8/7/1980 – ‘Chris Langham (MS)’

In a unique situation, when Jim and his team went into the studio to tape The Muppet Show on August 7, 1980, they knew their guest star intimately. A last minute cancellation meant that they were short a guest star so Chris Langham, a comedian and member of the writing staff, stepped in to fill the breach. Three years earlier, at the suggestion of John Cleese, Jerry Juhl reached out to the London-based Langham and asked if he would be interested in writing some sample segments with an eye toward adding him to the writing team. In a two-page letter, Jerry described what he was looking for (without presuming that Langham knew the show well):

“Basically I would like you to try your hand at writing three short segments – an “At The Dance” piece, wherein a series of couples dance in a ballroom setting, and one by one we hear them doing jokes – usually set-up and punch line, sometimes one liners. Visual jokes are nice, especially to finish, but good verbal jokes are a must. Secondly, a Fozzie Bear monologue. I hope you know Fozzie –our very insecure stand-up comic who tries to do a monologue only to be constantly heckled by our two old guys in the box, Statler and Waldorf. The material I’m sending you does not contain a Fozzie monologue, but does contain a very good (but unusually long) monologue in which Milton Berle is heckled. The form is basically the same, except that Fozzie crumbles under pressure a lot faster. Finally, I’d like you to try a single “Backstage” sequence – we can speak about that by phone….”

Clearly, Langham passed the test, and he provided some material for the Petula Clark episode in Season 2. For the 3rd, 4th and 5th seasons, Langham was a full-time member of the writing staff. He shared in the Emmy Award for writing for the Carol Burnett episode, and he also co-wrote the script for the television special, The Muppets Go to The Movies. In 1982, Langham ghost-wrote Gonzo’s memoir, “The” Is My Middle Name, but they never found a publisher brave enough to print it.

Learn more about The Muppets Go To The Movies.

John Stevenson’s design for the whale number in the Chris Langham episode of The Muppet Show.

Read more from Jim Henson’s Red Book in Imagination Illustrated: The Jim Henson Journal available from Chronicle Books.

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