Muppet Monday returns!
I’ve noticed I hate painting “white people Muppets.” Statler and Waldorf are legendary characters, but putting together that peachy skin tone is my least favorite thing in the world to do. That same rule applies here for the Swedish Chef, another Muppet classic, though one I admittedly never cared for. It’s not that he is too one-note (let’s face it, he IS), but that one note is a note I just don’t care to see played out over and again.
But enough about me. The Swedish Chef originated as a live sketch during the 1961 US Food Fair in Germany. Hensons’s father had connections with the Department of Agriculture, so that maybe helped Jim get the gig, but he was making his own way at that time through the late night talk show circuit, commercials for various coffee companies featuring Rowlf, and Sam & Friends, a wildly popular 5-minute segment that wrapped Washington DC newscasts.
So the sketch, “The Chef’s Salad,” featured Omar, one of the Sam & Friends cast, making a mess masquerading as a salad, all while speaking gibberish German. It was the first time Henson used a “live hand” puppet, where a humans actual hands were a part of the performance. (The hands were performed by Jerry Juhl.) At the end of the bit, the salad exploded in the chef’s face, and the people loved it. And the inspiration for the Swedish Chef was born. The character debuted on The Muppet Show, performed by Henson, with Frank Oz serving as the hands.
I learned all this from reading Jim Henson: The Biography by Brian Jay Jones, which is too good to put down. Needless to say my poops have been particularly long recently. I’ll get more into this when I’m done. (I’m talking about the book again, not poops.)