The Muppets Sell Meat

December 21, 2010

Most of you either grew up with the Muppets or have kids who are growing up with them now. But you might not realize that before the Muppets starred in TV shows, movies and on Sesame Street, their creator was a struggling artist who needed to pay the bills for his art. So Muppet master Jim Henson, who was based in the Washington, D.C., area, made a lot of local TV commercials with the Muppets in the late 1950s and throughout the ’60s.

I don’t recall how I stumbled across these, but they’re really innovative forĀ  their time. They’re really short — only 8 or 9 seconds long, in many cases. This was at a time when the 60-second TV commercial was standard.

And they’re full of slapstick humor — actually, it’s pretty dark in a lot of cases. Can you imagine selling coffee today by having one character shoot another in the head?

I love early TV for its simplicity and crudeness. The ideas carried the day, not the production values. And if you’re a Muppets fan, you can see their distinctive brand of humor on display even in these very early performances — along with a very early version of Kermit the Frog.