Henson Perspective: Guest-starring Ethel Merman!

Ben and Pete sit down to discuss the legendary voice and persona of Ethel Merman, while also debating whether any movie would be good without sound editing, and possibly putting to rest the season-long investigation as to whether the Muppet Show knows it’s being broadcast on television. Also: thrill to the debate about if Pete deserves an extra half-point in the trivia competition!

Sources and References:

“Don’t Sugar Me” was released as the B-side of the single from the album Songs of the Pogo in 1956. The other B-side has become a mild favorite song for the members of They Might Be Giants to perform live, and the quotes from John and John about cartoonist Walt Kelly and his wordplay influence on them is pretty wonder

We were unable to find a streaming rip of The World of Puppetry with Richard Bradshaw, but several documentaries and appearances of the puppeteer from after his spotlight on The Muppet Show are currently available. There’s a 2002 doc of dubious provenance, Richard Bradshaw: Me & My Shadows on YouTube, and a two-part podcast interview with Bradshaw on Talking Sock. Bradshaw also appeared on a puppet-based children’s show in 1991, where is seems possible that his stage show would have been performed live without music.

Irving Lazar’s 1994 obituary makes the characterization of Irving Bizarre even more, um… strange.

The Muppet Heckler in Fozzie’s segment is Leo, who appears in the video that was a pitch for CBS to adopt the show. (ERRATA: Ben misquotes the video by saying “CBS will have a FOUR share!” whereas Leo says “forty”. Not knowing anything about television, that sounds much more successful, and Ben probably sounds like an idiot.) Leo’s films for Muppet Meetings are still available to lease in order to jazz up your conference room.

In researching Ethel Merman, Ben found a hundredth birthday retrospective of the artist that compared her two biographies, which led him to focus on using Brass Diva: The Life and Legends of Ethel Merman as his main source for his questions, and one of her two ghost-written memoirs, Merman – an autobiography in collaboration with George Eells. In Slate, N.P. Thompson said that Brass Diva’s biographer ends the book wallowing in the post-fame drag and camp reflections of Merman, and as one of Ben’s touchstones with her voice and persona was Michael Jeter’s performance of “Everything’s Coming Up Video” in The Fisher King, that seemed like it might be best for a current take on her legacy.

The New York Times article mentioning a Miss Piggy doll in Ms. Merman’s bedroom is from 1982, and a 2011 New York Post article refers to the blank page on Ernest Borgnine and one of the predominant explanations about their differences in lifestyle. (N.B.: consider the source.)

You may notice that the Milton Berle connection is not actually on the Connect The Stars map for this week, as Ben didn’t make the connection himself until Pete mentioned it.

Sorry, Uncle Milty. See you back again in season two!

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