Jim’s frequent appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show gave him a chance to reprise old bits he had performed on Sam and Friends or earlier variety shows and to create new works, many of which would show up again on The Muppet Show. The best known of these, of course, is the manic abstract musical piece “Mahna Mahna.” Another Sullivan piece, “Amanda – An Ugly Romance,” gave birth to two distinct routines performed in the ensuing years.
Jim (catching-up with his entries in mid-1968) marked in his journal (with a question mark) that on March 26th he appeared on Sullivan’s show, but it was actually April 30th. For “Amanda – An Ugly Romance,” Jim tested out various techniques with which a character could transform mid-song on camera. This included adding and subtracting facial features and hair and inflating and deflating balloons inside to fill out the puppet head and outside as a nose. With a music track of the West Side Story song “I Feel Pretty,” Jim’s ugly, lumpy character Amanda made herself attractive, winning the heart of Conrad Love (a square-jawed looker originally used in PSAs for the FHA with the voice Jim later used for Prince Charming on Sesame Street). When Amanda’s balloon popped and her features returned to their original look, Conrad took off, but Amanda found happiness in the arms of another lumpy Muppet.
Intrigued with man’s capacity for change and the general paranoid zeitgeist of the period, Jim experimented with a bit in 1968 called “The Transformation.” Instead of focusing on physical changes, he presented a change in emotions and personality reflecting the various viewpoints he had presented in his documentary Youth ’68 earlier that year. A seemingly open-minded moderate character began a monologue fairly discussing the good things about the younger generation and liberal views and morphed into a ranting paranoid conservative. Jim’s notes say that he “tried” this bit for Sullivan on November 24th but that he actually performed the old stand-by, “Sclrap-Flyap.” It’s unclear what the visuals would have been. His “Changing Man” bit for Sullivan in 1969 using the Southern Colonel character was more like “Amanda” in that it involved changing various physical features. The most polished version of a Muppet transformation was performed on The Muppet Show (after a try-out on the 1973 Julie [Andrews] on Sesame Street special.) A beautiful girl, singing “I Feel Pretty” to herself in the mirror, swaps out her features and becomes a monster. Like the original, there is a happy ending when her romantic partner, another monster, sweeps her off her feet. Clearly, there is someone for everyone.