"Mah Nà Mah Nà" is a popular song written by Piero Umiliani. It originally appeared in the Italian film Sweden: Heaven and Hell. It was a minor radio hit in the U.S. and in Britain, but became better known in English-speaking countries from its use in the first episode of The Muppet Show, and in advertising campaigns.
"Mah Nà Mah Nà" debuted as part of Umiliani's soundtrack for the Italian mondo film Svezia, inferno e paradiso (Sweden: Heaven and Hell) (1968), a pseudo-documentary about wild sexual activity and other behavior in Sweden. The song accompanied a scene in the film set in a sauna. The lead part was sung by Italian singer/composer Alessandro Alessandroni. The song also appeared on the 1968 soundtrack album released for the film.
The song's lyrics contain no actual words, only nonsense (iambic) syllables resembling scat singing. The original version interpolates melodies from "Swedish Rhapsody" (Midsummer Vigil) by Hugo Alfvén, "Santa Lucia", "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy", the jazz standard "Lullaby of Birdland", and others.
In 1969, Henri Salvador recorded a variation titled "Mais Non, Mais Non" ("But No, But No" or "Of Course Not, Of Course Not"), with lyrics he had written in French to Umiliani's tune.
The song became familiar to many from its renditions by the Muppets on television. On 30 November, 1969, "Mahna Mahna" was performed on the The Ed Sullivan Show by a Muppet also known as Mahna Mahna, and the Snowths. Also in 1969, "Mahna Mahna" was performed on Sesame Street by a character that was later known as Bip Bipadotta, along with two Anything Muppet girls.
In 1969, the Dave Pell Singers recorded a version for Liberty Records which got considerable radio exposure.
During its 1969-70 season, The Red Skelton Show used the Umiliani recording as background music for a recurring blackout sketch. The otherwise silent bits featured Red and another performer, dressed as moon creatures, playing with equipment left behind by the Project Apollo astronauts.
In 1973, a rendition of "Mah Nà Mah Nà" on the Moog synthesizer was released on the album More Hot Butter (Musicor MS 3254) by Hot Butter, best known for the pop tune "Popcorn". It was re-released on CD in 2000.
A thrash metal version was recorded by Skin in 1996.
The British pop group Vanilla also used the song as a basis for their first single "No Way, No Way" in 1997.
The musical group Cake recorded a horn-driven version of this song featuring many different sounds. This version was recorded as a children's song and appears on an album called For the Kids, released in 2002.
In 1969, the first season of Sesame Street featured a sketch featuring two Muppet girls who are unsure of what to do, until they decide to sing a song, enter an unusual-looking version of the latter Muppet character Mahna Mahna (whose named was later changed to Bip Bippadotta, so as to differentiate him from the Mahna Mahna character on The Muppet Show) who begins singing "Mahna Mahna", prompting the girls to join him.
In 1976, the first episode of The Muppet Show to be recorded (featuring Juliet Prowse), used "Mahna Mahna" as the first sketch. It was performed by the Animal and the Snowths, two creatures that resembled cows. As a result, the original Piero Umiliani recording finally became a hit in the UK (#8 in the UK charts in May 1977), where the Muppet Show soundtrack album featuring the Muppets' version went to number one.
A snippet of the song "Lullaby of Birdland" is 'hummed' during one of the improvisational passages.
The later Muppet TV series Muppets Tonight (1996–1998) revisited it in a sketch with Sandra Bullock where Kermit the Frog visits a doctor to complain about weird things that happen to him whenever he says the word phenomenon.
In the early 2000s, Scottish based drink Irn Bru used the song with the words "phenomenal" to replace 'Mah Na Ma Nah'. As a result the song became very popular in popular culture at that time.
Brazil's Pato Fu used the song's melody in the chorus of their 1999 hit "Made in Japan"
The sunscreen brand Banana Boat filmed a TV advertisement for the Australian market, using the song with new words. The words are sung by a boy toddler on the beach, dubbing "baby talk" on a mixture of animation and live action.
The song is played as background music in the German film Summer storm (2004), and is listed in the ending credits.
The band That Handsome Devil samples the song heavily in their 2007 song "Hey White Boy".
The Muppets filmed a new version of the song in 2005, for a New Zealand charity called CanTeen. In the ad, an updated version of the Mahna Mahna puppet was performed by Bill Barretta, and the lyrics were changed to "Bandanana", supporting CanTeen's "Bandana Week".