The Great Muppet Survey – Danny Beckwith

Answers and Artwork by DANNY BECKWITH

1.   Who are your three favorite characters from The Muppet Show, Muppets Tonight, The Jim Henson Hour, the Muppet movies, etc. and why?

Gonzo the Great has always been my favorite Muppet. Gonzo’s imagination knows no limit; he tries everything and anything with enthusiasm and doesn’t care what others think. He knows who he is and shows it. There is nothing better than being yourself, or a whatever (plus, I love that sound-effect in The Muppet Show when he enters and exits a scene and he makes me laugh loud and hard!). Another favorite is Rowlf–the master of the double take, the witty comment and observation, and the best piano playing dog around. I love that he is so down to earth and easy going. He’s not bothered by much, which I admire. And, since I can only choose three, my final choice would have to be Kermit. Not only is Kermit the best friend you can ask for, he’s clever, smart, caring, and so many other things. I’ve also been compared to Kermit many times in terms of my personality, so I can relate to the little green guy.

2.   Who are your three favorite characters from Sesame Street and why?

Big Bird has always been my favorite Sesame Street character. What a sweet, kind, caring, innocent character. Always curious, not afraid to ask questions, and always sharing the things he loves with the people he loves. Big Bird definitely has a special place in my heart. I love Ernie. Ernie is a dreamer. He lets his imagination soar to heights beyond the bonds of Earth. He cares deeply for his friends, especially Bert, and loves to play games and have fun. What’s not to like? Count Von Count has always made me laugh. I’m a huge fan of movie monsters, so the Count is easily one of my favorites. The Count is another character who has such a passion for something, in this case counting. He shares it with such enthusiasm you can’t help but become a part of it!

3.   Who are your three favorite characters from Fraggle Rock and why?

Boober, for some reason, has always been one of my favorite characters. I think his paranoia is a friendly reminder to not take yourself too seriously. No matter how afraid he may be of something, he always comes through for his friends in the end (I think this is wonderfully shown in “The River of Life”). Cantus is high on this list as well. He helps everyone he comes in contact with to do things they didn’t know they could do, helping them, in his sometimes confusing ways, to become a better person and look deep inside themselves. Wembley needs to be here as well. I see a lot of myself in Wembley, always wanting to please everyone, sometimes to a fault. But Wembley is also extremely easy going, light-hearted, and a great friend.

4.   What is your favorite television program starring any of Jim Henson’s creations (e.g. The Muppet Show, Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, Dinosaurs, etc.) and why?
I think I’m going to have to go with the classic–The Muppet Show. I can’t imagine a time when I haven’t been in the mood to watch The Muppet Show. I really think that this show helped influence much about what I think is funny. Puns, running gags, visual gags, no matter how terrible, make me laugh. But there is also a lot of heart in the show, as evident by the relationships the Muppets have with one another.  After watching The Muppet Show, any episode, it makes you think, “Anything is possible!” Even a frog putting on a variety show. It pushed so many bounds and still remains one of the best shows ever to grace television.

5.   What is your favorite Muppet movie and why?
It’s somewhat of a tie–The Muppet Movie and The Great Muppet Caper. But I really love The Muppet Movie. Here’s why–it’s the American dream of traveling west and making it big, meeting people who share in your dream and celebrating that, and it’s flat out funny and full of heart. The music and songs are classic and spectacular, the jokes hilarious and often, and the human supporting cast is top-notch. But in the end, it’s about having a dream and not giving it up, and I love that. (As a side note–The Great Muppet Caper is the pinnacle of Muppet hilarity, that’s why it’s a tie.)

6.   What is your favorite Muppet/Sesame/Fraggle song and why?
Tough, tough question! Okay, so “I’m Going to Go Back There Someday” is on this list, as is “I Don’t Want to Live on the Moon” and “Let Me Be Your Song,” among so many others. But ultimately, “I’m Going to Go Back There Someday” wins. Why? Well, it’s such a defining Gonzo moment. I think we know who Gonzo is with this song. But for myself, it’s a song about reaching for your dreams even though there are obstacles in the way and things you can’t control. Plus, it has one of my favorite sentiments ever, “There’s not a word yet/For old friends who’ve just met.” Too true Gonzo, too true.

7.   If you could have dinner with any living Muppet performer who would you choose and why?
Dave Goelz. So many of my favorite characters are performed by Dave. I think he’s such an incredible performer. I think a dinner with him would be such a wonderful and enjoyable experience. And if Dave wasn’t available, Caroll Spinney–the man is a legend. I think I would love to talk art, life, and everything with Caroll. I think he might be up for that.

8.   If you could tell Jim Henson one thing, what would it be?
“Thank you for the magic, the dreams, and everything.”

9.   If the President called you and asked to discuss Muppet projects, what would you tell him was the “Greatest Muppet Moment of All Time”?
“The Greatest Muppet Moment of all Time,” good grief, no pressure there. I think I’m going to go classic and say the end of The Muppet Movie. You know the scene when the rainbow comes in through the roof? Yes, Mr. President, the scene with the lyrics “Life’s like a movie/Write your own ending/Keep believing, keep pretending/We’ve done just what we set out to do/Thanks to the lovers, the dreamers, and you.” Indeed, Mr. President, it is the greatest.

10.   What’s the name of that song?
Hugga Wugga.

11.   If a judge ruled that Grover had to be your personal assistant for a month, what jobs would you have him do?
I would ask Grover to be my official Scheduler. What I mean is that Grover would be in charge of helping make sure Im making the most of every moment. For instance, I have an open afternoon, what do I do? Well, Grover would help me decide that going under, over, around and through would be just the ticket to fun! Then tomorrow we can go near and far.

12.   In your opinion, what is the worst Muppet production ever made?
At the risk of being unpopular (get your tomatoes ready), I just wasn’t a huge fan of The Muppets. I think it was a great attempt at bringing the characters back into mainstream culture and consciousness. But there were a few moments in the film that absolutely made me cringe (just a few, but many other moments were filled with nostalgia, laughter, and tears of joy). I don’t think it’s the absolutely worst, not by a long shot, but it’s what comes to mind right now. Studio DC is right up there as well, as is The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz. Let the heckling and tomato throwing begin.

13.   Who is one celebrity you would love to see cameo in the next Muppet movie?
David Tennant or Matt Smith–The Doctor did say that he loved The Muppet Movie in “Tooth and Claw.” I think it would be such a clever cameo, especially with the Muppets being across the pond for the next film, for them to run into the TARDIS or The Doctor at some moment.

14.   If you could take a picture with any Muppet, who would you choose and how would you pose?
Uncle Deadly. I think it would be awesome. We could do the typical villain pose with incessant hand wringing and big smiles on our faces!

15.   What is your favorite piece of Muppet merchandise that you own? (Feel free to include a picture!)
I’d have to say the three original Muppet Scripts I own from the Henson Archives:
The Frog Prince–Original script by Jerry Juhl in binder, 1971
The Muppet Valentine Show–Original script, 1973
The Great Santa Claus Switch–Original script by Jerry Juhl in binder, 1970

The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier,

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