I grew up watching the Muppets, and my kids have really enjoyed watching the older shows, so I have had the opportunity to rediscover them. They’re a great blend of childhood silliness, slapstick, occasional adult humor and weekly guest stars.
As I re-watch the episodes from the late 1970s, I am absolutely fascinated by the guest stars. The show had one guest star per week and included the star in a few of the skits. Think Saturday Night Live, but sillier. And, quite frankly, often funnier.
When you watch a show that needed to recruit the hottest guest star talent every week, you learn a few things. Characters and a show that was created 40 years ago, and the lessons are still relevant.
- Talent Attracts Talent. The Muppet Show had Jim Henson at the helm. He wanted people to know that he could run an adult comedy show in addition to his work on Sesame Street. Miss Piggy was the most requested Muppet to co-star with in a skit, and Animal was a close second. That’s the magnetism of talent.
- Talent Likes a Winner. The show won a slew of awards, including a Peabody Award, 21 Emmy nominations and more. As the show got more popular, more stars wanted to perform. Season two guests included Don Knotts, Bob Hope, Milton Berle, Madeline Khan, Rich Little, Steve Martin, George Burns, Elton Jon and Lou Rawls. In the 70s, these were top stars and are familiar names still today. Huge stars on a puppet show? Crazy.
- You’re Gonna Screw It Up. Some guest stars were, I assume, really hot for the 15 minutes right before their episode, because I haven’t heard of them ever. Joel Gray, Bruce Forsyth, Rudolf Nureyev and Zero Mostel. Those are some colossal mistakes, but the show fought through it with overall great selections.
- Diversity Works. Dom DeLuise, Liberace, Pearl Bailey, Harry Belafonte, Kenny Rogers and Diana Ross. Seriously, that’s the craziest list of anything I have ever seen. Henson wanted to entertain as many people as he could, and he made diversity within his structure work. So can you.
The show is 40 years old, but it made an impact due to the talent it had on staff and the regular talent additions they made each week. Tough to do. It’s a 40 year old show, but the impact they made created a franchise that has produced over 10 movies, countless TV specials, tons of marketing opportunities, and, next week, a recreation of the original show. It’s completely nerdy, but I am looking forward to it.
I have spent the last 20 years of my professional life advising leaders to make great talent decisions to drive business results. In my current gig, I lead talent acquisition and management for a multi-billion-dollar, 100% employee-owned construction company. I geek out on analytics, succession planning, etc. and love it when we position folks to do their best work. That’s fun stuff. I tease bad HR people, because I think we can all do better, myself included. That’s fun, too.