Would you believe me if I told you that it was difficult to get guest stars for the first season in The Muppet Show?
Well, it’s the truth.
From the get-go, Jim Henson wanted guest stars on The Muppet Show as a way to “bridge between the Muppet world and the audience.” According to Jim Henson The Works, celebrities were not exactly flocking to hang out with the Muppets. No self-respecting actor would dare work with Muppets (just like kids and animals, apparently). The first season of the show relied strongly on the connections of Jim Henson and his manager, Bernie Brillstein.
By the time Season 2 rolled around, finding guest stars was a different story, especially after the enthusiasm as ballet dancer, Rudolf Nureyev. You can see him singing “Baby It’s Cold Outside” with Miss Piggy. (Is this not surprising to anyone? That she is hanging out with a man wearing only a towel?)
It’s hard for be to believe that a celebrity like Nureyev would cause as big of a splash on a television program today, but it did the trick and the stars started infiltrating the show in its second season.
So what happens if you were booked as a guest star?
(This is my favorite part.)
Guest stars were asked what Muppet they would want to work with most, and, if it could happen, it did. (Apparently many celebs wanted to work with ALL the Muppets… it was never the other way around.) Other celebrities also helped with the writing of their gags too.
Clearly, Jim was delighted with his aspect of the show and kept notes on all of his experiences (as he did a lot).
From Jim: “We’re working with Julie Andrews now, and I dearly love her. She’s such a great person, always interested in people personally, and very professional about her work…”
Working with the Muppets was really a unique experience compared to what guest stars were used to. If you were from Broadway, a comedian, a dancer, an actor, whichever, it wasn’t like you worked with Muppets on a daily basis. From watching a slew of episodes you could really tell by the way the humans interact with the Muppets just who was able to let their hair down and let whatever mayhem happen.
The best stars are definitely the ones who know how to laugh at themselves.