The Muppets Mayhem, an original Disney+ series, features musical collaborations with artists as eclectic as reggae royalty Ziggy Marley, Disney Channel graduate Sofia Carson, and superstar DJ Zedd. But the show is far from the first series to pair everyone’s favorite puppets with real-world artists you wouldn’t necessarily have expected to join in with all the felt-based madness. The history of The Muppet Show, for example, is littered with interspecies duets that, decades on, still resemble a fever dream. From shock rock anthems to super-meta sing-alongs, here’s a look at 10 of the most wonderfully weird Muppet duets.
1. Rita Moreno and Animal // “Fever” (1976)
Rita Moreno perhaps should have known she was asking for trouble by inviting Animal to provide the sultry rhythms for her take on Peggy Lee standard “Fever.” After all, the wild drummer isn’t exactly known for his seductive sticksmanship. To be fair, Animal manages a good 30 seconds before unleashing his fast and furious side, prompting Moreno to issue the warning, “This is my number, and if you bother me any more I’m gonna hit you so hard, it’s gonna leave you stupid.” Of course, the Muppet eventually goes full throttle behind the kit, leaving the Hollywood icon no choice but to sandwich his furry face in-between two giant cymbals.
2. Ruth Buzzi and Sweetums // “Can't Take My Eyes Off You” (1976)
Sweetums, The Muppets’ hairiest creature, only made a few appearances on their original show. But from treating John Cleese to a burst of Wagnerian opera to belting out a Damn Yankees showtune with frog Robin, they were all memorable in their own way. Here, the lovable ogre tries his best to resist Rowan and Martin Laugh-In regular Ruth Buzzi’s advances on a slapstick duet of Frankie Valli’s easy listening favorite “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.” But it’s hard to say no to a persistent medieval princess, and after much wild flailing around and chair-based physical violence, Sweetums eventually succumbs.
3. Paul Williams and the Paul Williams Muppets // “An Old Fashioned Love Song” (1976)
Paul Williams penned one of The Muppets’ most cherished original songs, “Rainbow Connection,” for their 1979 big screen debut. But his first brush with the lovable critters came three years earlier when he performed Three Dog Night’s “An Old Fashioned Love Song,” a track he also composed, alongside, well, himself. Yes, in a slightly surreal turn of events, a Muppet version of the songwriter—complete with aviator spectacles and blonde mullet—suddenly bursts out of the nearby speaker to provide some extra harmonies. Another one then follows 30 seconds later before the entirety of the Gogolala Jubilee Jugband joins in with all the rather cramped fun.
4. Alice Cooper & The Vile Bunch // “Welcome to My Nightmare” (1978)
Alice Cooper, who is renowned for guillotining his own head on stage, wouldn’t seem like the most obvious candidate to grace such a family-friendly affair as The Muppet Show. Still, The Godfather of Shock did at least wait until Halloween to make his “talented but frightening” presence known. The rocker also recruited some of the more macabre, lesser-spotted Muppets for his opening performance of the aptly-titled “Welcome to My Nightmare,” with backing band The Vile Bunch boasting the likes of Chopped Liver and Flower-Eating Monster. If that wasn’t enough spookiness, a Dracula-attired Cooper later reveals himself to be an agent for Beelzebub. Thankfully, Miss Piggy and Gonzo decide against accepting his Faustian pact.
5. Rudolf Nureyev and Miss Piggy // “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” (1978)
Rudolf Nureyev’s surprise hosting gig is best-remembered for his hilarious interpretation of Swan Lake with a human-sized Muppet named Ballerina Pig. But he also got the chance to show off his (extremely limited) singing prowess in a duet with Miss Piggy on “Baby, It’s Cold Outside.” There’s perhaps a reason why the Russian ballet dancer/choreographer was always seen and not heard. But his inability to hold a tune was the least of his concerns here. Leaning into the wintry classic’s problematic overtones, the over-amorous Muppet spends three minutes harassing the towel-clad dancer before he finally flees to safety, leaving a Nureyev-shaped hole in the steam room wall.
6. Loretta Lynn and the Muppet Babies // “One’s on the Way” (1978)
A bittersweet tale of a stay-at-home mom comparing her mundane existence to the glitzy lifestyles of Raquel Welch, Elizabeth Taylor, and Jackie Kennedy, “One’s on the Way” was one of several proto-feminist anthems Loretta Lynn released in the early 1970s. But its subtleties no doubt got lost amid all the wailing, crawling, and cacophonic attempts at harmonizing from the swarm of Muppet Babies that surrounded the country legend. And these weren’t the type of cutesy miniature versions as seen in the ‘80s cartoon. No, these were the kind of creepy horror movie dolls that could give Annabelle, Chucky, and Renesmee a run for their money.
7. Cast of Star Wars and The Muppets // “When You Wish Upon a Star” (1980)
You might have expected the Star Wars franchise to give light entertainment TV a wide berth after the disaster of their 1978 holiday special. But two years later, The Empire Strikes Back cast hit The Muppet Show set, a prescient collaboration considering they’d both later be acquired by Disney. While Chewbacca, R2-D2, and C-3PO all got the chance to bust a move, Luke Skywalker was required to belt out a rendition of another Mouse House favorite, Pinocchio’s “When You Wish Upon a Star.” Well, kinda. In a bizarre meta move which may have confused younger audiences, the only human face on show was billed as Skywalker’s lookalike cousin Mark Hamill.
8. Johnny Cash and Miss Piggy // “Jackson” (1981)
Johnny Cash rarely performed his first ever Grammy Award-winning song “Jackson” without wife June Carter Cash by his side. But obviously a high-maintenance puppet pig in a purple Stetson was too difficult to resist. Completely subverting his moody outlaw persona, the Man in Black looks like he’s having a blast as Miss Piggy croons and occasionally yee-haws her way through the battle of the sexes anthem during a medley which also included bluegrass favorite “Orange Blossom Special.” Slightly spoiling the feel-good mood, however, is the unfortunate sight of the Confederate flag pinned up behind the duo.
9. Ozzy Osbourne and Miss Piggy // “Born to Be Wild” (1994)
The set of The Muppet Show wasn’t the only place where the Jim Henson lot pushed musical boundaries. In 1994, everyone’s favorite green frog released the ingeniously-titled Kermit Unpigged, a star-studded duets album featuring the likes of Vince Gill, Jimmy Buffett, and Linda Ronstadt. The most out-there collab, however, was between his constant tormentor Miss Piggy and the slightly less intimidating Prince of Darkness, Ozzy Osbourne. “Born to Be Wild” may be an apt choice for such an impossible-to-tame pairing, but they spend just as much time engaging in icky flirting as they do belting out Steppenwolf’s open road classic.
10. Celine Dion and Miss Piggy // “Something So Right” (2014)
The Muppets’ second modern-day movie, Most Wanted, failed to recapture the sheer unadulterated joy of its predecessor. However, it did at least add to their arsenal of brilliantly bizarre duets. Having previously performed “My Heart Will Go On” earlier in the film, Miss Piggy then goes head-to-head in a vocal battle with the inimitable Celine Dion herself; the latter’s self-parodying showboating just about clinches it. Things get even stranger when halfway through, the power ballad briefly switches into a jaunty honky-tonk number featuring various members of Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem.