Gonzo (Muppet)

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Gonzo
The Muppets character
Gonzo the Great.jpg
First appearance The Great Santa Claus Switch (1970)[1]
Created by Jim Henson
Jerry Juhl[2]
Voiced by Russi Taylor (Muppet Babies)
Performed by Dave Goelz (1976–present)[3]
Information
Species Unknown
Gender Male
Occupation Stunt performer, plumber
Significant other(s) Camilla the Chicken
Nationality American

Gonzo, also known as The Great Gonzo and Gonzo the Great, is a Muppet character known for his eccentric passion for stunt performance. Aside from his trademark enthusiasm for performance art, another defining trait of Gonzo is the ambiguity of his species, which has become a running gag in the franchise. Gonzo has been considered to be of various origins, including a Frackle, in his debut appearance on The Great Santa Claus Switch; extraterrestrial in Muppets from Space; or avian creature.

Developed and performed by Dave Goelz,[3] Gonzo made his first appearance in the 1970 special The Great Santa Claus Switch, as the "Cigar Box Frackle". Originally a minor figure in The Muppet Show, he soon evolved into one of the franchise's primary characters. Gonzo has appeared in every Muppet film, including The Muppet Christmas Carol, where he portrayed author Charles Dickens and developed a double act with Rizzo the Rat.

History[edit]

The prototype of Gonzo appeared in The Great Santa Claus Switch, "as a generic gruff baddie".[4] Jim Henson selected this Frackle as the basis for Gonzo, and gave the character to puppeteer Dave Goelz.[5] Gonzo was created as a character with low self-esteem,[6] as written by Jerry Juhl,[2] with Goelz acknowledging he put himself into that interpretation.[6] Later, with Jim Henson's approval, they reworked the eyes to allow the character to convey more excitement, and a "zany, bombastic appreciation for life".[6]

Gonzo has several memorable performances such as his 1979 song from The Muppet Movie, "I'm Going to Go Back There Someday".[7] He became known for his stunts as acts within The Muppet Show and beyond, with the famous quote "I shall now eat a rubber tire to the music of The Flight of the Bumblebee...music, maestro!"[8]

In 1992, he played the part of Charles Dickens in The Muppet Christmas Carol, as director Brian Henson said Gonzo was the most improbable Muppet to do so.[6] Here, he developed a double act with Rizzo the Rat,[9] narrating and breaking the fourth wall, with Rizzo challenging Gonzo's claims to be Dickens.[10] The Gonzo and Rizzo partnership was continued in Muppet Treasure Island and Muppets from Space. Along with Kermit and Rizzo, Gonzo gave an audio commentary for the Muppets from Space DVD.[11]

In The Muppets, it was revealed that he had become a powerful plumbing magnate since the Muppets separated. In the 2015 television series The Muppets, Gonzo is a major character and the head writer of Miss Piggy's late night talk show, Up Late with Miss Piggy.[12]

Character[edit]

Gonzo is not a puppet version of a human or a recognizable animal. He utilizes an awkward, non animal-like appearance, which includes purple-blue fur, purple feathers on his head, bug-eyes, and a long, hooked nose, referred to as a "beak".[13] In The Muppet Show and The Muppet Movie, he performed as a performance artist, stunt double and daredevil under the name "The Great Gonzo" (or "Gonzo the Great").[7]

Gonzo is good friends with all of the Muppets, but performed a double act with Rizzo the Rat since The Muppet Christmas Carol.[9] Gonzo has a long-standing romantic relationship with Camilla the Chicken,[14] whom he first courted in the Leslie Uggams episode of The Muppet Show, and directed Camilla and the other chickens in 2008 YouTube videos.[15]

Species[edit]

A running gag related to Gonzo is that it is not clear what species he is supposed to be. Gonzo's self-identity is a "whatever".[13] 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 "but not much".[16] 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".

In Muppets from Space, Gonzo has a starring role.[17] He is portrayed as an alien,[18] 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.

Filmography[edit]

Cultural impact[edit]

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

Though primarily performed by Dave Goelz, he has also been voiced in animated form by Hal Rayle in Little Muppet Monsters. Brett O'Quinn performed Gonzo in Muppets Ahoy!, a 2006 Disney Cruise Line show. An infant-aged version of Gonzo appeared as a regular character in the animated spin-off television series Muppet Babies, voiced by Russi Taylor and Laurie O'Brien, alongside Kermit, Miss Piggy, and other central Muppet Show figures. Baby Gonzo is one of the cartoon characters featured in Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue.[19]

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 on the Halloween 2011 episode of WWE Raw.[20]

Gonzo was announced as the Grand marshal for the Auto Club 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Ca. to give the famous command of "Drivers, Start your engines".[21] He fulfilled his duty on March 23, 2014.[22]

NOAA's Gulfstream IV N49RF, named for Gonzo.

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. A similar flying example is the Gulfstream IV light jetliner bearing US registration N49RF, flown for severe weather research by the US Federal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and is also named for Gonzo as portside nose art.[23]

Reception[edit]

Reviewing Muppets from Space in 1999, Roger Ebert found the most humorous part to be Gonzo being denied entry in Noah's Ark for not having a second member of his species, and expressed sympathy for his loneliness as an extraterrestrial, stranded since the Roswell UFO incident, adding "Poor guy (or whatever he is)".[24] In 2012, The Guardian's Lizzy Dening, reviewing the Muppet films, identified Gonzo as a favorite.[25] That year, The Daily Beast wrote about appreciation for the Muppets in the LGBT community, calling Gonzo "the queerest Muppet of all".[26]

In 2015, Today.com, in reviewing the Humpty Dance YouTube video, referred to Gonzo himself as a "classic Muppet".[27] That year, The Huffington Post identified Gonzo as a popular Muppet, saying to his fans, "People just don't GET you" adding "And nothing would ever be the same without you."[28]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Shemin 2014, p. 80.
  2. ^ a b Jones 2016, p. 247.
  3. ^ a b Suddath, Claire (September 17, 2015). "Can the man behind television's biggest sitcom—and his puppet twin—help the Muppets take prime time?". Bloomberg Business. Archived from the original on September 20, 2015. Retrieved September 21, 2015. 
  4. ^ Robinson, Tasha (December 17, 2012). "The Great Santa Claus Switch introduced Jim Henson’s obsessions". The A.V. Club. Archived from the original on October 30, 2016. Retrieved July 15, 2017. 
  5. ^ Jones 2016, p. 248.
  6. ^ a b c d Beaumont-Thomas, Ben (December 21, 2015). "How we made: The Muppet Christmas Carol". The Guardian. Archived from the original on December 30, 2016. Retrieved December 27, 2016. 
  7. ^ a b Culp 2015, p. 189.
  8. ^ "The A-Z of movie maniacs". Time Out. Archived from the original on July 15, 2017. Retrieved July 15, 2017. 
  9. ^ a b Dale & Foy 2015, p. 233.
  10. ^ Glavin 2017.
  11. ^ "Muppets from Space". Billboard. 2 October 1999. p. 32. 
  12. ^ Jurgensen, John (September 10, 2015). "The Muppets Grow Up and Go Back to Prime Time". The Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on September 26, 2015. Retrieved September 28, 2015. 
  13. ^ a b Culp 2015, p. 187.
  14. ^ Garlen & Graham 2009, p. 190.
  15. ^ Graham 2012, p. 245.
  16. ^ James Frawley (Director); Jim Henson (June 22, 1979). The Muppet Movie (Motion picture). Yeah, a little like a turkey, but not much 
  17. ^ Westbrook, Caroline (October 14, 2015). "Muppets from Space Review". Empire. Archived from the original on August 9, 2016. Retrieved July 15, 2017. 
  18. ^ Tatara, Paul (August 2, 1999). "Review: 'Muppets from Space' -- It's not easy being green". CNN. Archived from the original on June 19, 2006. Retrieved July 15, 2017. 
  19. ^ Krcatovich, Dustin (April 21, 2016). "Recover From Your 4/20 Hangover by Rewatching 'Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue'". Esquire. Archived from the original on November 1, 2016. Retrieved July 15, 2017. 
  20. ^ Stroud, Brandon (November 11, 2011). "The Best And Worst Of WWE Raw 10/31: Muppets, The Rock and Mortal Kombat". Uproxx. Retrieved July 13, 2017. 
  21. ^ Staff (March 13, 2014). "MUPPET TO UTTER MOST FAMOUS WORDS IN RACING". NASCAR. Archived from the original on July 16, 2017. Retrieved July 15, 2017. 
  22. ^ Mora, Celeste (March 23, 2014). "Mindy Kaling Takes a Selfie With Gonzo, Spreads the 'Muppets' Love". Bustle. Archived from the original on July 16, 2017. Retrieved July 15, 2017. 
  23. ^ "NOAA's Hurricane Research Aircraft - Gulfstream IV jet - "Gonzo" N49RF". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. June 16, 2003. Archived from the original on May 4, 2016. Retrieved June 12, 2016. NOAA's Gulfstream-IV SP jet is a state-of-the-art, high altitude research platform. 'Gonzo' was acquired in 1996 to improve NOAA's tropical cyclone forecast capability by being able to deploy dropsondes from high altitude over large areas of open sea, where few observations are available. 
  24. ^ Ebert, Roger (July 26, 2012). "MUPPETS FROM SPACE". Rogerebert.com. Archived from the original on June 10, 2017. Retrieved July 15, 2017. 
  25. ^ Dening, Lizzy (July 14, 1999). "Muppet movie marathon: Treasure Island takes the pot of gold". The Guardian. Archived from the original on October 5, 2015. Retrieved July 15, 2017. 
  26. ^ Setoodeh, Ramin (July 26, 2012). "Kermit, Miss Piggy and Chick fil-A: Why Gays Love the Muppets". The Daily Beast. Archived from the original on July 16, 2017. Retrieved July 15, 2017. 
  27. ^ Dawn, Randee (April 1, 2015). "Gonzo goes wild in new 'Humpty Dance' video, plus more hilarious Muppet mashups". Today.com. Archived from the original on July 16, 2017. Retrieved July 15, 2017. 
  28. ^ Ferreras, Jesse (July 16, 2015). "What Your Favourite Muppet Character Says About You". The Huffington Post. Archived from the original on July 16, 2017. Retrieved July 15, 2017. 

Bibliography[edit]

  • Culp, Christopher M. (2015). "Life's Like a Movie". Jim Henson and Philosophy: Imagination and the Magic of Mayhem. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 1442246650. 
  • Dale, Timothy; Foy, Joseph, eds. (July 15, 2015). Jim Henson and Philosophy: Imagination and the Magic of Mayhem. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 1442246650. 
  • Graham, Anissa M. (2012). "Muppet Memes". The Wider Worlds of Jim Henson: Essays on His Work and Legacy Beyond The Muppet Show and Sesame Street. McFarland. ISBN 0786469862. 
  • Garlen, Jennifer C.; Graham, Anissa M., eds. (2009). Kermit Culture: Critical Perspectives on Jim Henson’s Muppets. McFarland. ISBN 0786453753. 
  • Glavin, John, ed. (2017). Dickens Adapted. Routledge. ISBN 1351944568. Retrieved July 14, 2017 – via Google Books. 
  • Jones, Brian Jay (2016). Jim Henson: The Biography. Random House Publishing Group. ISBN 0345526120. 
  • Shemin, Craig (2014). Disney's The Muppets Character Encyclopedia. New York: DK Publishing. ISBN 9781465417480. 

External links[edit]