The Muppets were created by puppeteer Jim Henson in the 1950s, beginning with Kermit the Frog, who would become Henson's signature character. Originally conceived as characters aimed at an adult audience, Henson stated that the term "Muppet" had been created as an amalgamation of the words "marionette" and "puppet", but also claimed that it was actually a word he had coined. In 1955, the Muppets were introduced on Sam and Friends, a television program that aired on WRC-TV in Washington D.C. Conceptualized by Jim and eventual wife Jane Henson, the series was notable for being the first form of puppet media not to include a physical proscenium arch within which the characters are presented, relying instead on the natural framing of the television set through which the program was viewed.
During the 1960s, the charactersnotably Kermit and Rowlf the Dogappeared on skits in several late-night talk shows and advertising commercials, including The Ed Sullivan Show. Rowlf became the first Muppet with a regular spot on network television when he began appearing as Jimmy Dean's sidekick on The Jimmy Dean Show. In 1966, Joan Ganz Cooney and Lloyd Morrisett began developing an educational television program targeted towards children and approached Henson to design several Muppet characters for the program. Produced by the Children's Television Workshop, the show debuted as Sesame Street in 1969. Henson and his creative team performed and created several characters for the show in the years that followed; Henson waived his performance fee in exchange for retaining ownership rights to the Muppet characters created for the program. Sesame Street received critical acclaim, and the Muppets' involvement in the series was touted to be a vital component of the show's blossoming popularity, providing an "effective and pleasurable viewing" method of presentation for the series' educational curriculum.
The popularity of the Muppets has been so pervasive that the characters have been viewed by the media as celebrities in their own right. The Muppets have received their own collective star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, with Kermit having his own individual star as well. The characters have also presented at the Academy Awards and Emmy Awards; made cameo appearances in such feature films as Rocky III, An American Werewolf in London and Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium; and have been interviewed on the news magazine 60 Minutes. Kermit the Frog was interviewed early on in Jon Stewart's run on The Daily Show, guest hosted The Tonight Show, Jimmy Kimmel Live!, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, America's Funniest Home Videos and an April Fools' Day edition of Larry King Live; and has served as Grand Marshal of the Tournament of Roses Parade. The characters also appeared in-character on such sitcoms and dramas as The Cosby Show, The West Wing, and The Torkelsons. The music video for the Weezer song "Keep Fishin'" is premised on the band performing on The Muppet Show and features appearances by several characters. On September 28, 2005, the United States Postal Service released a Jim Henson and the Muppets postage stamp series. The Muppets also appeared on Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve for the 2008 countdown on December 31, 2007. Kermit, Rizzo, and others welcomed in the new year with a series of messages to welcome viewers back from the advertising breaks. After one such segment, with Kermit in Times Square, co-host Ryan Seacrest thanked his pal "Kerms" for the help bringing in '08. Miss Piggy has appeared as a guest on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson and Kermit the Frog appeared on Hollywood Squares and as one of the celebrity commentators on VH1's I Love documentary series.
On July 25, 2007, the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta announced the opening of a new Jim Henson Wing, which would house anywhere from 500 to 700 retired Muppets. The new wing, first set to open in 2012 with films, sketches, and other materials from the Jim Henson Company archives, eventually opened as a gallery within the Worlds of Puppetry exhibition at the Center in November 2015.
Muppet-like and Muppet-inspired puppets star in the 2004 Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Avenue Q. Peter Jackson's film, Meet the Feebles is another parody of the Muppets. A vomit-spewing Kermit the Frog was a recurring character on Late Night with Conan O'Brien, and the Muppets were frequently preempted at the beginning of episodes for the Canadian series You Can't Do That on Television. Seth Green's short-lived show Greg the Bunny was about sentient hand-puppets working in a Muppet-like children's show. Many other films and television shows such as The Simpsons, Family Guy, The West Wing and Robot Chicken have referenced The Muppets.