Mr. Beaks Interviews Kermit The Frog! YAAAAAAAAAY!
He’s worked with some of the biggest names in showbiz history: Bob Hope, Gene Kelly, Milton Berle, George Burns and Jim Nabors. His career spans a phenomenal fifty-six years, stretching all the way back to the Eisenhower administration, yet he hasn’t aged a day. He is romantically involved with a pig.
His name is Kermit the Frog. And if it ain’t easy bein’ green, I don’t want to know what’s tough.
Unlike most Hollywood legends, Kermit doesn’t appear tortured by regrets or bitter resentments. Though the Muppets have endured a decade-long absence from the silver screen, he is, as ever, an amiable amphibian, thrilled to be working with his friends and making room for new ones (i.e. Walter and ‘80s Robot). Perhaps the secret to his career longevity is his reluctance to keep a house in Los Angeles. As he explains in the below interview, once he’s done working, it’s back to the swamp – which may cause a strain with his longtime companion Miss Piggy, but, given her diva-ish disposition, strain is inevitable. Kermit can handle it.
I’m not easily star-struck, but walking into a room at the Beverly Hilton to find Kermit the Frog gazing up at you with those uniquely-patterned eyes is humbling. Even though veteran puppeteer Steve Whitmire is right there with you, clearly manipulating the frog’s every gesture and utterance, he disappears as soon as the conversation begins, and your inner child comes scrambling out to play. That’s when it occurs to you that you’re talking to one of the biggest stars on the planet. And then you spend the next ten minutes trying not to get too tongue-tied.
I know some people find it disconcerting to see the Muppets at work (or, worse, not working), but suspension of disbelief is an integral part of going to the movies. The seams are visible if you choose to see them. I prefer not to look. I'd rather throw in with the lovers, the dreamers and this guy...
Mr. Beaks: Hi, Kermit. How are you doing?
Kermit: I’m fine. How are you?
Beaks: It’s a pleasure to speak with you today.
Kermit: Yes, it’s a pleasure to be here.
Beaks: We last talked on the set actually.
Kermit: I know, I remember you. I remember your face. I never forget faces. I’m not always good with names.
Beaks: Is that just perfect frog recall?
Kermit: It’s pretty good. I have an unusually large brain for a frog. I’m especially sentient. I have many friends in the swamp who are barely sentient, but you know.
Beaks: Well anyway, it’s wonderful to see a new MUPPET movie. How do you feel about how it’s all come together?
Kermit: Well, I think it’s good. I’ve enjoyed working with Jason [Segel] a great deal, and I’ve even gotten to know him better since we’ve been promoting. We like go do co-promotions and get the giggles with each other. When you get to that point with some other actor or performer, where you are giggling, you know you’ve really gotten to know them quite well.
Beaks: And now you’ve worked Walter into the mix. It seems he’s a part of the troupe.
Kermit: Well, we’ve always, through the years when we did THE MUPPET SHOW and stuff like that, we always had many sort of unknown characters come through the background, and many times they stick and they become some of the main guys. Even Ms. Piggy started as a chorus pig - for the first few episodes and then suddenly she stepped out. So in this case we just decided that Walter would step out immediately, you know?
Beaks: Would you say Piggy kind of asserted herself?
Kermit: Yes, and she hasn’t stopped in the last 30 years.
Beaks: Watching you two work again on screen is just a delight. Has anything changed, or are you two just a well-oiled machined at this point?
Kermit: Well I assume we are sort of well oiled. We’ve been doing this for a long time. But every day with Piggy can bring new surprises - although by now they shouldn’t be surprises anymore. I don’t want to go into a lot of details, but she has certain demands on set that can be kind of difficult: a certain size trailer…. pink M&M’s, which we have to have specially made. I mean, I’m pretty simple. When I’m on set, I just do my job and then I go to my little trailer. I only need a trailer with a tub, you know? I just fill it up with nice warm water, let a little mold grow, and soak.
Beaks: That’s all you need to unwind?
Kermit: That’s exactly what I do. Us frogs are pretty good at unwinding. We learn that at a very early age. You have to develop a laid back attitude when you live in the swamp, because you’re pretty low on the food chain and could get snapped up any second. It’s a lot like Hollywood actually.
Beaks: Just like Hollywood, I would say.
Kermit: I think so. Lots of snakes and rats, yes.
Beaks: There are a lot of Muppets that we haven’t seen for a while in this film, like Thog.
Kermit: Sure, and Thog’s hard to miss by the way.
Beaks: Did you enjoy working with anyone in particular on this movie?
Kermit: I really appreciate my normal guys, my close friends like Fozzy and Gonzo and Scooter. But a lot of the guys haven’t been around in a few years because of the work we have done, so it’s nice to have the Swedish Chef have a little bit more to do, and Bunsen and Beaker, you know? They are great. Thog of course. You should try traveling with Thog. It’s like you have a sidecar on a train. He’s a big guy.
Beaks: He is. Sweetums, too.
Kermit: Sweetums is not so large, but yes. Sweetums can be a little bit more ferocious. Thog’s a sweetie. He’s a big teddy bear.
Beaks: And Animal. This is big movie for Animal.
Kermit: Animal is Animal, you know? There’s only one of a kind there. He just has three motivations: it’s women, music, and food – and not necessarily in that order on any given day. But, you know, you just try to meet those demands and keep animal well fed, keep him calm, and everything’s fine.
Beaks: And how did you enjoy the musical numbers in this film?
Kermit: Music has always been such a huge part of everything the Muppets do, and this is no exception. We always want to have music, and sometimes we sort of wander away and then we come back and do other stuff. It’s always nice to have great songs, and it’s fun to do some of our old songs again like “Rainbow Connection,” “The Muppet Show Theme Song” and “Mah-Na Mah-Na”. And the new music is fun, too. We got to do big dance numbers in the middle of the street, which is particular gratifying for a frog to even get a chance to get out in the middle of the street, you know? It’s a pretty dangerous place for us.
Beaks: And how are you with choreography? How quickly do you pick it up?
Kermit: I’m pretty good. I sort of have two webbed feet. I’m not a wonderful dancer, but I’d say for a frog with moist feet I do pretty well.
And it was fun to actually meet Amy [Adams] and Jason, because I haven’t worked with them before, and Jason is sort of the ultimate Muppet fan. He knows what it’s like to be a Muppet fan for sure, and I think Amy, too. She’s beautiful and talented, and probably my biggest challenge in the movie was balancing Amy’s scenes with Piggy’s scenes. That’s always kind of tough, not exactly giving Piggy more than Amy, but making it seem that way, you know?
Beaks: Oh. Was there diva behavior going on with Piggy and Amy?
Kermit: No, not at all. Amy was wonderful, sweet, willing to do anything. And then there was Piggy.
Beaks: I have to ask about ‘80s Robot.
Kermit: He’s sort of new to our group, like Walter. ‘80s Robot was wonderful. I actually had an ‘80s Robot back in the ‘80s, and we sort of dug him out. We found him at a garage sale and did a little rewiring, got him up and running, and I think maybe he’ll stick with us a while. Maybe we will find a permanent role in the Muppets for ‘80s Robot, you know?
Beaks: And do you still offer New Coke and Tab at your domicile?
Kermit: Well, you know, I don’t actually live in a mansion. That was just part of the… well, we call that a “conceit.” That was part of the story in the movie. No, when I’m not working, I just go back to the swamp where I can get not New Coke, but other Coke, so it’s not so bad.
Beaks: I just figured you had a home in LA as well as back in the swamp.
Kermit: No, no I don’t. I’m only here when I’m working like now, and then they gave me this incredible place upstairs to stay at the Beverly Hilton. It’s nice. I only use the bathroom. (Pause) I mean to live in. I just fill up the tub with water and that’s it.
Beaks: As for making more Muppet movies after this, where would you like to take the gang from here?
Kermit: I think part of what we want to do with this movie actually is just sort of reintroduce the Muppets to those who haven’t see us on the big screen in a while. I mean, we’ve done lots of smaller projects, television and internet stuff, but this is probably the biggest project we have done in a very long time. I would hope that the next thing we would do would be a story that would really concentrate on who we Muppets are, maybe even more than this one. I mean, we’ve had a lot of years. We are pretty deep people, us Muppets. So maybe just further that introduction, and let people get to know us even better as I go through my mid-life.
Beaks: (Laughs) You seem to be handling mid-life very well, I have to say.
Kermit: I’m doing okay. I haven’t felt the need to buy a sports car. I’m still with Piggy, so we’re okay. I’m all right.
At which point he shook my hand, and I floated out of the room.
THE MUPPETS hit theaters Wednesday, November 23rd. If you enjoy feeling wonderful, I highly recommend it.
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Nov. 22, 2011, 4:44 p.m. CST
Nov. 22, 2011, 4:53 p.m. CST
by Jesse Kroh
Nov. 22, 2011, 4:54 p.m. CST
It’s very distracting. Surely there is someone in the world who can do a perfect Jim Henson impression. They should find that guy. Still, I am very much looking forward to seeing this movie.
Nov. 22, 2011, 4:55 p.m. CST
It made me teary too. It's a beautiful, perfect picture. The muppets have been a huge part of my life since I was a child, from Sesame Street through to the Muppet show and then on to all the movies. When Henson died, I remember as a teenager fearing that was it, there would be no more. But the muppets endured. That picture is beautiful beyond words :)
Nov. 22, 2011, 4:57 p.m. CST
Alright, **** you, interview over. I'm ****ing out of here (drops mic) ****! You ****! (Knocks over chair, walks off) **** you! Mother****er!
Nov. 22, 2011, 4:58 p.m. CST
by Nick Friesen
Got a little misty eyed looking at it. I think Jim would be proud. Thank you for the photo
Nov. 22, 2011, 4:59 p.m. CST
Was laughing and smiling all the way until the end, with the picture... damn you..... damn you.....
Nov. 22, 2011, 5:05 p.m. CST
and jamming out to the ET soundtrack
Nov. 22, 2011, 5:07 p.m. CST
Btw, Kermit's voice has been the same for 20 years now. GET OVER IT!!!!!!
Nov. 22, 2011, 5:34 p.m. CST
Kermit the Frog was the guy in the black and white picture.
Nov. 22, 2011, 5:39 p.m. CST
Seems like that would have been sufficient time to find someone who can do a good Jim Henson impression. Probably it won’t bother me once the movie gets going. Probably.
Nov. 22, 2011, 5:50 p.m. CST
Nov. 22, 2011, 6 p.m. CST
Do you rememember when we were a cutting edge movie news Web site that defiantly published a review of The Attack of the Clones months before it hit theaters?
Nov. 22, 2011, 6:13 p.m. CST
Nov. 22, 2011, 6:30 p.m. CST
by Captain Mal
I was the world's biggest Henson fan when I was a kid. My articulated life plan was to graduate high school, fly to New York, show up on the doorstep of the Creature Shop, and refuse to budge until they let me work there -- scrubbing floors, making coffee, didn't care. I wanted to work in the shadow of genius. When Henson died, it devastated me, and it was years before I was able to accept Whitmire as Kermit. But you know what? I eventually figured out that Kermit is more than a voice, and even more than the man behind the felt. Kermit is an idea come to life, a fully-realized character, and a beloved personality. Whitmire didn't need to do a perfect Jim Henson impression, he needed to be Kermit. And despite the declining quality of Muppet material over the years (before the recent renaissance), he's done a hell of a job. Can't wait to take my kids to "The Muppets" tomorrow night.
Nov. 22, 2011, 6:46 p.m. CST
Nov. 22, 2011, 6:49 p.m. CST
Nov. 22, 2011, 6:54 p.m. CST
When I made the comment in the other Muppet article regarding box office, you know, the comment that mysteriously got deleted, I was only quoting what ANYBODY who actually understands how to track movies can find out for him/herself: According to Fandango's advanced ticket sales, the Muppets film is running second to Breaking Dawn. Maybe you really really really want the puppets to beat the sparkly vampires, but Beaks, the LA Times is saying the same thing. Team Edward is beating Team Kermit. So far. We won't know for sure until next Monday. Just sayin'. And what's wrong with coming in second anyway? It'd still be a nice piece of change for Disney's latest reboot. And oh, that last picture with Kermit gazing at a picture of his daddy is one of the most grossly manipulative ploys I've ever seen. Some people have no shame *tsk*
Nov. 22, 2011, 7:02 p.m. CST
Him along with many other characters, but I don't have an agent. Like all the others equally qualified.
Nov. 22, 2011, 7:21 p.m. CST
As a HUGE fan of the Muppets, how can I not be ready for this! If there were a midnight show here in Nashville tonight, I would be there. And that pic at the end did make me tear up. I've said it before, and I'll say it again.... Jim Henson is the only celebrity that I genuinely cried over when he died. I am sure I'm not the only one.
Nov. 22, 2011, 7:37 p.m. CST
Nov. 22, 2011, 7:38 p.m. CST
Nov. 22, 2011, 8:21 p.m. CST
meh... of course it sounds odd. It's not Jim Henson. Your mind can pick it out easily because humans are smart... just let it go. Steve Whitmire does a fine Kermit. I think the one thing that's missing more that Jim Henson was just such a good live performer, and knew how to throw "character" into his voice. Frank Oz is amazing with this too. Kermit and Miss Piggy, Bert and Ernie, Grover, Yoda and... Well you get my point. All of these characters are great characters because of all the little nuances in their voice and the way they emote through them. Whitmire is good too... he does bring his own life to into the role(s). He has brought good things to Kermit, but ultimately he's honoring Henson here and if you look at it with too strong a magnifying glass of course you'll see something that bugs you.
Nov. 22, 2011, 8:31 p.m. CST
Henson was getting too busy to perform Kermit and his other characters and gradually would have cut back on performing, just as Frank Oz has cut back to very occasional work (most regularly at this point, Oz still tapes Sesame Street segments in concentrated sessions a few days each year). Oz probably would have come back to the Muppets for something as major as this movie but for creative disagreements with Disney, but the fact is we've been hearing other people do Fozzie and Piggy for a long time now.
Nov. 22, 2011, 11:22 p.m. CST
Nov. 23, 2011, 12:56 a.m. CST
I forgive you. But damn.... ouch.
Nov. 23, 2011, 5:01 a.m. CST
I'm old enough to have seen the original Muppet Movie in theaters and remember the original airing of the Muppet Show on TV. I consider myself both a lifetime fan and someone who is mature, intelligent and discerning enough to detect bullshit. When I heard that Oz and other original Muppet creators/performers were critical of the script, tone, direction, and handling of the characters in this project, I had my reservations about it. Still, I was hopeful that they were wrong and that Segall & co. would get it right. I saw a sneak preview of this film last night and I can say this to Oz and company (for whom I have utmost respect...how could I NOT?): Get over it. I truly cannot see where they are coming from. This movie is the most truly "Muppetty" Muppet production in literally decades. It is FAR more of a piece with the Henson-era Muppet projects than all of the so-so literary adaptations (Treasure Island, Christmas Carol, Wizard of Oz) and other attempts to keep the Muppets alive in the last 20-odd years. The spirit of the Muppets and more importantly, the spirit of Henson inform and infuse this movie. "A Love Letter to the Muppets" is NOT an exaggeration. That's exactly what it is, and it's brilliant, and moving--yes, I cried during this movie and I'm not ashamed to admit it. Judging by the reactions of the kids in the sneak preview audience, I absolutely predict that this film WILL succeed in bringing the Muppets to the current generation, no sweat--and that it will also confound all box office predictions and unseat Twilight at number one. Bottom line: whether you grew up with the Muppets or not, go see this movie. You will love it. And that goes for Frank Oz & company too. I'll also add that it's a perfect kids movie you can take a date to, and a perfect date movie
Nov. 23, 2011, 5:52 a.m. CST
Nov. 23, 2011, 6:17 a.m. CST
by John Baker
Was the guys left arm up Beaks ass or what? Gives meat puppet a completely new meaning... Oh no I spoke ill of AICN. The banhammer hovers near. It's getting dark... ... (Was that a haiku?)
Nov. 23, 2011, 6:18 a.m. CST
by John Baker
Nov. 23, 2011, 3:28 p.m. CST
but Kermit's jokes about Piggy made me laugh.
Nov. 23, 2011, 3:49 p.m. CST
You also have to be a puppetteer and, most importantly, you have to be a stellar improvisor. I don't care how great your Kermit voice is; odds are you suck at improv.
Nov. 24, 2011, 12:36 p.m. CST
It's not kermit to me when the voice is off so much.
Nov. 24, 2011, 3:18 p.m. CST
by The Penultimate Gunslinger
Nov. 24, 2011, 10:36 p.m. CST
Nothing as cringe-worthy, or disturbing, as a guy trying to be funny or clever and failing at it so severely. Anybody who has ever attended an open mic night at a comedy club knows what I am laying down here.
Nov. 25, 2011, 10:42 a.m. CST
Nov. 26, 2011, 12:06 p.m. CST
by Philip Tolken
Nov. 26, 2011, 2:02 p.m. CST
I mean, it's a gimmick interview, and the only thing that would make the gimmick work is the goddamn puppet itself.
Nov. 27, 2011, 9:42 a.m. CST
Nov. 29, 2011, 2:01 p.m. CST
You hit him with some really tough questions, you could have at least thrown him a couple of soft questions.
Nov. 29, 2011, 9:34 p.m. CST
Jim Henson is of course a genius, and is irreplaceable, but Kermit the character... the "person" is still there, and bless Henson's Co. for keeping him alive. We need stuff like the Muppets and Kermit in this world. No, the voice wasn't perfect, but Kermit WAS.
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