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|The Muppets character|
|First appearance||The Great Santa Claus Switch (1970)|
|Created by||Jim Henson
|Voiced by||Russi Taylor (Muppet Babies)|
|Performed by||Dave Goelz (1976–present)|
|Occupation||Stunt performer, plumber|
|Significant other(s)||Camilla the Chicken|
Gonzo, also known as The Great Gonzo and Gonzo the Great, is a Muppet character known for his eccentric passion for stunt performance. Aside for his trademark enthusiasm for performance art, another defining trait of Gonzo's is the ambiguity of his species, which has become a running gag in the franchise. Commonly referred to as a "whatever" and a "weirdo", Gonzo has been considered to be of various origins; including a Fraggle, in his debut appearance on The Great Santa Claus Switch; an avian creature, in the majority of his portrayals; to even extraterrestrial in Muppets from Space, the only Muppet film to feature a character other than Kermit the Frog as the protagonist.
Developed and performed by Dave Goelz, 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. In Muppets Most Wanted, Gonzo was referred to as "Zongo" by Constantine, a dead ringer for Kermit the Frog in appearances, who has escaped from a maximum security prison in Siberia, Russia.
The Muppet Show
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 than ever. 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 and 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 and comical results (the trumpet's bell might explode, summoning colourful butterflies by using a trumpet, spray water, he shoots out green smokes by using a trumpet, inflate a balloon, trumpet flies away, he conjures an airplane to fly towards the balcony by using a trumpet, 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.
Gonzo has several memorable performances such as his song from The Muppet Movie, "I'm Going to Go Back There Someday", 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 separated — potentially hinted at with Gonzo's first starring scene in the earlier Muppet Movie as he's seen driving a plumber's truck (as a "plumbing artiste"), complete with a sculpture of himself rendered in plumbing hardware atop the truck, with his hen girlfriend Camilla by his side. After the Muppets attempt to recruit him, he literally blows up his business and joins them.
Unlike most of the central Muppets characters, 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. 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."
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 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.
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.
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, Gonzo is portrayed as 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.
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. 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 spinoff television series Muppet Babies, alongside Kermit, Miss Piggy, and other central Muppet Show figures.
Gonzo makes a cameo appearance in the 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 (a possible nod to The Great Muppet Caper).
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?"
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. 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.
- Shemin, Craig (2014). Disney's The Muppets Character Encyclopedia. New York: DK Publishing. p. 80. ISBN 9781465417480.
- 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. Retrieved September 21, 2015.
- Jurgensen, John (September 10, 2015). "The Muppets Grow Up and Go Back to Prime Time". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved September 28, 2015.
- "NOAA's Hurricane Research Aircraft - Gulfstream IV jet - "Gonzo" N49RF". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. June 16, 2003. 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.