The Great Gonzo

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Gonzo
The Muppets character
Gonzo 3C 200x300px.jpg
First appearance
Created by Dave Goelz
Performed by Dave Goelz (1976-present)
Information
Species Muppet "Whatever"/alien
Gender Male
Occupation Stunt performer, artist
Significant other(s) Camilla the Chicken

The Great Gonzo (or simply Gonzo) is one of the main characters of The Muppets. 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. In The Muppet Christmas Carol, Gonzo plays the author of the book Charles Dickens.

Though primarily performed by Dave Goelz, he has also been voiced by Russi Taylor and Laurie O'Brien in Jim Henson's Muppet Babies and by Hal Rayle in Jim Henson's Little Muppet Monsters. Jim Henson performed Gonzo in at least one scene for an unaired version of the first episode of The Muppet Show. Brett O'Quinn performed Gonzo in Muppets Ahoy!, a 2006 Disney cruise show. 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. This made Gonzo the first Muppet other than Kermit the Frog to feature as the protagonist in a Muppet film.

History[edit]

Unlike most of the central Muppets characters, Gonzo is not a puppet version of a human or a recognizable animal. He sports a bizarre, non animal-like appearance, which includes purple-blue fur, purple feathers on his head, bug-eyes, and a long, hooked nose. In The Muppet Show he performed as a performance artist, stunt double 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". As with his many stunts as acts within The Muppet Show and beyond, 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. According to Walter in The Muppets, he recited Hamlet while jumping his motorbike through a flaming hoop. He also played the part of Charles Dickens in The Muppet Christmas Carol.

In The Muppets, it was revealed that he had become a powerful plumbing magnate since the Muppets broke up. After the Muppets attempt to recruit him, he literally blows up his business and joins them.

Species[edit]

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 "A Muppet Family Christmas", when Gonzo states to the Christmas Turkey that Camilla is his girlfriend, the Christmas Turkey says "You're not even a bird!" 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. This obviously does not count his original portrayal, as described above.

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 and his alien family comes to Earth with a big party for him and before their departure they ask him to return to space with them. Gonzo sadly says farewell to The Muppets but he soon realizes that he would be abandoning his longtime friends who have been like his family all along and declines the Aliens' offer.

As the film gave a definitive answer as to what Gonzo is, the running gag of what his species may be has been semi-retired and is rarely used in current Muppet media.

Friends and family[edit]

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 to be Gonzo's foil in The Muppet Christmas Carol, Muppet Treasure Island, and Muppets From Space 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.

Romance[edit]

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.

Other media[edit]

television still
Gonzo's appearance in the animated spinoff Muppet Babies.

An infant-aged version of Gonzo appeared as a regular character in the animated spinoff television series Muppet Babies, alongside Kermit, Miss Piggy, and other central Muppet Show figures.

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.

Gonzo made a cameo appearance in The Puzzle Place episode "Donuts and Dithering", in which he is shown at the bakery telling the baker that he is there to pick up a cake for his and Camilla the Chicken's anniversary together when Julie first enters.

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. Cliff woke up before having to do so.

Baby Gonzo is one of the cartoon characters featured in Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue.

Gonzo was featured on the #28 Havoline Ford of Ricky Rudd in the 2002 Tropicana 400 in an advertising campaign in which he and his fellow Muppets were featured on a select few NASCAR Nextel Cup Series race cars.

Gonzo also appeared alongside his fellow Muppets in the Halloween 2011 episode of WWE Raw, where he and Fozzie encountered Jack Swagger, Dolph Ziggler and Vickie Guerrero backstage. Upon hearing that Gonzo could be a WWE Champion if he put his mind into it, Swagger and Ziggler grabbed his arms and stretched them before tying them around him in a knot. When asked by Fozzie if he was alright, he replied, "Are you kidding? How did they know I needed an adjustment?" Wrestling reporter Scott "Scooter" Keith is also known for saying that out-of-control wrestling matches have gone "Bonzo Gonzo," and some people think this was a reference to him.

Gonzo was announced as the Grand marshal for the Auto Club 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Ca. on March 23, 2014. He will give the famous command of "Drivers, Start your engines".[needs update]

Gonzo is also the namesake to the CT-142 Bombardier Dash 8 used by the Canadian Armed Forces for Air Combat Systems Officer training due to the blue paint job and elongated nose housing a specialized radar.

External links[edit]