Things We've Learned from The Muppets

It seems appropriate that Jim Henson’s legendary creation, the Muppets, got their start on children’s programming and public television because they have a lot to teach the world. Not only did they spearhead the low-rent show Sam and Friends on WRC-TV in Washington DC, they were also instrumental in making Sesame Street a primary education powerhouse.

But even when the Muppets branched out from their roots to land in their variety show and later major motion pictures, they still had a lot to teach us. Like many folks out there, I grew up with the Muppets, and these are some of the most important lessons I have taken away over the years.

10. The show must go on.

The run-down Muppet theater was a fledgling enterprise run by Kermit the Frog and his merry band of performers. Unfortunately for Kermit and the gang, he was constantly fighting against budgetary constraints, building disrepair and miserly ownership (which did have the fortune of bringing the owner’s nephew Scooter into the fold). But no matter what fate threw at the Muppets, they managed to put together a bang-up show each week… even if Crazy Harry took advantage of the situation…

9. Love is blind.

Forget falling in love, Romeo and Juliet style, with someone from the other side of the tracks. Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy fall in love with each other from opposite sides of biology. They’re not just from different species; they’re from completely different scientific classes (Kermit from class Amphibia and Piggy from class Mammalia). We humans have more genetically in common with a platypus than Kermit does with Piggy. But they don’t care. They’re in love, and that’s all that matters…

8. No one should be above making fun of themselves.

As much as The Muppet Show featured some fantastic guest stars and brilliant performers, everyone was game to have a little fun with their image and reputation. The beauty of the Muppets is they mixed tender and sweet with self-deprecating humor. For every “Turn the World Around” musical number with Harry Belefonte, there’s big name stars making complete fools of themselves. Case in point, check out Mark Hammil guesting on The Muppet Show in 1980 while at the top of his game during the release of The Empire Strikes Back. Yeah, he’s probably as high as a kite in this scene, but it still showed off his sense of humor…

7. Real artists aren’t always appreciated.

Before Gonzo became the George Clooney of chickens, he began his career as an out-of-the-box performance artist. Even against the ridiculous backdrop of The Muppet Show, he was never seen for the artistic genius that he is today. Back in 1976, this sad-eyed performer was often booed off the stage by those he dismissed as “yokels” and “philistines”…

6. Great songs don’t have to make any sense.

Have you ever caught yourself humming a catchy tune, or even singing it, and suddenly realize you have no idea what it’s about. Whether it’s misunderstood lyrics like Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.” or Green Day’s “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life),” music is often more about the feeling it brings up than the actual message of the lyrics. And sometimes nonsensical lyrics are all you need to get across a certain feeling. With the revival of the Muppets and the new film, this song has come back into the mainstream. I dare you to not be humming this for days after listening to it…

Check out the final five on the next page…


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