■ The Muppets star on what to expect from their 02 show and life as a green pin-up
What can we expect from your imminent Muppet Show performance at The O2?
It’s a full-length live stage show with the entire Muppet cast, special guest celebrities and Muppet sketches like Muppet Labs, Pigs In Space and Veterinarian’s Hospital. Fozzie Bear will do some comedy and the Great Gonzo will do a really interesting magic act. Even Electric Mayhem [the Muppet house band] are going to be doing their very first live show here in the UK. They are rocking it out.
Do you get nervous live?
I get butterflies in my stomach before every performance. I’m not sure if that’s because I have nerves or because I had butterflies for lunch. But it’s always nerve-racking with The Muppets trying to do a live show. We don’t rehearse much — we fly by the seat of our pants.
We’re massive fans of Muppet Treasure Island. Can you share a never-before-heard anecdote about that film?
We almost had to hold up production because we had a very tough time casting the role of Mr Bimbo, the man who lives in the finger of Squire Trelawney (Fozzie Bear). There’s a surprising shortage of left-handed finger actors in Hollywood.
Who’s been your favourite British actor to work with and why?
Michael Caine is certainly one of my favourites. He was a great Scrooge on film and the exact opposite of Scrooge off camera. But we’ve also loved working with everyone from Julie Andrews to Tim Curry to John Cleese to Peter Sellers to Elton John to Ricky Gervais to C-3PO (I’m pretty sure he’s English).
Why do you think The Muppets has been so successful?
We fill a show-business niche. There are not a lot of acts out there with talking frogs, singing pigs, joke-telling bears and boomerang-fish throwers.
How have you changed since you first found fame?
As little as possible. I try to be the same frog I was when I first left the swamp: eager, optimistic, encouraging and just a tiny bit waterlogged. There aren’t many frogs in show business so I guess if you had to name one I’d be up there in the top. But I still go back to the swamp and see all of my relatives — I have thousands of them, as you can imagine.
How do your family feel about your fame?
Well, they keep my flippers on the lily pad. They remind me, ‘Hey, look where you came from!’ I go back to the swamp quite often, actually. I was there over the holidays and we just hang out and catch flies, just sit on a log. That’ll keep you on the ground or in the pond.
Who have you been most star-struck by?
Well, her majesty, of course. I was presented to Queen Elizabeth II and I’m sure she was pretty surprised by that too. And great actors like Robert De Niro and Orson Welles. But the star who’s struck me the most is definitely Miss Piggy.
Your career highs and lows?
Career high? Whenever the curtain comes up and the audience gives you their first laugh. I am a lucky frog. Playing the O2 is going to be a highlight, just like playing the Hollywood Bowl. The Muppet Show was truly a unique experience. Gosh, there are so many things. Career low? When the show’s over and we have to clean up the theatre. Showbiz — it’s not all glamour.
Is there someone you’d like to work with that you’ve not?
I mean, there are so many people that I have worked with, I can’t even remember who they are! For the O2 show, it’d be really cool to have Ed Sheeran do something with us. I’ve met him and he’s a really great guy. I’d love to work with Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. You know they call me the Tom Hanks of the frog world? I’m like an ‘everyfrog’ and he’s an ‘everyman’.
Does Miss Piggy insist on equal pay? She is the ultimate feminist, isn’t she?
Absolutely. Oh, she insists on a lot. And I’m keen to give it to her! I’m super proud of Miss Piggy because she stands up for all women that work in our show. She doesn’t let any harassment happen to them. Of course, she also doesn’t let any other women work in our show. That’s her in a nutshell. And as far as our relationship goes, we are just friends. We work very well together and I don’t know if we’d ever get back together again. I don’t think you can ever rule anything out when it comes to her — she’s very demanding and gets her way.
Do you prefer live shows to anything else you do?
I love making movies and doing television but performing live on stage is amazing. You feel the energy of the audience and it makes you want to give your best, your funniest and, in Animal’s case, your loudest performance…
The Muppets Take The O2, London, tomorrow and Saturday, aegpresents.co.uk