Are the Muppets Still Relevant in the Age of Pixar?

Slate's weekly roundtable.
March 26 2014 10:35 AM

The Culture Gabfest “Green Handshake” Edition

Slate’s Culture Gabfest on Muppets Most Wanted, High Maintenance, and the evolution of tipping.

Listen to Culture Gabfest No. 288 with Mike Pesca, John Swansburg, and Jessica Winter with the audio player below.

And join the lively conversation on the Culturefest Facebook page here:


The sponsors of today’s show are Audible and Warby Parker. Get a free audiobook from Audible’s collection of more than 150,000 titles and a subscription to a daily audio digest when you sign up for a 30-day free trial at This week’s pick for the Culture Gabfest Bucket List—the books you’ve got to read to be a smarter culture hound—is The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin read by Robin Field. Go to for free shipping, home try-ons, and returns on accessible, Steve-endorsed frames, starting at $95.

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Subscribe on iTunes to Mom and Dad Are Fighting, Slates new parenting podcast featuring Allison Benedikt and Dan Kois.

Steve, Dana, and Julia will be back next week. And on an upcoming show, they’ll be discussing Walter Kirn’s new book, Blood Will Out. Get a copy and start reading now.

On May 4, the Culture Gabfest will be hosting a live show in Montreal as part of the Blue Metropolis Literary Festival. Stay tuned for tickets to the show and a cocktail party with the gabbers on May 3. Tickets will go on sale April 2.

And don’t forget you can find Culture Gabfest T-shirts for sale in the Slate Store.

On this week’s episode, the critics discuss Muppets Most Wanted and the place of Jim Henson’s creations in today’s culture. Next, the gabbers turn to the Web series High Maintenance about a marijuana deliveryman in Brooklyn and the lives of his diverse clientele. And finally, in light of Jordan Weissmann’s recent Slate piece about the effects of e-commerce on gratuities, the critics talk tipping: Do we tip out of good will or a sense of obligation? And should you really tip your Starbucks baristas?    

Links to some of the things we discussed this week follow:


John: “For Jared Remy, Leniency Was the Rule Until One Lethal Night,” a devastating article about the troubled son of the Red Sox broadcaster Jerry Remy by Eric Moskowitz of the Boston Globe.

Jessica: Smiley Face, an overlooked comedy by Gregg Araki, which features a star turn by Anna Faris.

Mike: The creative interviews of the Jeff Rubin Jeff Rubin Show, and the esoteric comedy of Gary Gulman, available on YouTube.

Outro: James and Bobby Purify’s “I’m Your Puppet,” performed by Yo La Tengo.

You can email us at

This podcast was produced by Ann Heppermann. Our intern is Anna Shechtman, with assistance from Lance Richardson.

Follow us on Twitter. And please Like the Culture Gabfest on Facebook

Mike Pesca is the host of the Slate daily podcast The Gist. He also contributes reports and commentary to NPR.

John Swansburg is Slate's deputy editor.

Jessica Winter is a Slate senior editor.


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