Trump’s UK state visit and that of Kermit the Frog may be coincidental, but it means two very different images of America will be in focus; the state child-caging leader of the free world will grab the headlines and prompt mass protests, but is the Muppets’ celebration of inclusivity, equality, love and wackiness of a wholly different kind of truer reflection of what it means to be American?
We caught up with Kermit and Miss Piggy to find out their thoughts on style, greatness and how the special relationship between the UK and US is today.
We pledge allegiance to the frog…
The Big Issue: You are not the only American over here in July – but I think it’s safe to say you’re more popular than the other guy.
Kermit: If you mean Sam Eagle, I wouldn’t be that tough on him. He really does his best.
Do you feel responsibility to be an ambassador?
I’m a proud Amphibian-American, and I do my best to be a good role model for other Americans, as well as amphibians of all nations. It’s a big job, but I get a lot of help from the other Muppets.
What image of your country do you and the other Muppets embody?
I think the Muppets are what we’ve always been. We believe that: regardless of who you are, what species you may be and what talents you may or may not have we all have something to contribute, and we can all work to make the world a better place. Crazy, chaotic, weird too, but also somehow better.
Are these qualities being overshadowed at the moment?
I don’t think so – at least not the crazy, chaotic and weird parts.
I know that Bill Clinton played a pretty good saxophone, but I never saw any president play a banjo
The Muppets have a long, glorious history with the UK, how do you think the special relationship is between our countries today?
I still think it’s strong. The UK was our home during the making of the original Muppet Show, so we’re thrilled to be bringing this first-ever live version of the show back here where it all started. Plus, as a frog, I love the weather here. As for the special relationship between the UK and the US, I think it’s stronger than ever, especially since Prince Harry married Meghan.
Will it stay strong even after you’ve ‘taken’ the O2 Arena?
A very good question. We certainly hope so. Our show is definitely an assault on your senses, but in a good way, we think. If the special relationship between our countries can withstand that, then there’s still hope for the world.
Many people would love to see a frog in the White House. Would you consider running for office?
No, I don’t think I’ll run for office. I spend enough time in the swamp without getting involved in politics.
How many presidents have you met over the decades?
Among frogs, I’m definitely the leader in meeting presidents, but I’ve never counted up how many I’ve met. We’ll have to get back to you on that.
Were any of them good on the banjo?
I know that Bill Clinton played a pretty good saxophone, but I never saw any president play a banjo. I’m sure that must mean something, but I have no idea what.
Your career has outlasted them all – what’s your secret?
Presidents can only serve for eight years, while there are no term limits on frogs who sing, dance and work in show business.
Have you ever met Donald Trump?
No, I haven’t. But I know that Sam Eagle wants to meet him to discuss hair subsidies for bald eagles.
You have had decades of experience when it comes to keeping a chaotic crew in check. What makes a good leader?
Be flexible. Appreciate those around you. And give everyone a chance to do what you’ve asked them to do. And when they don’t do it, hold your arms up in the air and yell like this “Yaaaaaaahhhh!” This doesn’t necessarily improve their work, but it sure makes me feel better.
Your colleagues are pigs, chickens, bears, in fact all kinds of animals, Animal, a Swedish Chef and whatever Gonzo is. Is diversity a shortcut to success?
I’m not sure it’s a shortcut to success, but it sure makes the journey a lot more entertaining.
Is a leader only as good as the team around them?
I think so. But if you want your team to follow you (and not just on Twitter) and work extra hard for you, then you have to believe in them, listen to them, and try to get them to all turn up at the O2 in time for the show.
The Big Issue: When you’re here, there might be thousands of people on the streets…
Miss Piggy: Might be? MIGHT be? Vous mean “WILL BE” thousands of people on the streets… maybe more… and all to catch a glimpse of yours truly.
No, not just to see you – there are big protests planned for President Trump’s visit.
Look, buster, if they’re out on the street when I’m here, I’m counting them as fans.
If Melania is missing, will you be available to attend state events?
I don’t think we wear the same size dress. But I love her hats. I’ll have to check my calendar.
Did you find it difficult to maintain a relationship on a global stage?
You mean the frog. Look, that’s history. I know we had a relationship or whatever they call it, but now I’m an independent, empowered woman who makes her own way and is enjoying a variety of relationships with a cornucopia of hot-looking guys. On a global stage, dating one guy is difficult, but dating a flotilla of them is fun.
Speaking of romance, Harry and Meghan notably didn’t invite any leaders or politicians to their wedding – were you too famous to receive an invitation?
As for my invitation, let’s just say that I was there. You may not have seen moi, but I was in the vicinity. And I trust Harry and Meghan will be there when moi stuns the world with my performance at The Muppets Take the O2.
So if someone calls you Miss Piggy, they mean it as a compliment
Did you play a role behind the scenes?
I’m not saying I helped Meghan with the dress and accessorising… but I’m also not saying I didn’t.
How do you sum up your own style in three words?
Style is everything! Without style, we’re all just a bunch of boring content providers. But with style, we can turn the world on its head and make everyone want to be just like us! As for my style in three words: More is Better.
How do you sum up the First Lady’s style, or Donald’s for that matter?
I don’t really follow anyone else’s style. Others follow mine. So my advice for them and for you and all your readers is simple: Do what I do.
In the past, ‘Miss Piggy’ has been used as an insult by certain people towards certain people. But you are confident, assertive – not to mention drop-dead gorgeous – surely calling somebody Miss Piggy should be a compliment?
An insult? Surely you jest! You must have misunderstood, because obviously moi’s name is synonymous with elegance, independence, and as you yourself stated, confidence, assertiveness and drop-dead gorgeousity! So if someone calls you Miss Piggy, they mean it as a compliment. And if you know anyone who uses it as an insult, please let me know who they are and where they live. I would love to go have a nice little talk with them, n’est ce pas?
Making Gonzo great again
The Big Issue: When did you first realise you were great?
Gonzo the Great: Last Tuesday. Before then, I just thought it was my name, but then on Tuesday it hit me: I’m great. At least I think that’s what hit me last Tuesday.
What makes one great?
The ability to do the impossible, the implausible, the incredibly risky, without fear of the consequences… and without any insurance.
Getting great is one thing, how do you stay great?
Consistency. To do something wild just once is impressive, but true greatness requires doing it over and over again. So always get lots of
rest and drink plenty of liquids between bouts of greatness.
Is greatness about saying you are great, or having other people say you’re great?
It’s best if they say it, but someone has to say it first, so why not you? Soon, others will start saying it too and you’ll be trending as “great” on Twitter. And really, who could ask for anything more than that?
Donald Trump and Sesame Street
We all grew up asking how to get to Sesame Street. The long-running children’s TV programme came from the same stable as the Muppets, and the New York-set show has, through the years, mercilessly mocked one of the city’s most famous residents.
As early as 1988, Ronald Grump – a grouch with a dodgy hairpiece – cons Oscar into selling up so he can build Grump Tower, the first skyscraper made of trashcans.
When Trump was best known for presenting the US version of The Apprentice, another grouch, Donald Grump, turned up in 2005 looking for an assistant of his own. “His name is on every piece of trash in town!” remarks an impressed Oscar, before they sing a song with pertinent lines like, “Whose name equals trash to you and to me?” and Grump declaring, “I’m the trashiest! I’m the grouchiest!”
But most bizarrely, in a 25th birthday celebrity special in 1994, Joe Pesci, as if he’s just strayed from the set of Casino, plays Ronald Grump and is interviewed by Julia Louis-Dreyfus about his plans to develop the area. After conning residents (again) it is revealed he plans to demolish Sesame Street. In some outtakes, which are among the most disturbing scenes on YouTube, Pesci/Grump physically assaults Benny Bunny and shockingly spits on cuddly toddler-monster Elmo.
Is this Joe Pesci trying to be funny (funny how?), or is he channelling the true spirit of Trump?
The Muppets Take The O2 live on July 13 and July 14. aegpresents.co.uk
Images: The Muppets/Ross Lesley-Bayne