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Weekly Alibi The Muppets Space Out

An interview with Kermit the Frog and Gonzo

By Devin D. O'Leary

JULY 19, 1999:  In everyone's career, there is one defining moment of weirdness -- one singular point at which you have to wonder, "Is this for real, or am I just hallucinating?" Interviewing Kermit the Frog and Gonzo for the new Muppets from Space movie probably fits the bill.

Despite their felt-and-foam-rubber foundation, this intrepid ensemble has gone from public television ("Sesame Street") to prime-time variety show ("The Muppet Show") to feature film success (starting with the original Muppet Movie in 1979). Their names have been legend for generations: Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, Rowlf the Dog, Gonzo the Great, The Swedish Chef. Think about it -- how many actors can you name that have worked with such showbiz luminaries as Milton Berle, Mel Brooks, Steve Martin, Michael Caine, Bob Hope, Diana Rigg, Peter Ustinov, Richard Pryor, Art Carney, Liza Minelli and Orson Welles?

None of that background, however, can prepare one for an early morning conference call with two of the world's most famous non-human movie stars. After all, what do you ask a Muppet?

Alibi: Hello?

Gonzo: Hi. This is the Great Gonzo, and I have my buddy here.

Kermit: Hi Ho! This is Kermit. How are you?

Alibi: I'm doing just fine, guys. I haven't yet had the pleasure of seeing your new movie. Maybe you could give me the quick Hollywood pitch on Muppets from Space.

K: I'll let Gonzo do that because it's basically Gonzo's film.

G: Yeah, it's not only my film, it's the story of my life. As you may or may not know, we've been wondering for the last 20 years what the heck I am. Where am I from? And I haven't frankly known the answer myself. This movie answers that question. And I can tell you this right now without even showing you the movie: I'm an alien. I am from outer space.

Alibi: It's definitive now?

G: Yes. A whole other planet. And my people are coming. That's what the movie's about.

Alibi: Great. Muppets and science fiction, that sounds like a perfect combination. Are you two science fiction fans?

G: Oh, yeah. I've enjoyed all kinds of science fiction all my life. What are your favorites?

Alibi: I'd have to say I'm a big Star Wars fan. Grew up on the original.

K: Yeah, I like the Star Wars movies too.

Alibi: Are you worried about going up against Phantom Menace? This is a big summer for science fiction.

G: We never really thought of it as competition. It's hard to compare. Ours is cheaper and shorter and funnier. There's plenty of room in the galaxy for two space movies.

Alibi: Considering your recently revealed background, do you think aliens have been misunderstood in movies?

G: Wow, you sound like a really deep guy.

Alibi: Hey, I'm a film reviewer. It's my job to analyze this stuff.

G: Yeah, that's a great question. Are aliens misunderstood? I think that they have been.

Alibi: Maybe been given a bad rap in the past?

G: Yeah! You're right. They are always portrayed as guys who invade and take over and stuff. Well, you know what? We are gonna break that mold!

Alibi: What took so long for you to finally become the star of a Muppet movie, Gonzo?

G: It didn't take long for me. In my frame of reference, I'm 6,022 years old. So it just seems like it happened right away.

Alibi: Any new Muppets joining the family in Muppets from Space?

K: Yes, there are. We have a couple new guys who are working with us. We worked with them on a show we did called "Muppets Tonight," but this is their first movie.

G: Bobo the Bear

K: Sure. Bobo the Bear and Pepe the Prawn.

G: Or "King Prawn" as he would have it.

K: Just don't call him a shrimp, though. He hates that.

Alibi: Given your temperament and organizational skills, Kermit, have you given any thought to maybe producing or otherwise stepping behind the camera?

K: I've been behind the camera. I usually just walk out front again, though. ... No, I've done plenty of work behind the camera.

G: Punching all those holes in the film is hard work.

K: Oh, yeah.

Alibi: So, have you given any thought to, maybe, working without the other Muppets?

K: Sure. I mean, I love the work I've done with the Muppets, but there's no reason I couldn't get those big leading man roles. Those Tom Cruise parts. I can do anything Travolta can do. There's no reason a frog couldn't make it as a leading man.

G: I don't know, Kermit.

K: You don't think so?

G: I don't know. Hollywood is really kind of a Homo sapiens town.

Alibi: Thanks to your long career in television, you've been involved in an Emmy win or two. Any thoughts of Oscar?

K: Are you talking Oscar the Grouch? Oh, you mean the Oscar Award. Sure. It just goes back to getting those parts. Did you see Instinct? I could have played either of those parts. I could have played the professor. I could have played the psychiatrist. ... I could have played the gorilla.

Alibi: The Muppets have appeared in both film and television. Do you like working on television or film more?

K: Film is easier to work on. It's less slippery than videotape.

Alibi: Tell me, Gonzo, have you studied any particular acting methods? Stanislavsky, perhaps?

G: OK, here's the scoop. I've never studied acting. I've never taken any classes. I really have no idea what I'm doing. ... I feel so much better now that I've come clean.

K: The key is that we really just play ourselves on screen.

Alibi: Clue me in, Gonzo, what is the secret appeal of chickens?

G: For you or for me?

Alibi: Well, for you.

G: It's gotta be the legs.

Alibi: You're a leg man?

G: Definitely.

Alibi: Muppets from Space is your sixth movie. Any future plans?

K: Yes, but it's top secret.

G: Hush-hush Hollywood stuff. We're always makin' deals.

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