Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem, the house band from The Muppet Show are arguably the coolest Muppets in existence. The band, comprised of Dr. Teeth, Floyd Pepper, Janice, Zoot, and Animal first appeared in 1975 on The Muppet Show pilot “Sex and Violence.”
Illustrator and designer Michael De Pippo created five retro concert posters for an imaginary one night only gig by Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem.
De Pippo on his Muppet poster series:
My idea was simple; create a vintage concert poster for each band member (Dr. Teeth, Janice, Sgt. Floyd Pepper, Zoot, and Animal). Using clean, crisp vectors, negative space, and few colors, I wanted to keep them as simple and stylized as possible; reminiscent of retro posters from back in the day.
The Animal poster, pictured at the top of this article, is quite reminiscent of the movie poster art for the Japanese film Hausu.
I love this crisp style. De Pippo did an amazing job with these. His website seems to be currently down, so I’m not sure if these are available for sale.
Between the twin humiliations of his frozen peas and Paul Masson commercials, and unable to finish his last feature The Other Side of the Wind, Orson Welles found himself on an LA soundstage with Burt Reynolds, wearing matching red shirts with enormous collars and chatting about showbiz for a TV pilot. This was Welles’ shot at hosting a talk show. There were no takers.
Like much of the great director’s work, The Orson Welles Show was made on the cheap, and if no one will confuse this unloved project with Chimes at Midnight, it’s not because Welles was slacking. In Orson Welles Remembered, the show’s editor, Stanley Sheff, says that he got the job by offering to work for free for three days, which “turned into a year of collaboration with Mr. Welles on The Orson Welles Show.” That’s right: according to Sheff, he and Welles put in a year of eight-hour days editing this 74-minute program on video, “working weekends and holidays when required.” Compare this with Citizen Kane, which started post-production in November 1940 and was first screened in January 1941.
Did I mention The Orson Welles Show was cheaply made? The budget was such that Sheff had to wear three hats, filling in for Welles as director for a few inserts and playing the part of the violinist in the big finish with Angie Dickinson. And according to the notes on YouTube, it’s not just the canned laughter that makes the lengthy interview with Reynolds (roughly the first half of the show) seem so odd:
Audience questions for the Burt Reynolds Q&A session were scripted, with members of the audience given line readings - this was necessary, as unlike normal talk shows filmed with a multiple-camera setup, the low-budget show was filmed with only one camera, and so it was necessary to do multiple retakes to get multiple camera angles.
The second half of the show runs at a higher gear. Welles intones something about “the unfathomable antiquity of ancient Egypt.” Fozzie Bear gets flop sweat doing his “A material” during the Muppets’ bit, which leads into an interview with Jim Henson (“think Rasputin as an Eagle Scout,” Welles says) and Frank Oz. But it’s the last fifteen minutes of the show that are pure Welles. Fans of F for Fake will discern a strong formal resemblance between that film and the elaborate magic tricks that close The Orson Welles Show; I’m guessing this is where all those hours in the editing room went.
Watch the pilot for ‘The Orson Welles Show’ after the jump…
Now that most of the cryassing about how “IT’S NOT WHAT I’M UUUUUUSED TOOOOOO FROM WHEN I WAS A KIIIIIIIIIIIID” has abated, it’s nice to see that the rebooted Muppets is being generally well received. Updating The Muppet Show from the variety show format to a hodgepodge of tropes from Larry Sanders, The Office and 30 Rock was a smart contemporizing move that gave the show ample satirical fodder, and shifting the setting from Vaudeville theatre—charming as all hell though that was!—to late-nite talk allowed the preservation of the rotating guest star format that mirrors the original show and keeps it lively. It’s not as holy-shit great as its ‘70s predecessor, it’s true, but it’s sharp, it’s funny, it’s exploring different themes, and it’s got time and room to grow.
And I hope to hell that sooner than later it has moments as holy-shit great as its predecessor’s Episode 509, from February of 1981, guest starring Blondie singer Debbie Harry. It was an amazing episode for numerous reasons—Debbie Harry’s intrinsic awesomeness being one of them, naturally. But I find it interesting that The Muppet Show’s representation of punk took the form’s aesthetic merit as a given, keeping clichéd rainbow hair and safety-pin jokes to a minimum. It might be hard to explain how completely radical that was at the time. Punk representation in media was typically dumb and cartoonish, depicting musicians as simplistically violent oafs before 1980 (think WKRP’s insane 4th episode “Hoodlum Rock” in 1978), and after 1980, well, the preachy and unintentionally hilarious Quincy, M.E. punk episode’s depiction of hardcore kids so impossibly nihilistic they’re utterly indifferent to the death (by slam pit ice pick!) of one of their own friends pretty well sums it up. That kind of crap was FAR more typical than forthrightly showing punks as artists pursuing a music.
Of course, by 1981, Blondie had become one of punk’s most mainstream expressions—it’s not like the family-hour Muppet Show was going to have Killing Joke on or anything—but that does nothing to diminish the wonderful segment showing Harry helping the young members of a scout troop get their punk merit badges by teaching them to pogo. The entire episode is on the Best Of The Muppet Show Vol. 9 (there’s no season 5 complete collection yet, for some reason), or you can watch it at this link.
And surprise surprise, where the episode really shines in is the musical numbers. Harry’s duet with Kermit the Frog on “Rainbow Connection” has been enduringly popular, but the episode’s two Blondie songs are pretty wonderful, too. “One Way or Another,” by then almost a three-year-old tune, had Harry backed up by a Muppet band that, rather than exemplifying the kind of goofy tropes that normals would recognize as “punk,” look credibly like an actual downtown NYC band of the era. I’m guessing they were modeled after Tuff Darts, but I could be wrong.
The episode ended with a Muppetization of Blondie’s year-old single “Call Me,” the theme song from a movie about a male prostitute framed for murdering a client whose husband hired him to “entertain” her. That may seem odd for family-hour until you consider that Blondie’s current single at the time was “Rapture,” a six-plus minute, half-cooed, half-rapped song that might contain a barely concealed reference to finger fucking (available printed lyrics read “finger popping” but we weren’t idiots) and definitely contains the line “he shoots you dead and he eats your head.” Which would have TOTALLY RULED performed by Muppets, but he upbeat “Call Me” was clearly the safer choice.
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.
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…
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:
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.)