Faith Nunez – There are so many amazing guest stars who’ve graced the 120 episodes of The Muppet Show. Each season has such a wide array of talented individuals from dancers to singers to comedians to actors. And while they’re all great, some just rise to the forefront as the most entertaining of the bunch. They have sketches that crack us up, they sing songs that pull at our heartstrings, and they share intimate moments with our puppet pals that just give us the warm fuzzies. And this article is to show off the cream of the crop when it comes to The Muppet Show’s guest stars of Season 1!
In my opinion, Twiggy is one of the more underrated of the Muppet Show’s guest stars. She has a lot of great talents that are all featured in her episode, but it seems like it’s kind of overlooked despite being one of my favorites of the season.
The “In My Life” number, while it starts with a bit of fun comedy framing the song as a “press conference”, soon becomes one of the most powerful solos done by a guest on the show. Between the black-and-white photos showcasing Twiggy’s life and her emotionally charged singing, it’s a showstopper for sure.
Twiggy’s reading of “The King’s Breakfast” has a really cute charm about it that I totally enjoy. It has a simple framing device of Twiggy reading a bedtime story to Gonzo and Muppy, and we get to see her and a few bizarrely human-sized characters (not normal Muppet size, but not Thog or Sweetums sized either) act out the story as she narrates. It’s simple, but it really works.
And we get a really fun country song with Twiggy and a farmer played by Jim with “Ain’t Nobody’s Business But My Own”. It’s a super funny and easygoing song and is a good contrast to the “In My Life” spot from earlier in the episode. Twiggy’s physical interactions with Jim’s character really sell the song, and Jim’s accent is just the icing on the already delicious cake of a musical number.
Able to handle emotion and comedy in her singing and adorable charm in her narration and acting, Twiggy was a great fit and definitely a guest who deserves to be remembered!
This episode is probably one of the most important episodes in the show’s history! Without this episode, since it was Paul’s first project with Jim and co., we may never have gotten the iconic soundtracks of Emmet Otter, The Muppet Movie, and Muppet Christmas Carol. That alone should make this episode pretty darn iconic for us Muppet fanatics! But that’s not the only reason this episode should be remembered.
“An Old Fashioned Love Song” is a classic guest musical number if I’ve ever seen one! It’s fun, catchy, gets a ton of Muppet backup singers in on the action, and it’s one of the rare moments where the guest star gets a Muppet version of themselves, or in this case 2 of them.
Paul is obviously known for his musical talents, but he has comic abilities too. His willingness to laugh at himself and his shortness throughout the entire episode is both admirable and very funny. As someone a little short myself, I certainly get a kick out of it.
Much like Twiggy, Paul has a great contrast in the songs he sings. In this case, the first one is the lighthearted and upbeat song, while his second “Sad Song” is just that, sad, but it’s the beautiful type of sad. With Rowlf’s piano accompaniment and all the other Muppets as backup, this is a very moving song and a nice, somewhat subdued way to close out the episode.
Between the comedy, Paul’s natural and funny interactions with the characters, the toe-tapping music, and the importance the episode has in Muppet history, Paul Williams easily earns his spot here!
Ethel Merman was a talent and personality that you’d be hard-pressed to find again, and every ounce of her endless talent and spirited personality just jump out of the screen in her episode.
Her first number is such a joy to watch as Ethel and a ton of our favorite Muppets sing a medley of her greatest Broadway hits. As a huge fan of musicals, this spot is just so fantastic! From the awesome array of characters that get featured throughout to Ethel herself, it’s such a lovely scene. And her singing with Fozzie is so adorable that it’s my personal favorite moment (though of course her going at it with Piggy is amazing too).
In her Talk Spot with Kermit and Piggy, Ethel comes off as very down-to-earth and not at all like she’s acting, but like she’s genuinely having a natural conversation with our emcee frog and wannabe singing star pig. It’s very casual but also funny, just what the Talk Spot sketches should be.
The framing of the final number, “There’s No Business Like Show Business” is absolutely perfect with Ethel comforting Fozzie backstage for not getting the raise he wants. She reminds him how it’s worth it to just be a part of the show whether you make money or not. And going from the quiet and intimate backstage singing to the Broadway-style chorus out on stage is wonderful and gives us a super entertaining cover of this classic Ethel song.
Ethel was about as great a guest as you can get for the show. She just oozes charisma and isn’t overshadowed by Kermit and the gang, but instead bounces off of them all flawlessly giving us another fantastic episode.
Rita Moreno has one of the best episodes in terms of diversity in her segments. She sings, dances, has comedy sketches, and she handles all of them with the same fantastic talent and enthusiasm. There are some guests where they’re great at singing but not as proficient at comedy, or are fantastic dancers but not the best singers. But Rita has all her bases covered easily handling every type of sketch and number she’s given.
While a lot of guest stars have dance numbers that are interpretive and are supposed to be taken as a little more serious and beautiful (see Juliet Prowse’s Solace), Rita’s is a wordless comedy sketch in dance form and it is incredible!
Who doesn’t love seeing Piggy go toe-to-toe with the guest stars? And who doesn’t love when the guest star can hold their own against her? Well, that’s exactly what Rita does in the Panel Discussion sketch making it easily the most memorable of all the Panel Discussions the show did.
And who could forget the iconic Fever number?!? Animal can often overshadow the guests in the scenes he shares with them. But while he tries his best to upstage Rita, she fires back in hilarious fashion!
Rita has gone down in Muppet history as a guest star able to take on, not one, but two boisterous Frank Oz characters and make us all crack up while doing it! And the variety of talent she features through her episode shows that Rita is clearly one of the best guests The Muppet Show has ever given us!
Lena has always stuck out to me as one of the best guests of the entire series. Her voice coupled with her honest performances and connections with the characters just makes her the perfect guest for the show.
Lena Horne not only has a gorgeous voice, but she has such a pure and emotional way of performing her numbers. Her first song “I Got A Name” is so beautifully moving. It’s one of my favorite numbers of the entire series.
I fully admit that I’m an emotional sap and an absolute sucker for touching moments between the guests and our lovable gang of furry weirdos. And Lena has two great scenes that make me happy. The first is during her Talk Spot where she builds up Fozzie’s extremely low self-confidence, which is something he could always use. The second is one of Gonzo’s best moments of the first season where, after having yet another act fail on stage, she comforts him with the song “I’m Glad There Is You”. Her beautiful voice and the way she hugs him just melts my heart every time.
And finally we have Lena and the gang singing the classic “Sing” from Sesame Street. It’s an absolutely adorable number with a few verses done by Kermit and Fozzie with Lena. It’s yet another classic moment from the series that I could watch a million and one times.
I just adore Lena’s voice and the purity of her performances in every single moment of her episode. She just comes off as so real, kind, and soulful, and it just makes me smile no matter how many times I watch it.