Interview with Legendary Muppet Performer Dave Goelz, Part 2

Published: September 20, 2013

I’m so excited to present Part 2 of our interview with the legend that is Dave Goelz. In Part 2, Dave and I further discuss his Muppet involvements, focusing more on his work in the first three Muppet movies and some classic Muppet television specials. Enjoy!

Read Part 1, Part 3, and Part 4!


Interview with Dave Goelz, Part 2
Conducted by Ryan Dosier
Dave Goelz’s Answers © Dave Goelz 2013

RYAN DOSIER:   When The Muppet Movie came along, Gonzo was a major part of the core group of characters, along with your other characters Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and Zoot. What was it like for your characters to reach the popularity of Jim and Frank’s?

DAVE GOELZ:   I don’t know that they reached that kind of popularity, but it was exhilarating being in that kind of company.

RYAN:   “I’m Going to Go Back There Someday” sort of became Gonzo’s anthem in the movie. Can you talk about the song and what it means to you, to Gonzo, or even to Jim?

DAVE:   The brilliance of Paul Williams’ lyrics is that they are enchantingly vague. There’s room to interpret and find your own meaning. Try writing like that sometime… it’s extremely difficult. What a work of art means to one person does not invalidate what it means to another.

Paul has said that he wrote the song because he identified with Gonzo “as a flightless bird.” I think Gonzo would probably feel the same, but would not be conscious of it.

Jim and I never spoke about exactly why he loved the song so much, but he felt very strongly about it.

For me, the song does a couple of things. It’s a wistful song about those rare moments of weightlessness––times when everything is perfect––times we yearn to return to. But ultimately it’s about finding our place in the world… finding soul mates and trying to achieve a state of grace.

That’s just me. For Frank Oz, maybe it’s a song about cabbage.

RYAN:   One of my favorite moments from The Muppet Show is when Gonzo hugs Kermit after singing “My Way” before leaving to go to Bombay to become a movie star. Why do you think it is important for Gonzo and Kermit’s relationship to be more than silly interactions between employee and boss?

DAVE:   There is a philosophy that runs beneath almost everything we’ve done. It’s about connectedness and interdependence.

RYAN:   What was it like working with Jim as a director on The Great Muppet Caper?

DAVE:   By this time you must realize that Jim was a great guy to work with. We played on set, and always had fun. He appreciated everyone’s contribution. The work was more than comedy; it was about life.

RYAN:   The Great Muppet Caper was the first time we really saw Kermit, Fozzie, and Gonzo as a trio. Why do you think this grouping works so well?

DAVE:   I don’t know. One is responsible, one is insecure, and the other is crazy. Kind of like Jim, Frank and I––though not necessarily in that order. There are a lot of ways for them to play off each other.

RYAN:   To close off our first interview installment I have to ask a question that has bugged me for years… Did Gonzo ever finish his photographic essay on kneecaps?

DAVE:   Ryan, I told you about internal reality questions. Let it lie.

RYAN:   You performed Bill, the advertising agency frog, in The Muppets Take Manhattan, where you imitated Jim’s Kermit voice. Did Jim get a laugh out of those three frog impersonations?

DAVE:   Yes.

RYAN:   The Muppets Take Manhattan also restored Camilla to prominence. Can you discuss Gonzo’s relationship with Camilla?

DAVE:   I have my theory, but it’s best I not go into it here.

RYAN:   Everyone loves A Muppet Family Christmas for obvious reasons. What was your favorite memory of that special and its huge crossover of Muppet worlds?

DAVE:   For many years, it was the only time all those characters had been together, until our 2012 show at Carnegie Hall.

Of course, A Muppet Family Christmas remains unique, because each character was performed by its originator.

It meant a lot to see them all in one place.

RYAN:   In The Jim Henson Hour you performed Digit and a few other brand new characters. Why do you think these characters, or even the show itself, didn’t catch on as much as the other Muppets and previous efforts?

DAVE:   There are so many things that have to be working just right for a show to succeed––not the least of which is whether we are in sync with the audience. Sometimes it all comes together, sometimes it doesn’t. It’s complex.

RYAN:   Given the opportunity to resurrect one character from your past that didn’t become a recurring character, which one would you choose?

DAVE:   I could have done a lot with The International Chill. Don’t ask. You’ll have to go back to the Muppet Show and look for it.

On “Jim Henson Presents,” I felt Digit could be good––but we couldn’t quite get him working during the few episodes we did. On “Muppets Tonight,” I originated Gary Cahuenga, the vent dummy abandoned forty years earlier by his ventriloquist, but unfortunately the show was cancelled just after his introduction.

RYAN:   One of my favorite Muppet productions is The Muppets at Walt Disney World. What was your favorite part of working on that special?

DAVE:   Gosh, I haven’t seen it since we made it, but I do remember two things: Charles Grodin was funny and one day our Winnebago burned to the ground during lunch.

RYAN:   Of the many Muppet projects you worked on with Jim Henson, which one was the most special for you?

DAVE:   It’s a three-way tie: Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas, Fraggle Rock, and The Muppet Christmas Carol.

The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier,

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