Friday, January 20, 2012

Mah Na Mah Na, The Muppets, and Italian Soft Porn

Just before the holidays, Slate reported on this story but it seemed to slip under the radar. All these decades, it seems the Muppets were keeping a secret from us: they're familiar with soft porn Italian film soundtracks. You know that song Mah Na Mah Na? Well, if you don't recognize it from the The Muppets, then you might recognize it from The Benny Hill Show...but after learning about its origins, I can understand why Benny was fond of the ditty. It first appeared in a 1968 Italian sexploitation film about Sweden called Sweden: Heaven and Hell, which explores various sexual activities. Here's a clip from the movie that features the song--and a bevy of Swedish women in a sauna. For those of you who are fans of Retrospace, I'd say these women are about 2 minutes of screen time away from having pancakes*.

Mah Na Mah Na was written by Italian composer Piero Umiliani and was a minor hit in a few countries--it peaked at 55 on the American Billboard singles chart in 1969. That same year, it was first heard on Sesame Street, as sung by a shaggy male Muppet backed by two girl Muppets. Later the girls would be replaced by alien like creatures called Snouths.

Thanks to Jim Henson's love of catchy European tunes, Mah Na Mah Na would become one of the most infamous songs in the Muppets' catalog. And thanks to retro pop culture trivia, we may never look at the song in the same way again!

*See Retrospace for pancake explanation.


  1. I'm certain this original "Mah Na Mah Na" was played on Captain Kangaroo in the early '70s through repeat segments of a comedy bit (presumably, puppets mouthing the words to it); the sound and arrangement are familiar to me MANY years after listening to it first on CK (before hearing any of the Muppet versions)!

    The Muppet video of "Mah Nan Mah Na" is fun, from a visual standpoint, but the Muppet recording of it (included on the Rhino Muppet Show soundtrack CD) is more lively, with Henson's voice moving about in glorious stereo!

  2. R.A.M.'67--You are correct; Mah Na Mah Na popped up on many TV shows in the 70s including The Red Skelton Show. It's also been covered by a few obscure European bands, or used as the basis for a song. Catchy tune!

  3. HA! I've heard this before but never researched it. Funny stuff!

  4. Pancakes still makes me laugh.

  5. How funny. I prefer the Muppets over the Swedish girls

  6. I would have to go for the Swedish girls myself...

  7. Another delightful, naughty bit of trivia. That's hilarious. Who knew what those Muppets were up to?!


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