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June 20, 2016

That Elusive Muppet Thing

Filed under: Feature,Fun Stuff — Tags: — Ryan Roe @ 8:00 am

Professor GroverHow do people react when they find out just how big a Muppet geek you are?  Maybe they enthusiastically tell you how much they love the Muppets.  They might tell you which of the movies they grew up watching.  Or, if they’re not that cool, they might regard you suspiciously, like, Muppets?  Really?

And sometimes, when you’re revealed as a serious Muppet fan, the person you’re talking to immediately regards you as a Muppet expert, a source of accurate information on a very specialized topic.

I was once introduced to a friend of a friend who proceeded to ask me if I could help her identify a Muppet thing she remembered seeing years ago.  Her description was something like this: “There were a bunch of Muppets, and they were in a movie theater… They used to show it before the movie started… They were doing this song about going to the movies…”

Do you know what she was talking about?  I felt pretty darn proud of myself for being able to tell her right away that it was “Don’t Forget to Watch the Movie,” the Loews Theaters policy trailer from the mid-to-late-90s.  It features the Sesame Street characters explaining what to do and not to do at the cinema, including such forbidden behaviors as surfing and dancing with a bear.

Don't Forget to Watch the MovieAs soon as I explained the specific details I knew, Friend-of-a-Friend responded with the kind of enthusiasm appropriate for such a relevation.  That was it!  That was the Muppet movie thing she’d been wondering about!  And sure enough, after all these years, she’s never danced with a bear while attending a film.

A related example: At one of our Tough Pigs-hosted live Muppet Vault events, we showed a clip of the bizarre “Muppera” bit from The Muppet Show.  It’s a song performed by the Fuzz Brothers, who are the bearded chins of Jerry Nelson and Jim Henson, and also they’re upside-down, and also they’re wearing lavish costumes and they have eyes and noses and arms and legs.  It’s not one of the ten best-known Muppet Show bits, or one of the eighty best-known.

After the show, an audience member approached me and excitedly told me that she had seen that number as a kid as part of some kind of Muppet Show clip show (which turned out to be this), and she had been roaming the Earth with a vague memory of it for years.  But she had never been able to track it down because she couldn’t begin to think of how to search for it.  She may have even begun to suspect she had dreamed it.  (That would be one heck of a weird dream, eh?)  But that was it!  That was the weird Muppet sketch she’d been wondering about!

Fuzz Brothers MupperaI’m sure there are lots of Muppet fans out there with these kinds of half-memories of things they saw long ago, these Elusive Muppet Things.  If you’ve read every article ever posted on this website, you may be familiar with something we call SIRE, or Sudden Instant Recall Effect.  The Elusive Muppet Thing phenomenon is similar to that, but not quite the same.  With SIRE, you go for years without thinking about a Muppet moment until you see it and are startled to realize you know every word that’s about to come out of Grover’s mouth.  The Elusive Muppet Thing is more frustrating, because you know you saw Grover say something funny but you don’t know where it was.

Even I, a big nerdy Muppet nerd, have had my share of Elusive Muppet Things.  When I was just a youngster, way back in the 1980s, my parents woke me up one night and pulled me, half-asleep, into the living room to watch something they had come across on TV.  There were all these Muppets singing… Muppets from The Muppet Show! Muppets from Sesame Street!  Muppets from Fraggle Rock!  And there was a live audience somewhere in there reacting to what they were doing.

For a couple decades, that’s all I could remember.  Every once in a while, I would think about that show, and wonder what it was.  As I consumed every Muppet production I could get my hands on, I narrowed it down: It wasn’t A Muppet Family Christmas, it wasn’t The Muppets: A Celebration of 30 Years.  So what could it have been?

Gonzo Grover Matt Hall of Fame Jim songFortunately, the internet came along, and with it other Muppet fans who could fill in my brain gaps.  Do you know what I was thinking of?  It was the night when Jim Henson was inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame.  A bunch of characters (including several performed by Jim) sang a song about how great Jim is.  That was it.  That was the Muppet TV appearance I’d been wondering about.

And so on.  During my life as a Muppet geek, I’ve been asked about a thing that aired on Nickelodeon where they showed how all the Muppets work.  I’ve been asked about a Sesame Street thing where Big Bird met an Egyptian god.  And so on.

Of course, there are those times when we Muppet fans are asked for details about things that never happened, like Miss Piggy appearing on Sesame Street.  And don’t spread this around too much, but sometimes we can be stumped.  We may know everything, but we don’t know every everything.  But we do our best, just like that female pirate Muppet did her best when she sang that song and it seemed like it was Muppet Treasure Island but somehow the song is not in the movie.

What about you?  Have you ever had an Elusive Muppet Thing that you wondered about for years?  Did you figure out what it was… or are you still wondering?  Have you been able to earn the undying respect and envy of your peers by helping them identify their Elusive Muppet Things?  Chime in on the Tough Pigs forum or by e-mailing Ryan@ToughPigs.com to let me know!

Special thanks as always to Muppet Wiki for being a great source of any Muppet link or image I could ever want.  Click here to put a costume on your beard on the Tough Pigs forum!

by Ryan Roe – Ryan@ToughPigs.com

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