Disney’s “Muppets Most Wanted” marks the eighth theatrical release for Kermit the Frog, who got his start in show business nearly 60 years ago. The iconic Muppet graced the latest cover of Variety, before making a stop on tonight’s St. Patrick’s Day episode of “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.”
The Muppets have a policy, started by Jim Henson, of only doing interviews with their designated puppeteers. In the case of Kermit, that’s Steve Whitmire, who started voicing the character in the ’90s after Henson died. As a result, a phone interview with Kermit feels like a real interaction with the celebrity frog. Kermit spoke to Variety about Twitter, his relationship with Miss Piggy, working for the Walt Disney Co., TSA security and his Lady Gaga boxer shorts.
It’s very nice to meet you, Kermit.
Ramin, how are you my friend? I’m calling you from the swamp, so if my connection sounds a little wet, that could be why.
How do you call people? Do you have an iPhone?
I do. I just recently upgraded some of my technological stuff. It’s very hard to deal with some technology, because, well, electricity and swamps don’t mix.
Are you on Twitter?
I’ve tried Twittering. I’m sort of new to it. I’m considering getting a little advice. I think being a frog, I should Twitter. I think that’s something frogs should do.
Do you know how to type?
I’m quite a good thumb typer. Even though I have a little moisture on my hands, I can do it.
How has show business changed since you got into it?
It was the late ’50s. Things have changed a lot. Back then, it was not easy being green for a whole different set of reasons — we were all black and white.
What was Jim Henson like?
He lifted me to great heights. He had a hand in everything I did. He’s one of those people who was always behind-the-scenes, and I never quite understood what he was doing. And I had great respect for it.
Who are some of your favorite people you’ve performed with?
It’s such a hard question. Some of those classic Hollywood stars that came along to do “The Muppet Show” were probably my favorites — people like Bob Hope and Danny Kay and Ethel Merman.
Who was the biggest diva?
I’m not going to give out any names, but her initials are M.P., and I don’t mean Mary Poppins.
How about Lady Gaga?
We had run into each other at the MTV Awards a few years ago, and always said we’d like to work together. I was just very happy that she thought of the Muppets to be part of this holiday special she did. I’d also seen those photographs where she wore that cloak made entirely of Kermit pelts. Those weren’t actual Kermit pelts. They were little Kermit toys.
Were you weirded out by that?
Oh, ’til I found out they weren’t real, yes. It’s odd to see yourself hanging all over a piece of clothing. However, I do have a Lady Gaga set of men’s boxers shorts, so it’s totally fine.
I didn’t know frogs wore boxers.
It’s one thing you don’t know about frogs. Normally, I don’t wear a lot of clothing, which is something I can get away being a frog. By the way, it makes getting through the TSA security much easier.
Did you enjoy singing with Jimmy Fallon on the last “Late Night”?
Jimmy is wonderful. We’re going to have to make him an honorary Muppet. He loves having us on the show, partially because the studio he works in is where we got our start in the 60s in New York at Rockefeller Center. I think we have many more collaborations in the future. In fact, I don’t want to give away things too early, but I think he’s asked if I’ll be on the new “Tonight Show.”
How much are you worth, Kermit?
What’s a frog worth? I think if you divide me up and squeeze all the water out, it would be about 25 cents.
Are you happy at Disney, which acquired the Muppets 10 years ago?
Yes, it’s very interesting to find yourself in a wholly owned subsidiary of a huge corporation. I don’t think that happened to Johnny Depp. It’s very strange. But I’m not unhappy. It’s wonderful. And the great thing about working with the Walt Disney Co. has been they have the backing, and we can do lots of work and stay buys and get the word out about our projects.
Will there be more “Muppets” movies?
I certainly hope so.
Do you stay in touch with Jason Segel?
Oh, absolutely. Jason will be a lifelong friend. It’s funny, when I did that first film with Jason (in 2011), I didn’t have a lot of scenes with Jason. I didn’t work together that closely until we started promoting the film, like during the phase I’m in right now. I’ll tell you, there’s really nothing that quite compares to travelling the world with Jason Segel.
What do you mean?
It’s a rather wild and crazy experience for an old frog. It opened my eyes. I’m not going to go into detail.
And Tina Fey and Ricky Gervais are in your new movie?
Ricky truly has an insane side to himself. He’s very well behaved with the Muppets, but very funny. And I got to do a lot of work with Tina, because she plays Nadya, who is the warden of the Russian gulag where I end up being imprisoned. She was very funny during the shooting, because she had to learn the Russian dialect, to get the accent correct, and she kept falling into Italian.
Are you ever going to get married?
Well, it’s an often-asked question. Miss Piggy and I have been together for many, many years. And we get very close to getting married in this movie with a lot of confusion. I am not going to say I won’t. I’m not going to say I will. I’m going to straddle the old proverbial fence as best a frog can do.
I bet Piggy isn’t happy with that.
Well, she’s oftentimes not happy about many things, that being one of them. If I spent my whole life trying to keep Miss Piggy happy, it would be a full-time job and I’d have to hire assistants.
Have you ever considered online dating?
I have not. I’m very aware of the process. I have even had a couple of the other Muppets, like Beaker, for instance, has emailed me and suggested that I try it. Beaker is a funny guy. He doesn’t really speak in a way that we can understand, but I think he goes home every night and spends all night on the Internet.