The Greatest Thing I Have Seen in a Very Long Time

… is this sketch from The Muppet Show, featuring Peter Sellers:

Sellers’ voice always makes me think of The Goon Show, which is of course one of the greatest things ever to come out of what would become BBC Radio 4. It’s interesting that, for all that Americans are not supposed to be able to understand strange British things like The Goon Show, this sketch is hilarious, and the studio audience thinks so too. Then again, The Muppet Show seems to be an anomaly in American TV for its inclination to be simply weird. It almost makes it seem not entirely American. As if to prove the point, here’s more Goon Show influence in the form of a totally bizarre Spike Milligan sketch:

People sometimes find it perplexing that I’m totally obsessed with Sesame Street, but early Sesame Street had a lot of Muppet Show crossover, and the same way of appealing to adults—even though Sesame Street is specifically a children’s show, while The Muppet Show never intended itself that way. The surreal was allowed to exist in early Sesame Street in a way it simply isn’t today. In a comedy show, the freedom to just devolve rapidly into silliness is a wonderful thing, and something you don’t see very much in a genre that—in this country, anyway—seems to prefer either scatological one-liners or storylines about sex, dating, and relationships. It seems incredible that an American laugh track should go that crazy over Spike Milligan—but hey, they did. Maybe someone should think about bringing The Muppet Show or its moral equivalent back. I’d watch.

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