Bohemian Rhapsody: An In-Depth Comparison

Good morning. The British Correspondent here, still making great use of Ryan’s resources to my own nefarious ends. For example, yesterday after posting I made excellent use of his credit-card at the local H&M. These socks are REALLY comfy. Today, I’m posting from a Massage Parlour in London, where I expect the Intern to arrive any minute to work the knots out of my toes (hey, brand new socks can only do so much.)
LISA THE INTERN: ExCUSE me? I do NOT give foot rubs!
TBC: Excuse me! What, wait, you don’t? I am sure I went over some very specific clauses in my contract with the Ryan before he left…
LISA: Oh no. If anything, there’s a clause in my contract saying I DON’T do extravagant, servant-like things along the lines of giving foot rubs. Besides, your feet smell.
TBC: Don’t be ridiculous. My nose smells, my feet run. Okay, sometimes my nose runs as well, but that’s another story.) But anyway, if you don’t give foot-rubs or Polatis lessons, what DO you do around this place? (Clearly not IT…seeing as our last blog post basically exploded. See below!)
LISA: I proof-read, occasionally contribute articles, and usually get ignored because Ryan thinks it’s too late in the day to make the corrections I suggest, or that it’s too small of a correction to care about. For the record, I sincerely apologize to any grammarians who read the blog for all the excessive comma splices.
TBC: So…you do provide excessive cosmic spices…Lisa, can you read my fortune?
LISA: … Oh dear goodness. You’re even worse than Ryan is. At least he has a vague idea of what a comma splice IS now… You wanna know your future, BC? You’re gonna be in several tons of trouble when Ryan gets back and sees what you’ve done to his blog, not to mention what you did to the Muppet-merchandise-shrine he calls a bedroom. He still hasn’t stopped talking about the LAST time his Bunsen figure’s glasses broke.
TBC: Ryan! Oh…that reminds me…He sent a photo update. And…Oh! Sorry, I have to run, I just realised I came to a waxing parlour not a massage place! GAH!
LISA: Um–except that this IS a massage place … and he’s already gone. Can you imagine? He just ran out on his obligation to update the blog. He even left the picture behind. Lousy Brit. Well, I was SUPPOSED to have the week off, but with Ryan in Disney and TBC running for the hills, I guess there’s no one else around to take care of this blog. Lucky for you, I happen to have an extra article lying around somewhere … so here’s the picture from Ryan, and now let me see if I can find that article. Ah-ha! Here it is. 
Bohemian Rhapsody: An In-Depth Comparison (Or, A Very Complicated Venn Diagram in the Form of Words)
Lisa Alexander – Are you sick of “Bohemian Rhapsody” yet?
Of course not. I don’t think it’s physically possible. I mean, the song is epic. The music video the Muppets put out of it is also epic. And if you haven’t heard of that yet, you obviously live under a rock. Or you’re not really a Muppet fan. Or both. … Probably both.
For those of you who aren’t really Muppet fans and live under rocks, or who just have really bad short-term memories, the Muppets took YouTube by storm last November with a viral music video of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” which hit ten million views in its first two weeks on the web.
But this isn’t the first time the Muppets have performed “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Oh no. Johnny and Sal did it about four years prior on the Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon. But that performance has been half-forgotten at best, while the new one has been hailed as the best Muppet production since Jim Henson/since The Muppet Movie/since [insert Muppet high point here] /ever. So what’s the difference? Well, this is why they taught us about Venn diagrams back in grade school. I made one just for this article. See?

…Well. … Let’s just pretend that was helpful, shall we? Moving right along. (Wait … that’s the wrong song.)
If you missed our three-part interview with Bill Barretta a little while back, you might’ve forgotten this ever happened, especially since you were probably asleep when it aired at two o’clock in the morning. (Or would it be considered two o’clock at night?)
So for those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about (and are too lazy to click on that conveniently embedded video right there), let me give you a brief plot synopsis. (Yes, it has a plot.) Johnny’s ma apparently wanted to give Jerry Lewis some marinara sauce, but it wasn’t done yet when Johnny and Sal left for the telethon, so she sent it FedEx. Sal also brought along Ma’s favorite broom for Jerry Lewis to sign. The monkey starts to carry the pot of sauce and the broom across the stage to put in Tom Bergeron’s dressing room so Tom can give them to Jerry. Unfortunately, Sal drops the sauce and the broom. Cue “Bohemian Rhapsody,” with the words changed so that it is now a heartfelt apology from Johnny and Sal to Ma.
Who saw it? Anyone who was awake at two in the morning watching the 2005 Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon. Who worked on it? Well, we know that Brian Henson and Bill Barretta pre-recorded it, and then performed at 2 AM for the telethon. Beyond that, I have no idea. How do we know it existed? Easy. It’s on Muppet Wiki, it’s on YouTube, Bill Barretta talked about it in his interview, and I have an audio recording of it on my computer. (I have no idea how it got there, but it’s there.)
2009 VIRAL
You guys know about this one, right?
Some folks over at Muppets Studio decided they wanted to do “Bohemian Rhapsody” for YouTube. They got in touch with Queen, who handed over not only the rights but also the original music tracks, so that’s actually Queen you hear playing while the Muppets do their stuff. Then, in one day, the Muppets recorded a brilliant piece of magic. Then it hit YouTube and racked up over 10,000,000 views in less than two weeks. Audio and video of the single were both released for sale on iTunes and such, and it did pretty darn well.

The video is almost a shot-for-shot replica of Queen’s video, except with Muppets. Of course, there was some alteration. The Muppets never just repeat someone else’s work; they make it their own. So instead of having a line about Beelzebub (which was included in Johnny and Sal’s rendition), they have some cacti, flowers, bunnies, prairie dogs, and monkeys ask if there’s a part for them. Instead of having just killed a man, Animal spends the entire first verse calling for his mama … and, eventually, his dada (not to be confused with data). And instead of Dr. Teeth complaining about spit in his eye, he tells us this video’s going to fly. (Excellent prediction, Dr. Teeth. Now what are my stocks going to do? … Oh wait. I don’t have stocks. Alright, how about my tax return, then?)

However, the biggest difference between the Muppets’ video and Queen’s video (aside from the much larger, all-felt cast in the viral) comes at the end, where Queen’s video, well, ends, but the viral turns out to be a huge video conference—and apparently a very unproductive one at that, which puts quite a damper on Kermit’s amazement at this incredibly coordinated feat of improvisation.
Someone on YouTube was nice enough to create a side-by-side comparison of Queen’s video and the Muppets’ viral. It only has two drawbacks: the Galileo part makes you dizzy, and they cut part of the Queen video so it could keep up with the Muppets. I did find a side-by-side comparison that left that part in, but the Muppets were barely audible. This is a much better blending of the audio, and the two recordings actually harmonize at some points. Neat, huh?
Now if only I knew how to do that with both of the Muppet performances, this article would be way easier. … Actually, I’m not sure it would need to exist.
Let’s start with the obvious common ground: Both renditions were performed by the Muppets, both started out as the same song, and both have the same title, which makes it really interesting to try to write a side-by-side comparison.

They are also both shorter than the original. The 2005 telethon appearance chopped considerably more of the song, cutting almost six minutes of music down to about three and a half. The viral is a lot closer at 4:46, although the song actually stops at 4:38. The only cut here is that Animal only shouts for his mama for one verse, while the just-killed-a-man business lasts for two and is followed by an amazing guitar solo.

As far as I can tell, their only other similarities are that they can both be found on YouTube and they both have Johnny and Sal. Those aren’t terribly strong similarities when you consider that one is exclusively Johnny and Sal, while the other only has one shot of Johnny and two of Sal, and that you can find just about anything you want on YouTube.
So now we move on to the differences. How is it that Muppets + “Bohemian Rhapsody” = half-forgotten appearance when Muppets + “Bohemian Rhapsody” = internet sensation? Math isn’t my forte, but even I know something doesn’t add up there. So what’s the difference?
Maybe it’s as simple as the number of Muppets. Maybe Muppets + “Bohemian Rhapsody” = half-forgotten appearance, and Muppets50 + “Bohemian Rhapsody” = internet sensation.

But I don’t think it’s quite that simple. By my count, the viral has sixty-nine Muppets—seventy-one with Lew Zealand’s fish. (I may be an English major, but I can still count; thank you, Sesame Street.) Assuming I still know how to do long division, that comes to about 194,594 views per Muppet. Two Muppets should get twice that, right? But Johnny and Sal, uploaded to YouTube exactly a week before the viral, have just under 27,000. Huh.

Then again, I seem to recall Beaker’s “Ode to Joy” hitting 1,000,000 views pretty quickly, and he’s just one Muppet. Yes, he was on the screen six times over … but still. Maybe some Muppets bring in more views than others, but I still say that the number of Muppets is not the whole deal.
There’s also the exposure issue to consider; 2 AM isn’t exactly the internet … unless you’re online at 2 AM, but then you’re online with everyone on the other side of the globe. See, everything on the internet is always there for anyone and everyone with internet access, with everyone linking everyone else to anything and everything. TV at 2 AM is there for people with insomnia, people who work night shifts and have the day (night?) off, and geniuses like me who stay up way later than they reasonably should. Chances are, most of those people get stuck watching infomercials for Kaboom.

Then there’s this thing called “quality.” The viral is swimming in it. The telethon … tries. I don’t really know why the funny choreography in the telethon reeks of parody to me when the viral is almost a shot-for-shot duplicate of Queen’s video. Something about that doesn’t seem quite right, does it? But that’s the honest truth, so here’s my best guess of an explanation:
The viral was thoroughly planned. They somehow shot the whole thing in one day, but you know it was a lot more than one day in the making. They got quite a nice boost from Queen with the recordings, and the all-black background is a lovely old trick to hide arm-rods and Muppeteers. (Granted, these days the Mouse likes the Muppets to edit out as many arm-rods as possible anyway.) Throw in a little high-def video quality, and this is suddenly incredibly enjoyable to watch and listen to.
I’m not saying the telethon appearance wasn’t thoroughly planned. I’m just saying it didn’t have quite the backing the viral got. Namely, it didn’t have any backing from Queen, nor did it have a convenient all-black background. If you look closely, you can see some Muppeteer hair poking up, starting right around the 2:38 mark on the video. At the three-minute mark, you can even see a forehead! (Please note: That exclamation point is not outrage. It’s excitement. Does that make me weird? … Don’t answer that.)
There’s also the aspect of purpose. The viral? That’s all about us. Yeah, that’s for the fans, and that’s to bring in more fans. That’s about building up a super-strong fan base for that day we all dream of when the Muppets hit the big screen. The 2 AM telethon appearance was about waking people up to donate to the Muscular Dystrophy Association. And you know what? I bet it worked. So yes, the little “call now” bar at the bottom can block the performance, but that was the real focal point.
So, the Muppets have performed “Bohemian Rhapsody” twice. One performance briefly beat out New Moon as a topic on Twitter, and the other happened before Twitter even existed. On YouTube, one has upwards of 13,000,000 views, and the other is just shy of 27,000, but both of them are rated with five stars. One may be more popular than the other, but the bottom line—to quote more than one YouTube comments, I’m sure—is that Muppets + “Bohemian Rhapsody” = win.

The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier

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