Screenshot: Muppets Tonight

Kermit The Frog has been around, in one form or another, since 1955. In the subsequent 61 years, he has worked in seemingly every possible medium show business has to offer and has seen his share of successes and failures with those ping-pong-ball eyes of his. It’s natural, under those circumstances, that he might occasionally pause to reflect on his life and ask himself some serious questions about who he is and how he got to where he is now. Appropriately, then, Kermit actually covered “Once In A Lifetime,” the existential anthem from Talking Heads’ groundbreaking 1980 album Remain In Light. The occasion was an episode of ABC’s Muppets Tonight that aired 20 years ago this week. In that July 7, 1996, episode, a performance artist named Giganticus is booked to appear on the Muppets’ latest show, but then is unable to make it to the studio. (He’s been beaten up by Super Giganticus.) The ever-resourceful Kermit dons a comically large suit and takes his place, doing his best David Byrne impression. The rest is Muppet magic, right down to the scene-ending banter between Statler and Waldorf.

The timing of the performance is just right, career-wise. Kermit would have been about 41 at the time, so it’s natural he’d be going through a mid-life crisis. Moreover, this episode was taped only six years after the death of Muppet creator Jim Henson. Kermit might still have been adjusting to his replacement puppeteer, Steve Whitmire. It’s very fitting for him to ask, “Well, how did I get here?”

Although the original “Once In A Lifetime” had its own, much-imitated music video with choreography inspired by Toni Basil, the Muppets Tonight version takes most of its visual cues from Jonathan Demme’s 1984 concert film Stop Making Sense. That’s the movie in which Byrne dons a ridiculously oversized suit and dances jerkily in front of ever-changing video screens. Curiously, as the following clip reveals, neither the big suit nor the video screens are employed during “Lifetime,” but both have become so strongly associated with Byrne that they’re used in the parody anyway.

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[via Dangerous Minds]