Editor’s Note: As part of our week-long Guide to The Muppets, Gwen Reyes takes a look at one of the funniest, most intimate and lovely scenes from the 1979 classic.
Setting the Scene:
1979 was a pivotal year for cinema. Not only did modern classics like Alien, Apocalypse Now, and Caligula (!!) make their way into local movieplexes, but in the summer a little green frog and his lovable band of merry men (and pig) leaped from American homes to the big screen. Thanks entirely to the popularity of The Muppet Show Jim Henson’s iconic Muppets were in high demand. Considering how Hollywood obsessed Kermit and company were on their TV series, it only made sense the first film in a long line of Muppet features would be about the crew’s showbiz aspirations.
Intentionally self-aware, the film begins with Kermit (voiced by Henson) introducing the final cut of The Muppet Movie in a private studio screening room for all the Muppets we know in love. The camera bounces around from face to face, stopping at everyone from Fozzie Bear (voice by Frank Oz) to Miss Piggy (Oz). Kermit explains to his nephew Robin (voiced by Jerry Nelson) that the film is a loose adaptation of how the Muppets met and made their way to Hollywood—read: meta moment if we ever saw one. And just as Hare Krishna jokes become a running gag anytime says they are looking for direction, The Muppet Movie’s self-consciousness allows the audience to feel as if they too are a part of the Muppets.
As the film-within-the-film begins, we see Kermit sitting on a lily-pad singing “Rainbow Connection,” (a song so synonymous with loneliness it’s easy to know why Julie Klaussner calls Kermit the original hipster in her memoir I Don’t Really Care About Your Band. More on that later this week) whose deep contemplation is interrupted by Dom DeLuise’s agent character Bernie after the man informs Kermit to head to Hollywood to get his big break. So he does just that, picking up future best bud, and Studebaker enthusiast, Fozzie Bear, future girlfriend Miss Piggy, and the ultimate weirdo Gonzo (voiced by Dave Goelz) on his way.
Watch the Clip:
What’s to Love:
In a rare moment for Kermit, he asks Miss Piggy to dinner. She is of course over the moon and gussies herself up for the fancy dinner-date, arriving a tad late to find the object of her affection waiting nervously for his porcine lady. She saddles in right next to him, causing the already awkward frog to feel even more awkward while he pulls himself away from her and calls their waiter over. Steve Martin, as a strangely irate server, proceeds to pop open their $.99 champagne (“it better be good, it cost 99 cents”), pass the bottle cap over for the gentlefrog to sniff, and even adds straws to the golden liquid. Because that makes it classy, you know.
I remember watching this scene over and over as a child until the VHS broke right before that scene. I was completely obsessed with the round champagne glasses, the sniffing of a bottle cap to test the beverage’s freshness, and even adding a straw to help the bubbles get to one’s head faster. I wanted to be Miss Piggy, enjoying a lovely, intimate moment with the man of my dreams, who was so considerate as to order a bottle of the restaurant’s finest cheap bubbly (yes, low standards even at 5 years old). But watching this scene again as an adult makes me laugh even harder, thanks entirely to Martin. He is unnecessarily angry, determined to make the moment terrible for the new lovers, and cannot get out of the scene fast enough. He knows how to play up a Muppet cameo, and any actor who followed in his footsteps had a lot to live up to.
Why This Stands Out:
Well, I am a lover of fancy champagne glasses and uninterested boys, so this scene clearly showcases everything a girl like me could fancy. Also, Steve Martin should always wear those short UPS-esque shorts in every role he takes on. It should be contracted like the Sam Rockwell Dance Clause. Who do I write a letter to about that?
The Muppet Movie is made up of many, many memorable scenes, but this moment in particular is the perfect combination of intimate, hilarious, and risqué thanks to Miss Piggy’s affinity for too much champagne. Do yourself a solid, and re-watch this scene just to see the queen pig almost fall out of her chair from too much drinky-drink. She really is a role-model for all modern women.
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