Had he not sadly passed away in 1990, Jim Henson, creator of the Muppets, would have turned 75 today. Given the impact the Muppets and their colleagues over on Sesame Street have had on generations of childten, it’s worth taking a moment to remember Jim and his legacy, so here’s a tribute to my favourite Muppet.
Step forward Beaker.
Back in the day, I’d’ve probably chosen Animal as my favourite, or maybe Gonzo. Over the years though, I’ve come to appreciate characters I can relate to, and while I struggle to say I can relate to Animal’s heavy metal anarchism or Gonzo’s chicken obsession, Beaker’s a different story.
For a start, the poor guy’s accident prone – he gets mutilated, savaged, electrocuted, and when things get really bad his head gets squashed into his neck. I can relate – maybe not with the head-squashing thing, but if there’s an opportunity to fall over, smack my head off a low beam, get stuck in a lift or be on a German plane when the pilot delivers an announcement including the word ‘kaput’, you can bet I’ll end up sacrificing my dignity in public. Same as poor old Beaker.
Then there’s music. Some people, like Pavarotti, can sing. Other people, like Bob Dylan, can’t sing but get hailed as a musical genius anyway. And then there are those of us, like myself and Beaker are doomed to have our musical talents forever forcibly hidden under a bushel. I do a unique version of Born to Run, Beaker participates in a singular rendition of Danny Boy, and maybe both of us will be recognised as legendary in a couple of hundred years or so. Until then, we remain unappreciated, outsider stars in the musical firmanent.
And then there’s communication. This is an area in which Beaker struggles, pretty much being limited to “meep”. I have a greater vocabulary than that, by at least fifteen words, but sometimes the words just don’t come out. I say “thingy” and “doohickey” more than the holder of an English degree should, and I’ll confess I’ve made the classic election/erection mix-up. Sometimes I think it would be easier if all I could say was meep.
So Beaker, you and I are brothers from another mother. But let’s not forget the man who brought you to a wider audience – you and Kermit and Fozzy and Big Bird; Bert and Ernie, Fraggles and Doozers, decades of fun, learning and frog-led anarchy.
Thank you Jim.