The Swedish Chef was a favorite of Jim Henson and Frank Oz, as they both got to perform him. Henson was the head and voice, while Oz provided the hands. Frequently, one of the two would ad lib a line or bit of business, forcing the other one to keep up.
Initially, the producers had such difficulty casting guest stars that they had to call upon all their personal friends in the entertainment industry for help. This changed dramatically after Rudolf Nureyev agreed to appear. The publicity of a renowned ballet dancer appearing on such a bizarre show created such positive publicity that the show became popular and soon celebrities were lining up to appear on the show.
Jim Henson wanted the show to end during the peak of its popularity and creativity - and it did. The final year featured the highest Nielsen ratings of its existence.
Guest stars were allowed to appear on the show only once and never appeared a second time. None of them appeared as guests in the 90s reboot of the show Muppets Tonight.
The Swedish Chef has been said to be inspired by the first and only television appearance of Lars Beckmann. His appearance was a total failure, as he mumbled a strange mixture of English and Swedish while hectically preparing some sort of food. It was thought that the show's producers found it very funny and created the Swedish Chef in Baeckmann's likeness (including the thick mustache). However, show writer Jerry Juhl has refuted this statement and believes Baeckmann invented the rumor himself. Baeckmann, who presently earns his money with a traveling cooking show in Sweden, was paid $80 for the rights to the character. He is considered to be a good cook with a great sense of humor.
Because they found the character so funny, extraneous members of the crew would often crowd into the studio to watch filming of skits with the Swedish Chef. Often, the laughter heard in the final sketch is not from a laugh track, but from members of the crew who couldn't contain themselves.
Statler and Waldorf were named after two New York City hotels. Jim Henson based the two old men off of professors he had at the University of Maryland. Waldorf's wife is named Astoria, after the famous Waldorf - Astoria Hotel.
Many guest stars would be asked about their favorite Muppet and be given scenes with them. Miss Piggy was reportedly the most requested. Animal was a close second.
Sam, the self-proclaimed "all-American eagle", was originally voiced by Frank Oz, who is actually English, having been born in Hereford.
Floyd Pepper's name combined the name of the rock band Pink Floyd with the title of The Beatles's Sgt. Pepper album. Reflecting this was Floyd's pink color. His outfit and mustache were similar to those of The Beatles in their Lonely Hearts Club Band persona.
During the course of the show, Jim Henson wrote out a list of dream guests, and urged the writers and puppeteers to do the same. Henson's list included Bil Baird, Shari Lewis, Burr Tillstrom, Stan Freberg, Mae West, Mia Farrow, Princess Anne, Kim Novak, and Katharine Hepburn. The Muppet performers and writing staff list included Dustin Hoffman, David Bowie, Salvador Dalí, Michael Caine, Robert De Niro, Frank Zappa, Meryl Streep, the entire Monty Python troupe, and The Beatles.
Miss Piggy was originally alternately played by Richard Hunt and Frank Oz. As the character grew in popularity, a hesitant Oz took on sole performer status. He once remarked that Piggy was such an intense and over-the-top woman, she could only be played by a man.
Three guest stars lived to be 100 years old: George Burns died on March 9, 1996 at the age of 100, Señor Wences died on April 20, 1999 at the age of 103 and Bob Hope died on July 27, 2003 at the age of 100.
Because episodes were taped in London, this was one of the few U.S. TV series not affected by the 1980 Screen Actors Strike, which delayed the start of that year's TV season.
English television didn't have commercial interruptions during the programs, so many British telecasts feature scenes and musical numbers (mostly British music hall in nature) not seen in the US until Nickelodeon aired the show for a brief time in the spring and summer of 1994. Nickelodeon - a kids' channel - would edit out another sketch (mostly sketches that Nickelodeon thought shouldn't be seen by their audience) in favor of the usually less-offensive UK sketches.
Originally, the producers intended to create Muppet versions of each guest star. These can be seen in the early episodes when the guest star takes his or her bow. The practice was scrapped after the third episode.
Besides the theme song, very few songs were actually written for the show. Most of the songs came from old comedy albums, vaudeville standards, and British music hall routines.
Some of Fozzie's physical looks and much of his comic persona was patterned after those of the "classic" Jewish and so-called Borscht Belt Comedians.
The Swedish Chef is the only character to have bare human hands, presumably because of the dexterity needed.
The first two episodes were produced months before regular production began on the rest of the first season. They served as pilots to sell the series to TV stations.
Kermit is the only Muppet character to be a regular staple on both this series and Sesame Street (1969).
The flamboyant costumes and mannerisms of Dr. Teeth were modeled after New Orleans jazz musician, Dr. John.
The "Mahna-Mahna" number was originally performed on _"Toast of the Town" (1948) (aka "The Ed Sullivan Show").
Originally, the producers thought they would only have enough story material for three seasons. However, the characters they developed during the run provided so much creative inspiration that two more seasons were possible.
George Burns, born on January 20, 1896, was the series' earliest-born guest star. Señor Wences, born on April 17, 1896, was the oldest guest star at the time of his appearance; he was 84 when he guest starred in 1980. Fourteen-year-old Brooke Shields was the series' youngest guest star.
In February 2003, Disney purchased The Jim Henson Workshop. The deal includes characters such as Fozzie Bear and Dave Goelz, as well as the Bear in the Big Blue House (1997) franchise. Sesame Street characters such as Big Bird and Elmo are not included in the acquisition, as they are owned separately by the Sesame Workshop.
Frank Oz is often mistaken as being the inspiration for Fozzie Bear's name, while most muppeteers say Fozzie was actually named in honor of Muppet designer and builder Faz Fazakas.
One puppet that was used longer than originally intended was Vendaface, a violent talking vending machine that usually ended up attacking any Muppet dumb enough to feed it coins. While it was intended for only one sketch, the puppet proved so expensive to build that executive producer David Lazer insisted it be used for a series of sketches to get the production company's money's worth.
Many of the characters were redesigned early in the show's run. Miss Piggy's long hair and nose were replaced with shorter, curly hair and a shorter nose. Gonzo's nose was resized, and Fozzie had his wagging ears and drooping mouth removed because Frank Oz felt they were unnecessary to bring the character to life.
Three guest stars died before the series ended: Zero Mostel on September 8, 1977, Edgar Bergen on September 30, 1978 and Peter Sellers on July 24, 1980.
Señor Wences was originally booked as a guest star in the fourth season - he's even mentioned as a guest star in Scooter's "List of Guest Stars" song (tune of "Modern Major General") in the Phyllis George episode, in the middle of the fourth season - yet Señor Wences didn't appear on the show until the following year.
Five pairs of relatives were guest stars on the series. Three married couples made joint appearances: Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans and Robert Shields and Lorene Yarnell Jansson. Candice Bergen and her father Edgar Bergen appeared in different episodes, as did Loretta Lynn and her younger sister Crystal Gayle.
Two of the series' guest stars, Milton Berle and Dudley Moore, died on March 27, 2002.
The name "Muppet" was created as a combination of the words "marionette" and "puppet".
George Schlatter was at one point to be involved with the show. His involvement is mentioned in the "Muppet Pitch Reel".
While the show had a hard time getting guest stars for the first season, both Joel Grey and Vincent Price were fans of Jim Henson and were most happy to be invited.
Though this television series was filmed in England, its fictional setting is a theater in New York City.
According to Muppet Show writer Joseph A. Bailey's autobiography, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew was modeled after executive producer Lew Grade.
The entire run was taped in the ATV/ITC/Central TV Borehamwood/Elstree Studios complex. It was later bought by the BBC and has been the main filming location for the BBC soap opera EastEnders (1985) since its premiere in 1985.
Producers considered an episode giving tribute to Australian culture, with Don Lane and Bert Newton as the guest stars. At the time, Lane and Newton were hosts of the most-watched locally-made program in Australia, The Don Lane Show (1975). However, the producers deemed the duo not big enough names for an international audience.