Initially, the producers had such difficulty casting guest stars that they had to call upon all their personal friends in the entertainment industry for help. This changed dramatically after Rudolf Nureyev agreed to appear. The publicity of a renowned ballet dancer appearing on such a bizarre show created such positive publicity that the show became popular and soon celebrities were lining up to appear on the show.
The show featured Zero Mostel's last television appearance. His episode was aired just three months before his death.
Chris Langham, one of the show's writers, became a guest star as a last-minute replacement. The star he was replacing was Richard Pryor.
The episode with Deborah Harry was originally supposed to feature Cher as the guest star.
Señor Wences was originally booked as a guest star in the fourth season - he's even mentioned as a guest star in Scooter's "List of Guest Stars" song (tune of "Modern Major General") in the Phyllis George episode, in the middle of the fourth season - yet Señor Wences didn't appear on the show until the following year.
Ruth Buzzi recently revealed that she was originally supposed to be the first guest on the show, but scheduling conflicts pushed her back to episode #4. The guest star on the first episode was Juliet Prowse.
Of all the musical numbers they cooked up for the show, the one the producers were most proud of was created from Harry Belafonte's request for a meaningful piece, which had the singer singing "Turn the World Around" with puppets made to resemble traditional African tribal masks.
One of the most persistent stories over the years is about Spike Milligan's T-shirt with Arabic lettering. Supposedly it was discovered that the Arabic lettering translated to "hashish" only after the show was aired. This was untrue. Milligan's T-shirt actually says "Kuwait", a reference to his own television series Q5 (UK), which had been renamed in various versions over the years to "Q8" in one of its incarnations. Kuwait = Q8.
Statler and Waldorf were named after two New York City hotels. Jim Henson based the two old men off of professors he had at the University of Maryland. Statler is the taller, thinner one. Waldorf has a round head and is shorter. Waldorf's wife is named Astoria, after the famous Waldorf - Astoria Hotel.
The Swedish Chef has been said to be inspired by the first and only television appearance of Lars Baeckmann. His appearance was a total failure, as he mumbled a strange mixture of English and Swedish while hectically preparing some sort of food. It was thought that the show's producers found it very funny and created the Swedish Chef in Baeckmann's likeness (including the thick mustache). However, show writer Jerry Juhl has refuted this statement and believes Baeckmann invented the rumor himself. Baeckmann, who presently earns his money with a traveling cooking show in Sweden, was paid $80 for the rights to the character. He is considered to be a good cook with a great sense of humor.
The "Turn the World Around" number was so beloved by the Muppet performers that Harry Belafonte sang the song at Jim Henson's funeral.
Many guest stars would be asked about their favorite Muppet and be given scenes with them. Miss Piggy was reportedly the most requested. Animal was a close second.
Many of the characters were redesigned early in the show's run. Miss Piggy's long hair and nose were replaced with shorter, curly hair and a shorter nose. Gonzo's nose was resized, and Fozzie had his wagging ears and drooping mouth removed because Frank Oz felt they were unnecessary to bring the character to life.
The character of Miss Piggy was originally alternately played by Richard Hunt and Frank Oz. As the character grew in popularity, a hesitant Oz took on sole performer status. He once remarked that Piggy was such an intense and over-the-top woman, she could only be played by a man.
Although the episode with Rita Moreno was the fifth episode produced, it was the first to air in most markets.
The first two episodes (featuring Juliet Prowse and Connie Stevens, respectively) were produced months before regular production began on the first season proper. They served as pilots to sell the series to TV stations.
Guest stars were allowed to appear on the show only once and never appeared a second time.
Jim Henson wanted the show to end during the peak of its popularity and creativity - and it did. The final year featured the highest Nielsen ratings of its existence.
The episodes were taped in London.
English television didn't have commercial interruptions during the programs, so many British telecasts feature scenes and musical numbers (mostly British music hall in nature) not seen in the US until Nickelodeon aired the show for a brief time in the spring and summer of 1994. Nickelodeon - a kids' channel - would edit out another sketch (mostly sketches that Nickelodeon thought shouldn't be seen by their audience) in favor of the usually less offensive UK sketches.
The one-eyed cat who hangs out backstage is named "Gaffer, the backstage cat."
Besides the theme song, very few songs were actually written for the show. They were taken from old comedy albums, vaudeville standards and British music hall routines.
The "Mahna-Mahna" number was originally performed on _"Toast of the Town" (1948) (aka "The Ed Sullivan Show").
Originally, the producers thought they would only have enough story material for three seasons. However, the characters they developed during the run provided so much creative inspiration that two more seasons were possible.
As of February 2003, Disney purchased The Jim Henson Workshop. The deal includes characters such as Fozzie Bear and The Great Gonzo, as well as the Bear in the Big Blue House franchise. Sesame Street characters such as Big Bird and Elmo are not included in the acquisition, as they are owned separately by the Sesame Workshop
Sam, the self-proclaimed "all-American eagle", was originally voiced by Frank Oz, who is actually English, having been born in Hereford.
When Peter Sellers was chosen to guest star on an episode, he requested that a skit known as "The Wall" not be done with him. In this skit, Kermit interviews the guest for a short period just as themselves, and Sellers' stated that he couldn't be himself. "I can be Queen Victoria, but I cannot be myself," he said. The writers replaced "The Wall" with a skit where Sellers played Queen Victoria.
In the episode with John Cleese, there is a skit in which he plays a pirate, complete with a nagging parrot/possible wife. Shortly before the end of the skit, he asks, "Do you want to be an EX-parrot?" and fires off his gun, missing the parrot. This is a reference to the infamous Parrot Sketch from Cleese's Monty Python's Flying Circus (UK). Also during the sketch, Cleese says to Capt. Link Hogthrob, "Of course I'm a pirate! What did you think I was? A management consultant?" In real life, Cleese has his own company that produces management consulting films.
John Cleese was a big fan of the show and wrote much of the episode he appeared in, including the pirate sketch, his scene with Gonzo ("the ugly, disgusting one who catches cannonballs") and the finale.