Thursday, April 17, 2008

Spending too much time thinking about Rich Little

Some of the guest stars on The Muppet Show are dated, a few I've never even heard of, but as I make my way though season two on DVD, there's only one so far who I simply don't get. The funny thing is I remember liking Rich Little when I was a kid. But I can't imagine why I did, or why anyone would, or why it seemed like a good idea to put him on a children's show. Little, in case you don't remember, did impressions. Based on the Muppet Show appearance, that's all he did. There aren't really any jokes that might make a mediocre impression funny or political. On the Muppets he impersonates WC Fields, Humphrey Bogart and John Wayne. Not exactly cutting edge stuff. Even 30 years ago those guys weren't raking in the under-12 demographic. But I guess they've all endured as famous personalities, so the bigger problem is really that none of his impressions are actually good. And yet somehow, I remember this guy being kind of a big deal!

The biggest misstep with the Muppets is when Little actually does impressions of the Muppets. And they are bad. And in case you might think they're good, he has conversations, in "character," with the person (um, bear, frog) he's impersonating. This is the opposite of a good strategy. I mean, my only real sense of what WC Fields sounds like is what a WC Fields impression sounds like. But the surest way to point out how two people sound nothing alike is to listen to them talking to each other! Here, see for yourself. The segment is about 5 minutes in.