A 1978 Letter From the Prime Minister of Sweden to Jim Henson Regarding the Swedish Chef
by River Clegg
Dear Mr. Henson,
Where to begin.
Let me first say that I personally enjoy your Muppet characters very much. They have brought great joy to the people of Sweden, from Fozzie Bear’s silly voice to Kermit the Frog’s ceaseless struggle under Miss Piggy’s dark, cruel yoke.
We also find Statler and Waldorf’s nihilistic commentary on a decaying and fundamentally lost universe quite humorous.
The Swedish Chef, however, leaves me perplexed. Surely it was not your intention to slander the cuisine—not to mention the culture and intellect—of an entire nation, yet what other conclusion can be drawn? Let me provide an example. In one of the character’s recent outings, he stands at his cutting board, ostensibly to prepare a meal with the banana sitting before him. But that pretense is quickly dropped when the chef (has this buffoon even a name?) becomes distracted by the spatula and ladle he holds, which he then waves side-to-side while mumbling in an incoherent bastardization of the Swedish language’s noble lilt.
(I would also note that the character’s personal grooming, even by the standards of the Muppet community, seems subpar.)
Once he miraculously regains his focus, the Swedish Chef is no brighter. After discarding his cookware, he takes up a battle axe—a clear reference to the violent Viking heritage that my people have admirably struggled to move beyond—and, preparing to slice the fruit in two, utters his first discernible words: “Banana split.”
At that point, I could watch no more. And while your average viewer may find it funny to see a great ignoramus disregard the most basic conventions of culinary technique while spouting a juvenile pun, I can assure you that the people of Sweden find this a most offensive caricature.
I remind you, sir, that it is 1978.
But I don’t only wish to complain. In the spirit of offering less incendiary (and, I hope you’ll agree, equally humorous) alternatives to the character’s current iteration, I have provided some of my own ideas for how the Swedish Chef might be employed in the future.
- The Swedish Chef stands at his cutting board. His wife, a woman of hearty shoulders and good hips, compliments him on his posture.
- The Swedish Chef stands at his cutting board. He asks his two sons, Strom and Olander, to gather firewood for the coming winter. They do so.
- The Swedish Chef stands at his cutting board and prepares a stew. (The people of Sweden would like to see all of the Muppets prepare more stews.)
- The Swedish Chef sacrifices both rooks in a cunning endgame to win the World Chess Championship.
- The Swedish Chef stands at his cutting board. To teach young viewers the absurdity of peasant life, he recites the classic tale of the girl and the snake.
This is not to say that the character inspires no audience sympathy. On the contrary, he has clearly sustained grave psychological trauma earlier in life—perhaps as a prisoner of war or hangman—and the ordeal has left him without means of expression save the childlike incantations of a madman.
Nevertheless, on behalf of the people of Sweden, I ask that you please stop inflicting this lout upon us. He is demonstrably a danger to himself and others, and is a much more accurate reflection of the Norwegian dogs to our west.
Prime Minister Ola Ullsten