Mummenschanz on the Muppets
April 24, 2007 9:31 AM   Subscribe

Mummenschanz on the Muppets Footage of swiss mime troop, Mummenschanz... [2, 3, 4]
posted by drezdn (37 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Awesome link! I remember seeing this as a kid! I always wondered who these guys were.
posted by yeloson at 9:34 AM on April 24, 2007

They also appeared on Northern Exposure, right?
posted by sourwookie at 9:37 AM on April 24, 2007

God damn, I loved me some Mummenschanz, although to articulate it properly I would have to hang rolls of toilet paper from my head and clamor around on the ground like a praying mantis.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:38 AM on April 24, 2007 [2 favorites]

I actually had a chance to see them in person once. Distinctly cooler that way...
posted by Samizdata at 9:42 AM on April 24, 2007

There is something uniquely awesome about these guys. I have wished that I could write and draw like they move. This is based solely on the strength of their Muppet Show appearance and, if I remember right, a few segments on Sesame Street.

Imagine: Mummenschanz were once on Sesame Street! That, above all else, illustrates how far the show has fallen now that we are deep in the Age Of Elmo.
posted by JHarris at 9:44 AM on April 24, 2007

Evil evil evil.
posted by mckenney at 9:49 AM on April 24, 2007

mckenney is right. Mummenschantz was complete Nightmare Fuel for this little Muppet fan.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:52 AM on April 24, 2007

I don't remember this on either the Muppets or Sesame Street. It's pretty cool, but it doesn't hold a candle to their clocks, army knives and chocolate misses.
posted by DU at 9:54 AM on April 24, 2007

God, they freaked me the fuck out as a kid, and even still, I couldn't watch more than two seconds of it. All the little hairs on the back of my neck are standing up.
posted by padraigin at 9:57 AM on April 24, 2007

OMG I love Mummenschanz! I seem to be the only one except you other six who remember them though. I saw them perform live in Poughkeepsie, NY when I was a kid and they used to be on all the talk shows in the early 70s but now whenever I make a reference to them I get blank stares. I wish they'd come back.

Obligatory "I hate mimes but Mummenshanz are different" codifier.
posted by spicynuts at 9:59 AM on April 24, 2007

Wow, that was awesome. It's classical entertainment is what it is.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:06 AM on April 24, 2007

God I loved Fruzengladje!
posted by OmieWise at 10:08 AM on April 24, 2007

It's not so much mime as full body puppetry.

Mummenschanz is still around - the 3x11 show toured Australia last year. They just finished Switzerland - maybe a US show is in the future?
posted by zamboni at 10:09 AM on April 24, 2007

I remember them from Sesame Street and the Muppet Show as well - loved them. It's cool that this sort of avant-garde(ish) performance art was available to kids via mainstream TV programs. I get the sense that that is not the case today - although it's been so long since I watched Sesame St. and the like that I could be wrong.
posted by rtha at 10:15 AM on April 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

I saw them a long time ago when they were touring the US. They were equally as amazing live as on the Muppet Show (no surprise).

The creativity of movement is amazing and inspiring. I couldn't figure out how they even did half of the things they did.

I hope they do another US tour, I'd go in a heartbeat.
posted by ugf at 10:15 AM on April 24, 2007

padraigin, mckenney, you guys are on it: these folks scared the WHOOPSIES out of me when I was a kid. I'd hide under the couch cushions and tremble ... but never turn off the TV.
posted by chinese_fashion at 10:24 AM on April 24, 2007

I saw them live as a kid. They freaked me out. Traumatized for life, I tell ya!
posted by miss lynnster at 10:37 AM on April 24, 2007

Nightmare Fuel??? When I was three or four years old, these were the kinda guys who fought the boogey men away for me. I had an overactive imagination at that age.

The 'monsters' on Sesame Street taught me at such a young age that some monsters are bad but most monsters are just different and once you get to know them, even Oscar's not all that bad really.

Kids programming today is just trying to evolve to accomodate the needs and wants of children today, but there are other commercial and governmental influences that may or may not be warranted. That's pretty much the way it's always been.

I don't know if Levar Burton is a direct substitute for Fred Rogers, but he does his best in his own way. It's not better or worse. Just different... and yet not so much.

In this more conservative atmosphere, Mummenschanz might not play as well today as it did on Sesame Street or The Muppet Show. Then again, Blue Man Group has done relatively well for itself, and it's essentially a rip-off of Mummenschanz with more effects and a better sound track.

The more things change...
posted by ZachsMind at 10:40 AM on April 24, 2007 [2 favorites]

Like others, I remember seeing them as a kid (possibly live, possibly on the Muppets or Sesame Street) and being creeped out by them.

As an adult, I once walked up to my wife with two rolls of toilet paper held up to my ears, struck a pose, and declared, "Mummenschanz!" She gave me the blankest of looks and walked away.
posted by Joe Invisible at 11:09 AM on April 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

I guess I see now where Thomas Dolby got the idea for this video.

I remember seeing Mummenschanz on the Muppet Show after having viewed one of the links. If you had asked me about them before today I'd have drawn a total blank though.
posted by inthe80s at 11:19 AM on April 24, 2007

The Mummenschanz episode is one of my absolute favorites from The Muppet Show. "Human puppetry" is right...they fit in so well that their segments could almost have been used just as well as an abstract insert in any of the other episodes. And the bit with the clay or putty faces is awesome.

I'll go ahead and defend Sesame Street's present iteration (full disclosure: I worked on Season 37 and have done stuff for them here and there for the last couple of years). It's definitely a different show than the one I grew up watching, at least particularly in terms of format. The shows no longer have that free-wheeling anything can happen vibe as they have a much more standardized format. But they still pull in plenty of interesting guests, have appealing characters, strong and positive social messages, good educational value, and continue to get more polished and technically impressive (though I acknowledge that I personally dig some of the rougher edges and technical imperfections of the older shows). It is nearly forty years old now, and the field of children's television is MUCH more cluttered and full of choice than it used to be (many of them taking their production methodology directly from the Sesame Street model) so it's now just one show among many struggling to stay relevant and continue to be effective as education as well as entertainment. The fact that they can afford to produce 26 shows a year compared to over a hundred a decade or two ago probably says something about this situation. And while Elmo became a superstar around the time I was in junior high or high school, and was thus of a prime age to roll my eyes in disgust and hate him, having seen him interacting with kids in person I really do find him charming. Kids love him and respond to him, and while he's used quite a lot on the show, it is not the all-Elmo-all-the-time progam that many people seem to think it is. In any case, sorry for going on so long just to throw in my two cents that whether you care to watch the show yourself or not, they deserve some credit for trying, admirably though imperfectly, to maintain the spirit of the show as it was while responding to the pressures of today.

And to get back to Mummenschanz for a moment, I wish they'd come to New York. I wanna see 'em something fierce.
posted by Nathaniel W at 11:25 AM on April 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

Does anyone remember the commercials that used to play on WPIX (channel 11) in New York during the late 70s-early 80s for Mummenschanz at the Winter Garden theatre?
posted by horsemuth at 11:41 AM on April 24, 2007

My posting history shows that I am a friend to bugs, spiders, squids, squamous fiends from the deep, mimes, and various other "creepy-crawlies." I tell you now, unashamed, that those toiletpaper-faced freaks give me the howling fantods.

Evil, pure and simple, by way of the toiletries aisle.
posted by lekvar at 11:59 AM on April 24, 2007

Wasn't so much scared by this episode, as I constantly confused it with the one that guest-starred Shields and Yarnell.
posted by evilcolonel at 12:17 PM on April 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

Nathaniel W, it's not the anything goes atmosphere, it's the sense that the show is really clever and as entertaining for adults as for kids. It seems like all kids shows take the Barney Road these days.

Sesame Street used to stand opposed to that.
posted by JHarris at 12:23 PM on April 24, 2007

Hot damn, I love these guys.
posted by dreamsign at 12:43 PM on April 24, 2007

JHarris, I don't think that's right. At the very least, I believe Barney is something of an anathema over at Sesame, so I can't imagine they'd be consciously emulating that.

The guest stars and the parodies are as prevalent now as ever, and they are intended to be incentive for parents to watch the show with their kids. The show is still very much designed for that sort of experience, though I understand that research is showing that it rarely, if ever, happens much anymore. They still include parodies of shows pre-schoolers probably don't care TOO much about (24, Six Feet Under, Desperate Housewives, etc.), they still have buddy comedy sketches with Ernie and Bert, they still include song parodies and appearances by famous figures from all walks (from Kofi Annan to Amy Sedaris), and they still get in some good zingers every now and then. And I don't think they're alone. In fact, I'd suggest that what they do stands in less relief against the rest of television because the idea of "dual-level writing" is plenty popular. You may have have watched more Barney and Sesame Street than I have recently, and thus might have a more informed opinion, but to my mind their's a very wide gulf between what the two shows do.
posted by Nathaniel W at 12:49 PM on April 24, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh hell yes! Thank you so much for posting this.
posted by zusty at 1:22 PM on April 24, 2007

thanks for posting this, it brings back fond memories. as a kid growing up in nyc, i remember they had a long running show at the bijou theatre at the end of the 70's but unfortunately i never got to see them.

their official site says there is a new tour planned for the summer of 2007, i hope this means they are coming back to the states.
posted by cazoo at 3:10 PM on April 24, 2007

Thanks for posting. For the record, I too was absolutely TERRIFIED of Mummenschanz as a child. I would run screaming at the mention of them.
posted by condour75 at 3:25 PM on April 24, 2007

Does anyone remember the commercials that used to play on WPIX (channel 11) in New York during the late 70s-early 80s for Mummenschanz at the Winter Garden theatre?

YES! I also remember: PIX PIX PIX PIX PIX PIX PIX!!
posted by spicynuts at 6:17 PM on April 24, 2007

I watched that episode with my 7 year old son last week on DVD and was surprised to see him genuinely blown away. And that's no mean feat, given the amount of entertainment choices the average 7 year old has these days. Having worked my way through two seasons of The Muppet Show so far, I do have to say that it doesn't age that well overall. I'm still hoping for someone to make a show like Peewee's Playhouse now.
posted by tighttrousers at 7:07 PM on April 24, 2007

Side note... I was one of the only females on the staff of my college newspaper, and the guys were all into Dennis Miller at the time. Over an over again they used to quote his droll oververbiaged punchlines, apropo of nothing, until it was like nails on a chalkboard. The number one Dennis Miller quote I remember them saying to eachother was something like, "Loosen up, Mummenschanz, get a limbo stick!" which bugged me tenfold because I knew for a fact that these Dennis Miller posers didn't have a clue what Mummenschanz even was.

To this day, I have NO FREAKING CLUE what that was the punchline to. Can anyone tell me? I've always assumed the joke probably wasn't funny. Was it? No, right?
posted by miss lynnster at 7:41 PM on April 24, 2007

According to an entry on Retrojunk, miss lynnster, it was a "riff on bad dancers":

I had previously seen reruns of his 'SNL" work on Comedy Central and I knew that he had his own show on HBO, but this was the first time I saw his work first-hand. This was one of the most hilarious tapes I've ever seen. I really enjoyed his riff on bad dancers:

"'Ain't no mountain high enough, ain't no river low enough'. Hey pal, AIN'T NO FUCKIN' DANCEFLOOR WIDE ENOUGH! Loosen up, Mummenschanz, get a limbo stick!"

posted by dreamsign at 3:42 AM on April 25, 2007

Oh, okay. Good. I was right. Just as unfunny as I'd imagined.
posted by miss lynnster at 9:25 AM on April 25, 2007

I remember them from Sesame Street and the Muppet Show as well - loved them. It's cool that this sort of avant-garde(ish) performance art was available to kids via mainstream TV programs.

This is why it was so awesome to be a kid watching children's television in the 1970s. Pufnstuf, the Banana Splits, the Magic Garden, the Electric Company, Hot Fudge, New Zoo Revue etc. etc. etc. Even the mainstream kid's shows were written by hippies still recovering from their LSD flashbacks.
posted by jonp72 at 3:42 PM on April 25, 2007

#2 up there is the one I remember most vividly. The one with the various monsters.

Just imagine what watching that, in person, without music or other audience, would be like. It'd freak me the hell out.
posted by JHarris at 11:46 PM on April 25, 2007

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