8/2-5/1970 – ‘To L.A. set up Flip Wilson taping.’

Jim’s August 1970 trip to Los Angeles was to sit in on the planning and rehearsals for Flip Wilson’s variety show, Flip, scheduled to tape at the end of that week and air on October 15th. Caroll Spinney came out to perform Big Bird and Oscar accompanied by the Muppet builder and handler Kermit Love. While Jim went back to New York once everything was in place, Spinney and Love stayed on an additional week to tape a second appearance that would air as the show’s premiere on September 17th.

The Muppets were guests twice more on Flip. For the November 11th, 1971 show, they performed their popular “Java” piece featuring abstract dryer-hose characters dancing to the jazz composition of the same name made popular by trumpeter Al Hirt. Taped the month before, Kermit also chatted with Diahann Carroll, soliciting a kiss, and they did a piece with Flip and Dom DeLuise that Jim described in his journal as “Frank’s drunk” referring to a character performed by Frank Oz named Marcus Welby who had a bad case of hiccups. The show ended with Jim and Frank performing two blank faced Anything Muppets. Bantering with them, Wilson charmingly gave them eyes, eyebrows, and other facial features. Once everything was in place, the trio joyfully sang “Consider Yourself” from the musical Oliver!

The Muppets appeared the following year, taping the 1972 premiere episode in August for a September 14th air date. They did a Dancing Frog bit, a Ballroom bit and an Ernie and Bert song “Clink Clank”. While the reviews were somewhat tepid, Jim must have been pleased when Variety referenced Burr Tillstom’s work when talking about Jim’s. After praising the contributions of Pearl Bailey and Jack Benny when talking about the high points of the show, Variety said, “…and Jim Henson’s Muppets were right in there with the Kuklapolitans for fey humor.”

Learn more about the 1970 Muppet appearances on Flip Wilson’s show.

Flip Wilson with Frank Oz’s character Marcus Welby on Flip, November 11, 1971.

There were plenty of frogs available for appearances left over from Jim’s 1971 television special, The Frog Prince.

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