98) Steve Martin (The Muppet Show)

The truth is, I could have put almost any episode of the Muppet Show here and felt justified, because the Muppets deserve their recognition and should not have fallen to the wayside to the extent they did after the death of their creator. And here’s a loving tribute to that man:

I’m hoping that I don’t have to tell any of you what the Muppets are, but, in case you did not have a happy life, allow me to give you a quick run-down. The Muppets were created by Jim Henson, who decided that puppets, while good for entertaining children, could still be used for more mature audiences as well. After helping start Sesame Street, and giving it a run with “The Land of Gorch” on SNL, Henson finally found the balance of adult and child humor that he was looking for with “The Muppet Show.” The main characters are all puppets, and they interact with regular people, usually their “special guest.” It was a variety sketch show, and often managed to grab some famous actors at the time. Many of these guests provided memorable performances or character moments, however, I chose this episode for a reason.

All that hot Scooter action?
Steve Martin
Pictured: Comedy Genius

Steve Martin is everything: A comedian, singer, banjo player, magician, dancer, and brilliant writer. The Muppets are the Muppets, which is the most awesome tautology ever. These two elements just put together on screen should be excellent, but it is their other synergistic element that made them really work: Both Steve Martin and the Muppets excel at performances that seem entertaining to children but contain enough subtle adult elements to allow parents to laugh alongside their spawn. They both portray an innocence that masks their absolute debauched nature, and seem to be genuinely having the time of their lives doing it, which always makes for better TV. Even the cold open is Scooter telling Martin that, after seeing his routine, he’s going to fit right in on the show. Since one of the sketches is him doing balloon animals from balloons he stole from “balloon farms” without inflating them, resulting in him being attacked by the “parent balloons,” it’s hard to argue with that assessment.

The “plot” of the episode is that the show is being cancelled, so all of the sketches are supposedly being performed for almost no one, which helps sell the idea that Martin is just an entertainer, who is here for the fun of it and not for the money. Martin also interacts with the Muppets as if they are no less real than his usual human co-stars, which helps the audience to become more engaged in the episode. As the episode progresses, this creates an atmosphere in the episode that everyone really is enjoying the performance, which always helps with a comedy show. Throughout the sketches, you can actually hear the puppeteers laughing themselves silly, because they were having such a good time.

If you ever just want to feel like a kid and an adult at the same time, watch this episode. If you just want a sample, enjoy Martin being his own musical act.

PREVIOUS – 99: Quantum Leap

NEXT – 97: Maverick

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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