The Swedish Chef was a favorite of Jim Henson and Frank Oz, as they both got to perform him. Henson was the head and voice, while Oz provided the hands. Frequently, one of the two would ad lib a line or bit of business, forcing the other one to keep up.
Initially, the producers had such difficulty casting guest stars that they had to call upon all their personal friends in the entertainment industry for help. This changed dramatically after Rudolf Nureyev agreed to appear. The publicity of a renowned ballet dancer appearing on such a bizarre show created such positive publicity that the show became popular and soon celebrities were lining up to appear on the show.
The Swedish Chef has been said to be inspired by the first and only television appearance of Lars Beckmann. His appearance was a total failure, as he mumbled a strange mixture of English and Swedish while hectically preparing some sort of food. It was thought that the show's producers found it very funny and created the Swedish Chef in Baeckmann's likeness (including the thick mustache). However, show writer Jerry Juhl has refuted this statement and believes Baeckmann invented the rumor himself. Baeckmann, who presently earns his money with a traveling cooking show in Sweden, was paid $80 for the rights to the character. He is considered to be a good cook with a great sense of humor.
Because they found the character so funny, extraneous members of the crew would often crowd into the studio to watch filming of skits with the Swedish Chef. Often, the laughter heard in the final sketch is not from a laugh track, but from members of the crew who couldn't contain themselves.
Statler and Waldorf were named after two New York City hotels. Jim Henson based the two old men off of professors he had at the University of Maryland. Waldorf's wife is named Astoria, after the famous Waldorf - Astoria Hotel.
Originally, the producers intended to create Muppet versions of each guest star. These can be seen in the early episodes when the guest star takes his or her bow. The practice was scrapped after the third episode.
Floyd Pepper's name combined the name of the rock band Pink Floyd with the title of The Beatles's Sgt. Pepper album. Reflecting this was Floyd's pink color. His outfit and mustache were similar to those of The Beatles in their Lonely Hearts Club Band persona.
Miss Piggy was originally alternately played by Richard Hunt and Frank Oz. As the character grew in popularity, a hesitant Oz took on sole performer status. He once remarked that Piggy was such an intense and over-the-top woman, she could only be played by a man.
English television didn't have commercial interruptions during the programs, so many British telecasts feature scenes and musical numbers (mostly British music hall in nature) not seen in the US until Nickelodeon aired the show for a brief time in the spring and summer of 1994. Nickelodeon - a kids' channel - would edit out another sketch (mostly sketches that Nickelodeon thought shouldn't be seen by their audience) in favor of the usually less-offensive UK sketches.
Originally, the producers thought they would only have enough story material for three seasons. However, the characters they developed during the run provided so much creative inspiration that two more seasons were possible.
In February 2003, Disney purchased The Jim Henson Workshop. The deal includes characters such as Fozzie Bear and Dave Goelz, as well as the Bear in the Big Blue House (1997) franchise. Sesame Street characters such as Big Bird and Elmo are not included in the acquisition, as they are owned separately by the Sesame Workshop.
Three guest stars lived to be 100 years old: George Burns died on March 9, 1996 at the age of 100, Señor Wences died on April 20, 1999 at the age of 103 and Bob Hope died on July 27, 2003 at the age of 100.
George Burns, born January 20, 1896, was the series' earliest-born guest star. Señor Wences, born April 17, 1896, was the oldest guest star at the time of his appearance; he was 84 when he guest-starred in 1980. Fourteen-year-old Brooke Shields was the series' youngest guest star.
Many of the characters were redesigned early in the show's run. Miss Piggy's long hair and nose were replaced with shorter, curly hair and a shorter nose. Gonzo's nose was resized, and Fozzie had his wagging ears and drooping mouth removed because Frank Oz felt they were unnecessary to bring the character to life.
Señor Wences was originally booked as a guest star in the fourth season - he's even mentioned as a guest star in Scooter's "List of Guest Stars" song (tune of "Modern Major General") in the Phyllis George episode, in the middle of the fourth season - yet Señor Wences didn't appear on the show until the following year.