Our son gave me Jim Henson: The Biography for Christmas, and I've been tucking into it over the last while. I've been learning a lot about Henson, who coined the word "muppet" many years before either Sesame Street or The Muppet Show. He actually had worked out the concept for that series more than a decade before it finally made its way to air, with sketches for an opening that look remarkably similar to the "it's time to meet the Muppets" theme that we all know.
Henson started performing the Muppets in slots on local TV in Washington, and caused enough of a buzz (no pun intended) that he was approached by a regional coffee distributor, Wilkins Coffee, to make TV commercials.
Each spot was short - just 10 seconds, which meant that Henson and his partner and future wife, Jane, had to come up with eye-catching moments. The jokes are blunt, and Henson deployed techniques to get a laugh that future Muppet Show audiences would love. The ads worked so well that Henson was asked to replicate the formula for other regional companies. For many, the ads were the first time anyone had seen the puppets, or heard the voice of Henson, who by this point was only 21 years old.
I was curious to see if the ads are available online. Sure enough, they are ... all rounded up in one place, too.