Kermit Visits Flip Wilson

Kermit meets Diahann Carroll.

Kermit meets Diahann Carroll.

On November 11, 1971, the Muppets visited The Flip Wilson Show again. This time, however, rather than Carroll Spinney’s Sesame Street characters, Jim Henson and Frank Oz themselves appeared, Jim first playing Kermit and then the two of them taking on the roles of initially faceless Anything Muppets, which Flip helps transform into characters, like Gordon did on Sesame Street and Jim and his team did in The Muppets on Puppets.


But let’s begin with the Kermit scene, which is hands-down the best Muppets-on-Flip-Wilson sketch I’ve seen thus far, mostly because it combines two sometimes-underused elements of Kermit’s character, particularly in the post-Jim years–his mischievous streak and his sex drive, significantly two of the very things that some critics are claiming he never had before today, when lambasting ABC’s new The Muppets. Well, here, not only does he take part in playing a (scripted) prank on Diahann Carroll, but he cons her into kissing him! And this is certainly not the chaste sort of kiss one might expect, or at least the second one isn’t.


I’m getting ahead myself, however. Beginning at the beginning, Diahann comes on stage to find Kermit sitting on a small wall, Kermit claiming to be Flip Wilson. “No jive, honest!” he says. And if that weren’t amazing enough, he then claims to have been turned into a frog by Dom DeLuise’s “jive magic”! So it’s like The Frog Prince but more hep, ya dig? And a moment later who should appear in all his flamboyant glory but Dom DeLuise himself?! And Dom is wielding a magic book to show Diahann the spell that he messed up. “You’d better turn me back into a frog!” Kermit demands, in a funny little gaffe of Jim’s, and Dom replies, “Don’t get excited! Please, I hate a pushy frog.” Then he leafs through the book and discovers that the only thing that can turn “Flip” back into his original form is a kiss from a “beautiful maid,” at which point a reluctant Diahann very cleverly responds, “I don’t do housework!”


At that point, Kermit turns on the froggish charm. “I love you. I’ve always loved you,” he exclaims. “You’ve got me hopping through the swamp of your heart!” And once she finally, hesitantly agrees, Kermit begins to pucker up seductively, and she gives him the quickest, most perfunctory kiss that possibly ever happened. “Was that it?” he asks. She tells him that it was, and he impishly responds, “That didn’t do anything for me even as a frog!” What were those people saying again about Kermit being a completely chaste character meant for children? The ante is upped even further when Diahann realizes that she can’t let that stand for she has a reputation to uphold and then she plants probably the biggest smooch on Kermit that he will receive until Piggy comes into his life, and his body literally shakes in ecstasy. Again, clearly, a totally lust-free saint of a frog. Clearly.


He lean backwards and falls behind the wall, and for a moment, we think that the spell might have worked. Except oh no! It looks like a feather is starting to rise from out of sight. Has her kiss actually turned Flip into some sort of bird? But, no, as it turns out, he’s a human, only wearing an enormous, feathered pimp hat…because the 70s? Flip then turns up the fairy tale dial, telling her, “You saved my life. I offer you my kingdom. Speak to me, oh foxy one, and say you will be mine!” She cuts him off with, “I think I liked you better as a frog!” And at that point, Kermit pops up to reveal it had all been a practical joke all along. Basically, he collaborated with Flip to scam a kiss off of Diahann Carroll. Flip then asks Diahann if she wouldn’t mind leaving “because Kermit gets excited very easily.” Um, ew?! But at the same time, aha! Muppet sexuality. Deal with it, 21st century!


Flip helps an Anything Muppet find himself.

Flip helps an Anything Muppet find himself.

“Maybe next time I’m in the swamp, you’ll introduce me to one of those funny little frog chicks,” Flip asks Kermit. “I dig frog legs!” Thus proving that Kermit has had to deal with frog leg jokes for far longer than people whose full early Muppet knowledge revolves around The Muppet Movie might realize.


Later on, Flip comes on stage for the Anything Muppet sketch, which has a great deal in common with the aforementioned Gordon one on Sesame Street in particular but is much funnier, being targeted to an older audience. Well, the first major gag is a pretty Erniesh one. First, Flip puts Jim’s Anything Muppet’s eyes in weird spots, until finally moving them to the correct location, and then when the Muppet asks him to place his nose “in the middle of the face,” Flip starts out by placing it right in his mouth. Then, however, once Flip’s put it in the right spot, and Jim’s Muppet starts to sniff, the Muppet says he has nice aftershave lotion on! Flip says he doesn’t have any on, and without missing a beat, Frank’s responds that it’s his aftershave he’s smelling! Then, when Flip begins to give Frank’s a face but only attaches one eye to start with, Jim’s ad-libs, “Looks like a cyclops!” Once Frank’s Muppet’s nose is on, Frank instantly calls back to the earlier joke by sniffing and saying, “I do smell nice!”


There’s also a great little gag where Flip puts Frank’s Muppets’ eyebrows on pointing upwards, which makes him look angry. Flip tells him it’s because he’s seemed a little negative and hostile, and the Muppet yells, “HOSTILE? WHAT DO YOU MEAN HOSTILE?!” until Jim’s Muppet suggests Flip turn the eyebrows the other way, and as soon as he does so, Frank’s Muppet instantly mellows, his personality literally changing due to his face being altered by just the most relatively minor of touches, another great comment on how powerful the Muppet illusion is. Even when the strings are all laid bare for us right there, we buy into them utterly and completely. They then finish off with a rousing rendition of “Consider Yourself” from Oliver!


You can watch these sketches here, beginning at the 15:30 mark. And come back tomorrow for my coverage of Jim Henson and the Muppets’ appearance on a special Thanksgiving Day episode of The Dick Cavett Show on November 25, 1971!