Spoofs & Satire

Photograph by Julio Carmo

Not Everyone “Got” It

In the early days of The Muppet Show, the famous bonhomie between celebrities and their Muppet co-stars wasn’t there yet. Here are the encounters that didn’t make a rainbow connection.

Kermit the Frog: Mr. Vaughn, we’re so happy you’re here on our show. I can’t tell you what a pleasure it is to have the star of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and many fine films with us.

Special Guest Robert Vaughn: Hello down there. Glad to be here.

Director: Bob? Can you look at Kermit?

Vaughn: What?

Director: The line is to Kermit. Try not to look at or speak to the Muppet Performers.

Vaughn: The puppeteers?

Director: We call them Muppet Performers.

Vaughn: Why?

Director: Just—you’re talking with Kermit.

Vaughn: Who’s Kermit?

Director: The frog.

Vaughn: Right.

Kermit: As I was saying, it’s really a pleasure to have an actor of your stature on our show.

Vaughn: The pleasure’s mine. Wow, feel that. It’s got an amazing texture, this material. Oh, sorry, sorry—your material, Kermit. Your material. What are you made of?

Director: Sorry to cut in again, Bob. Try to pretend he’s a real frog.

Vaughn: What?

Director: Don’t talk to him like he’s made of foam. Talk to him like he’s a real frog.

Vaughn: OK. Ribbit.

Director: No, uh… A person, then. Talk to him like he’s a per—

Vaughn: Wait a minute, foam? This is foam rubber? Wow. The head kind of looks like felt. Is it hot inside?


Vaughn: [grabs Kermit, puts hand inside] “Hey, I’m Freddy the Frog. Hey. Give me a kiss.”

Director: OK, we’re going to put a song here.

* * *

Kermit the Frog: In our ongoing attempt to raise the intellectual level of the program, our panel discusses topics of lasting importance. This week: If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? Our guests include Professor Swineworthy, truffle botanist; Fozzie Bear, who went camping once and didn’t like it—

Fozzie Bear: It was intense. Get it? In tents?

Kermit: And self-described “tree teacher” Cynthia Stump—

Special Guest Irene Cara: Ow! Son of a bitch! You really whacked my shin. Do there have to be so many of you under this desk?

Director: Yes. Try to ignore them.

Cara: Do these things each need two puppeteers? There must be 20 people futzing around over here.

Director: Don’t look at them. Look at Kermit.

Cara: The floor manager?

Director: The frog.

Kermit: And self-described “tree teacher”—

Director: Just start from the top, Jim.

Kermit: In our ongoing attempt—

Cara: Is that a chicken puppet? That’s really adorable. Chicken, right? I think it’s below the camera sightline.

Director: It’s not supposed to be seen yet. It’s the punchline to a joke.

Cara: Joke? Are we playing this for laughs?

[long silence]

Director: Donna, go get me that script I rejected.

Intern: The thing with the houses talking to each other?

Director: Yes.

Intern: Seriously? Talking houses?

Director: Just find it.

* * *

Director: OK, so when Sweetums tries to bounce off the ropes and clothesline you, you’re going to drop to the canvas—

Special Guest Steve Reeves: Whoa, this thing is huge. There’s a guy in there?

Director: Yes.

Reeves: Well, he can’t be taller than me.

Director: What?

“Sweetums is only outwardly a monster. His scariness belies his inner vulnerability and good intentions.” Reeves: It’s in all my contracts. Nobody appearing in my scenes can be taller than me.

Director: It’s just a large outfit.

Reeves: Hey, well, sorry. Get a shorter guy.

Director: But it’s… it’s the suit.

Reeves: Can’t you use one of these other puppets? They’re short.

Director: Muppets.

Frank Oz: Hey, Steve? In Hercules, weren’t the monsters taller than you? And in Thief of Baghdad? The walking trees?

Reeves: Yeah.

Frank Oz: Well, this is a monster. You’re wrestling it. You win. So it can be taller, right?

Jim Henson: Yeah, but Frank, Sweetums is only outwardly a monster. His scariness belies his inner vulnerability and good intentions. It’s the classic Beauty and the Beast archetype. So in a way, the hero is actually Sweetums, and the sympathy we feel—

Frank Oz: [whispering] Shut up, jackass. I’m trying to get this scene in the can.

Reeves: Or how about if I wear the suit?

Director: Donna…

Intern: Another “talking houses?”

Director: [taps finger on nose]

Reeves: Actually, I’d really like to try on that suit.

* * *

Director: Burt?

Special Guest Burt Reynolds: Oh. Shit. Hey, I was just, uh…. You ever hear of knocking?

Director: Burt.

Reynolds: OK, this looks bad.

Director: Oh god.

Reynolds: Listen, listen. I’m having some woman problems right now, OK?

Director: Oh my god.

Reynolds: You’re on set all day, you gotta release some…they’re really, really soft, you know?

Director: Get out.

Reynolds: You ever try it? They feel amazing. Vaughn said try the frog, but the brown dog’s fur—

Director: Please get out.

Reynolds: OK. Yeah. But could I just… I’m almost finished.

Director: Get out get out get out get OUT.

* * *

Special Guest Karen Black: These puppets are super. How long do they take to build?

Director: Muppets.

Black: Muffets?

Director: Muppets. I don’t know, usually we keep the basic body and just add different eyes, noses. We’re getting a lot faster—

Black: Oh dear.

Director: What?

Black: I just ripped its head off. Sorry.

Director: All right, well, we can re-attach it. Can we get a quick patch-up down here?

Black: I’m such an idiot.

Director: Don’t worry.

Costume Designer: Um, Karen, if you could just hand me the head.

Black: What? Oh. I thought you were going to bring a new head.

Costume Designer: No.

Black: Cause I was sort of hoping I could keep this one. See, my niece is turning three? And, yeah. I’m kind of strapped for ideas.

Director: Sure. Go ahead. Take it. Head, body, fur, take it all. Here’s Statler, Waldorf, and Gonzo the Goddamn Great—why not take the whole Creature Shop! I’m sure they’ll be a big hit with your niece. We’ve only trained our whole fucking lives to master this ancient art, but I’d hate for some kid’s birthday party to be without a puppet show.

Black: I thought it was “Muppet.”


Black: So, you say you guys do birthdays?


TMN Contributing Writer Michael Rottman lives like a lord in Toronto. His miscellany has appeared in print in The Fiddlehead, Grain, and Opium, and online at Yankee Pot Roast, Cracked, News Groper, and McSweeney’s. More by Michael Rottman