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Up to date as of February 02, 2010

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Written by  Piero Umiliani
Music by 
Lyrics by 
Date  1968
Source  Svezia, Inferno e Paradiso
(Sweden, Heaven and Hell)
Publisher  Edward B. Marks Music Company

"Mahna Mahna," originally titled "Mah-Na Mah-Na," was written by composer Piero Umiliani for an Italian documentary about life in Sweden, titled Svezia, Inferno e Paradiso (Sweden, Heaven and Hell). It is a nonsense song that achieved widespread fame as a classic Muppet sketch.

Although it was first performed in a Henson production on Sesame Street by Bip Bippadotta and two Anything Muppet girls, the most well-known Muppet rendition of the song debuted on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1969, where it was performed by Mahna Mahna and his back-up singers, the Snowths. This version of the skit was restaged many times on a number of variety shows before being featured as the opening number in the premiere episode of The Muppet Show.

Regardless of who is performing the number, the structure of the song remains the same: a central character attempts to conform to the structure of the song but falls into improvisational scat passages whenever possible. Although the back-up singers make an attempt to bring order back to the number, their effort is ultimately futile.

The number became popular enough that it was spoofed by the Muppets themselves in a sketch on Muppets Tonight, in which Kermit the Frog complained to his psychiatrist that the Snowths would appear every time he said the homonym "phenomena."

Rumors have circulated, based on a leaked script of the upcoming The Greatest Muppet Movie of All Time!!!, that the film will end with a montage of Muppets and celebrities performing the classic number.

Performances

Picture Production Year Description
Sesame Street
(First: Episode 0014)
1969 The earliest version of the skit was first performed on episode 0014 of Sesame Street by Bip Bippadotta, backed by two Anything Muppet girls. Whereas the Snowths sing "do doo, do doo doo" in the Muppet version, the back-up singers on the Sesame Street version sing "pa tee, pa tee pee."
The Ed Sullivan Show 1969 Performed live on November 30, 1969, this is the first time the song is performed by Mahna Mahna and the Snowths.
The Dick Cavett Show 1971 Performed by Mahna Mahna and the Snowths.
This Is Tom Jones 1971 Performed by Mahna Mahna and the Snowths.
Pure Goldie 1971 Ruth Buzzi, Johnny Carson and Goldie Hawn performed the song when they all turned into Muppets.
The Muppet Show
Episode 101
1971 Performed by Mahna Mahna and the Snowths as the opening number. As the song draws to a close, Mahna Mahna leaves the stage and exits the Muppet Theater. Soon after he has disappeared, the phone rings backstage. Kermit answers the call and brings the received on stage, telling the Snowths "It's for you," at which point Mahna Mahna has the last word, "Mahna Mahna!"
Muppet*Vision 3D 1991 An instrumental version of the song is heard in the queue areas and is played in the theater during show transitions.
Muppets Tonight
episode 107
1996 The "Mahna Mahna" sketch was parodied in "The Psychiatrist's Office" sketch in episode 107 of Muppets Tonight. Every time Kermit said the word "phenomena," the Snowths would appear and sing their trademark "do doo do do doo." As the sketch progressed, guest star Sandra Bullock began performing the song, taking on some of the mannerisms of the Mahna Mahna character, most notably by trying to dominate the song with a manic scat until she was calmed down by others.
The Muppet Show Live 2001 "Mahna Mahna" opened The Muppet Show Live at Muppetfest in 2001. Bill Barretta performed Mahna Mahna to a pre-recorded track of Jim Henson's vocals. New video footage of Mahna Mahna riding in a limo was taped and shown on a video monitor at the event.
The Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon 2002 Kermit the Frog performed the song with the Snowths for the 2002 Jerry Lewis MDA Labor Day Telethon.
Barnes & Noble Lincoln Center event 2003 Sweetums performed the song live during a promotional appearance featuring Kermit the Frog and Steve Whitmire at the Lincoln Center Barnes & Noble in New York.
CanTeen 2005 An advertisement featuring "Mahna Mahna" was filmed for a New Zealand cancer charity called CanTeen. In the ad, Mahna Mahna was both puppeteered and voiced by Bill Barretta, and the lyrics were changed from "Mahna Mahna" to "Bandanana" to promote CanTeen's "Bandanna Week."
Muppets Ahoy! 2006 The Muppets sang the song in the Muppets Ahoy! stage show. Drew Massey performed Mahna Mahna to a pre-recorded track of Jim Henson's vocals while Victor Yerrid and Brett O'Quinn performed the Snowths. New video footage of Mahna Mahna around the Disney Wonder crusie ship was taped and shown on a video monitor as well.

Releases

Audio (The Muppet Show version)
Audio (Sesame Street version)
Audio (cover versions)
Video (The Ed Sullivan Show version)
Video (The Muppet Show version)
  • The Muppet Revue (1985)
  • It's the Muppets: Meet the Muppets! (1993)
  • The Muppet Show: Season One (2005)
Video (Sesame Street version)
  • Shalom Sesame: Show 7: Sing Around the Seasons (1990, brief portion of the song only)

References

  • The cover of the song performed by Cake, which was recorded as the opening track of the 2002 For the Kids album whose sales proceeds went to the VH1 Save the Music Foundation, also appears on the band's 2007 album B-Sides and Rarities.
  • A line in "Weird Al" Yankovic's 2003 song "Couch Potato" mentions "The Muppet Show where they go 'Mahna Mahna!'"
  • The song was sung in the style of the Muppets by Gareth, David and Ben in the first episode of the second series of BBC's The Office. After they finish singing the tune, David sighs "ah, Muppets".(YouTube)
  • A clip of the song and video was used in an episode of "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart".
  • Issue #2 of The Treasure of Peg-Leg Wilson features Mahna Mahna and the Snowths at Machu Picchu, singing the name of the Incan ruin to the tune of "Mahna Mahna."
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This article uses material from the "Mahna Mahna (song)" article on the Muppet wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.

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