Laughing Matters — Muppets Tonight, “Sid Knishes and His Mosh-Pit-atoes”

Sometimes comedy illuminates hard truths with a pointed urgency that other means can’t quite achieve. Sometimes comedy is just funny. This series of posts is mostly about the former instances, but the latter is valuable, too.

In the past several days, I’ve taken great delight in the Emmet’s Otter’s Jugband Christmas outtakes making the rounds, and I’ve done everything I can to avoid the new trailers for The Happytime Murders, convinced to the pit of my stomach that a deliberately edgy, R-rated adventure populated by Muppets is a bad idea, even if a Henson scion is behind it. The brand of character crafted into life by Jim Henson and his compatriots haven’t been nearly as durable and adaptable as their less-than-benevolent corporate overlords at Disney surely hoped. Jason Segel’s valiant effort to return them to the big screen was enjoyable, if only because his clear affection cast a golden glow on the entire endeavor. Most other attempts has been messy, rife with evidence that no one quite knows what to do with these frolicking, felt vaudevillians

Although I’m must sure the answer truly lies there, as a lifelong fan I’ll note my enduring affection for the mid-nineteen-nineties stab at securing them a spot on television, a program called Muppets Tonight. Following the rough template of the original The Muppet Show, but with the conceit of a theatrical performance replaced overtly replaced with that of a television show, Muppets Tonight at least recaptured some of the joyously maniacal idea-flinging of the earlier success. Some of the best bits were over in a snap. The most recent prime time series tried to hard to wedge the Muppets into a sitcom template, with ongoing story lines that were an ill fit. In an era that thrives on shareable chunks of content, the little throwaways did far better.

Muppets Tonight wasn’t comprised of nothing but throwaways, by any means, but I could imagine the show thriving if it had existed at a time when people were eager to log into social media so they could share their favorite new discoveries. One of the bits from the episode of the show featuring Prince as a guest star even made the rounds not so long ago (though sadly not the sketch that should’ve taken off). I know this for sure: had I the means at the time, I would have cross-posted the live performance of Sid Knishes and His Mosh-Pit-atoes onto every digital platform available to me.

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