Faith Nunez – Hello! And welcome to 5 Great Muppet Show Guest Stars from Season 2! I had a great time writing the first article, and this one was no different! However, it was super hard deciding which five guests to feature here, since the season is so jam-packed with amazing people. But after a lot of deliberation, I’ve whittled it down to those I love and those that aren’t talked about as often as they should be! So let’s dive right in!
You’d be hard-pressed to find somebody who doesn’t love Julie Andrews! Whether you first saw her as Maria in The Sound of Music, Nanny in the Eloise movies, or as the one-and-only Mary Poppins, Julie has left an indelible mark on most of our lives and entertainment history. And with her unbelievable voice and beautiful personality she leaves the same mark on the floorboards of the Muppet Theater!
Speaking of The Sound of Music, Julie sings one of her numbers from the timeless musical with “The Lonely Goatherd”. It’s the perfect song from the film to feature here since it’s got plenty of different parts to share between Julie and all her flocked friends. It also fun because where outside of The Muppet Show could you have an actual goat as the goatherd? Nowhere, that’s where!
If I haven’t been clear about this by now, I love sap and sentimentality more than anyone else I know! And in this scene, we certainly get some of it. Kermit and Julie start talking about how Julie is a writer of both children’s books and songs. It leads to Julie singing her “Song for Kermit” that she wrote especially for our flippered host. Julie originally performed this sweet tune to Kermit in 1975 during the T.V. special My Favorite Things. She lovingly holds Kermit’s hand as she sings the slow melody in her stunning voice, and you can really feel the love she has for Kermit pour out of her during the intimate moment.
I love anytime the Muppet Monsters can get the spotlight for a couple of minutes and Julie’s last number “I Whistle A Happy Tune” from the musical The King and I is a perfect showcase for both her and the big brutes. Throughout the tune, Julie wanders through a fog-filled graveyard to only be chased by all the monsters. And while they do imply there’s danger afoot throughout the number, it’s of course just a misunderstanding and the monsters only wanted autographs and pictures with Julie. Who knew 8 foot tall fur-covered beasts could be so relatable?
Julie is a classic guest from the show, and she gives us a classic episode. Between her impeccable talent, unparalleled vocals, and loving heart, it’s clear that she was made to share the spotlight with our fine, furred, and feathered goofballs.
Rudolf is a fantastic example of how freeing doing The Muppet Show could be for the stars that graced its stage. While most famous for his dancing talent, Rudolf was able to act, sing, and dance in a more comedic fashion than any ballet (that I’ve seen anyway) would normally allow. The episode itself even points out the awesome absurdity of his acts with our resident self-appointed censor, Sam the Eagle, insisting that Rudolf is above the stuff usually featured on the show, only to be shown the exact opposite being true as the show goes on.
Rudolf’s first act is “Swine Lake” which, if you couldn’t already tell by the name, is a parody of the world-renowned ballet Swan Lake. As the name clearly implies, instead of dancing with a woman whose been turned into a beautiful swan, Rudolf dances with a woman whose been turned into a hideous pig. Rudolf does a fantastic job here. Not only does he get to show off his incredible ballet skills as we’d expect, but he also gets to be just plain ridiculous. He gets to toss a boneless, enormous, ugly pig woman around and clearly has a ball while doing it.
The next bit is certainly memorable to say the least. First of all, we have the Christmas classic “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” NOT being sung at Christmas! That’s a feat in-and-of itself. But secondly, and more importantly, we see Frank’s incredibly hilarious adeptness with Piggy and her wily ways, and Rudolf plays off of her perfectly! Much like Rita Moreno playing off of both Piggy and Animal in the first season, Rudolf is definitely just as much of a player in the scene as the porcine superstar. His clear desperation to get out of the scene is what makes it gel so well.
For his final number, Rudolf shows off that his fancy footwork isn’t exclusive to ballet and shocks Sam by showing off his tap dancing ability with the song “Top Hat, White Tie, and Tails”. Wearing the song titular outfit, Rudolf shows off his taps to Sam who is flabbergasted by it. He then struts his stuff on the stage with the gang joining him, each dressed in some semblance of the top hat, white tie, and tails ensemble. It’s a really fun scene that lets Rudolf show the world that he can dance in more ways than one.
As I’ve mentioned, The Muppet Show was the ideal place for a celebrity to spread their wings and do something completely unexpected of them. Rudolf showcases that fact in spades in this episode. It’s awesome seeing guests not being stuck in the same box that the entertainment industry tries to keep them in, and you can tell how much Rudolf appreciates and enjoys it. You can tell he’s having fun the whole time which adds to the enjoyment I feel when watching it.
This is honestly a perfect episode of The Muppet Show! While this piece is all about featuring the guest stars, I’ve just gotta say that between George himself, Piggy’s “Quanto Le Gusta”, Gonzo’s classic “Gonzo fiddles while George Burns” bit, Fozzie’s “Wotcher Knocked ‘em in the Old Kent Road, a Vet’s Hospital sketch, AND Kermit and Piggy’s “I Won’t Dance”, this has gotta be one of the most sensational episodes ever! And one of the biggest contributors to that title has got to be Mister George Burns!
George is the quintessential example of a guest that may not have the best singing voice but is so entertaining that you could listen to their songs all day. He starts having a casual conversation with Rowlf about his time in vaudeville and his attempt at a dog act. Rowlf than starts playing and after showboating for a few seconds, George tells him to “play like you’re not getting paid”. George than sings “Train Back Home” which starts off as a nice, simple number about, you guessed it, taking a train back home. But it ends up actually being a comedic number with a great ending that George delivers hilariously well.
George’s dry delivery is not just hilarious, but also fascinating to behold. It comes off as completely natural and absolutely effortless on George’s part. He shows it off in two backstage scenes. In the first, gossip columnist Fleet Scribbler is trying to dig up any dirty details he can about the show. George easily bests him verbally, as is to be expected, and puffs his cigar into Fleet’s face sending him on his way. Later on, George has a backstage conversation with Gonzo about being in showbiz, and I love the easygoing feel of it. It genuinely feels like a conversation and doesn’t come off as super staged or scripted even though it was.
To end the episode George, Rowlf, Piggy, and several others sing a couple more songs to close it out. They start with “It All Depends on You” and continue with “You Made Me Love You”. The second song is what gives us the classic Gonzo bit of “Didn’t wanna do it” being repeated over and over which never gets unfunny no matter how long it goes. More importantly however, throughout both numbers, they keep the off-the-cuff feel of George’s earlier scenes going by having it feel unrehearsed with George just telling the other to follow his lead (outside of the fact that Gonzo is clearly reading notes).
George’s relaxed, seemingly unwritten style is great and gives a different flavor to his scenes than a lot of the other guest stars have. While most Muppet Show sketches and songs don’t come off as forced or anything, George’s just feel extra easygoing and natural which make his episode pretty unique. It really makes his episode stick out in the a very interesting and entertaining way.
Milton Berle’s style of comedy could not fit in more seamlessly with our frog and friends! Everything about his setup, delivery, and everything in-between was practically tailor-made for The Muppet Show making this one of the funniest episodes of the series.
After a quick bit backstage where it’s established that Fozzie is scared to death of meeting him, Milton walks on stage to do one of his world-famous comedy routines, only to be heckled by our theater’s most consistent critics, Statler and Waldorf. After telling a few of his own jokes, the heckling begins, and I love it! Not only is it funny, but I love when celebrities can take jokes being made at their expense, and that’s Milton this entire segment! While on screen he gets frustrated at the geriatrics in the box, it awesome that he agreed to a whole segment where he gets chewed out instead of just being able to just do what he does best and do a full-on stand-up act.
Next is a great moment that sums up all the best things about the series. We start with Milton reminiscing about his vaudeville days with Rowlf as he slowly plays the classic piece “The Entertainer” on his piano. Milton than begins to recite the lyrics that go with the music in a very sentimental fashion. Then a big group of various characters burst in as Rowlf starts playing faster to sing the next bit in a more quick and upbeat way. Once they’re through, Milton goes back to his quiet take on the song to take us out of it. I love the contrast between the emotional connection with Milton and Rowlf to the fun goofiness of the other characters. It shows how the show is so fantastic at going from sappy to silly and back again.
Despite being terrified of meeting Milton, Fozzie quickly becomes brave enough to face him when Milton reveals to Kermit that he’s always wanted to do an act with Fozzie. After Fozzie tells Milton how much he admires him, Milton suggests they go out and perform. And so they go onstage to perform “Top Banana” a vaudevillian comedy number all about being a burlesque comic. It’s hilarious, it’s fun, it’s ridiculous, and it’s perfect! And that mirror joke gets me every single time!
Milton’s episode may be a little overlooked in terms of the whole series, but it is definitely not one to be missed! Obviously Milton is hilarious, but he also has a great repartee with Fozzie and his sweet moment with Rowlf is often forgotten when it’s really enjoyable. Make sure to take a look and have a laugh with this one!
Nancy is another great comedic talent who fits in at The Muppet Theater amazingly well! She gives her all in each bit and is hysterical and charming throughout the whole thing. There’s also a touch of that sweetness that makes the show stand out as more wholesome and down-to-earth than your average variety show.
The “Lunch Counter” sketch has always been one of my personal favorite comedy sketches of the entire series! It showcases Frank’s impeccable comedy chops with Fozzie and Nancy’s incredible ability to work with our fuzzy misfits just as easily as any regular ol’ human actor. The entire bit is gutbustingly funny! Sometimes the “Monster eats things that aren’t meant to be eaten” sketches wear a little thin after a while when that’s the only real joke. However, here it’s used brilliantly as a springboard for all the great wordplay and back-and-forth between Nancy and Fozzie. And if that weren’t enough, Nancy completely sells the punchline which I dare not give away if you haven’t seen it! But I cannot recommend this scene enough if you love to laugh!
Yay! More sweet character interactions! This moment gives me the sap I love, as well as, the laughs we all love and expect from this show. If you haven’t seen this episode, Kermit is out sick leaving Fozzie in charge of the show for the night, and it’s going about as well as you’d expect. He starts trying to convince Nancy (and himself mostly) that everything is going fine even though it’s been crumbling all night long. Nancy tries to pep him up by singing “Pick Yourself Up” and it’s a very sweet quiet moment between the two. But of course, Nancy ends with a joke balancing the emotion and comedy flawlessly.
Once again showing how funny she is, Nancy takes on “They Can’t Take That Away From Me” with Sweetums. There’s plenty of physical gags as they stomp on each other’s feet and pummel each other, but they do it in a loving way so it’s all a-okay! And it’s always interesting to see a scene featuring Sweetums and guests with none of the smaller Muppets since they can freely show the lower halves of them onscreen, obviously a bit difficult when 90% of the cast have arms stuck in them.
Nancy was yet another fantastic guest for our favorite lovable furballs. She’s funny, loving, and willing to do anything asked of her to make the sketch work. All the earmarks of another classic guest for another classic episode!