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While Muppets Stalked Their Flocks By Night

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Statler and Waldorf waited until the lights in the theater went up. The audience was, by now, leaving the theater. Another Muppet Show Christmas Eve Special had come and gone.

“Best show ever...now that it’s over,” Waldorf said. “I don’t know what I like better, knowing that I don’t have to watch another show for 24 hours, or watching the audience leave.”

“I know what you mean,” Statler agreed. “There’s nothing that beats the sound of a theater when people are leaving...except maybe an empty theater.”

Waldorf laughed, then turned to his friend. “Have you noticed how Kermit has a way with finding the worst guests for these darned holiday shows? I mean, where does he get these folks?”

“What are you complaining about?” Statler argued. “Would you rather he got some real talent for Christmas Eve?”

“I don’t know,” Waldorf retorted. “How are the ratings?”

“They’re terrible!” Statler remarked. “They’re so bad, as we speak people are writing their own holiday-themed episodes and posting them on the Internet!”

“Then having real talent won’t help, either.” Waldorf said. “Have you read some of those episodes? They make Fozzie’s jokes actually seem funny.”

The two hecklers rose from their seats in the balcony, and looked into the gallery of now empty seats. A communal sigh rose from their lips, along with a knowing look given to each other – the one that said they (unfortunately) had to be back in 23 hours to do it all again.

“I’ve always wondered, Statler,” Waldorf said, as they descended the stairs to the stage level. “Did you ever read our contract before you signed it.”

“No. That was your job. Why?”

“No reason.” No reason, that is, except for the clause that essentially made the two a fixture in that booth in perpetuity. While he didn’t dare link arms – not within sight of the regulars anyway – the nudge Waldorf gave to Statler let his old war buddy know he still appreciated his company.

Fozzie Bear had been practicing a new joke on Rizzo the Rat off stage left as the two hecklers slowly made their way down the steps from their box seats.

“They don’t like me,” Fozzie said in a whisper to Rizzo.

“Then I suggest you start getting some backbone,” Rizzo replied.

“Where do I get that?” Fozzie asked, somewhat puzzled.

“From the skeleton in your closet, of course,” Rizzo said. “At least that’s where my aunt Charlene says she got hers.”

Fozzie looked at Rizzo a moment. “Do I have a skeleton in my closet?”

“Everyone’s got a skeleton in their closet,” Rizzo said. “But, uh, sometimes it’s behind a lot of other junk that’s in there, too.”

“Oh,” Fozzie said, trying to comprehend the whereabouts of this skeleton. He hadn’t remembered seeing one in there, though it may have been inadvertently placed there by someone in props after the Muppet Halloween special.

“Can’t I just use yours?” Fozzie asked.

“Nope,” the rat replied. “You’ve got to use your own.” With that, Rizzo left to join the other rats.

“I guess I’d better check, then,” Fozzie said to himself. “This joint is bound to have a skeleton somewhere.”

Staler and Waldorf, having now made it to the bottom of the steps had overheard the entire conversation. “Hey knucklehead,” Waldorf remarked. “While you’re looking, maybe you can polish your skull as you bone up on some of your jokes.”

“Very funny,” Fozzie said in a passion, dashing past them to his dressing room. “And you two can get the heckle out of my sight!”

Scooter had been adjusting some Christmas lights that had come undone during the closing number. He passed by the two of them and crossed the stage on his way to the stage manager’s table.

“Good work, Scooter,” Kermit said, coming down the steps from his stage right dressing room. He met Scooter at the stage manager’s table. “Who’s our next guest star?” Kermit asked.

Scooter looked at his clipboard, checked the calendar, and rechecked his clipboard. “Uh, no one, boss. That is, we had Lady Gaga booked until she found out you and Miss Piggy were an item. She said something about catching diseases and your bad romance.” Scooter shook his head, as if he hadn’t understood all of that.

“For the last time, Scooter, we are not an item,” Kermit said emphatically. “Get Lady Gaga on the phone again.”

“I heard that!” Miss Piggy’s shrill voice coming from the landing above them let the two of them know she was not going to allow Lady Gaga to take Kermit away from her. From the look Scooter gave Kermit at that moment, Lady Gaga apparently agreed.

Waldorf’s senility had finally caught up with him. “Heh,” he said, stumbling across the stage and past the stage director’s table. “Forgot my car keys...Must have left them in my dressing room.” The heckler walked slowly up the stairs leading to the dressing rooms. Statler wasn’t far behind him.

“So, who are we going to get on such short notice?” Kermit asked Scooter, a note of concern crossing his amphibious lips.

“I don’t know, boss. I’ll check my Rolodex. There’s gotta be someone that can be our guest star tomorrow. And if not, maybe we can do a show without a guest star.”

Waldorf paused. “This I gotta see!” he said. “A Muppet Show without a guest star. That’s like
mashed potatoes without gravy.”

“Australia without kangaroos!” Statler chimed in.

“Phineas without Ferb!” Waldorf continued. “It’ll be a riot!”

“You mean, there’ll be a riot!” Statler continued. The laughter seemed to jolt the two hecklers into action, as they continued up the steps.

Scooter tried his best to ignore the two old men. The late hour, and the pressure of the moment, forced him to action. “I won’t let you down, boss.”

“Find someone. Anyone. We have to have a guest star – if only to get those two geezers to shut their mouths.”


Scooter spent the next hour poring over the names in his Rolodex. Adam West, Betty White, Carly Simon...No. He needed to get some current talent. People he could rely on...unfortunately some of those were dead: Frank Sinatra...George Burns...Helen Reddy...Jim Henson. Ah...here was a possibility. Kyle Chandler...Maybe he would be able to do the show.

Scooter grabbed the telephone next to him and frantically dialed the number on his rotary phone. Kermit had been too cheap to replace it. And Scooter, being sentimental, wouldn’t allow him to update it.

After two rings, Kyle Chandler’s answering machine picked up. When the beep finally sounded, Scooter cleared his throat.

“Uh, Mr. Chandler? This is Scooter, from the Muppet Show. We were wondering if you could come in tomorrow as our guest star. I know it’s somewhat last minute, but if you can make it, please just show up tomorrow morning at eight for rehearsals. Thanks.”

Scooter put down the receiver. If Mr. Chandler became a no-show, he would have to have a backup plan. Scooter shuffled through his Rolodex once again, scanning each name and pondering the merits of each potential actor. Some he dismissed out of hand – either their last appearances had ended in disaster, or Miss Piggy hadn’t liked the way they had looked at Kermit. Scooter sighed.

Statler and Waldorf emerged from Waldorf’s dressing room – still not having found Waldorf’s keys.

“Where the heck did you leave the darn things?” Statler said. “Do you realize we might be spending the night in this good-for-nothing theater?”

The shudder that went up and down Waldorf’s spine was only matched by his alacrity down the stairs.

“They’ve got to be around here. Maybe they dropped out of my coat up in the balcony.”

Statler was nonplussed, then brightened. “What a pal!” he finally said. “I always knew you were trying to send me to an early grave. And in this case, it’d be a blessing! Last one to the balcony box is one of Fozzie's rotten tomatoes!” Statler inched forward, not wanting to strain his back -- or sprain his leg.

Waldorf passed Scooter, then doubled back. “Hey kid – have you found a guest star yet?”

Scooter could only shake his head.

“Good. I’ve got a twelve-to-one bet on tomorrow’s show not having one. It’d be a shame for me to lose my pension.” With that, Waldorf went off in search of his keys, leaving Statler far behind. Statler, having heard it all, gave his buddy the proverbial bird only to have one of the real ones living in the theater’s loft leave a present on Statler’s balding head. To Scooter, it was all par for the course.

After another two hours of searching his Rolodex, and making phone calls that were turned down in short order, Scooter made his way to the theater’s canteen and kitchens.

Swedish Chef sat in the canteen eating pizza. Scooter’s presence brightened the chef, who invited Scooter to pull up a chair and grab a slice. “Woo-Sha-maadah?” The Swedish Chef asked between bites.

“We don’t have a guest star for tomorrow night, and nobody seems to be available at such short notice.”

“Noo-Giistee? Oo-Nood-a Giistee!”

“I know. But where will I find one at this hour?”

The chef scratched his head in thought. “Woota-Boota-Toortee?”

“A turtle?”

“Frooken-a-Toortee. Da-Kiidoos. Da-Kiidoos.”

“You’re right. Franklin the Turtle would be great for the kids. But, his parents won’t let him come alone to the studio."

Chef nodded. “Wooldoorf. Staadtlah.”

“Right,” Scooter said. “Anything out of their mouths, and Franklin would be in tears. Besides, he has no appeal for the older members of the audience who want a traditional Christmas special. Somehow, I don't recall turtles in the stable with baby Jesus.”

Chef kept thinking, patting his head and rubbing his belly at the same time as he thought.

“Soon-aseep!” Sweedish Chef spouted in a fit of inspiration.

“Soon asleep?” Scooter asked. “I'm pretty sure that baby Jesus could be asleep. But what does that have to do with anything?”

“Noo. Soon-aseep.” Swedish Chef said. He began singing. “Bahbah blah see pavah enney waa!”

“Oh...Little Bo Peep and her sheep?”

“Noo. Soon-aseep. Soon-aseep.” The Chef then stood up and began singing and dancing with his spoon as if it were a cane in his hands. "Is Soon-a-seep...Is Soon-a-seep...Ee-ee-bin Maa-saa-baa--waa-doze-oo-canna-a-bleep..."

“OH!” Scooter exclaimed. “Shaun the Sheep! Yes...He would be a fantastic guest star. But, how would we get him? He lives in a pasture.”

“Kaadniip!” the Chef said, decisively. He dashed into the kitchens and produced a blunderbuss and empty potato sack he had stashed under the counter. “Kaadniip Soon-aseep.”

 


How Scooter had gotten himself talked into kidnapping Shaun the Sheep, he was afraid to know. It was well past midnight, and Swedish Chef was driving madly toward the farm Shaun the Sheep called home. The London theater where the Muppets filmed their live shows was only a few hours’ drive from Shaun’s farm. The Chef’s blunderbuss, potato sacking, and a coil of rope were in the back seat of Swedish Chef’s Volvo. Exhaustion and disbelief overwhelmed Scooter as he fell into a deep, but restless, sleep.

Scooter was shaken awake – physically and emotionally. Instead of his usual white cooking garb, Swedish Chef had donned a kitchen ninja outfit, complete with black apron and chef’s hat. His blunderbuss strapped to his back, ammunition for the gun strapped across his blackened chest, made Swedish Chef look absolutely terrifying.

“Oopen Attem!” Swedish Chef declared, throwing Scooter a black robe. “Kaadniip Soon-aseep.”

As Scooter put on the black robe in the darkness of night and still waking from his restless sleep, he realized Swedish Chef had parked his Volvo only yards away from the farm’s sheep barn next to a bus stop.

Once his robe was on, Swedish Chef led the way. “Noo Tooken!” Swedish Chef whispered. “Soon-aseep soon-dasleep. Tooken meenza Wooken!”

Scooter stayed silent, but his heart was beating a thousand times a second...or so it seemed.

Swedish Chef, rather gracefully, undid the latch to the sheep barn without a noise. Then, ever so gently, he eased the door open. The door creaked loudly, prompting Swedish Chef to place his index finger over his lips as if to silence the gate. It didn’t work. Scooter rushed through the opening. Swedish Chef was right behind him.

No lanterns were lit, but moonlight streaked through the windows aloft. Sheep lay everywhere on woolen blankets, snoring away. Scooter remembered his small stage manager’s flashlight, instinctively attached to his belt. He shone the penlight through the barn. It wasn’t long before Shaun was located. Even in the relative darkness, Shaun was unmistakeable. Four rows and two seats...that is...sheep away from the barn door.

Scooter slid between the sleeping sheep without making a noise. Locating Shaun’s position, Scooter readied the flashlight for his co-conspirator. Swedish Chef got into position, though in his black kitchen-ninja outfit he was hardly to be seen. He readied the more visible potato sacking as he stood atop a large rectangular bale of hay. Then, in Jackie Chan fashion, Swedish Chef bounded into the air, raised a loud (and very Swedish) “Ha Ja!” and opened the potato sack, ready to stuff Shaun the Sheep into it.  

Swedish Chef missed, and fell to the ground. His blunderbuss went off, firing ever so noisily into the still air of the sheep barn.

Shaun woke up.

The other sheep woke up.

A light switch went on.

Swedish Chef and Scooter found themselves surrounded by Shaun the Sheep, a bunch of other sheep, and the farm’s watch dog. A large unkempt farmer in underwear, glasses, and a five-o’clock shadow appeared soon behind the dog.

“Toorn oof de Laat!” the chef whispered loudly. The farmer promptly complied, putting everyone in darkness yet again. Shaun’s bleating, however, brought the dog to his senses, and the lights were turned on yet again.

For their part, the sheep believed all of this to be a dream, what with Shaun being attacked by a fat ninja cook and a small man with glasses in a black robe.

The dog wanted to know why these intruders had chosen his farm to ransack. And the farmer wondered why anyone with any sense about them – let alone two such people – would want to dress up in black like Guy Fawkes and set off cannon fire in his sheep barn on Christmas Eve of all days.

Swedish Chef and Scooter looked defeated. And as the two Muppet Show stars attempted to explain their desperate situation to the farmer, Shaun seemed to take pity on them. He went up to the dog and whispered something into his ear. The dog brightened as well, and ran out of the sheep barn. Within moments, the farm’s three pigs had joined everyone in the sheep barn.

The farmer looked at the dog, the pigs, Shaun, the sheep, and then finally at Swedish Chef and Scooter.

In less than a trice, Swedish Chef’s Volvo was fired up, with the pigs in the back seat eager to get a glimpse of Miss Piggy’s voluptuous frame -- as the dog had promised them they would. 
Shaun joined Scooter in the front seat.

In slightly more than a trice, the farmer’s old blue truck was fired up, the sheep in the back, and the dog up front. The goat, not to be left behind, was helped up into the truck by the sheep. The drive back to London was not as hurried – more because of the farmer’s truck than any other cause.

 

The sun was just peeking over the London skyline when a disheveled Scooter and Swedish Chef – still in their kidnapping garb – entered the Muppet Theater. Following close behind them was the entire farmyard, complete with Shaun, the sheep, the goat, the dog, the pigs, and the farmer. All looked delighted to have been invited to the Christmas Day show. The special guest had been secured at last.

Kermit was pleased, as was Miss Piggy. The barnyard pigs were all over Miss Piggy as soon as she emerged from her dressing room. Several autographs and blown kisses afterward, she sidled up to Kermit. “Eat your heart out!”

Kermit was not going to be intimidated. “Oh yeah? Look at these legs. Have you seen a better set of frog legs?” Swedish Chef began appraising Kermit’s physique with a measuring tape.

“Ah...but my dear Kermeee -- pig’s feet are always in season. And, as they say, ‘tis the season!” Swedish Chef then shifted his attention to Miss Piggy’s feet, measuring them.

“Oh yeah?” Kermit started. “Well...”

“Pee-gee Feet!” Swedish Chef concluded producing a large stainless steel cooking pot. “Pee-gee feet go indee pot!”

Miss Piggy was not pleased. “Oh yeah?” Miss Piggy said, her ire rising.

“Ja!” Swedish Chef retorted, ready to grab and cook Miss Piggy’s feet.

“Well look here, you Swedish Meatball! Lay a finger on my feet, and I’ll send you to Stockholm on a one-way trip!”

Swedish Chef backed away cautiously, then began appraising Kermit’s legs again with some desire.

“And if you touch my legs,” Kermit said rather timorously, “I’ll make sure you never get your own cooking show with Wolfgang Puck!”

Swedish Chef looked sharply up at Kermit, then over to a threatening Miss Piggy. He began to tremble, not knowing what he could do.


Scooter summoned all of the Muppet Show’s cast and his new coterie to the stage for directions, as the Theater’s doorbell rang.

“Just a moment,” Scooter said, racing to the stage door. As Scooter approached the door, he heard a distinctive meowing. But as he opened the door, he only saw Kyle Chandler. Surprised and visibly shaken, Scooter slammed the door in Kyle’s face and raced back to Kermit.

“Kermit! Kermit!” Scooter yelled.

“What is it, Scooter?”

“K-Kyle Chandler is outside. He actually showed up! What am I going to do? I already booked Shaun the Sheep – and the entire farmyard – for tonight’s Christmas Day Special!”

Kermit thought a moment. “Well...why couldn’t we have two guest stars?”

Scooter did a double-take. “Two guest stars?”

“Well, sure. I don’t see why we couldn’t put Kyle in with Shaun, or Shaun in with Kyle.”

Scooter raced back to the door, and opened it. An orange tabby cat lay on a newspaper, meowing.

Great! Scooter thought. Kyle’s turned into a tabby. What am I gonna tell the boss?

Just then, Kyle Chandler scooped the docile cat into his arms and picked up the newspaper. He handed it to Scooter. “Someone called saying they needed me for today’s show. My agent booked me a ticket, and sent me as fast as he could get me here. I wasn’t sure I’d be through Customs. But...here I am!”

“Well...come on in,” Scooter said. “Sorry about slamming the door in your face, but I wasn’t sure you’d be here.”

“Oh, by the way. You forgot to bring in your paper,” Kyle said.

“That's OK," Scooter said. "We never read it anyway.”

Kyle looked around. “What are all these sheep and pigs doing here? Something for the manger scene?”

“Something like that,” Scooter lied. “Kyle – we had a manger scene planned, but we hadn’t really decided on roles yet. Would you like – ?”

“Well, actually I was hoping I could be Joseph in the manger scene. Is that role taken?”

Miss Piggy, having broken away from her barnyard fans, was coming to get her directions from Scooter when she stopped short. “Could it be? Do my fluttering eyes and my beating heart deceive me?”

“That depends on what they see and feel?” Kermit said.

Miss Piggy gave Kermit a sideways glance.

“Hi, Miss Piggy. I’m Kyle Chandler.”

Miss Piggy swooned.

“He wants to play Joseph in the manger scene,” Scooter said.

Miss Piggy looked at Kyle, then at Kermit, then back at Kyle. She sighed heavily, then ever so sweetly said, “Kyle, darling, I hope you do not mind, but Kermit will be Joseph to my Mary in this scene.”

“Then, who will be the baby Jesus?” Kyle asked. “Maybe I can...”

“That’s my job!” Gonzo called out. “I’ve never played Baby Jesus, and I think it’s my turn now. And the Chickens have to be the Angel Choir. They’ve already got the wings and the white feathers, so their perfect.”

Scooter wasn’t about to disagree. He had had a rough night, and wasn’t really in an arguing mood.

“I need some shepherds,” Scooter called out.

“We’ll be the shepherds,” Statler called out.

“Yeah. Somebody’s got to keep these silly sheep in line. Especially that skinny one there with the poofy top. He looks like a troublemaker,” Waldorf added pointing directly at Shaun.

“The Three Wise Men?” Scooter asked.

Zoot, Janice, and Dr. Teeth all volunteered.

“But who will be whom?” Scooter wanted to know. “There’s Caspar...”

“That’d be Zoot.” Dr. Teeth said.

“...And Balthazar...” Scooter continued.

“That’d be me,” Dr. Teeth said. “Janice said she wanted to be Melchior.”

“I’m not sure that would work,” Scooter said. “She’s not really a wise man. Maybe Floyd should ...”

Floyd stepped up to Scooter. “Listen here! She’s a wo-man, and she’s the wisest of anyone in the band. So dig. She’s in, or we’re out!”

Scooter had no choice. Janice was in.

“Drum-mer-Boy!” Animal intoned. “An-i-mal be Drum-mer-Boy!”

Scooter wasn’t going to argue there either. Animal’s logic was impeccable.

“We’ve got the sheep, goat, pigs, dog, cow, Mary, Joseph, the drummer boy...What else do we need?”

“We need a star,” Kermit said. “A really bright star that will shine like the biggest night lights you’ve ever seen.”

All eyes turned to Kyle, who gulped.

And sure enough, once they had put him in costume his charming smile lit up the stage.