Wednesday, October 08, 2014

M Is for Mr. Johnson

Even if you don't know his name, you know Mr. Johnson. He's a recurring customer at Charlie's Restaurant, where Grover works as a waiter. He's the dour, harried straight man, aghast at how he keeps running into Grover's poor--yet overzealous--service. But if you go back to the beginning, you can see how the dynamic was initially reversed; he was overly serious and demanding while Grover was just trying to do his job.

Their first appearance together was on Episode 0276 (November 8, 1971), the third season premiere.

I like how you can see some of the mistakes in there--the confusion over the "Y" and the "Z" for example--and Grover's put-upon "This is a nice restaurant, sir!" In Episode 0332, a persnickety Mr. Johnson didn't have time to eat a sandwich.

But the dynamic was very quickly reversed and Mr. Johnson became the victim of Grover's aggressive attempts to please. In Episode 0406, Mr. Johnson tries to explain to Grover why he can't eat his chicken soup, but Grover won't listen.

Already, Mr. Johnson thinks his life would be easier if he just stopped dining at Charlie's.

My personal favorite of these sketches was this one from Episode 0705, from 1974, in which the concepts of big and little are demonstrated through hamburgers.

I see GIFs of Mr. Johnson's reaction on Tumblr all the time, so I feel like this one may be a lot of people's favorite one.

Mr. Johnson was waited on by Grover another 23 times over the years at Charlie's Restaurant; there's a list on this Muppet Wiki page, which also has a number of links for videos you can watch if you, like me, think losing an afternoon to Muppet videos sounds like the best way to spend a weekday.

Mr. Johnson is often called "Fat Blue," which is his puppet designation. He's an Anything Muppet--the kind of utility Muppet that can have features added on to it to make any type of character--and his body type is fat and blue. But I'm glad they eventually gave him a name.

So much of Mr. Johnson's personality comes from the particular mannerisms given to him by his performer, the late Jerry Nelson. I wonder if they'll retire the character now, or if someone else will take him over. There are times when David Rudman has performed the character with Jerry Nelson simply dubbing the voice. Perhaps Matt Vogel, who took over many of Nelson's characters (including Count Von Count) would give it a whirl. I'm honestly not sure if Grover does much waitering these days.

Of course, Grover also encountered Mr. Johnson as a door-to-door salesman, pizza delivery boy, flight attendant, gym instructor, and so much more in 22 other sketches listed on this Muppet Wiki page, so who knows?

Thanks, Jerry, for giving us one wonderfully short-tempered straight man!

ABC Wednesday


Roger Owen Green said...

I've always liked this guy. Literally, an everyman (everymuppet) vibe.

Kal said...

The best one I remember was this exchange.

"Hello Sir. How can I help you?"

"Hey, weren't you my Doctor last week?"

"Sir I am many things to many people but today I am your waiter."

Su-sieee! Mac said...

I truly enjoy reading your take on the individual Muppets whenever I come across you on these linky parties.

Trubes said...

It's a long long time since I watched Sesame St and I'd forgotten just how funny it was, my kids just loved it.
I liked the hamburger sketch best, must send this to my daughters to see if they remember it.
We don't get Sesame St anymore in the UK.
Thank you for making me laugh on an otherwise gloomy day.
Best wishes,

Abcw team.