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The Swedish Chef

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The Swedish Chef is the incomprehensible preparer of foodstuffs from The Muppet Show. A rather literal variation of the Live-Hand Muppet concept, the Swedish Chef is a humanoid character, with human hands rather than gloves. On The Muppet Show, Frank Oz performed the character's hands. The chef first appeared in The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence in 1975, with Chinese subtitles for his dialogue, and Richard Hunt performing the hands. Only in photo puppets used specifically for photo shoots does the Swedish Chef have standard Muppet hands.

History

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". Jim Henson had previously explored the idea of a funny foreign chef at the US Food Fair that took place in Hamburg, Germany in 1961, where Sam and Friends character Omar prepared a flaming salad while speaking in some quite comprehensible mock German that Henson and Jerry Juhl had previously scribbled down in phonetics.[1]

Nearly all Swedish Chef sketches begin with him in a kitchen, waving some utensils while singing his signature song [2] in a trademark mock Swedish, a semi-comprehensible gibberish which parodies the characteristic vowel sounds of Swedish. The last line of the song is always "Børk! Børk! Børk!" and is punctuated by the Chef throwing the utensils over his shoulder to crash into the crockery behind him. (Although the letter "ø" does not exist in Swedish—it is a Danish/Norwegian letter whose Swedish equivalent is "ö"—the Chef's trademark word is nearly always spelled "Børk.")

After this introduction, the Chef continues to speak gibberish while preparing a particular recipe. His commentary is spiced with the occasional English word to clue the viewer into what he is attempting. These clues are necessary as he frequently uses unorthodox culinary equipment (firearms, tennis rackets, etc.) to prepare his dishes. The sketch typically degenerates into a slapstick finale, and he often winds up in a pitched battle with his ingredients, from Lobster Banditos to a Japanese Cake. The Swedish Chef has also appeared, at least briefly, in every Muppet film to date. He was put in charge of running the film projector in The Muppet Movie and Muppet*Vision 3D. In A Muppet Family Christmas, he attempts to cook the Christmas turkey, then sets his sights on Big Bird instead.

The Swedish Chef's popularity led to his own cereal, Cröonchy Stars, in 1988. Commercials for the product featured the Chef, up to his usual antics. In the 1990s, the Swedish Chef appeared regularly on Donna's Day starting in the second season.

In episode 316, Danny Kaye, portraying the chef's uncle in a sketch, claims that the Swedish Chef's first name is Tom. However, since Kaye was not a blood relative, in reality, this information may be considered apocryphal. Many years later on The Muppets, Christina Applegate misinterprets his name as Megan in "Bear Left Then Bear Write", when he was actually just saying, "me, me."[3]

Casting History

Primary Performers

Other Performers

Gallery

Wiki
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Trivia

  • The Chef's gibberish gained a life of its own with the creation of a Unix filter capable of converting standard English to Chefspeak in 1992. The filter quickly became a staple of hacker culture and eventually spread to the mainstream with Swedish Chef translators on several Web sites such as Google. In 2003, Opera Software published a special Bork version of its internet browser that turned the MSN Web site into mock Swedish. Mozilla Firefox also contains a popular add-on called Bork Bork Bork! that allows the selective translation of text from Web pages of the user's choice. It is also a display language there.
  • As a one-note joke, it is revealed by Jean Stapleton (who speaks mock Swedish) in episode 306 of The Muppet Show, that the Swedish Chef's native language is mock Japanese. Others who have conversed in mock Swedish include Steve Martin, Danny Kaye, Fleet Scribbler, Carlton Cuse (in a "Lost Slapdown"), Statler (in episode 412) and Brenda Song (Studio DC Hosted by Dylan and Cole Sprouse).
  • In episode 319 of Fraggle Rock, Sprocket does an impersonation of the Swedish Chef.
  • There was a Swedish Chef sketch that was taped but not broadcast, in which the Chef prepared ratatouille.[4]
  • In The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence, the name of his program is "Järnvägskorsning" (Railway Crossings).
  • While The Swedish Chef normally has live human hands, he also occasionally has Muppet hands. Examples include:
    • The Muppet Show episode 218: following The Swedish Chef's sketch.
    • Muppets Tonight episode 101: During the meeting at the beginning of the show.
  • A wedding ring has appeared on the Swedish Chef's left hand as early as 2006. In 2014, a plush version of the character donning his ring was released to coincide with the release of Muppets Most Wanted. In The Muppets episode "Single All the Way", Fozzie asks, "Chef, you've been married for such a long time. If your wife left you, do you think you could live without her?" The Chef deflects answering the question by offering Fozzie a "Cuppycake."
  • The Chef is one of the few regular characters from The Muppet Show who's original dialogue from the English version remains the same in most Non-English speaking countries.
  • In recent productions, Steve Whitmire usually performs the Chef's hands.[5]
  • According to the inside gatefold cover for The Muppet Revue, The Swedish Chef was actually born in Denmark and moved to Sweden when he was a baby.

References

  1. Jim Henson's Red Book, 11/1961 - "Jerry and I did show in Hamburg, Germany – Dept. of Agriculture."
  2. The Swedish Chef's theme music is called "Swedish Chef", written by Muppet Show musical arranger Derek Scott. The song was published by ATV Music under ASCAP code 490403793.
  3. @BobKushell on Twitter 4:09 PM - 12 Oct 2015
  4. Karen Prell, Muppet Central forum post, 4-25-2003
  5. Bill Barretta, [1]
MuppetsWiki-wordmark This page uses Creative Commons Licensed content from Muppet Wiki. The list of authors can be seen in the page revision history (view authors). As with Disney Wiki, the text of Muppet Wiki is available under the CC-by-SA Free Documentation License.


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