Kermit’s Spawn



Kermit the frog

Kermit the frog supports Scotland staying in the United Kingdom, although if it does not Miss Piggy is keen to be Queen of Scotland. So goes the mock press report.

A good joke, the first part, Kermit’s remark, leapt upon by unionist politicians as prima facie evidence their political stance against Scotland’s rights is inviolable; the second part, Miss Piggy’s desire, ignored.  The joke is on them.

Someone should tell them Kermit is a large piece of green felt with a human hand up its rear orifice, its words spoken by a puppet master, rather like the way they mouth anti-Scottish policies and invective.

Many years ago, in the Seventies, I think, myself a slim youth, I included a section using traditional glove puppets and lots of comedy patter for a BBC Scotland children’s morning television show. During the consequent editing session I had a television screen switched as a diversion from the hours of repetitive editing process. Up popped the Muppets, the first time I had ever seen them, probably witnessing one of their first shows.

I groaned, jaw dropping, gaze held fast.

Compared to my glove puppets the Muppets were a revelation of sophisticated artistry and downright glorious fun. I knew mine were gone before they were ever broadcast, and so it transpired. That so many international celebrities were keen to be the guest of honour and get comprehensively lampooned for their trouble speaks volumes for its appeal.

What the show taught me, among other things that bedevils our arts, is how limited is Scotland’s ability to nurture indigenous talent and promote it. Had Henson been a Scot, living here, he would have had to go to London to present his ideas, and even then be told to all but eradicate the Scottish element, any Scots accent and dialect “non-commercial.” Had a London broadcasting company commissioned the series he then stood a good chance to develop it beyond a single series, and to profit from any marketing spin-off products and shows. That opportunity is denied Scotland. We do not have the means of investment, production, or distribution.

There is also the missing element of experienced entertainment lawyers to consider, work for them not viable beyond Watford. In reality it was Sir Lew Grade who bought the first Muppet series from the US, signed them up, and the rest is history.

At that time my puppets were to be incorporated in a Sunday religious series aimed at children. The creator of the Muppets, Jim Henson, was a practising Christian Scientist, an interesting coincidence, puppets commandeered at the recruiting service of Our Lord. In later life Henson renounced his faith. I was already a budding atheist, ready and willing to question Christian faith.

There was an upside to their appearance.

In the years to follow I found it easy to identify with Kermit, the theatre’s director and master of ceremonies. His fraught and frenetic efforts to juggle with all the problems of producing, the accidents, pitfalls, overrun costs, meagre budget, and egos, threw him close to puppet suicide on several angst ridden occasions, especially when driven to despair and fear by the elephantine diva that is Miss Piggy. Kermit caught the Zeitgeist of the times.

That show and its zany colourful characters based on real people brought me tremendous joy. Muppet humour was truly infectious, the characters memorable, the show’s devisers highly adept at transferring human behaviour to lengths of felt, wool, feathers and buttons.

The week’s script and chosen song lyrics had a wonderful way of pricking pomposity and deflating wild ambition. I was particularly impressed by the way the muppets managed to articulate words in synchronisation to the dialogue, and to bounce and nod when listening to another muppet. There screen was full of energy. Ordinary glove puppets were wooden and stiff, sounding as if Sooty and Sweep, or worse, Muffin the Mule. The loss of Muppet creator Henson at an early age, 53, was a cruel joke perpetrated by baneful fate.

It came as no surprise to learn Henson was the very same person behind the consistently excellent USA educational television series, Sesame Street, broadcast on PBS, America’s version of the BBC.

Kermit is blessed with a long life, a remarkable thing for an amphibian. I believe he was originally beige, not green, fashioned out of Henson mum’s coat. He has to be one of the very few green actors working in Hollywood, if you include the Invisible Hulk.

Miss Piggy is welcome to be Scotland’s Queen, as far as I am concerned. I sure she will do a glittering job. Contractual demands she makes will cost little in comparison to the human one we are asked to support meantime, and in the excessive manner, wealth and undemocratic power she is accustomed.

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