The Muppets' resident daredevil on his craziest stunts, the similarities between plumbing and showbusiness and words of advice for our very own Felix Baumgartner...
Hi Gonzo, it’s an honour to be talking to you. How does it feel to be back on top with The Muppets?
I love it! It’s always better to be on top than on the bottom beneath a lot of rubble. And trust me, when you’ve flown into as many brick walls as I have, you know rubble.
After a lifetime of daring deeds in the name of entertainment, we find you running a plumbing company in The Muppets. Is plumbing comparable to show business?
Absolutely. Plumbing and show biz are identical. One minute you’re making a big splash, and the next you’re going down the drain. The truth is, I’ve always been a plumbing artiste. Before I got into jet-propelled, cannon-fired, self-inflicted personal injury, I dabbled in pipes, valves and backflow preventers. It’s very easy to move from show biz to plumbing and back…as long as there’s no clog.
Thanks to your incredible bowling ball trick, The Muppets were able to save their beloved theatre. Surely that happy outcome puts to rest any claims that your stunts are dangerous and pointless?
Well, I pride myself in the very danger and pointlessness of my stunts. Anyone can do a feat of derring-do that is heroic and successful, but it takes a different breed of individual to do stunts that are just plain foolish and life-threatening. I guess I’m that different breed!
Let’s talk about your stunts. What was the craziest thing you ever tried to do?
Bog-snorkelling with piranha fish. Oh sure, they look cute, but they’re actually quite ravenous. Lucky for me, I’m not very tasty.
Many of your escapades on The Muppet Show included launching, catapulting or riding a motorcycle into Statler & Waldorf’s balcony box. Did the aged hecklers prove to be a softer landing than the traditional crash mat?
Absolutely! My motto was “Land on the Old Guys” which naturally led Statler and Waldorf to come up with their own motto: “Run For your Life!” When I couldn’t find them, I just try to hit whatever is available—a steel beam, a concrete stanchion, an oncoming locomotive. To me, landing on a crash mat feels like cheating.
Where did your penchant for death-defying acts come from? Were you a big fan of Evel Knievel?
Evel Knievel was a big influence, as was my mentor the late, great “ Crash Test” Baker, who’s last words to me were “Hey, these aren’t live grenades are they?”
From defusing a highly explosive bomb while reciting from the works of Percy Bysshe Shelley to being hammered feet first into a railway tie by two American Gladiators, you’ve done some insane stuff. Is there a limit to what you would be willing to do?
No. If you can think of the stunt, I will attempt it. Listen, I once even tried to kiss Miss Piggy. Compared to that, being pummelled by gladiators is easy!
Does this daredevil lifestyle have any impact on your long-term relationship with Camilla the Chicken?
Well, I do spend more time in traction than your usual chicken-dating guy, but Camilla doesn’t mind. It makes her moult, but that’s okay – it makes the pillows softer.
Here at Red Bull, we have a long history of pushing the envelope. From breaking the record for the world’s longest distance jump in a rally car to simultaneously jumping an FMX bike and a snowmobile over 300 feet of water, our athletes are famous for raising the bar. If Gonzo The Great and Red Bull were to team up on a stunt, what would you like to attempt?
Well, I definitely wouldn’t try kissing Miss Piggy again. But I’ve always wanted to eat a steel-belted radial tire and sing “Come On-A My House” while sitting in a inflatable wading pool filled with tapioca that was being pulled across the Sahara by gnomes. You haven’t done that yet, have you? If not, let’s see what we can pull together. (I’m gonna need floss; when it comes to getting stuck in your teeth, steel belted radials are worse than popcorn.)
Our latest mission, Red Bull Stratos, will see Felix Baumgartner freefalling from the edge of space. As the ultimate Muppet daredevil, have you any words of advice for Felix and the crew?
Don’t look down. And remember the daredevil’s oath: That which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger….and tends to increase your health insurance premiums.
2012 © Disney
The Muppets is out on Blu-ray and DVD on 11 June.
- Check out the official site for The Muppets
- More on Red Bull Stratos
- Stunt legend Vic Armstrong interview
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