One of my most deeply rooted fandoms is The Muppets. They entertained me as a kid, and I still love the classic movies and TV shows as an adult. Jim Henson was a big part of growing up, and his work still means a lot to me today. While I love so much of it, my favorite Muppet movie has been The Great Muppet Caper. As I think about it all, I figure that if I knew back in 1981 that I would get to interview "Nicky"...I would've freaked out.
In October of 2011, my new podcast was on a roll when it came to booking guests. I somehow managed to line-up Mayim Bialik (The Big Bang Theory), James Tolken (Back to the Future), Efren Ramirez (Napoleon Dynamite), Julie Newmar (Batman) and Bridget Regan (Legend of the Seeker) in recent weeks. I knew in November that a new Muppet movie was coming out, and it would directly tie into the classic Muppet themes I grew up with. So, I wanted to celebrate it all on the show and feature a guest. The challenge was that most of the human actors just made cameos in the films, and very few of them actually starred in them. So, I figured if I was going to try to get someone...why not take a shot at getting Charles Grodin - the actor who played the evil but funny villain in my favorite Muppet movie.
It wouldn't be easy. Charles wasn't doing movies like he was in the 70s, 80s and 90s. So, there wasn't going to be an agent/manager/publicist that I would be able to track down in the traditional way. So, I googled several variations of these words:
Charles Grodin, email, contact
I came across an email that seemed to fit, but I had no reason to be sure. Nonetheless, I sent off the request in an email that not only included my email address, but also my phone number. For all I knew, this was going to a plumber named Phil who lives in Lick Skillet, Tennessee.
Then, one night when my wife Jenn and I were in a PVP Battleground in World of Warcraft (a game that can't be "paused"), my phone rang. I looked at it and it showed an unfamiliar number. Jenn said the area code was from somewhere in the Northeast. Generally, I don't answer calls like this, but I was job searching and I thought maybe it was a corporate headquarters. So, I answered it.
Voice on the other end: Scott, this is Charles Grodin.
A couple seconds of shocked silence before I realized I should probably speak.
Me: Hello, Mr. Grodin. How are you?
Jenn suddenly stops playing and slowly looks at me with her jaw on the ground.
As amusing as that was, it turns out that not only did Charles get my email, but he thought I was connected to an article he was writing about his relationship with Miss Piggy on the set of the film. After that was cleared up, we talked more about what I really wanted to do. Even though I wasn't connected with his article, we booked the interview.
When I hung up the phone, I did a little of THIS.
The day of the interview, I got to have a great conversation with him before recording. We discussed some of my other favorite projects of his, including Heart and Souls and an old Disney World show called Cranium Command.
When we got to the interview, he threw me for a loop because he was sharing a similar narrative to his article - how his emotionally intense, uncontrollable infatuation with Miss Piggy impacted life on and off the set. Once I adjusted to that, it was quite hilarious. He talked about a secret rendezvous, and how the relationship was making his lady admirers back in America extremely jealous.
He also talked about the day he learned about the death of Jim Henson. He was in a play rehearsal when Entertainment Tonight walked in wanting an interview. He was a little surprised by the out-of-the-blue nature of this and wanted to know why they needed it right then.
That's when he found out Jim Henson had passed away. The news caused him to throw down his script in shock and despair. Anyone who worked with Jim had nothing but love and admiration for him. Just ask Brian Jay Jones.
Along with his experiences working with Muppets, Charles talked about the skits he played out with David Letterman (that audiences didn't realize were jokes), his fight for Ryan Holle and the Felony Murder Rule and his continued love for the Beethoven movies.
It was one of the most memorable interviews I ever conducted. If that wasn't enough, Charles was so pleased with the conversation that he said he'd be more than happy to come back anytime. Months later, I had him come back to talk about some of the romantic comedies he starred in, like The Heartbreak Kid and Seems Like Old Times.
Along with the enjoyment conversations like these, it was equally awesome to have the guest do a liner for the show. Often times, I wrote those for the guest to read. Charles decided to do one of his own -
This is Charles Grodin. I was Miss Piggy's love interest in the Great Muppet Caper. I've also been on The Critic Show with Scott Murray...who's no Miss Piggy. Believe me.