Elizabeth Hyde Stevens | Make Art Make Money, Kindle Serials | September 2013 | 17 minutes (4,102 words)
Photo by Eva Rinaldi
In 2011, Longreads highlighted an essay called “Weekend at Kermie’s,” by Elizabeth Hyde Stevens, published by The Awl. Stevens is now back with a new Muppet-inspired Kindle Serial called “Make Art Make Money,” part how-to, part Jim Henson history. Below is the opening chapter. Our thanks to Stevens and Amazon Publishing for sharing this with the Longreads community.
The Artist’s Problem: Art vs. Money
In 1968, Jim Henson performed a skit on The Ed Sullivan Show called “Business, Business,” which he cowrote with Jerry Juhl. In it, there are two kinds of creatures, and they are locked in conflict.
On one side, the creatures make sounds like a cash register and a slot machine. They recite a poem written in business-ese: “Corporate profits, exculpates, mutual fund, interest rates.”
On the other side, the creatures have naïve voices and lightbulb heads. They ask, “Love? Beauty? Joy?”
Ca-ching! The battle is on.
“Brotherhood, hope, peace!” says one side.
“Option, market, possibility, eight-point-one over counter utility,” says the other.
It’s a war of ideologies.
Business opens fire. The idealists fire back. Business explodes! Then disappears. Silence.
Cautiously, the idealists look around. They have won. “Peace?” says one. “Success!” says the other. Their lightbulbs go off.
“Victory? Opportunity! Comfort … security …” The lightbulbs flash faster. “Benefits, growth, wealth, diversity, dividends, profit, capital, economy, business, business, BUSINESS, BUSINESS!”
Ed Sullivan’s adult audience laughs at Henson’s goofy puppets. One man in a suit turns to his wife and raises an eyebrow.