It's not easy being green – or homeless.
That's part of the takeaway from a new video on YouTube depicting a homeless man who uses two Kermit the Frog puppets to re-enact the classic David Bowie-Freddy Mercury duet in "Under Pressure."
The fan-made video, by turns poignant and hilarious, is showing signs of going viral – marking the latest indication that a lot of us, thankfully, haven't traveled very far from Sesame Street.
Muppets and imitators are popping up all over the media these days in the cause of parody – sometimes for cheap laughs (see the amusingly dark “Sad Kermit” site), other times to make serious points with humor.
We’ve seen Muppet imagery in politically charged Web videos promoting health care reform and lifting the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military. "The Daily Show" gave us Gitmo, the detainee Muppet, and portrays Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele as a bumbling political puppet.
The folks at Muppets Studio, meanwhile, have posted popular videos in recent months of the characters singing everything from "American Woman" (Sam the Eagle in a typically bluster-filled performance) to an epic, all-star version of Queens' "Bohemian Rhapsody."
Part of the power and charm of the low-budget “Under Pressure” video is that it employs the most human of Muppets, Kermit, as a kind of an Everyfrog – a green, felt stand in for the rest of us.
The short also taps into another of Queens' signature hits, whose lyrics take on an unexpected resonance in the dire setting: “Under pressure that burns a building down/Splits a family in two/Puts people on streets.”
The video was performed by actor Sky Soleil, who dispelled initial Internet chatter that he’s homeless and that the sign next to him – “Family in Need, with 2 Kids. Homeless & Out of Work” – is for real.
He told New York magazine’s Vulture site that the video is intended to “entertain and inspire,” and he encouraged viewers to go to a Web page that offers tips on how to help the homeless. “This is for the men, women, and children on our streets who don't have bright green puppets on their hands. The people who aren't always as easy to see,” he told Vulture.
Sounds to us like Soleil is a true son of “Sesame Street” – mixing Muppet humor with a message of human kindness. The enduring genius of the four-decade-old PBS show is that it plays to kids and adults on different levels. It’s heartening to see grownups raised on “Sesame Street” using Muppets as avatars of expression – and comedy.
But maybe that's getting a bit too serious for a discussion about a funny Kermit video, even one with a sobering point.
Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.