Feb 24, 2021

Behind the Music - Mah Na Mah Na

 On February 19th, Disney+ added all five seasons of the original Muppet Show (1976 - 1981) to its streaming catalog. The is pretty amazing considering the last two seasons have yet to receive a home release. Featured in the very first episode is the iconic (and infectious) musical number "Mah Na Mah Na". 

No doubt, you know the tune, but do you know this wasn't the first Muppet performance of it, or where the song originated?

Join us as we go Behind the Music with Mah Na Mah Na...
The song originally titled "Mah-Na Mah-Na," was written in 1968 by Italian composer Piero Umiliani for a documentary about sexuality in Sweden, titled "Svezia, Inferno e Paradiso" (Sweden, Heaven and Hell). The entire soundtrack is available on YouTube but let's stick with the main attraction for now.

The first Muppet performance of the song was not on the Muppet Show, but on Sesame Street. It was episode 14 (brought to you by the letters O, R, and the number 6) which first aired on November 27, 1969.

This first version was performed by Jim Henson as Bip Bippadotta and a pair of Anything Muppet girls played by Frank Oz and Loretta Long (Sesame Street's Susan). If you're not familiar with the term, Anything Muppets are generic Muppet bodies that can be dressed with facial features to create a character. Bip would eventually become the Muppet you associate with the song who is actually named Mahna Mahna. You can sort of see the evolution of the wild hair and scraggly beard.

Just three days after that Sesame Street episode, the faces of the musical number changed when it was done live on the Ed Sullivan Show. Here we get the more familiar Mahna Mahna Muppet accompanied by two Snowths. Both Snowths are performed by Frank Oz!

It would be two years before the song made a resurgence on a Goldie Hawn special in 1971 titled Pure Goldie. However, Mahna Mahna and his backup signers are absent.

Before they're own show, the Muppets did a lot of TV appearances back in the late 60s/early 70s. And it seems like everyone had a variety show or special at some point. I really enjoyed this clip because I've been a fan of Ruth Buzzi since I was a kid.

 The song would be done two more times before the debut of the Muppet Show. It was on the talk shows This is Tom Jones (of which I couldn't find a clip) and The Dick Cavett Show. 

After the song, Jim Henson comes out for a bit but the clip was cut short. I went to find the rest of it and stumbled into this fantastic playlist which is the entire 1971 Dick Cavett Thanksgiving special featuring the Muppets. It includes interviews with Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Carol Spinney (Big Bird/Oscar), and Jerry Nelson (The Count, among many others). Absolutely worth a watch if you're a Muppet fan!

Anyway, that's basically the history of Mah Na Mah Na prior to its appearance on the Muppet Show. If you want the full rundown on where the song has appeared with the Muppets after that, check out the entry on Muppet Wiki.


  1. Awesome❗️Thanks for sharing all the history love the muppets

  2. Wow - you learn something new every day. Pretty cool origin to the song.

    Mah Na Mah Na.