Who amongst us hasn’t made a sock puppet when we were kids? Usually the urge to desecrate our socks ends around the age of 10, but some people turn their socks into, well, celebrities. If my tone seems to skew a bit toward jealousy, it’s because each one of these creations is more popular than I.
10. Sock Puppet Sitcom Theatre (ensemble) & The Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre (ensemble)
When young comedians are just starting out in the business, they look for other likeminded individuals to try to brew up some comedy magic and to maybe start up a webpage, or maybe a local comedy troupe. But what if you’re a young sock puppet struggling to get out of your teenager’s dresser drawer? Your goal should be to make it out to the West Coast if you’re a North American sock puppet, specifically Los Angeles to Sock Puppet Sitcom Theatre. If you’re of European fabric, go to the Scottish Falsetto Sock Puppet Theatre and feel you can make it up to the UK. Both are cutting edge, adult oriented ventures.
9. Socki the Talking Dog
Everyone has a personal favorite episode of their network programs from when they were young. One of mine has to be the realistic episode of the A-Team called The Taxicab Wars where (Howling Mad) Murdock tries to help a struggling taxicab company against a rival company trying to drive it out of business by intimidation. Murdock goes undercover as a taxicab driver, but scares all of his fares away by acting crazy with his friend Socki the Talking Dog. Surprisingly, the sock puppet even annoys B.A. Baracus!
8. The Family Guy/Star Wars Sock Puppet
Seth McFarlane, creator of Family Guy, is the master of having two similar people sitting together watching his program, when one person laughs out loud, while the other sits in stunned amazement, mouth agape. The episode of Family Guy Something, Something, Something, Dark Side contains one of those moments, when during the middle of the action, a live action sock puppet runs into the animation sequence, yells out a line, then disappears. For the ultimate Star Wars fans, it was hilarious, a commentary on George Lucas changing his original films by adding CGI for re-released editions years later. Due to popular demand, the sock puppet re-appeared in later Star Wars parodies by Family Guy.
7. Pets.com Sock Puppet
Pets.com was an internet company created in 1998. In one short year, the company earned just over $600,000 in revenue, but spent a little over 11 MILLION DOLLARS in advertising. Even those with a sliver of business knowledge know that that rate of spending is unsustainable. In 1999, the company’s most liked commercials were those with a simple sock puppet pitching pets.com with a tiny microphone with the company’s logo. The pets.com Sock Puppet went on to do guest spots on multiple national daily shows, and found itself being sued by Triumph, the Comic Insult Dog. By the end of 2000, pets.com went belly up and the Sock Puppet ended up in mothballs as a liquidated asset.
Strangely, at least for a sock puppet, the story didn’t end there. For in 2002, the company BarNone Inc. bought the rights to the pets.com inanimate object and it replaced Fran Tarkenton as its celebrity pitchman. My understanding is that BarNone continues to use the prop on online advertising. (And I assume Fran Tarkenton fired his agent.)
6. Sifl and Olly
Never ones to be embarrassed by horrible premises, the executives at MTV are the masters of throwing ideas to the wall to see what sticks. In 1997, a white sock and a dark green sock, named Sifl and Olly, premiered, telling mildly amusing jokes and using an almost shockingly low amount of production value to turn a one note gag into three seasons of low budget comedy. Sifl and Olly live on today, making guest appearances on the Lynchland Podcast. There are rumors that Sifl and Olly are looking for a new home to bring their comedy to a new generation of teens.
5. Ed the Sock
From the country that brought you Tom Green cable access star, here comes cable access sensation Ed the Sock. Kind of a sock puppet, regular puppet hybrid, Ed is a gravely throated, cigar chomping character geared strictly for adults. First debuting in the 1990’s on Newton Cable, Ed soon jumped to the national stage, turning up everywhere on MuchMusic (now Fuse), Canada’s answer to MTV.
Ed is another fellow who ended up feuding with Triumph, the Comic Insult Dog. Ed’s appearance on NBC’s Late Night with Conan O’Brian was cancelled by the producers of the show and he was never invited back. The appearance of Ed, an insult spewing, cigar chomping, human based sock puppet coincided with the creation of Triumph, an insult spewing, cigar chomping, dog based puppet. No commentary will be added about the litigious Triumph.
Not one to fade gently into the night, Ed turned up again on the national scale in 2011 as head of the F.U. Party (Fed-Up) and ran unsuccessfully for the Prime Minister of Canada.
4. Red Heel Rockford Original Sock Monkeys
Sock monkeys have been around for hundreds of years, but gained popularity here in the United States during the Great Depression. In 1955, the Nelson Knitting Company was awarded the patent to the iconic sock monkey that you’re used to seeing today. The Rockford, Illinois company is ground zero for sock monkey madness, with the city hosting a yearly festival, a sock monkey beauty pageant (for the monkeys, not the humans), a sock monkey Museum, and a sock monkey lecture. For hard core sock monkey enthusiasts, the sock monkey used in the patent litigation establishing Rockford, Illinois as the Home of the Sock Monkey in the 1955 court case is also on display.
3. Mr. Socko
Arguably one of the most popular wrestlers in the history of WWE Wrestling is Mick Foley. Most of the time, though, he was known by his stage persona, the mentally deranged Mankind. Wearing a leather mask as part of his wrestling outfit, Mankind continued to up the insanity ante as the years went on and added a white gym sock decorated with black magic marker on his hand to his repertoire. A simple face with a goatee on a sock, Mr. Socko was the disturbed extension of Mankind that helped him win many a wrestling match. By what move could a sock defeat a 300 pound muscle bound, behemoth, you ask? The famous Mandible Claw, where Mankind would thrust his dirty sweatsock into an opponents’ mouth and squeeze his lower jaw. Oh, and Mr. Socko moved millions of dollars’ worth of merchandise for Vince McMahon and the WWE.
Mick Foley was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame in 2013 and his Greatest Wrestling Moments DVD was released in the same month, with a home version of Mr. Socko in each package.
2. Lamb Chop
Lamb Chop was a sock puppet sheep that debuted way back in 1957. The creation of comedienne Shari Lewis, Lamb Chop was a fairly subdued character, as Lewis imagined the sheep as a 6-year old girl. Mostly a guest on multiple platforms, Lamb Chop got her own show in 1992, Lamb Chop’s Play -Along. Geared toward children, the PBS show allowed Lamb Chop the opportunity to testify before Congress on the importance of children’s programming. Yes, you read that right, and let me repeat it; the sock puppet was granted permission to speak in front of Congress, testifying in relation to protections to children’s programming.
Shari Lewis died in 1998 and Lamb Chop briefly retired before returning to the public eye in 2000, working with Lewis’ daughter Mallory Lewis.
1. Kermit the Frog
Yeah, I already know what you’re thinking, “what a crappy list, Kermit is a muppet.” But wait just a minute, beloved Kermit has been around since 1955. Go back and watch the grainy black and white videos of a young Kermit on a show called Sam and Friends. Kermit was basically a green sock with 2 googlie eyes glued on top. Created by a 19 year old Jim Henson, Sam and Friends allowed the young Henson the stage to develop his early vision. Sam and Friends lasted 6 years and the more fleshed out version of the Kermit that everyone knows and loves wouldn’t turn up until he popped up on a new show called Sesame Street in 1969.
After his run on Sesame Street, Kermit went on to star in his own live action series, star in a cartoon series, and star in multiple movies. In 1996, his contributions to entertainment were so extensive, he was given an honorary doctrine by Southampton College. By 2011, Kermit was starring is his own movie, The Muppets, that grossed over $150,000,000, despite the fact that Jim Henson had been dead for over 20 years. Quite a metamorphosis for a simple piece of green fabric with a piece of cardboard shoved inside.