Friday, March 20, 2009

Lamb Chop's Play Along

For children of the 90s, a lamb chop was more than just a tasty cut of meat. It (well, she) was also a fluffy little sheep puppet who, along with an afro-ed Shari Lewis and her delightful puppet barnyard peers, entertained us through the magic of once-worthwhile public television.

A brief (read: lazy) investigation into Lamb Chop's history reveals a frightening amount of spare time amongst pop-culture Wikipedia updaters. The "Lamb Chop's Play-Along" entry actually links to a categorical page entitled "fictional sheep". Yes, really. Fictional sheep. Our esteemed lamb puppet pal was obviously in good company. In case you were wondering (which no doubt you were!), the Wikipedia entry opens with the compelling phrase,"this is a list of fictional sheep". It then goes on to list more than thirty fictional sheep.

You may be saying to yourself, what is a person who diligently maintains a blog devoted to frivolous 90s novelties doing mocking a harmless list composed by loving devotees? Certainly even she recognizes her hypocrisy.

You would be wrong.

Other fictional sheep aside, the true star was Lamb Chop. The pure cuteness of her very being was almost overwhelming. She was adorable incarnate. She was sassy and fun. She was an innocent little sock puppet we could all look up to. And her name was Lamb Chop. Come on. What sort of stone-hearted scrooge could deny the inherent cuteness?

Lamb Chop's Play-Along featured a puppet-packed roster of barnyard friends, all voiced by Shari Lewis. I present to you our painfully adorable cast of characters:

1. Charlie Horse--sometime trouble-maker, full time horse. Stirs stuff up a lot. Goofy bucktoothed expression. Pictured above wearing unecessary puppet visor.

2. Hush Puppy--all-around good guy. Floppy ears. Pictured above in superhero style t-shirt handy for moments when he forgets his initials.

3. Lambchop--feisty, adventurous, child-like. Pictured above in trendsetting Blossom-style hat.

So there you have it. There was, however, one more aspect of Lamb Chop's Play-Along that really spoke to me as a child.

Let me set up a moment for you here: as a child, I had no puppets to look up to, or at least not as religious role models. I know what you're thinking, "but all children deserve religious puppet role models!" I wholeheartedly agree. It's essentially a basic human right. The television puppets I knew and loved were always putting on low-budget remakes of "A Christmas Carol" and reveling in their non-inclusive brand of seasonal cheer. Sure, the Muppets were nice, but where was I in their puppet Christmas merrymaking? My house had no wreaths, no tree, no mistletoe. No one ever seemed to ventriloquilize anything for children like me.

Enter Shari Lewis, oh great Semitic puppetmistress. For God's sake, her father was a founding member of Yeshiva University. Did I mention he was a magician? Shari's magical Jewish upbringing set the stage for high-quality yid-centric children's entertainment. Finally, a sock-puppet horse playing Dreidel! A fuzzy-dummy dog throwing a surprise Passover Seder for the whole gang! A lamb-likeness waxing poetic on the virtues of crispy potato latkes! If nothing else, Shari Lewis and Co made me feel, if only for a few episodes, as if I belonged. No longer was I an outsider to puppet holiday celebrations! A great children's television show injustice had been overturned, or at least in the eyes of me and my Jewish day school peers.

Jewish Holiday specials or not, Lamb Chop was beloved by children worldwide. Her sweet innocence and fluffy exterior captured our hearts and planted us firmly in front of our television sets for 3 enchanting seasons. Even after Lewis's untimely and tragic death, her impact on children of the 90s lives on. After all, she taught us how to endlessly (really, endlessly) irritate our parents with a catchy little ditty entitled "This is the Song that Never Ends."

It goes a little something like this:

This is the song that never ends,
it just goes on and on my friends
Some people started singing it, not knowing what it was,
and they'll continue singing it forever just because...

This is the song that never ends...

Oh, how parents hated this song! It was right up there with "I Know a Song that Gets on Everybody's Nerves". To Lewis's credit, however, the song was quite memorable and played at the end of every episode. She even made a big show about trying to get them to stop, prescient of our parent's subsequent woeful attempts to end our insistent singing.

Even once we had outwitted the lyrics and could start singing it once we actually knew what it was, we would always continue singing it forever.

You know, just because.


Jacob said...

One of my favorite parts is when they're making latkes in the Channukah special and the onions make lamb chop's eyes turn into fire hydrants. And somehow, there's a screenshot of that moment about 1/3 of the way down this website

Lil' Woman said...

Oh Lamb Chop... in all your sock puppet glory..
I loved the episode when she was a baby sockpuppet/Lambchop...she was very adorable

PollyPocket said...

I had a lambchop birthday party, once. The whole party wasn't lambchop themed, just the plates and napkins and stuff, and my mom bought a cake with a frosting lambchop on it (this was in the days before photo-transfer cakes, where characters had to be drawn in icing by some poor cake decorator with results that often bore a very poor likeness to their subjects, but to us WAS the REAL thing ...).

I liked the episode where they showed us how to draw lambchop by only making "u"s. I also liked how there was an image of them all in a tree, and the image would get traced and become real.

Cory said...

I love Lamb Chop. I used to own (actually, I still do) all of the puppets, and my sister, cousin, brother, and I would put on puppet shows with them. I always wanted to use Hush Puppy, but my brother or cousin always got him while I was stuck with Charlie Horse. I don't really know how that happened since they were my puppets.

Also, we used to sing "The Song That Never Ends" on the bus all the time until our bus driver, livid with horrible, face-reddening rage, screamed at us to stop.

The World of Lurlene Mcdaniel said...

aww i loved Lamb Chop. I remember growing up watching that show. I didn't know the lady died.

rest in peace.

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