Hidden Muppet Treasure

A tweet from someone (can’t recall who; forgive me, it’s been a jerk of week for me) led me to a post at Mark Evanier’s* Web site (News from ME) with some amazing video.

* In case you’re unfamiliar with Mr. Evanier, he’s a scribe for many cartoons and comic books over the years–most notably (for me) Groo the Wanderer, a grossly overlooked work of supreme silliness.

I’m totally just echoing what Mr. Evanier wrote on his site, but if I can expose a few dozen more people to these videos, it’s worth it. And I’m also gonna go ahead and totally tell you what happens in these videos, but I promise these spoilers won’t make it any less awesome.

The post in question has a clip from the classic Late Night with David Letterman (from 1984, according to its YouTube page), with Dave interviewing pre-Carson Tonight Show host Jack Paar. Jack takes Dave on an impromptu tour (one Dave was not briefed on before the show, apparently) backstage at the Late Night studio, which belonged to the Tonight Show during Paar’s reign. Jack points out a few notable spots, including his old office, which had been filled with junk since he left.

The tour ends in a dressing room, where Paar opens up an innocuous looking utility door to reveal a tangle of old pipes. But not just any pipes. What sense would that make? C’mon, use your head.

No, these pipes were decorated by Jim Henson.

It seems Paar had The Muppets as guests on The Jack Paar Program (the talk show he hosted when he was allowed back on TV) in 1964. It was one of their first national TV appearances. Grateful for the opportunity, Henson expressed his thanks in graffiti form. And even though paint is not a medium you associate with Jim Henson, you can totally see his hand in this work.

Amazingly, it was there 20 years later when Paar sprung it on Dave Letterman. Even more amazing, the artwork is still there today. In fact, NBC has now decided to make it part of their studio tour. Here, in a segment from The Today Show, the exhibit is unveiled by Jimmy Fallon and Frank Oz, puppeteer behind Bert, Fozzie Bear, and many other beloved Muppets.

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If you don’t think this is one of the coolest things ever, this is where we part ways, sir.