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Master Of Muppets
Jason Segel could have embarked on any project he wanted after the success of Forgetting Sarah Marshall. So he decided to revive his first comedy love, The Muppets. He talks to Roe McDermott about the enduring popularity of Kermit and co.
Roe McDermott, 01 Feb 2012
“We’re here to sing, dance, make people laugh and somehow, just maybe, make the world a little bit better place. That may sound silly, especially coming from a frog. But the Muppets have always tried to inspire the world with silliness and to show folks that no matter who you are or how weird you seem to others, there’s a place for you and people who care about you. And when you find that place and meet those people, wonderful things happen.”
Trust Kermit the Frog to bring the most uplifting Christmas message of the year. Back on the big screen after nearly 12 years, our favourite amphibian is joined not only by the usual posse of Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo and the rest, but also by comedy kid Jason Segel (who co-wrote the screenplay), three-time Academy Award nominee Amy Adams, Oscar winner Chris Cooper and newcomer Walter, the Muppets’ biggest fan. As always with a Muppets movie, other stars clamoured to be involved. Cameos include Donald Glover, Alan Arkin, Ken Jeong, James Carville, Rico Rodriguez and Judd Hirsch.
Jason Segel admits that he found himself quite starstruck around the famous Muppet crew, who have always been inspiring figures in his life.
“It started when I was a kid,” he says. “The Muppets were my first comic influence and I was in love with puppetry. I thought it was an amazing art form.
“My co-writer Nicholas Stoller and I ended Forgetting Sarah Marshall with a lavish puppet musical, and The Jim Henson Company designed the puppets. Something started growing in my belly. Nick and I came up with this idea and pitched it to Disney. Disney liked it so we wrote the script.”
What makes the Muppet brand of humour so unique?
“Modern comedy makes jokes at other people’s expense,” says Segel. “The Muppets never make fun of anybody. They’re all about being good and nice and trying to make the world a better place. It’s easy to get a laugh out of making fun of somebody. The Muppets never relied on that.”
The Muppets opens in Smalltown, USA, home to Walter, brother Gary (Segel) and his girlfriend, Mary (Amy Adams). It’s the kind of town where people smile a lot, give apples to teachers and break into song, just because. The trio leave the safety of Smalltown behind for a long-awaited trip to Hollywood, and an opportunity to visit Muppet Studios. There Walter overhears the evil plan of nefarious oil baron Tex Richman and finds himself organising a long awaited, never-imagined, can’t-believe-it’s-really-happening-to-me Muppet reunion.