The Muppet Movement

It’s time to play the music

It’s time to light the lights…

In case you haven’t learned this about me yet, I’m a pretty big fan of puppetry.  I became a puppeteer years ago; first out of necessity for work with kids at my church, and then out of love for the craft.  I loved it so much I bought my own strolling stage, which is an adventure in itself to operate, but which I don’t get to use as often as I’d like.

I’ve seen some amazing puppetry work in person at workshops and shows, but I’ve always adored the real professionals behind the Muppets.  And while the movies are great, the genius I admired most has always been The Muppet Show.

Each week the creators of Kermit and friends put on the puppet equivalent of a vaudeville show, complete with comedians, skits, guest stars and musical numbers.  There were main characters, supporting characters, backstage characters, background characters, and characters you might only see once.  I was always fond of Miss Piggy’s confidence, Animal’s exuberance, and Beaker and The Swedish Chef’s special articulateness.  Still, while I liked all the characters, my favorites never took the stage.

It’s time to put on makeup

It’s time to dress up right…

You remember Statler and Waldorf, don’t you?  The two grumpy old guys who watched from the balcony, and heckled throughout the show, no matter how good it was?  I loved those guys.  There wasn’t one bit of the show that didn’t receive an insult from them.  Rather than be amused by the show, they amused themselves with their own ability to mock the performances.


 ‘What’s wrong with you?’

‘It’s either this show or indigestion.  I hope it’s indigestion.’


‘Because it’ll get better in a little while.’

‘How come chickens are getting so big on this show?’

‘Well, chickens thrive on corn.’

And while I loved Statler and Waldorf for their jests and their jeers, there was one thing they couldn’t do.  They couldn’t come down out of the balcony and take the stage.  They inhabit the balcony, safe from having to stand on that stage, safe from having to take chances, safe from having to try things that may or may not fail.

 Why do we always come here

I guess we’ll never know

It’s like a kind of torture

To have to watch the show

That’s where I think Movement Conservatism has found itself lately, and it makes me sad.  There’s a ton of work to do, but there aren’t enough people to do it.  Doing things in politics is hard.  There aren’t a lot of victories for conservatives yet, at least not in the numbers that we’ve hoped for, and that discourages the troops.  Of course there are also a lot of other things to do, too – conservatives have jobs, families, commitments – things that take time and energy, and that need to be considered as high priorities.

But while not everyone in the movement is, or can be, out there in the trenches working full time, we certainly have our share of Statlers and Waldorfs too.  You know who I’m talking about.  People with all sorts of advice and criticism for the folks on the ground.  People who know better how to do everything, even though they haven’t lifted a finger to help.  People who mock and jeer, or rant and complain, but who never propose realistic solutions.

I don’t want to call anyone out, that’s not my purpose here.  But I want you to start thinking about the voices you hear, the articles you read, the people you see on television or hear on the radio.  Ask yourself whether they are really helping the cause, or whether they’re merely sitting in the balcony, hurling insults and tomatoes at the people on the stage.

As a lover of the stage, both in the theater and in the political arena, I have to tell you that the people doing things on those stages have my respect, whether I agree with them or not.  It takes guts to stand up there and try something, it takes a special kind of bravery to take the stage.  Those people are willing to risk everything for a chance to change things.

And if you’re a Statler or a Waldorf, come down from the balcony.

Take the stage.