- Gonzo the Great
Gonzo the Great
Gonzo the Great
First appearance 1970 Information Occupation Stunt performer, artist
Gonzo the Great (or simply Gonzo) is a puppet character, one of Jim Henson's Muppets. He was developed and performed by Dave Goelz. The character made his first appearance in a 1970 Christmas special entitled "The Great Santa Claus Switch". Known as a "Whatever" (or a "Weirdo" on Muppet Babies), he is considered one of The Frackles. Since his character lived in a cigar box, he was called the "Cigar Box Frackle". Originally a minor figure on The Muppet Show, he soon evolved into one of the franchise's principal characters.
He is voiced by Wayne Allwine's widow Russi Taylor in Jim Henson's Muppet Babies and by Hal Rayle in the ill-fated Jim Henson's Little Muppet Monsters. He appeared in the premiere episode of Studio DC: Almost Live in 2008. In the 1999 film Muppets from Space, it is revealed that he is an alien from a distant planet in space and he meets his alien family for the first time.
Unlike most of the central Muppets characters, Gonzo is not a puppet version of a human or a recognizable animal. He is a Muppet who sports a bizarre, non-human appearance, which includes blue fur, purple feathers on his head, bug-eyes, and a long, hooked nose. In The Muppet Show he performed as a performance artist, stuntman and daredevil under the name "The Great Gonzo" (or "Gonzo the Great"). He takes pride in his iconoclasm, while romantically pursuing Camilla the Chicken (also a Muppet); indeed, Gonzo is friend to all chickens and the Muppet Show's recognized expert on the species. In his early performances, Gonzo often complained about the people who did not appreciate his "art".
In the first season of The Muppet Show, the character had sad and immobile eyes. The producers noticed that he worked better in a more energetic form and modified the eyes to have movable eyelids which helped make him a more active character. As such, he became one of the principal characters in the series. Gonzo is known for his wild-eyed, optimistic attitude, yet he is also something of an intellectual. In his revised incarnation, Gonzo, rather than feeling misunderstood by the audience, was dedicated to performing for its own sake, regardless of audience reaction. In one episode, after Kermit decides to cancel a jousting sketch, Gonzo, in armor for the sketch, forces Kermit, at lance-point, to reverse the decision. Floyd Pepper, also in armor for the sketch, observes the exchange with amusement, then asks Gonzo, regarding the sketch, "Do you really think this will work?" Gonzo replies "No! Isn't it terrific?!" Several of Gonzo's stunts have often gone wrong or do actually work in wrong ways. One notable stunt involves him catapulting himself into the balcony box of Statler & Waldorf, but the catapult broke down and in his attempt to fix it, Kermit and Miss Piggy are sent flying instead, Gonzo claiming that they stole his act. Statler and Waldorf have actually been victim to several of Gonzo's stunts including a motorcycle stunt in which Gonzo intends to drive a motorcycle off a ramp into the box of the hecklers (who are chained to their seats by Gonzo). Although the stunt works, Gonzo loses control of his bike and crashes it into the box, knocking the men unconscious. It is plausibly arguable that Gonzo's penchant for death-defying acts came from a Muppet Character Shop idea for a spoof (essentially a Muppet Version) of Evel Knievel.
His most well-known running gag is playing the final trumpet note of the opening The Muppet Show theme with unexpected results (the trumpet's bell might explode, spray water, inflate a balloon, etc.). In the first season, Gonzo did not use a trumpet, but instead attempted to hit the white space within the "O" in the The Muppet Show sign like a gong, usually with negative results. In episode number 47 of the series - with John Cleese as the special guest - Gonzo successfully hits the note with his trumpet and then looks at the trumpet in surprise.
He has several memorable performances such as his song from The Muppet Movie, "I'm Going to Go Back There Some Day", or his rendition of "My Way". Gonzo fans would also recognize the quotation, "I shall now eat a rubber tire to the music of The Flight of the Bumblebee...music, maestro!" Another famous performance is best summed up by his quotation, "I shall now defuse this highly explosive bomb while simultaneously, and at the same time, reciting from the works of Percy Bysshe Shelley". Other acts include: tap-dancing "Top Hat" in a vat of oatmeal, hypnotizing chickens, catching cannonballs (Waldorf: "I've seen a lot of cannonball catching acts, but that one had something different. A survivor!") and being hammered feet first into a railway tie by two American Gladiators. He also played the part of Charles Dickens in The Muppet Christmas Carol.
Baby Gonzo is one of the cartoon characters featured in Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue.
A running gag related to Gonzo is that it is not clear what species he is supposed to be. John Cleese, in his appearance on the show, referred to him as "the ugly, disgusting little one who catches cannonballs". In The Muppet Movie, Kermit, while having his inner conversation, says "And a thing, whatever Gonzo is. He's a little like a turkey," to which his inner self replied "Yeah, a little like a turkey, but not much." In the film The Great Muppet Caper, he is shipped to England in a crate labeled "Whatever" (while Kermit the Frog and Fozzie Bear are respectively labeled "Frog" and "Bear"). In the Muppet Treasure Island CD-ROM Game, Gonzo and Rizzo the Rat land in a bucket of molasses, following the dialogue of a carriage driver saying "It's raining rats and... whatevers". In The Muppets' Wizard of Oz, Gonzo played a Tin Man-ish character primarily known as the "Tin Thing". In Jim Henson's Muppet Babies, Gonzo (voice of Russi Taylor) was simply referred to, most often by Baby Piggy, as a "weirdo" or "blue weirdo". He has referred to himself as a "whatever", resigned to ignorance of his actual species. In one episode, he dreams that he is an anteater.
When Liberace, as a guest on The Muppet Show, organized a production number with birds, Gonzo longed to get his chicken friends into the act; when told by Liberace's Muppet bodyguard that Liberace had no interest in chickens, Gonzo tried to arrange an appointment for himself, claiming "I'm a bird! I'm a turkey!" When the bodyguard expressed doubt, Gonzo elaborated: "Have you seen my act?!" The bodyguard accepted Gonzo's turkey status without further argument. In contrast, in the holiday television special A Muppet Family Christmas, The Turkey says Gonzo is "not even a bird" to which Gonzo replies "Well, nobody's perfect".
In Muppets from Space, it is revealed that Gonzo is an alien.
Gonzo makes a cameo appearance in Sesame Street episode "Big Bird's Talent Show" as the third contestant in the talent show. Gonzo cameoed in Monsters, Inc. Scare Island, where he worked for the monsters to look for clues of the jewel thief. He also appeared in a sketch of Robot Chicken along with other muppet characters.
Gonzo also made a small, but important speaking appearance on The Cosby Show. The episode was "Cliff's Nightmare" in which several other minor muppets starred. Gonzo told Cliff Huxtable that he had to deliver a baby from a large insane creature. Clif woke woke up before having to do so.
Friends and family
Gonzo is good friends with all of the Muppets, but he seems to be closest to Kermit the Frog and Fozzie Bear, and his best friend and roommate, Rizzo the Rat. Rizzo was made Gonzo's foil in The Muppet Christmas Carol and the two have played off each other prominently ever since. Gonzo has family in outer space, including a relative named Ubergonzo, who appears in Muppets from Space.
Gonzo has a long-standing romantic relationship with Camilla the Chicken, whom he first courted in the Leslie Uggams episode of The Muppet Show. However, as all Muppet Chickens look identical, even Gonzo is not sure which of them is his one true love. In one of the earlier episodes of the Muppet Show, Gonzo developed an obsessive crush on Miss Piggy (which mirrored the Pig's own pursuit of Kermit the Frog). This was only seen twice on The Muppet Show and was ended in an early episode of Season Two (in which Gonzo replaces his crush on Piggy with one on the episode's guest star, Madeline Kahn), but the Kermit-Piggy-Gonzo romantic triangle later became a key plot point on Muppet Babies.
- Gonzo on Muppet Wiki, an external wiki
- Official Muppets website
- Official Muppets Great Gonzo website
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