Yesterday I posted my picks for numbers 10 to 6… now here are the Top 5!
5. Swedish Chef
What separates the Swedish Chef from the other characters who didn’t make it into the Top 5? Is it the fact that he exuberantly and gracelessly destroys things (including his ingredients) left and right while cooking? The fact that he speaks something similar to gibberish but with a mock Swedish accent? Is it the mustache? Actually, in my mind, it’s the fact that he has live human hands. The rest is just gravy. Also there’s the recurring gag that if he is not being a Chef, he is inevitably running a projector. (“The Muppet Movie”, “The Muppets Take Manhattan”, and “MuppetVision 3D” all show this to be the case!)
4. Cantus the Minstrel
What’s this!? A show with Muppets that is NOT the Muppet Show??? But yes! Many Muppets aficionados may remember Fraggle Rock, a Jim Henson Co. production from the 1980s. Jim was heavily involved behind the scenes, but rarely performed – he was not one of the regulars, but he did have two recurring characters (not in more than a handful of episodes each, as I recall). Of the two, Convincing John and Cantus, I prefer Cantus… he’s sage, laid back, full of “implacable calm”, and also delivers sage, laid back, implacably calm verbal smackdowns whenever the Fraggles require it. 😀 In addition, his songs are usually really beautiful.
The other not-The-Muppet-Show TV series that Jiim was really heavily involved with: Sesame Street. AS IF I could not have Ernie in the top 3! I knew Ernie before I knew ANY of Jim’s other Muppets (although I know I was aware enough to hear Kermit and Ernie sounded the same). I’ve always thought of Ernie as a friend. He was like somebody I just knew liked me. He’s also, I realized as I got older, a merciless prankster and total pest to his friends (or at least, to Bert). But he gets away with it because he’s always so happy!
Rowlf the Dog is my number 1 Muppet. I love his voice, his delivery, his piano-playing, and his fluffy fur. I also love it when he meets other dogs who can’t talk and he communicates in Dog. “Oh yeah, Woof Woof! Yeah, Bark Bark!” Rowlf, like many of Jim’s best characters, is kind of laid-back and cool, not prone to stressing out. Because he’s not among the higher-strung characters, he gets a lot of “reaction” lines to other characters who ARE a bit more… insane… and he plays off of them really well. But for me, Rowlf’s highest moment is still way back in “The Muppet Movie” when he befriends Kermit and Jim Henson sings a duet with himself, “I Hope That Something Better Comes Along”. 😀
“Stay away from women… that’s my motto.”
“But I can’t.”
“Neither can I. That’s my trouble.”
Rowlf is a very “adult” character, which is not to say that he’s profane or inappropriate for kids, only that he follows an adult sensibility. And, well, he does get away with a few risqué lines here and there. But you don’t notice because you’re just sitting there thinking, “I wish MY dog could play the piano!”
Even though Rowlf is my own personal #1, I cannot fake it. The real life truly true number 1 HAS to be Kermit. I don’t really totally subscribe to the idea that Kermit IS (was?) Jim Henson, but regardless, he came to be the most strongly associated with Jim and there’s clearly an identification there. Kermit was initially just another odd little puppet created for “Sam and Friends” in 1955 and over the years ended up making at least an introduction or something in nearly all of the Muppet productions up through the mid-80s. He never appeared in “Fraggle Rock” but he interacted with the Fraggles anyway, in “A Muppet Family Christmas”. Kermit is the “brand” Muppet, the leader, the top banana, the boss; he holds together chaos and does it with, at least, some semblance of understanding. And what Kermit really wants is not to be rich and famous – he understands that other people want that and he’s happy to help them, but it’s not his thing. He wants to make millions of people happy, and I can’t believe that Jim Henson would’ve given that as Kermit’s motivation if it were not, at heart, what he really wanted as well.
Thanks, Kermit and Jim, for making me happy. 🙂