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The Muppet Show #2

by  in Comics Reviews
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My colleague Benjamin Birdie gave the first issue of this series four-and-one-half stars, and other prominent critics around the world have declared “The Muppet Show” #1 to be one of the best comics of the past month or two, a surprisingly faithful interpretation of the tone of Jim Henson’s creation filtered through the cartooning genius of Roger Langridge. Cheers and huzzahs all around.

And I agree with all the praise of the first issue because I (along with my two children, ages eight and five) absolutely adored it. I wish I had been tapped to review that debut issue and participate in all the back-patting and congratulations, because I’m sorry to say that the second issue just isn’t as good.

It’s fine. It’s well-drawn. It’s a three-star comic, which makes it worth your time, especially if you have a fondness for anything Muppet-related (such a fondness seems to run in people of a certain generation, like my own). But it’s missing something that was so abundant in the first issue. Something that made the comic book version of “The Muppet Show” a whole lot like “The Muppet Show” I grew up watching on television.

What it’s missing is the humor.

Issue #1 had a handful of laugh-out-loud moments and a geniality throughout, even as Kermit lamented his days on the lily pad. Issue #2 has Fozzie’s existential dilemma as he realizes that he doesn’t have what it takes to make the audience laugh. Instead of funny songs and clever sketches full of parody and wit, issue #2 gives us Fozzie’s knowingly unfunny routine followed by his attempt to reinvent himself as a comedian by starting at the beginning of historical comedy and working toward the present.

Perhaps it’s brave of Roger Langridge to frame an issue around Fozzie’s search for comedic meaning, but like the bear’s lame routine about cheese, it just doesn’t work.

To make matters worse, the Fozzie plot is intercut with sketches that are significantly less amusing that the ones found in the first issue. This time we get a parody of an Oldsmobile commercial (Oldsmobile, really? Is the comic set in the mid-1970s just because that’s when the show began to air?), an alligator who chases down a “quilp,” and a too-long-at-one-page “Pigs in Space” strip. Langridge draws it all exceedingly well — one of the charms of the original show was that it was a showcase for innovative puppetry and Langridge uses this comic to showcase his skills as a cartoonist — but it’s about half as amusing as the debut issue.

An argument could be made that what’s funny about this issue is exactly what’s funny about Fozzie Bear: nothing. His eager un-humor is what makes the character endearing. Basing an issue of a comic book around that premise may be a misguided decision.

Langridge tackles “The Muppet Show” #2 with sincerity and with heart, but I hope the first issue was a more accurate taste of what’s in store for the rest of this series.