“Jerry’s Muppet Rant” by Jonathan Standifird

Jonathan Standifird performs a piece from a full length project at the March 2010 VAMP (Visual Art, Music, Performance,) “Grievous Bodily Harm” at Whistle Stop in San Diego, California.

Jerry’s Muppet Rant – Jonathan Standifird

My friend Bobby lives in Belle Meade. That’s a suburb outside Nashville.

Me and Bobby, we watch The Muppets together. He has every episode on DVD. Season 1 has green fuzz all over it, just like Kermit the Frog, like they skinned him of his soft Muppet fur in order to make the box set and now his insides are shaking cold somewhere inside the Jim Henson vaults. No wait, they can’t be, cus his insides were Jim Henson, and he’s not in a vault, he’s in the ground and maybe his arm is cold without Kermit, but he’ll never shake again.  His hand no longer raises above his head for attention. His voice silenced, and yet captured inside this fur covered DVD box set like a bound spirit, a golem of silicon and cardboard and fuzzy green Muppet skin.

In episode 23, the one with guest star Kaye Ballard, there’s this machine. It’s called the Vendaface. It’s got two big glowing, blinking eyes on top of it. And it’s just sitting there on a sidewalk downtown like a pop machine outside the grocer’s. And this ugly looking Muppet walks up to it and puts in a quarter and these robot arms come out of it. They tear off the muppet’s hair and ears and eyes and nose, till his features are as smooth as an old brown towel. Then new eyes and new hair and new nose,  get popped onto it’s vacant Muppet face and suddenly, ugly He has become beautiful She.  And she is happy. She is who she has always imagined she should be. It’s frightening, really. Imagine being who you always thought you should be.

Another Muppet sees this whole thing happening. She is standing just off screen. She is anxious and excited. She wants to change too. She puts her money in the machine. She endures the tearing away of her features and the addition of new ones.  She is transformed. She is ugly. She is frightened. She is screaming. She is who she always imagined she should be.  She is deformed by ambition. Can you imagine, investing so much  in trying to change who you are and then one day looking in the mirror and realizing you’ve succeeded? You have succeeded and you are ugly, ugly as the act of skinning a Muppet alive, ugly as revealing the hands and faces and wires behind illusion.

And what about my dreams? Are they the kind that inspire me toward greatness, or are they the kind that just make me miserable with everything I already have?