On Toshi’s third birthday, I took him to a very unusual puppet show, unusual because it wasn’t being staged for a real audience. It was on one of the soundstages at Paramount in Hollywood, and it was a musical called “A Taste Of Love,” with all the puppets by the Henson Studios. The only people witnessing take after take of the big finale of this show were extras, hired for the day, and the crew of “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.” If you’ve seen the film, you remember the moment, the big wrap-up for the character played by Jason Segel. This is his life’s ambition realized, and watching Segel and his co-star Bill Hader actually operate their custom-created Muppets for a full day of shooting was one of those great random glad-I-was-there moments.
Toshi had no idea what was going on, but he enjoyed the noise and the energy and the puppets, and at one point, I had a conversation with Segel about his training with the Henson performers, and how that was the fulfillment of his own life-long dream. He confessed his Muppet love to me at that point, and talked a bit about how he’d very much like to one day figure out a way to make a movie with the Muppets. It was the first time he’d mentioned anything like that, but seeing him work with his Dracula puppet all day, I could see how firmly the idea had hold of him.
It seems fitting that Toshi would get his chance to interview the Muppets thanks to Jason Segel actually finding a way to turn that dream into reality. I wanted to sit down with Jason myself to continue what has been a multi-year conversation at this point, and also to meet the newest member of The Muppets, Walter.
Muppet Performer Peter Linz may have helped coach Walter for our interview, but during our chat, it was just me, Jason, and Walter, with Toshi and Allen watching from just out of frame. I’ve noticed that Allen is particularly drawn to Walter, and to the ballad that Jason and Walter share late in the movie. When I hear my three year old walking around the house, belting out “Am I a Muppet, or am I a man?” at the top of his lungs, I’m tempted to vote “both.” I think audiences are going to be charmed by this newcomer, and Segel certainly seems to have had a great time working with him.
We’ve got a few more “Muppets” interviews coming up tonight and tomorrow, so keep checking back.
“The Muppets” lights the lights and starts the music in theaters everywhere starting tomorrow.