Sam and Friends

Sam and Friends

"The Art of Visual Thinking" sketch of Sam and Friends in which Kermit and Harry the Hipster make their thoughts appear above their heads. "Watch!"
Created by Jim Henson
Jane Henson
Starring Jim Henson
Jane Henson
Bob Payne
Jerry Juhl
Country of origin United States
No. of episodes 86
Running time 5 minutes per sketch (and episode)
Original network WRC-TV (NBC's owned-and-operated station in Washington, D.C.)
Audio format Mono
Original release May 9, 1955 (1955-05-09) – December 15, 1961 (1961-12-15)

Sam and Friends is an early live-action/puppet television show created by puppeteer Jim Henson and his eventual wife Jane Nebel. It was taped and aired twice daily as a local series in Washington, D.C., on WRC-TV in black-and-white, and later color, on weeknights from May 9, 1955, to December 15, 1961. Most of the original episodes were wiped after airing. The few surviving episodes can be viewed at the Paley Center for Media.


Sam was a bald human puppet with wide eyes, large ears, and a big nose. His friends included Yorick, Harry the Hipster, Professor Madcliffe, Chicken Liver, and a saurian character named Kermit (who later evolved into Kermit the Frog).

Early in its run, the show mostly featured the puppets lip-synching to popular songs of the day (if the song was by a female performer, the puppet would wear a wig while singing). Later, formal sketches were drawn up, many spoofing well-known television shows at the time, including the series which followed Sam and Friends in the Washington market, The Huntley-Brinkley Report.

A popular early sketch that would be used often in subsequent Henson productions was "Inchworm", in which a character, often Kermit, would nibble on what looked like a worm, but would ultimately turn out to be the tongue or nose of the monster Big V, who would devour him.

Bob Payne once substituted for Jim Henson while he was in Europe. Jerry Juhl also worked on the show toward the end of its run where he substituted for Jane Henson. Also around 1959, advertisements for Esskay Meats would appear at the end of the show, as well as Wilkins Coffee (the latter featured two Muppets created exclusively for the spots, "Wilkins" and "Wontkins").

While Payne, Juhl, and Jane Henson all puppeteered in the series alongside Jim Henson, Jim provided all of the voices himself (unless the voices were taken from a record).


Main article: List of Muppets


Actor Role
Jim Henson Sam
Harry the Hipster
Kermit the Frog
Professor Madcliffe
Pierre the French Rat
Jane Henson Henrietta
Jerry Juhl Others
Bob Payne Others

Later appearances

Sam & Friends is mentioned in chapter 2 of Kermit The Frog's book Before You Leap, under the heading of "My First Big Splash".

Henrietta appeared in The Muppets on Puppets during Rowlf the Dog's mixed-up fairy tale sketch portraying the fairy godmother. In this appearance, Henrietta was performed by Jerry Juhl.

Sam, Harry the Hipster, and Yorick appeared in The Muppets: A Celebration of 30 Years.

In August 2010, Jane Henson donated ten puppets from the show (including the original Kermit) to the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History.[1]


  1. "Henson donates original Kermit to Smithsonian". Associated Press. August 26, 2010. Retrieved January 24, 2011.
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