely entertain guests by grabbing a random puppet and putting on an improvised performance.  These fun-loving elements bled into his characters, and it's a shame that soon after Henson passed away, Hunt followed.  While he may be gone, he is not forgotten.

__________________________________________________________________

10) Belmont - The Christmas Toy


I always try to include one Muppet based on a pure-design aesthetic and to me, none of them are cooler than Belmont the rolling horse.  (Even the builder Ed Christie chose Belmont as his greatest creation in 22 years of work back in 2000.)  Hunt plays him as more of a dim-witted character who is at once easily-excitable and slow-talking, creating a strange speaking pattern.
__________________________________________________________________

9) Gunge - Fraggle Rock


While Hunt is better known for his turn as Junior Gorg in Fraggle Rock, there is another childish ogre character of his that I prefer more.  So instead, I chose Gunge as the representative from this show.  Along with Philo, the two rat-like creatures serve as right-hand-men to Majory the Trash Heap.  Like Hunt, Gunge is the more naive and energetic of the two creatures.  Hunt tends to find himself playing the "child" character to a more mature counterpart, possibly due to his youth when he joined the Muppet repertoire.  (Of the main five original puppeteers, he was the youngest.)
__________________________________________________________________

8) Don Music - Sesame Street


Before I began this blog, I had no idea who Don Music was.  He was cycled out of the show by the time I had started watching it regularly in the early '90s, allegedly due to the bad influence he had on children (namely, banging your head on hard objects when things don't go your way).  Maybe that's true and maybe it was a good thing to remove him from impressionable eyes, but hey, Hunt was an artist.  And artists get frustrated.  And sometimes they need to release that frustration in destructive ways.  Every Muppet puppeteer used their characters to unleash the feelings that they couldn't reveal in public, and Don Music only provided a cushy felt medium that also produced a funny sound whenever Hunt got upset.  If you can't use a puppet to slam against a piano, what can you do?
__________________________________________________________________

7) Right Head of the Two-Headed Monster - Sesame Street


Richard Hunt and Jerry Nelson were quite the dynamic duo.  They portrayed many live-hand puppets and puppet pairs together so it was only a matter of time before those were combined into a single puppet with two heads.  The Right Head (named "Stein" according to some sources) always seemed to be the more light-hearted and bouncy of the two heads, fitting with Hunt's childlike wonder.  He was the brother who was more likely to get his ego hurt and his confidence shattered.  Hunt enjoyed playing vulnerable characters, and he especially enjoyed playing off other characters, and the wide-eyed Right Head allowed him to do both.
__________________________________________________________________

6) Janice - The Muppet Show


Okay, so Hunt has some very impressive voices in his arsenal, but I always felt his choice for Janice was out of place.  It sounded too much like a more masculine Scooter, which isn't quite the persona that Janice was aiming to capture.  That being said, Janice has an impressive wit.  While based on the valley girl stereotype, she is not a ditz.  She holds her own during the "Veterinarian's Hospital" sketches and she really shines with her ad-libs during the Muppet movies.  Hers is a character I would have liked to see more from outside of the hospital and Electric Mayhem appearances.
__________________________________________________________________

5) Placido Flamingo - Sesame Street


Placido Flamingo is just another Sesame Street pun Muppet.  But that bird can sing with the best of them.  It seems as if all of Hunt's Sesame Street characters had a musicality to them (Don Music, Gladys the Cow, even the mute construction worker Sully could play the piano).  But Hunt really showed off his impressive vocal abilities when performing operatic parodies that taught children how to use the phone.
__________________________________________________________________

4) Scooter - The Muppet Show


Oh wait, I forgot.  No one cares about Scooter.
__________________________________________________________________

3) Beaker - The Muppet Show


I'm a bit of a Muppet hipster, so when it comes to extremely popular Muppets, my knee-jerk reaction is to say, "Yeah, he's funny but he's no Link Hogthrob."  So, I'm always trying to come up with ways as to why Beaker is just a one-note Muppet, unworthy of fame.  But, that one note ("Meep") is such a hilarious one that I can't justify my scorn.  Beaker is quite similar to the character Mr. Bill, in that they both suffer with their falsetto screams.  Even as a child, I was instantly drawn to Beaker because he is such a simple character to grasp, and his lack of a consistent language makes him relatable to everyone, regardless of age or ethnicity.  This was one of Hunt's "fun" characters, and it shows.
__________________________________________________________________

2) Sweetums - The Muppet Show


Although he didn't portray him in his first appearance in The Frog Prince, Hunt made Sweetums his own, allowing the giant's heart and excitement to become a central aspect of his character.  (The first Sweetums was a lot meaner initially).  It's clear that Hunt enjoyed playing around in the puppet, as can be seen in behind the scenes photos and footage.  For the first time, Hunt could really get lost inside of a puppet.
__________________________________________________________________

1) Mudwell the Mudbunny - Fraggle Rock


I know it seems blasphemous to place a one-shot Fraggle Rock character above all of Richard Hunt's iconic characters, but Mudwell was a truly special creature.  His personality, his mannerisms, and even his voice were unlike any character Hunt had portrayed before.  Hunt usually tries to find the humor in every scene he is in, filling in the role as resident clown when needed.  But, due to the story line of his signature episode, Mudwell is a more serious and introspective creature.  It's hard to discuss Mudwell without spoiling the storyline of his episode, but it's kind of obvious what's going to happen when his only episode is titled, "Gone, But Not Forgotten."

After getting injured in the deep caves of Fraggle Rock, Wembley is rescued by Mudwell.  Although Mudwell is more mature than Wembley, they still quickly bond over fun games and songs and food.  However, after his injuries heal, Mudwell rudely kicks Wembley out of his home, and tells him never to return.  Upset, Wembley returns to confront Mudwell for his rude behavior and learns that a Mudbunny's life is very short.  Mudwell passes away in front of him, crushing Wembley's spirit.

Yes, Mudwell is the center of an episode teaching the Fraggles (and the young viewers at home) all about death, and having someone taken away from you so suddenly.  Much like Hunt, Mudwell provided as much joy as he could in his short time on Earth.  This episode would have been production right as Hunt became diagnosed with HIV, so it isn't too far of a leap to conclude that this storyline was influenced by the sad news.

Richard Hunt passed away five years after this episode aired, and while he may be remembered for his more wacky characters, this "farewell" will always represent Hunt's softer side.  However, there was one thing I left out of my episode synopsis.  After Mudwell literally turns to dirt and dust, a new creature is born from his remains.  A young Mudbunny who, while different, retains some of Mudwell's memories and philosophies.


Hunt also plays Mudwell's reincarnated form and establishes that while his body may leave, his spirit may live on.  Whether it be through a metaphysical means or just through memories of the past, he will never truly be gone.  I almost interpret this reincarnation as Hunt's acknowledgement that he is survived by his characters.

While characters like Scooter were momentarily retired after Hunt's passing, the Muppets have the gift of immortality.  Scooter will return, Sweetums will return, Beaker will never go away.  Hunt left a myriad of gifts filled with life and energy that allows us to always remember him.  And that's why I appreciate Mudwell as much as I do.  He was real.  As real as the man who loved to play pretend.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Back to School

Tonight at the University of Maryland, College Park, there is an event celebrating one of the campus's most famous alumni, Jim Henson.  Periodically, the campus has hosted exhibitions featuring the work of their former student and his name drew many people to seek the university as a place to further our educational careers (myself included).

The commemorative statue in front of the Adele H. Stamp Student Union

One of the famous urban legends is that Jim Henson "created his own puppetry major" while at the school.  While this is technically false, he did major in Home Economics, using the sewing and craft techniques to enhance his puppet building skills.  It was during his time here that he met his future wife Jane and, together, they created the Sam and Friends television show at local television studios.  He graduated in 1960 and the Muppets took off.

UMD mascot Testudo decorated as Kermit.

Today, we are celebrating that love of art and creation that the school helped Henson nurture.  Joining the event are a group of alumni who have followed in Henson's footsteps, becoming his spiritual successors in the art of puppetry and spectacle.  DC theater company Pointless Theatre has taken an approach to performance that echoes Henson's own mantra, building a talented family and community of performers who simply love puppetry and exploring new forms of storytelling.

Come join us as we watch some Muppet movies, share some stories, and celebrate the man who unintentionally brought us all together in the first place.


For those of you reading this blog for the first time, allow me to direct you to some previous articles to give you a sense of Henson's legacy:







Thursday, March 28, 2013

Hans? He's... a Little Different

My original plan was to take a look at the remaining Jim Henson Hour specials but I am unable to find copies of them.  So, instead, let us finish off The Storyteller.  The previous episodes I looked at were a real treat, introducing us to unfamiliar but intriguing fairy tales.  However, the remaining episodes seems to be alterations of folk tales that we have all grown up with.

Up first, is "Hans My Hedgehog."

Of course, my favorite story of all!

Okay, so a hedgehog riding a rooster probably won't seem very familiar to you as a classic tale.  But, as we go through the story, you'll find that this is nothing more than a variation on "Beauty and the Beast."

We begin with a "be careful what you wish for" type of situation wherein a barren woman wishes she could have a child, no matter how ugly it may be.  Unlike the Beast, who is a human cursed, Hans is born, already half-human, half-hedgehog.

Adorably creepy.

Unlike most hedgehogs, the prickly fur of the creature can be soft at times.  Still, people mock and ridicule the creature when he's young, and fear him as he grows older.  Hans tries to maintain manners, but his beastly nature often gets the best of him, and after his father kicks him out, he must set off on his own...via rooster.

As was the fashion at the time.

As we enter into Beauty-Beast territory, we find a lost, wandering king who must take shelter at Hans's hideaway during a storm.  Hans is a courteous, though hesitant host and the king offers Hans any reward he desires.  Hans decides that the first thing that the king sees upon returning to his kingdom shall be the gift.  The king, assuming the first thing he'll see would be his dog coming to greet him, agrees.  However, when the king returns home, his daughter instead races ahead of the dog, and Hans claims his new prize.

The king later decided to outlaw stupid fairy-tale rules to avoid similar issues in the future.

Hans is quite mean towards his new bride, and she dares not get close to him, lest he prick her.  However, she discovers that at nighttime, Hans sheds his prickly skin and becomes a man.  When he leaves to wander the gardens as a human, she touches his fur and finds that it is soft.

I...can't quite tell is this is a metaphor for something.

Hans the Man catches his bride caressing the fur the next night, and tells her that if she tells no one about this ability for one more night, he can become fully human.  The next day, however, the princess lets it slip to her parents and her mother tells her to destroy the skin in the fire in order to make the change permanent.  The following night, the princess burns the fur and Hans writhes in agony before...well, he becomes a permanent human so I guess it all worked out?

It hurts so good!

And so, the Beast has become human and he can live with his beauty happily ever after!  Comparing this story to the more well-known version creates a confusing message in the point of the story.  In the original, the Beast was being punished for his evil ways and he had to prove that he was capable of being loving in order to become human again.  Hans was always a beast, and he seemed resigned to the fact that he could never change.

Perhaps this was to imply that all men have a beastly side to them and, if his wife can confront him when he is at his weakest (in the bedroom), she can soothe him into a docile, tolerable human being.  I wouldn't put it past these old folk tales to have such an outdated message, but it's hard to tell whether that was the angle The Storyteller was aiming for.

At any rate, it's a cool, though muddled twist on a familiar tale and it's making me excited for the stories that shall follow.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

My Favorite Muppets, Part 2: Frank Oz

Today, I'm looking at Jim Henson's partner-in-crime, Frank Oz.  He retired in 2000 to further focus on his directorial career (which includes one of my favorite films of all-time, Little Shop of Horrors), but many of his classic Muppet characters are still with us today.

Remember, just because I placed Animal at number 6 doesn't mean he can't be your favorite Muppet.  It just means that you need to get your priorities straight.

__________________________________________________________________

10) SkekSil, the Skeksis Chamberlain - The Dark Crystal


SkekSil is the best character in The Dark Crystal, by far.  Unlike the rest of one-dimensional "good guys" and "bad guys," the permanently-smirking Chamberlain actually keeps the audience guessing with his actions after he is shunned by his own kind.  While Barry Dennen supplied his voice (and his amusing grunts), it was Oz who managed to instill sympathy into this grotesque creature, making us care for his well-being and delight in his villainy.
__________________________________________________________________

9) The Snowths - The Muppet Show


"Mahna Mahna" only works because of these two creatures, and it helps that they only appear for reprises of "Mahna Mahna."  But unlike other one-hit-wonders, we don't want to see them do anything else.  It would be very strange to have them act in a scene or try to hold a conversation that wasn't "doo doo doo doo doo."  Their pink, bovine-esque design makes them visually appealing, but I think their unique foam tube mouths are their best feature.  What other Muppet comes close to looking like these things?  They are one-of-a-...two-of-a-kind.
__________________________________________________________________

8) Fozzie Bear - The Muppet Show


Before starting this blog, I was not a Fozzie Bear fan.  It's hard to write good comedy, but it may be even harder to write intentionally bad comedy.  Most of Fozzie's schtick was *sigh* unbearable to me.  But I discovered that Fozzie is more than just a bad comedian.  He is a hopeless artist who is redeemed by the fact that he is a genuinely nice person, and an even greater friend.  He wishes no ill-will towards anyone, yet he constantly is made to suffer.  His strongest moments come when he defends his companions or makes dramatic, inspirational speeches.  His jokes may fail, but he does not.
__________________________________________________________________

7) Yoda - Star Wars


"But wait," you cry.  "Did this blog specifically address the issue that Yoda is not a Muppet?"  Yes, but that was before Disney acquired the rights to Lucasfilm.  So, now that they own both Star Wars and the Muppets, I don't see any reason why Yoda shouldn't be considered for this Top 10 list honor.  Yoda is a great character, he's played by Frank Oz, therefore, he deserves a spot on the list.  Besides, who else would I put here?  Marvin Suggs?
__________________________________________________________________

6) Animal - The Muppet Show


Okay, Animal is a great character.  So, the fact that he's only number 6 shows just how wonderful Oz's creations are.  Like most Muppet monsters, Animal runs on pure id.  But he's technically supposed to be human as well.  If a person like Animal actually existed in real life, he'd be considered a threat to society.  As a puppet, he becomes cute and endearing.  I also appreciate that he's based on Celtic mythology.  So THAT'S why he is a Leprechaun Brother!
__________________________________________________________________

5) Grover - Sesame Street


Like Fozzie, Grover only wants to do good in the world, but his literal approach to life ends up getting him in trouble with the more "mature" characters.  Grover seems to represent all of those struggles that kids encounter.  Those kids who get punished for doing exactly what they had been taught by their family, friends, and the media.  Despite all of these burdens, Grover remains optimistic and takes the extra step to give back to society, even though society does nothing but crush him.
__________________________________________________________________

4) Miss Piggy - The Muppet Show


If there's one thing this blog has done, it's redeemed Miss Piggy for me.  She was legitimately my least favorite Muppet, due to her grating behavior.  Any Muppet production that featured her has a main component would be immediately written off as unworthy in my book.  And, when her negative qualities are the focus, she can drag down many a show.  Then this happened.  And now I love her.
__________________________________________________________________

3) Cookie Monster - Sesame Street


Cookie originated as a generic monster performed by Jim Henson for his IBM commercial, and not much changed in the character when he passed hands to Oz.  His enormous appetite was now more innocent and less malicious, but he was still just a thing that ate.  The reason he works so well is because of the relationship he has with his performer.  Despite many of the characters he plays, Oz was always the more reserved part of the Henson-Oz duo.  By allowing him to just bounce of the wall for an item as trivial as a cookie, Cookie Monster allowed Oz to have pure, unrestrained fun.
__________________________________________________________________

2) Bert - Sesame Street


And on the other side, Bert was where Oz was the most comfortable.  Playing a more extreme version of himself, Bert could play of Henson's Ernie while maintaining a sense of maturity and dignity.  It's just as fun to see Bert get upset as it is to see him win.  While most kids might not identify with the rigid Bert, I always appreciated his respect for the rules, because it allowed him to appreciate that in life which often would go unnoticed.  He may not have gone out for flashy, noisy entertainment like his partner, but if he can find beauty in a pigeon or a paper clip, who's to say his outlook on life is wrong?
__________________________________________________________________

1) Sam the Eagle - The Muppet Show


As a young, young child, I loved the Muppets.  But I don't know exactly how this came to be.  I did not get any channel which showed The Muppet Show regularly.  I guess through pop-cultural osmosis, I became aware of the main characters and eventually I ended up with two items that sealed my fate.  One was The Muppet Movie on VHS and the other was this old Muppets lunchbox.


This was exactly what I needed.  Something that featured all of the characters for me to study.  Each side featured different pictures of the gang, and I was most intrigued by the Muppets I didn't know, because, unlike those featured on the front of the box, they didn't have prominent roles in the movie.  It's strange, but thinking about it now, my favorite Muppets are each of the characters that I had to seek out and learn about.  I'd ask my parents who these characters were, but it wouldn't be until years later that I'd learn the names:  Link Hogthrob, Uncle Deadly, and Sam the Eagle (there's actually a fourth character featured on this box, but we'll get to him much later).

Visually, Sam was the most interesting to me.  His stern glare told me he was not a character to be messed with.  Was he an evil villain?  Or was he just upset a lot?  As I eventually learned, he was a dash of both.  Sam was the anti-Muppet of the gang.  A square who prevented everyone from having any fun.  Even Bert could let loose once and a while.  As I grew and saw Sam in more and more productions, my appreciation grew.  With all of the crazy Muppets out there, the funniest one had to be the guy who tried to stop it.  I've said it many times, but the Muppets are at their best when they fail.  And Sam never once achieved a victory.

Except for getting the number one spot on this list.

He's earned it.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

It's All Gaelic to Me

In over 50 years of Muppet history, there has only been one major St. Patrick's Day tribute.  In the 5th season of The Muppet Show, the Leprechaun Brothers took the stage for the first time to sing that classic tune, "Danny Boy."


Yes, it took five seasons for the Muppet crew to realize the comic potential that could arise by combining the talents of three of the most popular characters together.  There's something to be said for the fact that Animal, Beaker, and Chef responded to such a large audience.  Although each had distinct personalities, they connected over their shared (lack of) language.  Through various forms of gibberish, the three communicated and it was only fitting to have them try and sing one of history's most beautifully tragic songs.

Together for the first time!

We rarely see these three at once, but it provides much comedic potential.  But strangely, it would take a long time for the trio to reunite.  After the deaths of Henson and Hunt, it was no surprise that there would be a disappearance of these popular characters for a while, but the idea once again resurfaced in a 1996 computer game.

Sans Beaker, but still singing public domain ditties.

In recent years, the "Danny Boy" clip became popular enough to bring the group out of retirement.  Dropping the "Leprechaun Brothers" name and opting for "the ABCs," the gang was back to create/mutilate great music.

This is a fake album, so don't try looking for it.

Two viral music videos were made.  A seasonal "Carol of the Bells" cover and an always timely cover of "Habanera" from Carmen.



The gang also made other appearances together, showing their daily interactions via the "Secret Elevator Tapes" series, which hinted at the chemistry they share as actual characters.  It's...odd, to say the least.


They also filled in for the judges on America's Got Talent for an episode, where, out of the three of them, the Chef made the most sense.

The hit comedy trio of the 2000s.

Sadly, the luck of the Irish was not on the Leprechaun Brothers' side and they never legitimately spun-off into their own comedy series.  Perhaps the creators didn't know what else to do with three characters that struggle to communicate.  But, like all spinoff musical groups, the trio became a footnote in Muppet history.  Beaker returned to repeated lab injuries, the Chef returned to slaying killer food, and Animal returned to blending into the background with the rest of the Electric Mayhem.  Sometimes these side projects don't take off the way you had dreamed.  But at least they'll always have "Danny Boy."