Swedish Chef

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The Swedish Chef
The Muppets character
The Swedish Chef.jpg
First appearance The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence (1975)[1]
Created by Jim Henson
Performed by Jim Henson
(1975–1990)
Bill Barretta[2]
(1996–present)
Information
Species Muppet (Human)
Gender Male
Occupation Chef
Nationality Swedish

The Swedish Chef is a Muppet character that appeared on The Muppet Show. He was originally performed by Jim Henson and Frank Oz simultaneously, with Henson performing the head and voice and Oz performing the character's live hands. The Swedish Chef is currently performed by Bill Barretta. His best known phrase is "Bork bork bork".

Character[edit]

A parody of television chefs, the Swedish Chef wears a toque blanche, has a thick brown moustache and has bushy eyebrows that completely obscure his eyes. He was one of the few Muppets to employ an actual puppeteer's visible hands, which extended from the ends of his sleeves and facilitated handling food and utensils. Oz originally provided the character's hands.

Nearly all Swedish Chef sketches on The Muppet Show feature him in a kitchen, waving some utensils while singing an introductory song in mock Swedish – a semi-comprehensible gibberish mimicking Swedish phonology and prosody. The song's lyrics vary slightly from one episode to the next, but always end with "Bork, bork, bork!" as the Chef throws the utensils aside, occasionally knocking items off a shelf or the back wall in the process.

After this introduction, the Chef begins to prepare a recipe while giving a gibberish explanation of what he is doing. His commentary is spiced with the occasional English word to clue in the viewer to what he is attempting. These hints are necessary as he frequently uses unorthodox culinary equipment (firearms, sports equipment, hand tools, etc.) to prepare his dishes. (E.g. "See de moofin? Und here de boom-a-shootin" before tossing an English muffin into the air and firing a blunderbuss at it to make a doughnut.) In the pilot episode of The Muppet Show, the Chef's commentary was supplemented by Chinese subtitles,[citation needed] but this was abandoned for all other episodes of the series. The sketch typically degenerates into a slapstick finale where the equipment or ingredients (usually a live chicken/goat/cow etc.) get the better of him.

In the sketch 'Bomb Egg' (episode 212), a mis-aimed explosive charge slightly damaged the face of the puppet.[citation needed] The Chef's face remained scarred through the rest of the season.[citation needed]

The Chef is referred to by name in one episode, in which Danny Kaye plays his uncle. Kaye reels off a very long name but adds, "But we call him Tom" – much to the Chef's amusement.[3] In 2010, the Chef was seen wearing a wedding ring, implying that the character is married.[4]

Inspiration[edit]

Some claim that the Swedish Chef was inspired by a real life chef. One example is Friedman Paul Erhardt, a German American television chef known as "Chef Tell".[5][6] Another example is Lars "Kuprik" Bäckman, a real life Swedish chef. Bäckman claims that his rather unsuccessful appearance on an early edition of Good Morning America caught the attention of Jim Henson, who later bought the rights to the recording and created Bäckman's Muppet alter ego. Bäckman's Dalecarlian accent would explain the chef's strange pronunciation. Muppet writer Jerry Juhl denied Bäckman's story and insisted the character had no real-world counterpart: "I wrote, rehearsed, rewrote, brainstormed, and giggled uncontrollably a thousand times with Jim Henson as we dealt with the Swedish Chef, and I never once heard him mention an actual Swedish chef..."[7]

According to Brian Henson, in one of his introductions for The Muppet Show, "[Jim Henson] had this tape that he used to play which was 'How to Speak Mock Swedish'. And he used to drive to work and I used to ride with him a lot. And he would drive to work trying to make a chicken sandwich in Mock Swedish or make a turkey casserole in Mock Swedish. It was the most ridiculous thing you had ever seen. And people at traffic lights used to stop and sort of look at him a little crazy. But that was the roots of the character that would eventually become the Swedish Chef."[8]

Reaction from Swedes[edit]

Swedes generally have a negative impression of the Swedish Chef stemming from the fact that, to Swedes, his gibberish speech sounds very little like Swedish. To Swedes, the sing-song quality of the character's mock language is suggestive of Norwegian, not Swedish. Despite both languages being closely related and mutually intelligible, the melodies are different between different dialects of Swedish and Norwegian. Outside of Sweden, Swedes are often asked about the Swedish Chef, causing many to become tired of the question.[9] In the German-dubbed version of The Muppet Show, the Chef is not a Swede, but a Dane.[10]

Appearances[edit]

Besides appearances in The Muppet Show, the chef also appears in The Muppet Movie (1979), The Great Muppet Caper (1981), The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984), The Muppets: A Celebration of 30 Years (1986), A Muppet Family Christmas (1987), Muppet*Vision 3D (1991) an attraction found at Disney's Hollywood Studios, The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992), Muppet Treasure Island (1996), Muppets From Space (1999), It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie (2002), Studio DC: Almost Live (2008), a sketch for the cast of The Suite Life of Zack & Cody and an episode with Hannah Montana star Jason Earles and Cory in the House Jason Dolley, the Popcorn (instrumental) (2010), The Muppets (2011), Muppets Most Wanted (2014), a regular role on "The Muppets" (2015), and also appearing as a guest alongside Miss Piggy on the 5th season of MasterChef Junior (2017).

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Shemin, Craig (2014). Disney's The Muppets Character Encyclopedia. New York: DK Publishing. p. 171. ISBN 9781465417480. 
  2. ^ "The BladtCast Podcast #52: 52 Pick Up". Archived from the original on 2 February 2017. 
  3. ^ "Video clip from season 3, episode 16". Youtube.com. Archived from the original on 10 July 2015. Retrieved 18 February 2013. 
  4. ^ "The Muppet Show: The Swedish Chef Gets Lost Spoilers?". TVSeriesFinale.com. 17 May 2010. Archived from the original on 1 February 2011. Retrieved 10 March 2011. 
  5. ^ LaBen, Craig (29 October 2007). "'Chef Tell' Erhardt, 63, early TV chef". Philadelphia Inquirer. Archived from the original on 23 January 2008. Retrieved 30 October 2007. 
  6. ^ "Friedman Paul Erhardt". Legacy.com. Associated Press. 30 October 2007. Retrieved 30 October 2007. 
  7. ^ Chapman, Phillip (3 July 2001). "Will the real Swedish Chef please stand up?". Muppet Central. Archived from the original on 21 October 2007. Retrieved 2 November 2007. 
  8. ^ "Muppet Central Guides - The Muppet Show: Connie Stevens". Archived from the original on 16 June 2012. 
  9. ^ Stahl, Jeremy (28 August 2012). "What Do Swedes Think of the Swedish Chef?". Slate. Archived from the original on 14 July 2014. 
  10. ^ Hampe65 (21 February 2012), Dänischer Koch macht scharfe Sauce, archived from the original on 12 March 2017, retrieved 9 March 2017 

External links[edit]