Saturday, May 16, marks the anniversary of one of the saddest days in TV history, as Muppets creator Jim Henson died 25 years ago on that day. Former Henson protégé and The Big Bang Theory co-creator Bill Prady took some time to pen a thoughtful tribute to Henson, in which he shared a hysterical and delightfully risqué practical joke that Henson once pulled.
Prady shared his touching thoughts about his former mentor with Variety. And among the many compliments and poignant sentiments, Prady mentioned this gem about Henson.
His sense of humor could be sly and wicked. He liked a well-crafted practical joke. There was a wonderful story about an elaborate prank played on a very reserved producer who was told by a straight-faced Jim that the Muppets were going to produce a series of health films that would require them to create talking human private parts. Apparently the meeting went on for half an hour before Jim finally ‘broke.’
That’s pure excellence, any way you look at it. Henson was one of those people whose words always sounded like wisdom, given his professionalism and keen mind for universally acceptable entertainment. So if he starts talking about Muppetized genitalia, one doesn’t get to automatically assume that he’s kidding around. After all, if that was a legit video and not a prank, it would have probably become the most famous health education video of all time.
Though always beloved by children, Henson’s work never excluded adults from enjoying everything he did, as The Muppet Show and films like The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth show us. Hell, one of the Muppet Show’s pilot titles was Sex and Violence. It’s impossible to predict the kinds of amazing projects he would have created had he not passed away in 1990, at just 53 years old. I like to think Muppets from Space would have been at least 40% better.
Prady’s tribute is a particularly fitting one, as he and Anger Management’s Bob Kushell are working together on ABC’s upcoming mockumentary-style comedy The Muppets. While the James Bobin films, both co-written by Nicholas Stoller, were enjoyable in their own right, this new project is a much more direct throwback to the Muppets’ heyday, drawing out meta humor and sweet character moments as much as showman jokes. Let’s just hope there are some blissful musical numbers, too.
So if you get some time this weekend, make room in your day to relive some of the greatest moments in the lives of Kermit the Frog, Oscar the Grouch and the Fraggles. And remember to watch the hell out of The Muppets when it debuts on ABC this fall.