It’s probably been at least 20 years since I looked at, or even thought about, the Muppet Movies, and today I stumbled across The Great Muppet Caper on cable and decided to watch for five minutes. I was hooked, laughing more than I do at most comedies, and found myself blown away by the creativity, production value (complete with Busby Berkly style production numbers) and hip, double entendre laden charm. What a hoot!
During the 80’s, when my kids were all small, VCRs of the Muppet Movies, ET, and others of that ilk got us through overseas life in Moscow and the Philippines and kept us connected to the faraway USA. So today, faced with watching a Little League World Series game whose score had gotten out of hand, or Champions Tour golf (yawn), I started channel surfing and landed for a moment on the Great Muppet Caper in the middle of the scene where Miss Piggy, impersonating Lady Holliday (Diana Rigg), is taking Kermit on a lickety split tour of Lady Holliday’s home, trying to get Kermit in and out before anyone notices they are there. John Cleese, in a hilarious cameo as the butler, chases them throughout the house (Kermit is unaware; Piggy sees him and is eluding him) until finally Piggy drags Kermit into a closet. Cleese finds them — there is a frozen moment when he pauses, wondering what to do, then says: “Is there…..anything I could help you with?” Piggy stares at him, takes this in, then says: “Yes, a nice restaurant.”
Here’s a clip that kind of captures the fun of it – -Jack Warden in a cameo as a grumpy newspaper editor giving Kermit, Fozzie, and Gonzo a hard time:
I think a lot of the charm has to do with how the muppets — handpuppets here, no CGI, thank you — interact seamlessly with humans who accept them as a normal part of the landscape. And the writing — really, truly funny, clever in that way that lets kids get what they need, but provides adults with another level of humor that doesn’t get in the way of the kiddy fun.
The other thing that is just quirkily hilarious is the way Miss Piggy believes she’s a stunner — and everyone reacts to her as if she is. In the Great Muppet Caper, she stuns the Dubbonnet Supper Club with a dance number that has Charles Grodin in her spell: “Isn’t she stunning?” he asks Diana Rigg. I found a scene that captures this — and a hilarious Busby Berkly Musical sendup that includes synchronized swimmers, the works:
I got to thinking about that, and owndered about Miss Piggy’s bio — rooted around the internet and found this:
In an interview with the New York Times in 1979, Frank Oz outlined Piggy’s biography: “She grew up in a small town in Iowa; her father died when she was young, and her mother wasn’t that nice to her. She had to enter beauty contests to survive, as many single women do. She has a lot of vulnerability which she has to hide, because of her need to be a superstar.”
In The Muppet Movie, she has just won such a contest (Miss Bogen County) when she first meets Kermit and joins the Muppets.
In The Great Muppet Caper Piggy proves she has a talent for tap dancing, seemingly without knowing it. She and Kermit also kiss (on the lips, yet slightly covered) while Miss Piggy is a prisoner in jail; Miss Piggy ends up wearing Kermit’s fake mustache, while Kermit has X-marks on his upper lip.
Eventually in the films, Kermit started returning her affections and (unwittingly) marries her in The Muppets Take Manhattan, though subsequent events suggest that it was only their characters in the movie that married, and that their relationship is really the same as ever.
In 1987, Miss Piggy was a guest star on Dolly Parton‘s musical variety show, Dolly, singing and performing with Parton, while at the same time secretly attempting to steal the show from her host, mostly by sabotaging Parton’s musical segments and attempting to trick producers into giving her more solo spots. Parton, annoyed at being undermined by Miss Piggy, told another of her guests, Juice Newton, that they might be “having ham sandwiches after the show”.
Miss Piggy starred in the TV movie The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz, appearing as all four witches.
Miss Piggy has a pet poodle, Foo-Foo.
Miss Piggy sang with the Jonas Brothers as “Joan S. Jonas”, with Ashley Tisdale during the number “Bop to the Top” dressed as Sharpay from High School Musical, and with the Cheetah Girlsperforming “Dance Me If You Can” from The Cheetah Girls: One World as a part of Studio DC: Almost Live. A running gag from those first two episodes involved Miss Piggy looking for “Zacky” Efron.
In The Muppet Show episode 106, Piggy is referred to by the full name “Piggy Lee”, and in episode 116 Piggy tells guest star Avery Schreiber that Piggy is short for “Pigathius”, which is “from the Greek, meaning ‘river of passion'”. However, there is no evidence to support that this is part of her name. It is more likely that this is a fictitious name Miss Piggy invents as part of her plan to make Kermit jealous. In another instance, Piggy explains that her first name is actually the more feminine-sounding version of Pigathius, “Pigathia”.
When she is asked what sign she was born under by guest Jim Nabors in The Muppet Show season 1, episode 6, she replies: “I wasn’t born under a sign, I was born over a sign. Becker’s butcher shop. I moved as soon as I could.”
There are enough funny quotes from this one movie to keep you smiling for awhile — here are some of the best, courtesy of IMDB.
Miss Piggy: What am I? A glutton for punishment?
British Gentleman: How cheap?
British Gentleman: Well, that narrows the field a bit.
[reading from his guide]
British Gentleman: Let’s see. “Places where you can park your carcasses.” Bus terminals… River banks… The Happiness Hotel…
Kermit: Happiness Hotel? That sounds great.
Gonzo: What’s wrong with bus terminals?
Pops: [to Kermit and friends who want to get on the bus] You’ll have to sit in the front seat, the back’s been quarantined.
Nicky Holiday: For complimenting you on your necklace?
Lady Holiday: No, because it’s customary.
Nicky Holiday: I haven’t any change.
Lady Holiday: Then give him something bigger.
Nicky Holiday: *Bigger*? I left my wallet at home.
Lady Holiday: You left your wallet in college.
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Carla: I rather like the effect.
Lady Holiday: You like looking like an ostrich?
Carla: [miffed] Of course not, Lady Holiday.
Lady Holiday: And Marla. Too many frills and furbelows, I don’t think we should strive for the fan-tailed pigeon look, do you? And you, Darla, that outfit’s the pits. Loose where it should be tight and tight where it should be loose, like the folds on a turkey’s neck. Why would I design such atrocious looking clothes?
[sitting down with a heavy sigh]
Lady Holiday: I *must* be getting senile.
[she presses a button on her desk]
Voice over intercom: Yes, Lady Holiday?
Lady Holiday: We have to make drastic changes in the new line before the show tomorrow, all my girls are going around looking like barnyard animals.
Miss Piggy: Ahem!
Lady Holiday: Good heavens, who are you?
Miss Piggy: My name is Miss Piggy, and I would like to be a high-fashion model!
Lady Holiday: Doesn’t surprise me. Seems to be the way we’re headed.
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Kermit: [stiffly] Please, the name is Rosenthal.
Kermit: I’m your attorney, that’s the only way they’d let me in here.
Miss Piggy: Oh, right! Oh, I’ve missed you so… Rosenthal. It’s been an eternity.
Kermit: [puzzled] It’s been forty-five minutes.
Miss Piggy: Time goes slow in the cooler.
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Kermit: Well, we’re developing these pictures, we’ll be out as soon as we finish. We’re trying to catch a jewel thief.
Fozzie: A jewel thief!
Pops: Well, catch him in another room, people are dancing up and down on one leg out here!
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News Editor: “JEWEL HEIST ON MAIN STREET!” And it’s nice bold print, isn’t it?
Kermit: Yes, it’s very easy to read.
News Editor: Shut up now.
Kermit: [sheepish] Sorry.
News Editor: “Lady Holiday’s Jewels Stolen,” that’s what it says in The Times. And here’s The Herald, “Fashion Queen Of London Robbed.” And last, but not least
News Editor: here’s our cute little banner story, “Identical Twins Join The Chronicle Staff.” Now I ask you, which would you buy?
Fozzie: I read the one that has “Dear Abby.”.
News Editor: OH!
[News Editor pounds fist into desk in frustration, causing Gonzo to jump with fright up to a light fixture]
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Lady Holiday: I can offer you a job as a receptionist.
Miss Piggy: [jumping up and down and shouting] AAAAAAAHHHHH! I’ll take it! I’ll take it! Oh, thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Oh! Oh! Oh! Oh, you won’t be sorry, I promise. I can type, I can take shorthand, I can make coffee, I can do it all!
Lady Holiday: Sit.
[Miss Piggy immediately sits down and calms herself]
Miss Piggy: I can sit. I’m very good at sitting.
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