Shockingly violent coffee commercials starring Muppets


Russell Bates says: "Check out these late-50s commercials for a Washington DC coffee company, starring early iterations of the Muppets doing violent things to each other"

From 1957 to 1961, Henson made 179 commercials for Wilkins Coffee and other Wilkins products, including Community Coffee and Wilkins Tea. The ads were so successful and well-liked that they sparked a series of remakes for companies in other local markets throughout the 1960s. The ads starred the cheerful Wilkins, who liked Wilkins Coffee, and the grumpy Wontkins, who hated it. Wilkins would often do serious harm to Wontkins in the ads -- blowing him up, stabbing him with a knife, and smashing him with a club, among many other violent acts.
Shockingly violent coffee commercials starring Muppets


  1. 21st Century Version:

    Wilkins Coffee Puppet Supporter: “You Know what happens to people who dont drink Wilkins Coffee?”

    Other Puppet: “No, what happens.”

    *Other Puppet gets tied up, blindfolded, and put on a plank board and water-boarding begins”

    Wilkins Coffee Puppet Supporter: “That’s what happens.”

  2. These ads bring back bad memories of a muppets retrospective type program that was on the TV a few time in the late 80s, early 90s when I was a child. It had a few old violent clips in it and I remember being absolutely terrified of them, and also a bit confused about why the muppets were being mean to each other :(

  3. Funny I just tweeted this a little while ago, m’self. Interesting how different the world thinks today.

  4. I think “shockingly” is a tad strong.

    I found them quite funny, and not any more innapropriate than the overtly sexual advertising of today is in its own way.

  5. Compared to Warner Brothers-cartoons, these are tame. And doesn’t puppets being violent have a tradition of hundreds of years, what with Punch and Judy?

  6. I wish these were on the air today…we could all use a daily dose of Murder-Muppets: Murpets.

  7. I think “shockingly” refers less to the actual violence and more to the context- Muppet on Muppet. If Kermit The Frog shivved Gonzo it’d be a bit “shocking”- unexpected.

    Imagine the Teletubbies slapping each other around, maybe shooting each other. Not “shockingly violent” perhaps, but shocking violence (barring some wry commentary from someone who “saw it coming what with all the telltale signs of repressed aggression in the previous episodes”.)

  8. This came from the era of the three stooges and televised vaudeville, and was intended to be slapstick not violent. Not really shocking when you realize that some of the same schtick appeared in The Muppet Show. It’s just that we expect our TV commercials to be politically correct.

  9. No more violent than Tom & Jerry or Roadrunner cartoons, or any of a whole slew of other classic series.

  10. From the blog’s comments:

    I think more shocking than the physical violence is the fact that the audience is being threatened into buying Wilkins – “Things just seem to happen to people that don’t drink Wilkins.” Classic!

    To which I’d add, the threat is all the more horrifying because the violence in that scene is a tree limb falling on the anti-Wilkins puppet, without the pro-Wilkins puppet doing anything.

    Got that? Forget about Evil Teenage Kermit, if you don’t drink Wilkins ALMIGHTY GOD HIMSELF is going to fuck your shit up.

  11. @apoxia: I think I saw the same Muppets retrospective as a young ‘un, mid 80s. That clip of the piano eating proto-Kermit unsettled some deep, dark memories. Mainly of wondering why the hell a piano just ate a Muppet.

  12. The Muppet-on-Muppet violence never completely went away. You could always count on Miss Piggy to karate chop someone who offended her.

  13. wonder how they will look back at us in a half century? In any case, Sesame Street was tough neighborhood when it opened.

  14. I also remember a series of Muppet commercials for Kraml milk using many of the same bludgeons, firearms, and similar.

    And I also remember the most violent mainstream cartoon ever – Heckle and Jeckle.

  15. There’s an old saying about the Muppets that there are only 3 ways to end a sketch – blow something up, have one character eat another, or start tossing animals in the air.

    Please. The Muppets != Sesame St. Muppets were always designed for adult audiences and adult humor. The Henson exhibit at the Smithsonian last year had some fabulous Muppet commercials – the best part is because of local TV, the products in the ads were pretty much interchangeable for different markets.

  16. Shocking is a very strong word to use here. Maybe “surprisingly violent” would have been more accurate. Because I wasn’t expecting to see that, but it didn’t leave me feeling offended.

    The ads were pretty good, really. To be so brief, they managed to convey what the product is, and in a brief moment of absurd, puppet-based violence, they conveyed the tremendous value of their product. You don’t see such creativity very often, nowadays.

    In other words, if this actually shocks any of you, then maybe you need to unclinch your ass and try to laugh once in awhile.

    1. if this actually shocks any of you, then maybe you need to unclinch your ass and try to laugh once in awhile.

      Reading every word literally: priceless.

  17. It wasn’t the violence itself that I found “shocking,” but the tactic of threatening the viewer. “Drink our coffee or we will physically hurt you!” is a bit surprising, to me at least. I have seen many ads growing up with the TV and the Internet, but in none of them was a cannon turned to point at the camera menacingly.

  18. There was a Henson retrospective at the Smithsonian a few months back, and it had this and other commercials. The previous posts about interchanging products aren’t altogether wrong. There was another one that was effectively the same ad, but for bread. The non-bread muppet got shot with a cannon hidden in a breadbox[0].

    Seriously, I wish we could have a few ads that are this incredibly out there and simple. GEICO occasionally comes close (not the money though, wtf?), except they have a huge marketing budget behind it. And well, I suppose there’s Burger King’s attempt, but yeah, the king scares the bejeezus out of me.


  19. Henson was much more than a ‘puppet-master’…he was an artist who moved us far beyond the obvious caricatures of Disney into a reality that we came to know…that amused us…and that we have loved.

    Henson took his inspiration not from German fairy-tales but from the world as it is. He created a unique culture, which has found a permanent place in every civilization that watches tv. Thanks Jim.

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