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Gonzo the Artiste
Gonzo the photographer

Gonzo, formally known as "The Great Gonzo" or "Gonzo the Great," is the resident daredevil performance artiste on The Muppet Show. He is an odd looking, unclassifiable alien creature with blue fur, bug eyes, and a long crooked nose. He takes pride in his uniqueness and enjoys everything that he does -- no matter how painful or ill-advised it may be.

The notion of Gonzo, as a character who performs terrible acts but considers them artistic, was devised by Jerry Juhl. As Dave Goelz recalled, the character might have been forgotten were it not for Jack Burns, the show's original head writer, who during an early meeting suggested Gonzo perform "these crazy acts like eating a tire to 'Flight of the Bumblebee!'" So, in the show's first episode, Gonzo did exactly that, and the character grew from there.[1] Burns also coined the character's name.[2]


Early Life

Accounts of Gonzo's early life are sketchy and often contradictory. For example, in episode 210 of The Muppet Show, he explains that his mother died before he was born, leaving a note to his father regarding the matter of his name. However, this is contradicted in episode 108 of Muppets Tonight, when Gonzo claims his mother liked his unique college interpretation of Death of a Salesman.

As an infant, like many of the Muppets, he was under the care of Nanny (as seen in Muppet Babies). Looking at home videos of himself as a baby, Gonzo has said, "What a handsome little devil I was!"

According to the Muppet Kids book series, Gonzo was later raised by his grandmother and his aunt Grace, both of whom are, of course, the same species as he is. Grace's young son Gander (Gonzo's cousin) is also shown, and the four of them live together in a ramshackle house in the suburbs.

Gonzo, along with his chicken girlfriend Camilla, became a traveling plumber. He met Kermit and Fozzie and joined them in their quest for Hollywood. He started his acting career as a daredevil performance artist, but would later evolve to play dramatic roles, including Charles Dickens.

According to The Muppets Take Manhattan, Gonzo, at one point in time, lived in a cement mixer (which was far inferior to lodging in an airport locker). In the home video Gonzo Presents Muppet Weird Stuff, he and Camilla reside in a mobile home on the Bide-A-Wee Trailer Court.

However if Gonzo had never met Kermit, he would have ended up becoming a depressed street performer that plays guitar accompaniment for a dancing brick.


Gonzo in "Bohemian Rhapsody"

Gonzo's acts frequently attempted to combine bizarre performance art with high culture: "I shall now eat a rubber tire to the music of 'The Flight of the Bumblebee', maestro!" Another famous performance is best summed up by his quote, "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 dancing "Top Hat" in a vat of oatmeal, hypnotizing chickens, and being hammered feet first into a railway tie by two American Gladiators on Muppets Tonight.

Gonzo's musical performances include his song from The Muppet Movie, "I'm Going to Go Back There Someday", and his affecting rendition of "My Way" that he sang as his finale when he decided to leave the Muppet Theater in Episode 411.

Gonzo had a prominent part at the start of each Muppet Show episode, playing the final trumpet note of the opening theme. In each episode, something different would happen -- for example, the trumpet would explode, or spray water, or blow up a balloon. In the first season, Gonzo did not use a trumpet, but instead attempted to hit the white space within the "O" in the "Muppet Show" sign like a gong, usually with bad results.

What is Gonzo?

Gonzo in his "Whatever" crate
Gonzo's Family

The exact name of Gonzo's species has never been revealed. The character originally evolved from Snarl, a frackle from The Great Santa Claus Switch. However when "The Great Gonzo" appeared on the The Muppet Show the frackle species trait did not carry over.

In episode 223, John Cleese referred to Gonzo as "the ugly, disgusting little blue creature who catches cannonballs." And in The Muppet Movie, Kermit said that Gonzo looked "a little like a turkey," to which his conscience replied, "Yeah, a little like a turkey, but not much."

In 1985, a collection of Muppet comic strips were released in a book titled "Chickens are People, Too!...But what are Gonzos?". The Muppet Babies also tackled the subject with the book What's a Gonzo?.

In the late 90s, the question was posed in the Ask web column, "What exactly is Gonzo?" Dave Goelz responded: "Nobody knows except his parents, and they're not talking. It was always one of those taboo subjects around the dinner table."


Gonzo the "Whatever"

It was in 1981 during The Great Muppet Caper that Gonzo solidified himself as a formal "Whatever." When Kermit, Fozzie and Gonzo were shipped to England in crates. Kermit's crate was labeled "Frog", Fozzie's was "Bear", and Gonzo's crate read "Whatever."

"Whatever" was used thereafter whenever Gonzo's species came into question. In one of the later Muppet comic strips, Gonzo is seen walking past a "Men" and "Women" bathroom to enter a third door labeled "Whatevers". He was called a "Whatever" in The Muppets Take Manhattan and Muppet Treasure Island. In Muppets from Space, Gonzo told Noah to put him down as a "Whatever" in his dream.

Gonzo the "Weirdo"

On Muppet Babies, Gonzo's species was often cited as "Weirdo." However, in the episode "What's New at the Zoo?," Gonzo eventually became worried that he was an endangered species, and briefly imagined himself as an anteater. In "Fozzie's Family Tree," Gonzo imagined that he came from another planet and his family sent him to Earth because everything on his home planet was turning normal, and his parents didn't want him to become normal.

Gonzo the Alien

In Muppets from Space, Gonzo began to have disturbing dreams of abandonment and a feeling of aloneness in the world. He stated that he was "tired of being a one-of-a-kind freak." Gonzo lamented that he didn't know where he came from or what he truly was. Contradicting all past accounts of Gonzo's youth, it is established that Gonzo has never known his family (or anyone of his species) and feels that he is not just a unique and distinct individual, but also part of a species on the brink of extinction. Gonzo is contacted by aliens channeling his breakfast cereal, and a pair of Cosmic Fish soon reveal to him that he is, in fact, an alien from outer space. It is later revealed that many "zotons" ago as a baby, Gonzo was lost, and his family has been looking for him.

His alien family has been trying to contact him for some time by placing the message "R U There" all over Earth. After they make contact with Gonzo, they make plans (via a sandwich) to rejoin with their long-lost brother and take him home. They arrive at Cape Doom in their giant spaceship (guided by an egg-like light beacon).

The aliens displayed the same general physical characteristics as Gonzo's (such as the nostril-less crook-shaped nose and blue/purple fur). They are a musical culture, and their "most ceremonious of ceremonies" includes blowing the honoree out of a cannon. Gonzo is ecstatic to discover what he is, and considers going with them; however in the end he realizes his true home is on Earth with his Muppet family. In the years immediately following the release of Muppets from Space, most merchandise labeled Gonzo as an alien (his vehicle in Muppet Race Mania is a spaceship) but that direction with the character was soon abandoned and Gonzo was reverted back to being labeled a "whatever". In The Muppet Show Comic Book Issue #3: Gonzo's Story, the Muppets once again don't know what Gonzo is.

Gonzo's Romances

Gonzo and Camilla

In episode 124 of The Muppet Show, Gonzo falls in love with Miss Piggy, who is disgusted and annoyed by him. He transfers his affections to guest star Madeline Kahn in episode 209, and informs Miss Piggy that he doesn't love her anymore. Gonzo is confident that Madeline will marry him, and is crushed when he finds out that she doesn't have any romantic interest in him. However, they agree to be friends.

In addition to the aforementioned episodes, in The Muppet Movie, Gonzo briefly shows interest in the prospect of a romantic dinner with Miss Piggy. He also tries to get Miss Piggy to dance with him in Episode 217, but only because he needs a partner. On Muppet Babies, Baby Gonzo has an ongoing crush on Baby Piggy, going so far as to view Baby Kermit as a rival.

In episode 217, Gonzo is briefly attracted to a live cow that appears backstage. However, Gonzo's amorous desires are most often centered on chickens. This poultry passion first surfaced in Episode 204, when he held auditions for dancing chickens. Dave Goelz ad-libbed the line, "Don't call us, we'll call you... nice legs, though!" After this, the writers decided that Gonzo should have an attraction to chickens.

In Episode 217, despite the cow crush, Gonzo's chicken attraction was further developed. In the episode's Talk Spot, he complains to Kermit that Sweetums and Thog were playing badminton with his chicken. He sings "Won't Somebody Dance with Me", looking for a dance partner before settling for a chicken. (The video Gonzo Presents Muppet Weird Stuff retroactively claims this was how Gonzo first met Camilla). When Gonzo learns that the cow is missing, he comments that he can still take a chicken out on a date.

Episode 318 introduced Gonzo's regular chicken girlfriend, Camilla. This did not prevent him from developing a brief fascination with Big Bird, however.

Gonzo and Rizzo

Gonzo and Rizzo in The Muppet Christmas Carol.

Beginning with the 1992 movie The Muppet Christmas Carol, Gonzo has been paired with Rizzo the Rat, who has since become his best friend. The two co-hosted The Muppet Christmas Carol (Gonzo as Charles Dickens and Rizzo as himself). The team connected with audiences, and Gonzo and Rizzo continued to be paired (often as the stars of the show) throughout the 1990s. Gonzo and Rizzo appeared as a team in Muppet Treasure Island (1997). The two, as a pair, hosted Muppet Classic Theater (1997). And Gonzo and Rizzo were teamed together for most of Muppets from Space (1999), in which they starred. It was shown that the two are roommates in The Muppet Boarding House. In episode 104 of Muppets Tonight, they hosted a one-shot segment called "Gonzo and Rizzo's Incredible Discoveries". The segment focused on what happens after a series of painful circumstances (Rizzo gives them all the same response: "It hurts!").

Their most recent appearance together was on the album A Green and Red Christmas, where they sang "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" together. They also sang "Mr. Spaceman" with Jimmy Buffet, on the Kermit Unpigged album.

Gonzo's Outfits

Originally, Gonzo wore a reddish tuxedo. In The Muppet Movie, he wore a light blue shirt and a black vest, which he occasionally wore in later seasons of The Muppet Show, in addition to his purple tuxedo. Starting with The Great Muppet Caper and lasting throughout the 1980s, Gonzo's regular outfit was a white button down and a gray vest. Throughout the late 1990s, he wore a checkered button down. In Muppets From Space he wore a similar but different outfit; Instead of a jacket, he wore a vest, and also wore a tie with a chicken on it. In It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie, he started wearing a blue sweater jacket.

Performing Gonzo

Gonzo from the 1st season of The Muppet Show, with sad and immobile eyes.

Gonzo first appeared as Snarl the Cigar Box Frackle in the 1970 special The Great Santa Claus Switch, where he was performed by Daniel Seagren. In 1974, he appeared on the Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass special in the musical number "Five Minutes More". He was performed by Henson during this special, but was completely silent. Since then, he has only been performed by Dave Goelz.

In the first season of The Muppet Show, the character was underplayed with a permanently sad look. The producers noticed that he worked better in a more energetic form, so Dave Goelz 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.

Jerry Juhl stated on many occasions that Gonzo was his favorite character to write for and develop. He said he had a special connection with the blue weirdo. Juhl gave a presentation at the American Film Institute talking about long term character development and used Gonzo as the example. Juhl has said that he really enjoyed evolving and developing the character with Goelz from his debut eating the tire to "The Flight of the Bumblebee" through his evolution up to Charles Dickens in 1992. For this reason, Gonzo has become one of the deepest and most developed characters. Juhl developed Muppets from Space (originally titled "Star Gonzo") as a film to focus solely on the emotional arc and development of Gonzo. [3][4][5][6][7]



Fast Food Toys



See also


  1. Plume, Ken. Muppet Central Interview with Dave Goelz.
  2. Goelz, Dave. Creating the Classic Muppets Panel at MuppetFest. MuppetFest Memories.
  3. [1]
  4. [2]
  5. [3]
  6. [4]
  7. Frogs, Pigs and Humbug: Unwrapping a New Holiday Classic

This article uses material from the "Gonzo" article on the Muppet wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.


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