Kieran Moore – As some of you know every now and again I like to produce a seasonal chart so my heart skipped a beat when Beaker’s name was randomly generated as today’s subject. You see with St Patrick’s Day falling this week it seems only right and proper to be looking at one third of the beloved Muppet troupe that is “The Leprechaun Brothers”.
Aside from that group, Beaker is (of course) best-known as the unfortunate lab assistant of Dr. Bunsen Honeydew. The pair have won accolade after accolade including being voted “Britain’s Favourite Cinematic Scientists” in 2004. (They received 33% of the 43,000 votes cast and I’m pleased to say my vote is part of that figure.) Beaker actually joined The Muppet Show in season two (with Bunsen debuting the year before), but as my list shows I actually think this could be a case of the student surpassing his master. Let’s see if the calculations are correct…
10 – The Carol of the Bells – Beaker, Animal & The Swedish Chef – Muppet Viral Videos
Although listed here by their individual names, this occasional group is actually called “The ABC’s” (as in Animal, Beaker, Chef) on The Disney Cruise Line. I like this better than anything else they’ve been called as it’s more general and sounds like a 1950’s doo-wap group. Surely they’ll do “Blue Moon” at some point?! Carol of the Bells has long been one of my favorite carols and while I don’t think I’d class this version as one of the best, it certainly has its own charm. I love Beaker’s big gasp at the start as he fills his Muppety lungs with cold, frosty air and Animal’s realization that he seems to have brought the wrong percussion instrument with him and then subsequent decision to up the ante is hilarious. Meanwhile Chef just gets on with it like he doesn’t have a care in the world!
9 – Room in Your Heart – Beaker and Dr. Bunsen Honeydew – Muppet Christmas Carol
It’s a strange situation and it goes back to what I was saying earlier about the way Beaker seems to have grown as a character, but there’s actually very little Bunsen in this chart. Despite the fact that the two are seemingly inseparable and intrinsically linked in the minds of the general public it seems that for whatever reason Beaker has been more of a break out star and we’re far more likely to see him without Bunsen than the other way around. I think part of it is that everyone loves an underdog and Beaker is certainly that. I’ve written about this song before and I still think it’s a real shame it didn’t make the final cut of Muppet Christmas Carol. I get that it slows the movie down at a point when it should be getting going, but that doesn’t mean I can’t lament the loss of Beaker and Bunsen’s biggest movie moment to date. This Christmas, Dave Goelz and Steve Whitmire should film it as a web video. That wouldn’t be too much to ask, would it?
8 – Habanera – Beaker, Animal & The Swedish Chef – Muppet Viral Videos
Beaker really is the star of the show here. As much as this is a group performance he is very much a soloist with just minimal backing provided by the others. One thing you will notice as this chart goes on is that Beaker actually is a fantastic singer. He might struggle with the odd high note (although odd high notes seem to be his specialty), but he has some definite singing chops. Steve is obviously a great singer, we know this because of his performances as Kermit and Wembley Fraggle, but I don’t think he gets enough credit as Beaker. Equally as good are Bill Barretta and Eric Jacobson as The Swedish Chef and Animal respectively, however the limelight here really does have to belong to Beaker.
7 – I Got You Babe – Beaker and Dr. Bunsen Honeydew – The Muppets (2015) (Song starts at 50 seconds)
It makes me deliriously happy to be able to feature songs from the current award-winning network show “The Muppets”. It also makes me deliriously happy to be able to write ‘the current award-winning network show “The Muppets”’. We can still say current, right? This particular episode was a Beaker/Bunsen shippers (Bunkers?) dream as not only did they sing this amazing rendition of a classic love song, they also ended up in each others’ clothes with a definite story to tell. I’d love to see them go back and retell this episode of the show from Beaker and Bunsen’s point of view like Disney did with The Lion King 3 and Pumbaa and Timon. I want to see Bunsen try on his leather suit. Regarding this song, Beaker was born to hit those high notes and he’s really going for it in the chorus. I demand a full version.
6 – Smells like Teen Spirit – Beaker, Rowlf, Link Hogthrob and Sam the Eagle – The Muppets (2011)
I’m always unsure of whether to feature the soundtrack or movie version of this song when I write about it, but I chose the one from the film here because if nothing else it includes Beaker’s great axe joke. I really like his and everyone else’s reactions. I wonder who was performing Link as he’s especially fun to watch as Beaker makes the trade from axe to hairdryer and Steve Whitmire was presumably “handling” the latter character. On that note, this is another case of a Muppet performer singing with himself – that never gets old. Beaker is deployed brilliantly here as a way of avoiding any questionable lyrics during the song and with “Room in Your Heart” languishing on the cutting room floor this is his biggest musical role to date (at least in a movie). I always appreciate a bit of Barbershop as an a cappella singer and I have nothing but admiration (once again) for Steve, Bill and Eric. This is another grouping that we need to hear more of.
5 – Danny Boy – The Leprechaun Brothers – The Muppet Show
Top o’ the mornin’ to ya! Here are Animal, Beaker and Chef in their original incarnation as “The Leprechaun Brothers” and as I said at the start it seems super appropriate that this has come out on St. Paddy’s Day weekend. Sink a pint of the black stuff, kiss the Blarney Stone and search for a pot o’ gold as you enjoy the mellow tones of this lilting Irish classic. Or do something less racially offensive – it’s your call. One thing you can’t deny though is that this is a tasteful and melodious rendition of a time-honored tune. Ok, scrap that, but I think we can all agree this is a song we’re glad exists even if it is a little harsh on the ears. Firstly, it’s very, very funny – Animal’s “Oh Danny” when the song quite clearly is leading to a final “Oh Boy” is a brilliant switcheroo and turns an obvious, but funny joke into something special. Secondly, it created this classic line up and for that we should all be eternally grateful.
4 – Dust in the Wind – Beaker – Muppet Viral Videos
This is the last time we’ll really address the Beaker/Bunsen relationship in this chart and I guess we’ve already covered some of it, but I think it’s really neat that the powers that be have allowed their friendship to develop into something more grown up and complex. I’m not talking about anything underhand (which is a weird word to use about Muppets) or sleazy or sexual, but just a real adult relationship between two friends who fully support and, if truth be told, need each other. There was always the potential for back story to their somewhat odd coupling, but I like that it’s been allowed to grow organically and has shown us more without really answering even the first question. It’s been so well done. Let’s be honest, we all think we’ve got a good grip on these fan favorite characters that are coming on 40, but Beaker and Bunsen show us that there’s still so much more to learn. Life’s like a movie as someone cleverer than I once said. Beaker and Bunsen are writing their own ending.
3 – This is Me – Beaker and Demi Lovato – Studio DC: Almost Live
Ok, so there’s a lot to hate about Studio DC. Look at that Scooter for a start… I’m not here to defend the show, but I guess I find myself in a position where I have no choice but to defend this song’s placement. So we’ll go through the reasons one by one. First, Demi Lovato is a great mime artist (ok I’m being unfair – she’s a great singer); second, Beaker (as we’ve established) is also a great singer; third, this is a very good song – I’m reliably informed by Google that it appears in the movie “Camp Rock” and the Disney Channel genre as a whole has a pretty good track record with pop ballads so it’s not that surprising really. I must admit as much as I don’t have any huge desire to watch Studio DC on a regular basis, I actually don’t mind a lot of the musical performances. I wonder if Disney ever considered a bargain basement release of the soundtrack?
2 – Feelings – Beaker – The Muppet Show
I must admit that I found it really hard to choose between this song and the next (you surely know what’s coming) for the top spot and in my heart of hearts I really thought this would win. It’s got a lot going for it. It’s a classic Muppet Show bit and the staging is so evocative of that era that you could replace the characters with regular people and this would still look like The Muppet Show. All the guys on stage are just as we imagine them; Janice is grooving, Zoot is laid-back and cool, Rowlf is the eternal observer, Animal is rocking out and giving as good as he gets and Beaker is – well Beaker is his usual lovable bag-of-nerves self. Yet despite his apparent worries he always remains a trooper and a trouper. Most of the songs on this list have been performed by Steve Whitmire so I really have to take this opportunity to praise one of my favorite Muppet performers (and Beaker’s originator) Richard Hunt. Richard brings such a huge amount of heart to everything he does and that’s evident here in the way Beaker performs. I miss Richard in so many ways…
1 – Ode to Joy – Beaker – Muppet Viral Videos
This is Beaker’s tribute to everyone’s favorite North Pole Airlines ticket agent! It was always going to be tight between this song and “Feelings” for number one, but this snatched pole position mainly because of its incredible success. The official version has been viewed over 18 million times making it the third most watched video on the Muppets’ YouTube account (any guesses on one and two?). It also won a People’s Voice Webby Award in the music category in 2009 with Beaker brilliantly attending the ceremony in person to accept it. One of the best things about this video is how much it feels like a Muppet Show sketch – it could easily be directly lifted from the Mac Davis episode that features multiple Beakers. Back in 2009 when The Muppets were lacking direction this was an excellent way to remind everyone just why the gang are so special. This song is full of high-notes and mishaps (which should be the title of Beaker’s autobiography – I’ll buy one!) and Steve Whitmire is brilliant.
At the start of this piece I mentioned I was happy I could write about Beaker this week because of St. Patrick’s Day, but I’m also equally as pleased because my nephew’s birthday is coming up in a few days and Beaker (along with Kermit, Fozzie, Constantine and a whole bunch of others) is one of his favorite Muppets. They’re both redheads so I think there’s an affinity there. My nephew is called Jared and I’m going to be cheeky and take this opportunity to wish him a happy birthday. I’m sure Beaker would wish him a “Mee Mo Mee May” as well!
As is now traditional I would like to thank Beaker for the happiness he’s brought us over the last 39 years, but I also have to thank him for so much more. He’s put up with Bunsen (which is no easy task), he’s helped (and still does help) keep the Muppets alive in the public consciousness and, perhaps most of all; he’s the embodiment of what a Muppet is. He’s loyal and loving, he’s off the wall, he lives to perform and he sometimes gets things wrong. That sounds like the dictionary definition to me. Thank you Beaker – you are possibly the ultimate Muppet.