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Sunday, December 23, 2012

TV Monday: The Muppets take Montreal

30 Rock may be feted for showing the hijinks behind the scenes of a wacky variety series, but The Muppet Show was one of the first to do it. And this Monday, the latter gets the spotlight on Just for Laughs: All Access.

Filmed during the Just for Laughs Festival in Montreal this summer, The Muppets All-Star Comedy Gala features the Jim Henson puppets playing host to decidedly human comedians Jim Breuer, Steve Patterson, Pete Zedlacher and Adam Hills.

It’s possibly the only event in which both adults and kids can be seen hootin’ and hollerin’ over 36-year-old pieces of felt.

But, boy, can those pieces of felt bring the funny. And really, amid the chaos of wrapping — and let’s be honest, buying — last-minute gifts, who wouldn’t love the sight of Gonzo, his exploding chickens and their Cirque du Poulet?

The Muppets reached the apex of their most recent comeback with last year’s big-screen film The Muppets, starring and produced by How I Met Your Mother’s Jason Segel, but their enthusiasm hasn’t waned any.

Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear and the gang kick off the 90-minute special with The Muppet Show theme and a very special Canadian song boasting lyrics like “Canada is the capital of Narnia” and “Canada is America’s hat.”

Sam the Eagle explains the salute best: “I think it’s only appropriate that we start the show by paying tribute to our generous hosts. We need to be gracious! We need to be magnanimous! We need to be patronizing! After all, we are Americans.”

It’s a cliché gag — U.S. comedians playing to the Canadian audience — but the Muppets never built their reputation on cutting-edge stuff. (One of Fozzie’s joke in the special: “What province has the best brass band? Manatuba.”)

The comedians fill in the rest, with Patterson riffing on Toronto students’ terrible French skills, Zedlacher describing his grandparents’ creepy Christmases in Germany, and Breuer detailing a family trip to an animal safari gone awry.

Yes, Miss Piggy karate-chops Kermit. Yes, Statler and Waldorf mock Fozzie’s jokes. Yes, the Muppets end with a singalong rendition of Rainbow Connection. Yet there’s comfort in familiarity, a nostalgic gleefulness that the Muppets live on for kids of this generation.

Plus, The Swedish Chef makes a batch of poutine. Now if that isn’t heartwarming — or heart-stopping — entertainment on Christmas Eve, I don’t know what is. (Monday, Comedy Network, 7:30 p.m. ET/PT)
by Melissa Hank

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