Alice Cooper’s Unlikely Friendship With The Muppets

Ralph Arvesen, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons Northerner, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons
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Although his image might have softened over time, probably the last place you’d expect to see Alice Cooper in 1978 was a kid friendly program like The Muppet Show.

While he’d already established a presence on television with appearances on Hollywood Squares and The Snoop Sisters, putting a shock rocker who traded in vaudevillian nightmare fuel in the family-oriented environs of Jim Henson’s greatest creations seemed like an oddball pairing; even to the man himself.

In an interview with Ultimate Classic Rock, Cooper said of the experience: “The Muppet Show was the biggest show in the world at the time. I watched it. I thought it was the funnest thing on TV. And [manager] Shep [Gordon] called me up and he said, ‘They want you to do The Muppets.’ I went, ‘Wait a minute. We just spent all this time making sure I’m the scourge of rock ‘n’ roll. This is just gonna water it down. I don’t know — can we do that?’ Then I said, ‘Who was on the show recently?’ And they said, ‘Vincent Price. Christopher Lee.’

“I went, ‘I’m in!'”

Since it first aired on Nov. 2, 1978, Cooper’s appearance in Episode 307 of The Muppet Show has become the thing of legend. While appearing as himself, the infamous showman was introduced by Kermit the Frog as “one of the world’s most talented and frightening performers.” Acting as an agent of the devil, Cooper promised the Muppets “fabulous riches and worldwide fame” in exchange for their souls. He also performed his mega-hit “Welcome to My Nightmare” as well as a duet with Miss Piggy on his top-10 single “You and Me.” 

“I swear I never had so much fun in my life as that week that I worked with the Muppets. It was the original guys; Jim Henson, Frank Oz, the rest of them.” As much as he enjoyed the creative team, Cooper came to learn that his primary collaborators were the Muppets themselves.

“After a while you start talking to them, and they talk back! After three days you’re in your dressing room and Kermit pops his head in and goes, ‘Hey, you had lunch yet?’ And I go, ‘No. You wanna go have lunch?’ He goes, ‘Yeah, OK.’ They become people.” 

In the process of staging “You and Me,” Cooper made all of his suggestions directly to Miss Piggy rather than to Oz. As he explains: “We’re rehearsing a song, and I go, ‘Piggy, why don’t you put your head on my shoulder while we do this? It’ll be funny if you just kind of lean over.’ ‘Oh, yeah, good idea.’ I said, ‘OK, let’s try it.”

Alice Cooper was just one of dozens of superstars who made guest appearances on The Muppet Show. Other hit makers such as Elton John, Paul Simon, Liberace, Linda Ronstadt, Kenny Rogers, Diana Ross, Debbie Harry, John Denver and many more moonlighted on the program.