I don‘t know how often I already mentioned it, but I love puppet comedy. Why is that so? Well, pretty easy: because of The Muppet Show and the Sesamestreet. I mean the Sesamestreet of course was part of my childhood. I loved Ernie and Bert, Kermit, the Cookie Monster (whose actual name is Sid) not so much Elmo (honestly I hate Elmo), Big Bird (Bibo in Germany) and this Vampire Count. Count von Count I think. I still make jokes when it comes to counting like this: „1, 2, 3, 4 – 4 sometings! HA HA HA HA HA *thunder* *lightening* *bats flying around*“
Anyways… I don‘t know exactly when this happened but I saw The Muppet Show when my father watched it. And I was confused. I thought, this is not the Sesamestreet, so why is Kermit in it? My father told me, that The Muppet Show came first and they later made up the Sesamestreet to have an educational puppet show with comedy for kids. I later found out that this was wrong and that the Sesamestreet is slightly older than The Muppet Show. I also didn‘t understand what was going on there. I mean, The Muppet Show was for adults and even in the German dubbing I didn‘t get all the jokes. But I was attracted by it because of Kermit.
Well some fun facts about The Muppet Show:
As far as I remember, the show was produced in England and not in America because they had money left and had to spend it in GB. So they produced the show there. There were two different versions, one for US and one for GB. There were special numbers that weren‘t broadcast in the US but in Europe only. Before The Muppet Show the Muppets were part of Saturday Night Live and other comedy shows.
Well, the Mupppets are the cause for me beeing so attracted to puppet comedy. In Germany we had a kids show called „Hallo Spencer“, I think it was also shown in the US so maybe you remember it, too. This show was called „The German Muppet Show“ even though it didn‘t have the same quality. In my opinion it was more like a German version of the Sesamestreet because it had a slight educational approach. In difference to the Sesamestreet Hallo Spencer always tried to teach kids how to treat others right. So it was more emotional and social education and not school education.
Of course we had our own German Sesamestreet with our own characters. In the early 90ies they put in a character called „Leonie Löwenherz“ (Leonie Lionheart). She was part of the Sesamestreet for only a short period. Later they created a show only featuring this character. Her own show was really close to „ALF“. A man, living on his own, receives a big crate and in it is Leonie, a talking biped walking female lion. Of course they become friends and the man (I forgot the name and I‘m to lazy to look it up) doesn‘t want to let her go, so nobody must know that she is living there. Later her brothers also joined the show. Even though the character origined from the Sesamestreet, the show was produced by the same company that also did „Hallo Spencer“. You can see that also in the character design.
Why am talking about all this when I wanna talk about The Muppet Show? Well, Germany always had a certain problem with comics, cartoon and puppets. Everything that was drawn, animated and played by puppets automatically was or even still is supposed to be for kids only. The Muppet Show and their movies were the first and maybe only format also suitable for adults.
But my fan being for puppeteering doesn‘t stop at the Muppets. First of all I am a huge fan of everything done by Jim Henson. He did two great movies that used puppets instead of human actors. The first was „The Dark Crystal“. An epic fantasy movie where Jim Henson tried to create a believable eco-system with own plants and animals. All characters are played by puppets, no matter if they used hand puppets or full body costumes, there is not a single human in this movie. The second one was „Labyrinth“ which mixed up human actors and puppets. In fact this still works today. AAAAAAND: David Bowie is in it playing the role of the Goblin King.
Later I found out that Jim Henson and his Creature Shop also did the puppets for many favorite movies of my childhood. Gremlins, Flinstones and the Turtles. Fun fact: they also used the puppets they used in the puppet sitcom „Dinosaurs“ in this awful movie „T-Rex“… I mean, Whoopi Goldberg wanted to quit acting in this movie because she thought it was too stupid. Well it is!
I never was too fond about the Fraggles. Maybe because I didn‘t had the chance to see it that often when it ran on German TV. And I missed a lot of the stuff the Jim Henson Company did in the 1990ies. There was another educational show for TV which was about animals hosted by an polar bear and a skunk which was by Jim Henson. I thought it was stupid, even after I found out that it was made by the Jim Henson Company. There were more show like the „Big Bear in the Blue House“ or so… I don‘t remember it well. What I saw of it seemed really cheesy to me, mainly because it was meant for kids in the age of 2 – 5 or so.
I also loved a show I saw on Nickelodeon which was not made by Jim Henson. It was called „Allegra’s Window“ or „Allegras Freunde“ (= friends) in Germany. There were also as many colorful and funny characters as there were in the Sesamestreet.
Seeing it now makes me clear that it was really… childish, I didn‘t have it in mind that childish… I was like 11 when this came up so I was much over the average age of the target group.
In Germany we also have grown-up puppet comedy. My favorite puppet-comedian is Martin Reinl. Well there is this guy with the mole… but I don‘t really understand why everybody likes this guy so much. Back to Martin Reinl. He is if you wanna say so the German Jim Henson. He uses the same kind of dull humor the Muppet Show used and puts it into the modern days. He even used some of the numbers of the Muppet Show. There was one number on the Muppets where there were two monsters. One monster starts to take itself to pieces and it was singing something like „You can have this or that of me, cause you already have my heart“. Martin Reinl used this number and I guess even the same song with a puppet called Tofu. It also disassembled itself and putting its parts into a pot. Martin Reinl also did kids shows. My favorite show of him is Haselhörnchen, (can be translated with „Hazel Squirrel“). His best friend is the „Jammerlappen“ a depressed whipe. First Haselhörnchen had only short subjects in a TV magazine for kids where it was one for about 5 minutes and it was sort of co-hosting the show. Some years ago it got its own comedy show with episodes of about 15 minutes. I think this show had like 8 episodes and was not continued unfortunatly. But it contained the same dull humor I already loved in the Muppet Show.
Here is Martin Reinl:
And here’s the original from the Muppet Show
Aaaand here’s the showreel of his production company:
Well, I still have to watch the new „Muppet Movie“ (just to come back to main topic of this post). And I want to get some of the old Muppet-movies on DVD. First of all „Muppets from Space“ which is sooooooooo funny. „Gonzo, build a Jaccuzzi and we will come!!!“ *rofl* and I still wanna have the „Muppet Family Christmas“ which also features many characters of the Sesamestreet and the Fraggles.
So if you are into puppet comedy too, don‘t hesitate watching the Muppets or any of the stuff I mentioned here. Even the Sesamestreet is really funny from time to time, even in Germany!!!
Follow the little green KERMIT!!!