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Mahna Mahna (song)

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

"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 singing, the basics of the performance remain the same: a central character starts out conforming to the structure of the song, but falls into improvisational scat passages whenever possible. Although the back-up singers 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 word "phenomena."

The Muppets ends with a montage of celebrities performing the classic number with the Snowths. The Muppet Show recording can be heard playing in a car in the official movie trailer.

Performances

Picture Description
SSoriginalmahna
Sesame Street (First: Episode 0014)

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." This version begins with the two girls (performed by Frank Oz and Loretta Long) wanting to sing a song, before Bip Bippadotta appears saying "Mahna Mahna".

PDVD 068
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.

Noimage
The Dick Cavett Show (1971)

Performed by Mahna Mahna and the Snowths.[1]

MahnaMahnaColoredBackground
This Is Tom Jones (1971)

Performed by Mahna Mahna and the Snowths.

PureGoldie1
Pure Goldie (1971)

Ruth Buzzi, Johnny Carson and Goldie Hawn performed the song when they all turned into Muppets.

Mahnamahna
The Muppet Show (episode 101)

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!"

Samamerica
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.

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Muppets Tonight (episode 107)

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.

TMS-live-mahna
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.

Noimage
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.

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Play with Me Sesame (2002)

Grover and Prairie Dawn sing along to the vintage Sesame Street clip and add some of their own words.

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Barnes & Noble Lincoln Center (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.

Bandanana
CanTeen commercial (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."

Muppetsahoy-mahnamahna
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.

Mahna facebook app
Never-Ending Mahna Mahna Phenomahna (2011)

In October 2011, the official Facebook page for The Muppets launched an app that enables you to insert yourself into a "Never-Ending Mahna Mahna Phenomahna". Clips of contributor-recorded segments are edited into new footage of Mahna Mahna and the Snowths to create an ongoing volley of the nonsense lyrics from the song. Included amongst viewer contributions are clips of Kermit, Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Animal, Rowlf the Dog, the Swedish Chef, Big Mean Carl, Pepe the King Prawn, Jason Segel, Kristen Schaal, Alan Arkin, Mickey Rooney, Sarah Silverman, Bret McKenzie, Rashida Jones Ken Jeong, Carrie Underwood and Brad Paisley, Leslie Feist and fan-made videos using their own puppets (including several Muppet Whatnot Workshop puppets).

OrangeShow
Orange commercial (2011)

When Miss Piggy says "phenomena" the two Snowths appear to sing their trademark "do doo do do doo." The rest of the Muppets erupt in singing "Mahna Mahna" (replacing the phrase with "phenomena") and closing out the commercial much to Kermit's dismay.

MahnaMahna-GMA
Good Morning America (2011)

Mahna Mahna and the Snowths perform the song. After the first verse, the Snowths drop out and are replaced by Kermit and Piggy, Gonzo and Camilla then all of them.

TheMuppets-AmyAdams-MahnaMahna-(2012)
TheMuppets-JasonSegel-MahnaMahna-(2012)
The Muppets (2011)

The film features a montage of celebrities - including Amy Adams as Mary, Jason Segel as Gary, Selena Gomez, Alan Arkin, Jim Parsons, Kristen Schaal, Rashida Jones, Sarah Silverman, Feist, Emily Blunt, James Carville, Judd Hirsch, Mickey Rooney, Rico Rodriguez, John Krasinski, and Neil Patrick Harris - performing the song with the Snowths over the credits.

Mm-jhmw
Jim Henson's Musical World (2012)

Performed by Mahna Mahna and the Snowths during a medley of Muppet songs.

Releases

AS 0290

Audio

The Muppet Show version
Sesame Street version
Cover versions

Video releases

The Ed Sullivan Show version
The Muppet Show version
Sesame Street version

Inclusion in specials & compilations

Sesame Street version
The Muppet Show version

Publications

The Muppet Show version

References

Mansow
  • 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".
  • 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."

Sources

  1. Jim Henson's Red Book 11/25/1971
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