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Kermit Parody on Saturday Night Live

Discussion in 'Muppet Appearances' started by Don'tLiveonMoon, Oct 11, 2003.

  1. Don'tLiveonMoon

    Don'tLiveonMoon Well-Known Member

    I didn't know Weird Al had to pay because of using the music, but that makes sense. I also thought the skit was very... mediocre. Personally, while I usually watch SNL, I don't find much on the show very funny these days. I wish they'd show old episodes with Dan Akroyd and John Belushi and everybody once in a while.
  2. doctorjpw

    doctorjpw Member

    Satire and parody is very broadly protected under "freedom of speech." Mad magazine parodied copyrighted characters like Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny and the "Archie Comics" gang back in the 1950's. SNL has presented much more repugnant character assasinations (no pun intended) in its "TV Funhouse" cartoon segment, where actual animation from Disney films and the 70's Batman TV cartoon was dubbed with new dialogue as part the "Iraqui TV Kids" lineup. Another "TV Funhouse" segment used actual footage from "Bambi" and other Disney films to spoof Disney's habit of putting their home video releases "in the vault", never to be seen again. And of course, there was the incredibly controversial "Charlie Brown Christmas" parody of last year, which presented Schulz' creations doing things I don't want to print in a family forum.

    So "SNL" can basically do anything they want with coprighted characters--as long as it comes anywhere close to the legal definition of "satire" or "parody."

    And now, here's my two cents on the sketch: ticked-off puppeteers who use their puppets to injure or threaten people is a schtick that's been used on "Murphy Brown," "The Dick Van Dyke Show" and several other places. Nothing new there. I personally think the sketch was inspired by some of the unfortunate treatment Kermit got during his week on "Kimmel."

    And here's something to think about: "SNL" parodies what's in the public eye. These kinds of things are small price to pay for the fact that our beloved Muppets are making more and more appearances these days. And to those who seem really, really concerned by this, there's nothing I can say to turn you down a few notches. But I really think you're overreacting. Just one man's opinion.

  3. Don'tLiveonMoon

    Don'tLiveonMoon Well-Known Member

    I agree. I tend to get excited when I see a parody of something I love, whether it's a good parody or not. It's nice to just see that people think it's important enough to make fun of it. With Clay Aiken's album coming out this week, I'm kinda hoping SNL will do something next week making fun of it. I'm sure if they do it will in very poor taste, but I would still get a kick out of it. I saw those two Funhouse episodes you referred to, and they were pretty abhorrent. But I couldn't believe it when they did a Veggie Tales parody: The Religtables. It was horrible, all these episodes with the most violent chapters in the Bible and in church history, and the veggies happily singing away. The Crusades, the Salem Witch Trials... The worst was Armageddon, with the rivers of V8. "Armageddon's finally here." "Arm-a-geddon outta here!" It was horrific. And, I had to admit, pretty funny. I was just shocked that SNL would have ever thought to parody Veggie Tales. So as gross as it was, I got a big kick out of it.
  4. Saginaw

    Saginaw Active Member

    Well, whatever the case may be, this has certainly generated ALOT of conversation!

    Like I posted before, it's not unusual for Saturday Night Live to parody whatever floats their fancy, but I believe it would have been extremely difficult for them to acquire permission to perform 'The Rainbow Connection', unless they modified it somewhere to where it wasn't the exact same song. If that's not the case, then this could be a legal fight to watch.

    You know, this sort of reminds me of the time when the late comic Andy Kaufman used to host the late night comedy show 'Fridays' (which at the time was called a West Coast rip-off of 'SNL') and he would stage unusual skits and bits that would take people by surprise. One of the last times he hosted that show he claimed that he was a born-again Christian and acted like one throughout the program. Of course he did it for laughs.

    Then a few years later he died of unexpected lung cancer.


  5. doctorjpw

    doctorjpw Member

    Here's a very simple explanation--not meant to be the exact answer :attitude:
    ---but something close.

    "The Rainbow Connection", like nearly all pieces of popular music, was written by a songwriter affiliated with ASCAP or BMI, the two major songwriters' unions. Each year millions of entities (radio stations, TV networks, theme parks, even restaurants with juke boxes) pay a rights fee to these organizations. The fee covers every song written by a member of the organization.

    By tracking sales of CDs, cassettes, videos, DVDs, etc--and through random audits of radio stations and other music outlets-- the unions see to it that the songwriters get paid residuals for their creations. This is why Dolly Parton, the writer of "I Will Always Love You," made a nice hunk of change even when Whitney Houston recorded the song. It's also the whole hullaballoo behind the songwriters' crusade against Napster and the like--if you can download a song for free (in the process denying the songwriter his residuals), why should you buy the CD?

    So, clutching the wheel in a desperate grasp to keep this on-topic, SNL has every right to use "The Rainbow Connection" as long as the production company (in this case NBC) pays its annual rights fees to BMI and ASCAP.

    I only know all of this useless information because in my radio job, about 4 times a year, I have to sit down and write out the title and songwriter of every song I play on my show for BMI. It's a real pain, but if it means Paul
    Williams gets some lunch money it's well worth it. :D

  6. chicagogonzo

    chicagogonzo Member

    While I certainly agree with freedom of speech and find parody/satire extremely entertaining, I'm not sure if I enjoy the atmospere that this law creates. If I understand it correctly (which I'm in no way claiming), it seems that I can use any images, sounds, characters, etc. without permission if I am making fun of said image, sound, character, etc. under the banner of parody. However, if I just wanted to use the character because I enjoy it and want to put the character into a story or performance of my own creation, I run the risk of being sued heavily if I don't get permission. This reminds me of the stories of nursery schools that painted pictures of Disney characters on their walls without permission that were in turn threatened with lawsuits from Disney if they did not remove the images. It almost seems that if the picture of Mickey Mouse had been giving the middle finger, while certainly not appropriate for children, the nursery schools would have been able to claim that the picture was a Mickey parody. Also, I forget the name of the company, but I went into a puppet making shop at the Bristol Renaissance Faire. They said that they could make custom puppets of any character, including Superman and Kermit, but that they would have to change certain things such as color schemes so that their puppets would be just different enough from the actual characters to avoid a legal mess. Even though they charged an arm and a leg for the puppets, they seemed to be doing the work just for love of puppetry. It upsets me that these people can't blatantly copy characters, but satirists have free reign to do just that in the name of "making fun."
  7. Buck-Beaver

    Buck-Beaver Well-Known Member

    I think some others already kind of answered this, but no they don't need permission. You can do a parody of trademarked characters, but it has to be clear to the audience you are doing a parody. SNL cannot lead its audience to believe they have the real Kermit on, creating confusion. Since SNL is well know for this sort of thing they don't really have a problem.

    Also, all TV stations pay licensing fees for music. To perform a song like "Rainbow Connection" royalties get paid to the songwriters (I believe this even holds true for song parodies). No acknowledgement in the credits for a TV show is not uncommon, but credits are usually given in movies. I think it could be a union thing.
  8. Erine81981

    Erine81981 Well-Known Member

    Oh well it was proubley pretty funny. They had that one thing on SNL where those ugly character from JMC were made for SNL so knowing that they had permsion to do that so I don't think they wouldn't mind that they did that.
  9. Dilbertos2

    Dilbertos2 Member

    saturday night live

    Kermit's line to justin "you, me and p diddy should cut an album" wasn't right with me because of what happened to p diddy a few years ago. the muppets don't need to assoicated with that. another example is that the muppets cut snoop doggy dog from "a very muppet christmas" snoop dog has got in a lot of trouble for what he has said and done.
  10. doctorjpw

    doctorjpw Member

    It's funny you mention Disney...despite the fact that those "TV Funhouse" parodies I referred to slipped by, Disney is notorious for their dogged pursuit of copyright violators--from the harmless uses you describe to parody and satire that should be covered under the First Amendment. Disney is big enough, strong enough, and doggone it, people like them! (Sorry.) They have a seemingly bottomless legal budget for striking down things like counterfeit merchandise and-- in a pretty well-publicized case back in the 70's-- underground comix showing Mickey and his gang doing some pretty raw stuff.

  11. jediX

    jediX Well-Known Member

    You have a point... Disney supposedly made this day care in Florida paint over the Disney characters painted on their walls.

    I'll get a link to that article and post it here after class.
  12. Don'tLiveonMoon

    Don'tLiveonMoon Well-Known Member

    Wow. That seems really, really sad to me. :attitude:
  13. Drtooth

    Drtooth Well-Known Member

    Off the record I NEVER watch SNL... I can't stand how abhorant and lousy it's become over the years, but I'll condemn the skit for being unfunny, and not offensive.

    As a cartoonist I parody things all the time, even if I have never seen them. There's a right way to do it, and a wrong way to do it. From what I've read so far, it was the wrong way.

    I mean, you could take the Muppets and make a clever parody, or you can just have some talentless Musician get into a fight with a fake Kermit performed by an F0-grade puppeteer, and beat him up..

    "Duh, ho... le's beat up Kermin... duh..." that's not witty or clever. It's just stupid humor for the sake of being stupid.

    And personally, the only insult is to desacrate something like Rainbow Connection... it's a sweet sensitive song... I remember them playing it at the end of a PBS tribute to Jim..

    I mean, that is the offensive bit right there, taking a sweet song and turning it to something ugly. I mean, parody lyrics are fine...

    I'm working on a script for something like a "What if.." about other Musicians writing songs for movies, and I have a short bit I'm working on where Paul Williams wrote the opening theme to the French Connection, to the tune of Rainbow Connection... I don't know if it's going to be good, but it seems clever to me...

    Face it, after Phil Hartman died, the show went down to uncreative heck where they wrote unfunny skits about annoying guys with annoying inconsistant accents. The only redeming value? Robert Smigle's TV Funhouse. Now, if that were a seperate show, and not tied down to this Wreck of the Hesperus...
  14. AndyWan Kenobi

    AndyWan Kenobi Well-Known Member

    It used to be, actually. It was on Comedy Central, and still may air late at night. It had some really funny moments, and others that were just crude for the sake of being crude. Overall, an interesting experiment, though.
  15. jediX

    jediX Well-Known Member

    I don't think its on anymore, but I think I have most/all of the shows.
  16. JamieDenny

    JamieDenny Well-Known Member

    Hmm just add my 2 penceworth. The reason it was done was because of the target age of the audience. SNL appeals to people in their twenties-thirties right?
    Most of whom would have had some idea about who Kermit was. As people have pointed out the Muppets are themselves masters of parody.
    The very fact that the Muppets are parodied shows what cultural icons they are.
    The Muppets have grown up as we have seen in IAVMMCM, isn't it about time that their fans did too.

  17. jediX

    jediX Well-Known Member

    Yea... "The Muppets Go Mideval" on Simpsons (Episode "A Fish Called Selma", I believe) was great.

    Lisa: What's a Muppet?
    Homer: Its not quite a mop, and its not quite a puppet, but MAN... ::laugh:: So to answer your question I don't know.
  18. Don'tLiveonMoon

    Don'tLiveonMoon Well-Known Member

    LOL!! :crazy: I remember that snippet of conversation. Cracked me up! :p
  19. Buck-Beaver

    Buck-Beaver Well-Known Member

    The thing is, I'm OK with Disney doing that. I mean it sounds horrible and mean (why pick on day care centers?) but that is not a parody, it's a commercial entreprise (or maybe a community organization) using copyrighted characters without permission. If Disney doesn't act to protect it's copyrights in cases like that these "exceptions" can undermine their efforts when they go after bootleggers and more obvious "bad guys" for copyright infringement.

    A good example of this is what happened with Battlestar Galactica. Now I know that show has it's fans, but the creators have all but acknowledged it was just an attempt to rip off George Lucas and cash in on the Star Wars craze in the late 70s. While they didn't really commit trademark infringement, they did create confusion in the minds of consumers; hoping to make some people think it was Star Wars. When a child choked on a crappy Galactica toy the judge n the case cited "lousy Star Wars toys" as the cause of the problem. George Lucas sued over it because his name had been tarnish by something he had no control over (I'm not sure how the suit was resolved).

    Getting back to Disney...if that Daycare center is plastered with Disney characters and has a horrible accident, a bad safety record or - God forbid - child molesters working there Disney's image could be affected something they had no involvement in. So Disney has to act - however mean it seems - to protect itself and its investors.

    There is actually a Muppets Daycare Centre in Toronto's east end and I'm astonished JHC has never sued over it. They had Muppets painted on the side and everything (not sure if those are still there or not). It's not a particularly good outfit from what I've heard.
  20. Boober_Gorg

    Boober_Gorg Well-Known Member

    Since Mark Hamill, R2D2 and C-3PO were on it, Lucas must have been okay with it.

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