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.
"Mah Nà Mah Nà" was a hit in many countries in 1968–1969. In the U.S. it peaked at #55 in the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart and #44 on the Cash Box magazine chart in October 1969.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 twoAnything Muppet girls.
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. 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 differenciate 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 Muppets "Mahna Mahna and the Snowths". As a result, the original Piero Umiliani recording finally became a hit in the UK, where the Muppet Show soundtrack album featuring the Muppets' version went to number one.