God, I loved that Muppet
August 8, 2018 6:55 AM   Subscribe

“I Can’t Stop Laughing” in which living legend and EGOT winner Rita Moreno tells the story of her memorable performance of “Fever” accompanied by Animal and the Electric Mayhen on “The Muppet Show”.
posted by chrchr (50 comments total) 74 users marked this as a favorite
 
It's a brilliant sketch. Moreno was on the older-kids Sesame Street spinoff The Electric Company at about the same time and as a member of its demographic I had no idea she was more famous outside the show, unlike the other players. She was a born Muppet straight-woman.

(EC had Morgan Freeman! too, but this was before he he became MORGAN FREEMAN)
posted by Quindar Beep at 7:11 AM on August 8 [13 favorites]


You have it backwards, Quindar Beep. MORGAN FREEMAN is the guy from EC, who just happens to be in a bunch of movies.
posted by Melismata at 7:29 AM on August 8 [16 favorites]


I love this sketch, I love Rita Moreno, and this cheered me right up today.
posted by desuetude at 7:36 AM on August 8 [4 favorites]


MORGAN FREEMAN is the guy from EC, who just happens to be in a bunch of movies.

By the same token, I would also argue that Spider-Man is another EC cast member who went on to become a huge movie star.
posted by Strange Interlude at 7:41 AM on August 8 [20 favorites]


As a child of the 60s/70s, whenever I see Rita Moreno, I always hear in my mind, "HEY YOU GUUUYYYS!" Always.

A delightful post, thank you.
posted by corvikate at 7:42 AM on August 8 [27 favorites]


This is great, and the fact that this appearance was the one that made Moreno an EGOT winner is even sweeter.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 7:43 AM on August 8 [18 favorites]


Great post, great video, but I take exception to this: "There’s this sex bomb in front, and this, this creature—I don’t know what else to call him—this fuzzy, violent, nasty creature in back who only got pleasure out of making people and other Muppets unhappy."

I never felt as though Animal enjoyed making other people unhappy. I always thought he was just irrepressible, like a kid. Sure, he couldn't control his outbursts but they weren't malicious. Have I been misinterpreting Animal all this time?
posted by lyssabee at 7:47 AM on August 8 [37 favorites]


Animal wasn't malicious; he was a force of nature. I always pictured him more like a monstrous Harpo Marx with gigantic eyebrows; in constant motion, chasing women, beating drums, expending all available energy.
posted by delfin at 7:57 AM on August 8 [40 favorites]


There's maybe a dozen people in the world who can unironically describe themselves as "sex bomb", and Rita Moreno is four of them.
posted by Etrigan at 8:09 AM on August 8 [64 favorites]


As a child of the 60s/70s, whenever I see Rita Moreno, I always hear in my mind, "HEY YOU GUUUYYYS!" Always.

If you haven't watched the new One Day At A Time, you really should.
posted by asterix at 8:12 AM on August 8 [3 favorites]


Apologies if it’s common knowledge in this thread, but I think Animal was based pretty not-loosely on the Who’s Keith Moon, no?
posted by Barack Spinoza at 8:16 AM on August 8 [10 favorites]




So does this imply that Animal understands Spanish?
posted by Space Coyote at 8:24 AM on August 8


Or, like a dog or cat, he understands tone. Which Moreno's lines have in triplicate.
posted by Quindar Beep at 8:27 AM on August 8 [12 favorites]


So does this imply that Animal understands Spanish?

I think Animal's understanding of even English is probably limited. He's like a dog...he tracks non verbal cues and a handful of words.
posted by Ipsifendus at 8:28 AM on August 8 [8 favorites]


I've lost track of how many times I've watched this clip over the years, and it still makes me laugh every time.
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:40 AM on August 8 [4 favorites]


Does she conflate Animal with Oscar the Grouch there?
posted by humboldt32 at 8:49 AM on August 8 [1 favorite]


I think Animal's understanding of even English is probably limited. He's like a dog...he tracks non verbal cues and a handful of words.

Which makes him just like every other drummer.
posted by delfin at 8:50 AM on August 8 [27 favorites]


Another classic moment: Harry Belafonte & Animal Drum Solo
posted by Capricorn13 at 8:51 AM on August 8 [11 favorites]


I think Animal's understanding of even English is probably limited. He's like a dog...he tracks non verbal cues and a handful of words.

This is incorrect, because Animal obviously understands context, and is also a genius with communication difficulties. There's a ton of times in the Muppet Show/Sesame Street canon where Animal saves the day with a plan.

Also, I seem to be remembering a moment in one of the Muppet Show movies where he speaks or understands Spanish. In addition to The Muppets and Sesame Street using Spanish and other languages as educational and multilingual tools, Spanish has definitely been a trope and kind of in joke with the Dr. Teeth band members and it seems to be an intentional play on 60s/70s psyche rock tropes where there's a sort of subtle double head nod that goes something like: Wild hippy psyche rock band -> Spanish band members and friends and connections -> Oh hell yes we smoke marijuana.

Granted I grew up in/around a surfer/stoner/rock culture that definitely made these tropes easier to see and understand, so YMMV.

Anyway, Animal isn't dumb. He's just extremely enthusiastic.
posted by loquacious at 8:51 AM on August 8 [10 favorites]


And don't forget Animal and Buddy Rich.
posted by Melismata at 8:52 AM on August 8 [6 favorites]


I watched The Ritz when it came out, on the strength of Rita Moreno, from the Electric Company. Excuse the small derail, but how did people come out of the 70's with their homophobia intact?
posted by evilDoug at 8:52 AM on August 8 [1 favorite]


Animal is destructive, but innocently so. It's not his fault things aren't sturdy enough to withstand drumming.
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:55 AM on August 8 [12 favorites]


This is one of my favorite Muppet routines, and possibly one of the best ones ever, outside of maybe pigs & penguins singing "Lullaby of Broadway," or pigs & penguins singing "Hawaiian War Chant."
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:03 AM on August 8 [3 favorites]


So I googled it and apparently I’m wrong:
It is a popular legend that Animal was inspired by Keith Moon, the wild drummer of the Who. Mick Fleetwood of Fleetwood Mac is also sometimes cited as the inspiration for Animal. However, there is no evidence in the original sketches for the character that suggest that he was based on anybody in particular.

Three of the other members of the Electric Mayhem were created by Muppet designer Michael K. Frith, and the sketches reproduced in the 1981 book Of Muppets and Men show that they were based on famous musicians. Dr. Teeth is a cross between Dr. John and Elton John; Sgt. Floyd Pepper is based on the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper album, and the original concept for Janice was a skinny, long-haired male character based on Mick Jagger. Animal, on the other hand, was designed by Jim Henson, and the rough sketch (also seen in Of Muppets and Men) doesn't appear to be related to any real musician.

However, it's not surprising that Animal is often compared with famous drummers -- as Buddy Rich said in his Muppet Show episode, "All drummers are animals." Animal himself considers Rich one of his musical influences, along with Gene Krupa, Keith Moon of The Who, and Ginger Baker of Cream and Blind Faith. The actual drumming for Animal was performed by Ronnie Verrell, a veteran drummer and member of Jack Parnell's house band for The Muppet Show.
posted by Barack Spinoza at 9:20 AM on August 8 [11 favorites]


Some things just never stop being funny no matter how many times you see them.

This is one of those things.
posted by Pouteria at 9:21 AM on August 8 [7 favorites]


I'll digress a bit about Buddy Rich.
As far as band leaders of the time, Buddy Rich was a grade-A asshole. Rumor has it that if you were in his band and he didn't like your playing, he would play a hard drum solo on your horn out of spite.
But, I will point to this recording of Groovin' Hard. I've played this chart dozens of times (trumpet). It is brutal. At 3:01, there is a saxophone sectional which is all written out across the full section and goes on for a page and a half. It takes hours of work to get that tight. Then begins the trumpet equivalent of hiking up Mt. Washington. It never ends, it just keeps getting higher and louder. It was one of those charts where I kept a cup of ice water to hold a spare mouthpiece to switch to after to help bring down the swelling.
Oh and Rita Moreno? Awesome.
posted by plinth at 9:27 AM on August 8 [12 favorites]


Both Animal and Beaker hint at deeper sides, but it's presumably for humorous contrast. Of the Inarticulate Trio, I think only the Swedish Chef has stayed 100% true. Link to another *ahem* evergreen sketch.
posted by Quindar Beep at 9:57 AM on August 8 [6 favorites]


Watching “the inarticulate trio” sketch above, it is hard to believe this was a real show that was on television.
posted by chrchr at 10:03 AM on August 8 [2 favorites]


Watching “the inarticulate trio” sketch above, it is hard to believe this was a real show that was on television.

Also clearly the template for SNL's recurring Tonto, Tarzan and Frankenstein sketch.
posted by maxsparber at 10:12 AM on August 8 [2 favorites]


We rewatched the whole Muppet Show a couple of years back, and there's some crazy stuff. I remember an upbeat musical number that was about a serial killer trying to find places to keep the bodies hidden when his new victims came to visit.
posted by tavella at 10:58 AM on August 8 [1 favorite]


I remember an upbeat musical number that was about a serial killer trying to find places to keep the bodies hidden when his new victims came to visit.

That sounds like you’re referring to Marisa Berensen - You're Always Welcome at Our House
posted by Quinbus Flestrin at 11:36 AM on August 8 [6 favorites]


My kinda woman.
**faints**

This is also referenced in the article, and is also a wonderfully entertaining bit o' theatre
Classic Sesame Street - Song: "There's a Hole in the Bucket"
posted by DigDoug at 11:37 AM on August 8 [5 favorites]


Once again, that version of "Hole in the Bucket" is THE DEFINITIVE VERSION, the later Harry Belafonte one is just an imitation. My sister and I, when asking questions of one another, would often end our sentences with his "Hmm? Huh?".

God, what a great time to be alive.
posted by Melismata at 11:46 AM on August 8 [5 favorites]


I saw this when it aired. I was six. What's amazing about it is how well the mechanics of it worked even though literally all the meaning of the song went whooshing over my head. The kids can laugh at Animal and her reactions sell that, and the parents will laugh at Rita Moreno as she fights the chaos. So good.
posted by fedward at 11:48 AM on August 8 [3 favorites]


Yes, that's it, Quinbus! Thanks.
posted by tavella at 11:49 AM on August 8


That sounds like you’re referring to Marisa Berensen - You're Always Welcome at Our House

Shel Silverstein song.
posted by maxsparber at 12:20 PM on August 8


For more Great Moments in Animal, see OKGO drummer vs Animal staring contest.
posted by bartleby at 12:34 PM on August 8 [7 favorites]


Since everyone else has Animal covered, and it's the Bernstein centennial, here's America.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 2:03 PM on August 8 [2 favorites]


I was a teenager when this aired, and a drummer, and I felt gratified and validated in how Animal's portrayal of the drumming life really got its heart and nuance.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 3:04 PM on August 8 [4 favorites]


I love this interview and this segment from The Muppet Show and I love Rita Moreno in general (and you have all watched One Day at a Time, yes?).

The Muppet Show is such a delight. I wouldn't say the humor is subtle, exactly, but at the same time, there's something so sneaky and playful about where the "jokes" actually are in the sketches. There's so many levels to humor, but it's always makes the sure the audience is in on it.
posted by darksong at 4:59 PM on August 8 [1 favorite]


Of the Inarticulate Trio, I think only the Swedish Chef has stayed 100% true.

Did you know The Swedish Chef is married? Look at recent appearances; he's got a wedding band on. Lord only knows who (or what) his spouse is, though.
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:09 PM on August 8 [2 favorites]


That Rita Moreno / Bernstein / Muppet Show link is great.

I offer Madeline Kahn / Bernstein's 50th special production of Candide*/Muppet Show S02E09

*IIRC, this was Kahn's first appearance on B'way.
posted by mikelieman at 6:18 PM on August 8 [2 favorites]


One of the funniest moments on one of the funniest shows, and this interview makes it even better. So much talent.

Animal is a Chaos Muppet.
posted by Mchelly at 6:35 AM on August 9 [1 favorite]


A chaotic neutral muppet.
posted by farlukar at 7:21 AM on August 9 [1 favorite]


The Inarticulate Trio Danny Boy skit is an accurate representation of my uncles at every wake. I share that with the family every St Patty’s Day.
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 9:51 AM on August 9 [2 favorites]


What sells the Danny Boy skit for me is Animal's reaction to Beaker's performance.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 11:34 AM on August 9 [1 favorite]


What sells the Danny Boy skit for me is Animal's reaction to Beaker's performance.

Gods, yes. Beaker hits that high note and Animal just recoils in alarm. It's beautiful.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:13 PM on August 9


Plus there's the gentle, consoling pat that Beaker gives Animal at one point, so overcome by emotion are they. Humor both broad and subtle.
posted by Quindar Beep at 2:04 PM on August 9 [2 favorites]


I maintain that Animal's best line ever was in the Great Muppet Caper.

Fozzie: Peanut butter?

Floyd: Animal ate it!

Animal: Saaaah reeee!
posted by hearthpig at 5:13 PM on August 9 [1 favorite]


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