Wednesday, October 01, 2014

L Is for Lenny the Lizard

Once again, I'm cheating a bit with this week's entry, but it's because I wanted to show another classic Jim Henson sketch.

Lenny the Lizard is just one of those utility characters who fills out a scene but doesn't really become a full-fledged character. I think the only time he was actually even named to the audience was in a sketch in season 2 of The Muppet Show, where he auditions to replace Kermit the Frog as emcee. (It was the episode hosted by Steve Martin.)

But Lenny's legacy, for me, was that he got to perform one of Jim Henson's recurring sketches. As we've seen, he took a lot of sketches that he had performed on Sam and Friends in the 50s and on various talk shows in the 60s and 70s and did them for the final time on The Muppet Show, a show he owned, perhaps as a way to finally lay them down permanently and move on to other endeavors. (He was getting a bit tired of comedy by the time the series ended, moving right off into dark fantasy.)

The bit in question is sometimes called "Inchworm," and sometimes called "Glow Worm." Jim Henson first performed the bit with Kermit the Frog on the November 20, 1964, episode of The Jack Paar Show. (Embedding is disabled on the YouTube clip, but you can go and watch it.)

Jim (and Kermit) performed the bit on several other talk shows through the next few years: The Tonight Show (1965 and 1969), The Hollywood Palace, The Mike Douglas Show, and The Ed Sullivan Show (all in 1966), and That's Life in 1968. But my personal favorite version was the final time Kermit himself did it, on the Muppets' classic 1971 appearance on The Dick Cavett Show.

(This clip is a little on the loud side.)

The sketch wasn't repeated again until 1977, when it appeared on the second season episode of The Muppet Show hosted by Rich Little. In this final performance, Kermit the Frog and Big V were replaced by Lenny the Lizard and Gorgon Heap.

As a utility player, Lenny didn't really have a regular performer. In the above sketch, he's performed by Jim Henson. In his emcee audition, Lenny is performed by Richard Hunt. Before that, he had made filler appearances performed by Dave Goelz.

Since I cheated him a little bit, here's another sketch he appears in, where he's performed by Jerry Nelson. This is from the first season episode, where he kicks off Florence Henderson's performance of the Turtles' "Happy Together."

How is the weather?

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Roger Owen Green said...

My, I always liked Florence Henderson, long before The Brady Bunch.


Reader Wil said...

The Muppets are a perpetual inspiration to the alphabet! Thanks for your videos!
Wil, ABCW Team