Did Rowlf the Dog swear on TV?
April 20, 2005 11:00 AM   Subscribe

I have a strong memory of seeing a video clip of Rowlf the Dog swearing on Late Night television. Can anyone help me find more information?

I believe I saw it as a clip, instead of live. I think it was from the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Jim Henson was in the guest chair working several different muppet characters. He had just switched to Rowlf, and the dog was chatting to some of the earlier guests on the couch. Johnny tries to get Rowlf's attention; Rowlf turns, points to Johnny, and says "Son of a Bitch!" Johnny is taken aback, with his trademark shocked look. Rowlf shrugs and says "Hey, it's a compliment where I come from." And then they launch into the interview.

Did this happen or am I just dreaming? I'd like any or all:

a) confirmation that someone else remembers this
b) a link to a website with more details confirming the event
c) audio or video of the event

posted by jazon to Media & Arts (9 answers total)
Best answer: According to this forum posting, Rowlf cursed on the Arsenio Hall show. According to this post, he said "son of a b----". (The people on the Forum then argue that this is not cursing, since indeed, Rowlf is a dog, and is therefore a son of a bitch.)

According to a search of Google Groups (rowlf "arsenio hall" bitch), I've found that the bit went a-little something like a-this:

"My favorite Rowlf story is still the time Jim Henson appeared on the Arsenio Hall Show. Henson pulled out Rowlf, who immediately pointed to Arsenio and just said, 'Son of a bitch!'. After the hysterics died down, Rowlf added, 'coming from a dog, that's a compliment'."

Can't find a clip though.
posted by NewGear at 12:49 PM on April 20, 2005

Also, just for the record, Rowlf appeared "frequently" on The Tonight Show and on The Ed Sullivan Show. link (scroll down towards the bottom)

Good find, NewGear. That must be the one.
posted by dfowler at 12:53 PM on April 20, 2005

I certainly might be wrong, but I'm a little skeptical as to whether the Arsenio event actually happened.

Wasn't Jim Henson not into making it obvious that the characters were puppets, for the same reasons that people get fired from their jobs as Disneyworld characters for taking off their costumes in public?
posted by box at 1:08 PM on April 20, 2005

Response by poster: box - I know what you mean, but some the way I remember the tonight show spots is that Jim first starts talking, then he brings out a muppet, and he just kind of fades into the background and the character takes over. I have the memory of Jim sitting there, peeking around Rowlf, but the focus is on the dog.

I'm wondering if I have "late night show" and "tonight show" mixed up, but I'm really sure the host was not Arsenio. Reading some of the forum postings I get the feeling they used that gag a few times. Thanks for the leads.
posted by jazon at 1:22 PM on April 20, 2005

Response by poster: More follow-up: searching google groups (thanks for the suggestion netgear) brings this post which seems to confirm my memory of the exchange, and with Arsenio. I'll bow to majority and go with that.

Glad to confirm it happened, and have a way to look it up. Too bad about no clips, but I can live with that.
posted by jazon at 1:27 PM on April 20, 2005

Response by poster: newgear, not netgear. D'oh!
posted by jazon at 1:27 PM on April 20, 2005

That "fading" that you mention is one of the indications of a wonderful pupeteer. The really good ones have an uncanny ability to throw all the focus to their puppets, even when they're right there. Like ub Bunraku.

I had the luck to work with some really great ones when I was a performer at Disney, and I saw Henson appear once or twice with Kermit just on his arm, walking around out in public. That focus and fading on the puppeteer's part is kind of like the "it" factor for actors, they either have it or they don't.

This is a favorite subject of mine. I really miss playing with foam and bits of fur for a living.
posted by Elsbet at 3:50 PM on April 20, 2005

Response by poster: Yea, Elsbet, I remember an interview talking about the guests they'd bring on to do the Muppet Show. To get the guest comfortable, they'd start just chatting between puppeteers (like Frank Oz) and the guest, then one muppet would join in the talk, then another, and soon the guest was just chatting with the characters like Ms. Piggy, completely ignorning Frank.

Frank Oz once said about Carroll Spinney that he'd never need therapy because he played both Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, and got to balance different sides of his personality out with both of them.
posted by jazon at 8:33 PM on April 20, 2005

Henson probably figured that people who were watching late-night TV were not the audience that needed to have the illusion maintained. The Muppet Show always had stuff in it for both kids and grown-ups anyway, whether it was the musical number derived from a porn film soundtrack or Raquel Welch dancing around in... well, not much at all... I vaguely recall there was a spider involved.
posted by kindall at 12:13 AM on April 21, 2005

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