I love The Muppets.
I realize that’s like saying, “I love pizza.” Of course I love The Muppets. Everyone does. But I was raised in a household where The Muppets were king. My older brother used to dance in his diapers to the original Muppet Show. We’d watch all of the movies endlessly. Muppet Babies and Sesame Street were appointment television for me growing up.
That joy has continued on through this recent Muppet resurgence. The Jason Segel Muppets movie got me a bit misty-eyed. I love the YouTube videos with Gordon Ramsey or where they cover “Bohemian Rhapsody.” I even watched the Lady Gaga Christmas special, which was delightful.
I tell you this all to explain why I recently broke one of my cardinal rules and actually watched a Jimmy Fallon clip. I was suckered into watching the video of his last Late Night show before moving up to the Tonight Show, where he had The Muppets on to help him close out the night.
I wish I could say that my love of The Muppets won out over my hatred of Fallon. If anyone could counterbalance his douchiness, it would be them. Unfortunately, they lost the good fight.
One of my fundamental problems with Fallon is that he coasts by simply by surrounding himself with talented people. He does duets with Bruce Springsteen or Justin Timberlake or Paul McCartney. These are all talented, beloved performers who are going to get a huge reaction from audiences. And Fallon gets to siphon off some of that applause simply by standing next to them. It’s the TV equivalent of using a cute puppy in the park to get attractive women to talk to you. They are there for the puppy, not because you are actually charming.
The Muppets were no different. They were just the latest celebrities Fallon suckered into performing with him in order to make himself look good.
Which would be fine – but it was boring. He made The Muppets boring. I didn’t think that was possible. But he picked a quiet, reflective song and had them perform it without any flair. So I got to watch Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem coast their way through a not-particularly-inspired version of “The Weight.” And this was supposed to qualify as entertainment.
That’s like hiring a stripper to do your taxes. Sure, she might be able to crunch the numbers for you, but in the end she’s going to be sitting there in her neon bikini asking you if you bought a house in the last year or if you have receipts for all of your itemized deductions.
Simply evoking something people love doesn’t qualify as a joke. I realize that’s basically become The Family Guy‘s model for comedy, but it’s a cheap cop out. Showing us The Muppets is a good start for a quality bit. But you have to think it through. Write some jokes. Do some shtick. Don’t use them in a schmaltzy, overserious way. Make them dance in a car with Terry Crews or step on Kristen Bell’s feet while she’s trying to teach them how to dance. It’s called comedy writing. Try it.
But all that pales in comparison to Fallon’s greatest sin – showing us one of the puppeteers. His cameraman was panning around and, at about the one minute mark, as he moved the camera from Fallon to Dr. Teeth, the head of the puppeteer controlling Dr. Teeth was clearly visible (see the photo below). That’s just inexcusable.
A lot of people like to attack the guy Fallon is replacing on The Tonight Show (and for good reason). But at least Jay Leno managed to have The Muppets on his show without ever breaking the fourth wall. He’s a terrible comedian, but damn it, he’s a professional.
Anyway, I bring all of this up for three reasons:
1. Because Fallon tried to use a beloved cast of characters from my childhood to generate genuine emotion on his final show instead of finding a honest way to get that reaction … and he failed at it.
2. Because I want you all to stop sending me this clip convinced that it will be the moment that I stop hating Fallon. It ain’t gonna happen.
3. Because fuck Jimmy Fallon.
Good luck on the new gig, Seth Meyers. You have some really small shoes to fill.
Joel Murphy is the creator of HoboTrashcan, which is probably why he has his own column. He loves pugs, hates Jimmy Fallon and has an irrational fear of robots. Follow Joel on Twitter @FreeMisterClark or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.