When I was a kid, I had two goals in life. 1) To make a record (as in a real, vinyl record) like The Monkees and The Mickey Mouse Club and 2) to be on the Muppet Show. (obviously singing the songs that would be on my record album!)
I have always wanted The Muppet Show to be real. I loved the humour, the variety showyness, the guest stars (even though at the young age that I was I had no clue who most of the guest starts were. Heck, even today, as we watch the DVDs I have to look someone up!) But I loved the Muppets and The Muppet Show and I cried when they announced on the radio that Jim Henson had died. I cried a lot that morning before school. I cry when they play Rainbow Connection. I wept during the newest Muppet movie when the song came on and I knew I’d tear up if they played it at the show I’d be at.
And yes… one of my dreams came true, people. Never in a million years would I have thought I’d be a member of the audience for the Muppet Show. I had higher hopes for recording an album. The album thing never panned out, but people, I got to see the MUPPETS LIVE ON STAGE.
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal. This is a Big Deal and because of the Big Dealyness of it all, the organizers managed to snag some pretty Big Deal Things. The most important one to I, and to 2998 other people in that hall at 7pm, was – THE MUPPETS!
This is the first time in history that the Muppets have hosted a live show – anywhere in the world. It’s never been done before and what a magical night it was. The show opened with the traditional Muppets opening – stage and song and boy did the crowd go wild. There were 3000 people at this show and we all stood up as the Muppet theme song came on and each of the Muppets were in their own little space like the TV show. (balcony? What the hell is that called?) Statler and Waldorf were EVEN IN ONE OF THE SIDE BALCONIES LIKE IN THE SHOW! OMG! It was AMAZING!
Kermit and gang hosted the Gala and they each had their own time in the spotlight as they introduced the 5 comics on the bill that night: Ryan Hamilton, Jim Breuer, Mike Birbiglia, Danny Bhoy and Steve Patterson. Shawn and I liked pretty much all of the comics but found one a little less funny than the others (oddly, it was the same for each of us, we have the same humour!). The crowd laughed a lot for each of the 5 men on stage, but it was NOTHING compared to the reaction those Muppets got when they graced the stage.
The show was filmed, as all of the Galas are, and they had screens scattered around the hall so you could watch the Muppets from the waste up – because we got to see something very, very extraordinary that night. We got to see the puppeteers work those Muppets for the entire show. And you know what? It takes about a handful of seconds and suddenly you don’t see the PEOPLE anymore. You only see the Muppets that you know and love. It’s like they are alive and real and it was the most amazing thing ever.
Even as the stage was set in the dark, while one Muppet or another were filling time, the audience went CRAZY when they rolled out a counter that looked like it had food bowls on it. Half the time I couldn’t even hear what the Muppets were saying because the crowd was screaming and clapping so much. It was obvious that the Swedish Chef was about to make an appearance and OH BOY! were people THRILLED. He made “pew-teen” and then had a heart attack from all the gravy he put on the fries.
And that’s another amazing thing… the script of the night was entirely geared towards Canada, Montreal and the Festival itself. The humour was HILARIOUS as only Muppet humour could be. I really don’t think the puppeteers could have expected the reaction we gave them. The energy in the room was outstanding. And then there was another show at 10pm! Standing ovations abounded. Statler and Waldorf heckled Fozzie from the balcony just like in the show – people yelled out “I LOVE YOU, FOZZIE!” when the bear came out to do his stand up. It was a BIG DEAL for him. Fozzie finally made the Big Time being at this renown festival!
If I had to find anything negative about the evening it would have been minor things like – I wish there had been more interaction between the Muppets and the comedians as they were introduced. It’s possible there wasn’t because this was filmed and this way the individual comic routines could be easily taken and shown on other Just For Laughs tv specials. But I do think with the magic of editing, any reference to just having been introduced by THE FREAKING MUPPETS could have been edited out. I mean.. being introduced by the Muppets is like.. just… it’s unbelievable!
The only other problem I had was that because of the audience reactions, I found some of what the Muppets were saying to be hard to understand. We were not a quiet audience. We laughed and applauded and screamed so much of that evening and there should have been a few times where the dialogue was paused as they waited for us to all calm the heck down. We couldn’t help ourselves, this was a dream come true for so many people.
I don’t know if the Muppets will ever do a live show like this ever again. I do know that it was just such an amazing experience and I will always cherish the fact that I bought expensive tickets about 30 seconds after I heard someone say the Muppets were coming to Just for Laughs. It was worth the money to get good seats (not the best seats, but decent enough!) I will never forget this night for as long as I live. I can say that I got to see the Muppet Show live. Not many people can say that.
The show ended with a funny (yes!) version of Rainbow Connection and though I started to tear up, it was soon apparent that the laughter was going to win out. The Muppets received yet another standing ovation as the song wound down and if we could have stood any higher, we would have for the puppeteers who came out from behind their set when the song was done to take their bows.
From the song about Canada, to Miss Piggy being carried in by Mounties, to Bunsen turning Beaker into Youpi (former Expos mascot, now the mascot for the Canadiens?) to the Rainbow Connection, this was a magical, hilarious night that I will never, ever forget.
(Sadly, no photos were allowed, or I’d have taken so many of the set and the old men in the balcony. Sadly, out of all the shots, I don’t think any of the media captured Statler and Waldorf in the loge seats. Which makes me sad. The Montreal Gazette did get some neat photos, so you can check them out here.)