The Muppets character
First appearanceThe Great Santa Claus Switch (1970)[1]
Created byDave Goelz
Jim Henson
Jerry Juhl[2]
Voiced by
Performed byDanny Seagren (1970)
Dave Goelz (1976–present)[3]
In-universe information
OccupationStunt performer, plumber, artist

Gonzo, also known as The Great Gonzo, is a Muppet character from the sketch comedy television series The Muppet Show, known for his eccentric passion for stunt performance. Aside from his trademark enthusiasm for performance art, another defining trait of Gonzo is the ambiguity of his species, which has become a running gag in the franchise. He has been considered to be of various origins, including a Frackle, in his debut appearance in The Great Santa Claus Switch; extraterrestrial in Muppets from Space; or avian creature.

Developed and performed by Dave Goelz,[3] Gonzo made his first appearance in the 1970 special The Great Santa Claus Switch, as the "Cigar Box Frackle".[4] Originally introduced as a minor figure in The Muppet Show, he soon evolved into one of the franchise's primary characters. Gonzo has appeared in every Muppet film, including The Muppet Christmas Carol, where he portrayed author Charles Dickens and developed a double act with Rizzo the Rat.


The prototype of Gonzo appeared in The Great Santa Claus Switch, "as a generic gruff baddie".[5] Jim Henson selected this Frackle as the basis for Gonzo, and gave the character to puppeteer Dave Goelz.[6] Gonzo was created as a character with low self-esteem,[7] as written by Jerry Juhl,[2] with Goelz acknowledging he put himself into that interpretation.[7] Later, with Henson's approval, they reworked the eyes to allow the character to convey more excitement, and a "zany, bombastic appreciation for life".[7]

Gonzo has several memorable performances such as his 1979 song from The Muppet Movie, "I'm Going to Go Back There Someday".[8] He became known for his stunts as acts within The Muppet Show and beyond, with the famous quote "Tonight ladies and gentlemen I will eat this rubber tire to the music of The Flight of the Bumblebee...music, maestro!"[9]

In 1992, he played the part of Charles Dickens in The Muppet Christmas Carol, as director Brian Henson said Gonzo was the most improbable Muppet to do so.[7] Here, he developed a double act with Rizzo the Rat,[10] narrating and breaking the fourth wall, with Rizzo challenging Gonzo's claims to be Dickens.[11] The Gonzo and Rizzo partnership was continued in Muppet Treasure Island (1996) and Muppets from Space (1999). Along with Kermit and Rizzo, Gonzo gave an audio commentary for the Muppets from Space DVD.[12]

In The Muppets, it was revealed that he had become a powerful plumbing magnate since the Muppets split up. In the 2015 television series The Muppets, Gonzo is a major character and the head writer of Miss Piggy's late night talk show, Up Late with Miss Piggy.[13]


Gonzo is not a puppet version of a human or a recognizable animal. He has an awkward, non animal-like appearance, which includes purple-blue fur, purple feathers on his head, bug-eyes, and a long, hooked nose, referred to as a "beak".[14] In The Muppet Show and The Muppet Movie, he performed as a performance artist, stunt double and daredevil under the name "The Great Gonzo" (or "Gonzo the Great").[8]

Gonzo is good friends with all of the Muppets, but performed a double act with Rizzo the Rat since The Muppet Christmas Carol.[10] Gonzo has a long-standing romantic relationship with Camilla the Chicken,[15] whom he first courted in a 1979 episode of The Muppet Show guest starring Leslie Uggams, and directed Camilla and the other chickens in 2008 YouTube videos.[16]


A running gag related to Gonzo is that it is not clear what species he is supposed to be. Gonzo's self-identity is a "whatever".[14] In The Muppet Movie, Kermit, while conversing with his inner self, says "And a thing, whatever Gonzo is. He's a little like a turkey", to which his inner self replies "but not much".[17] In the film The Great Muppet Caper, he is shipped to England in a crate labeled "Whatever" (while Kermit the Frog and Fozzie Bear are respectively labeled "Frog" and "Bear"). Not long afterward, the three land in a pond in front of Robert Morley who ponders if it's raining cats and dogs; Kermit and Fozzie respectively reply, "Actually, we're bears and frogs." "And Gonzos." In A Muppet Family Christmas, when Gonzo states to the Christmas Turkey that Camilla is his girlfriend, the Christmas Turkey says "You're not even a bird!" In the Muppet Treasure Island CD-ROM Game, Gonzo and Rizzo the Rat land in a bucket of molasses, following the dialogue of a carriage driver saying "It's raining rats and... whatevers". In The Muppets' Wizard of Oz, Gonzo played a Tin Man-ish character primarily known as the "Tin Thing". In Jim Henson's Muppet Babies, Gonzo (voice of Russi Taylor) is simply referred to, most often by Baby Piggy, as a "weirdo" or "blue weirdo".

In Muppets from Space, Gonzo has a starring role.[18] In the film, he is shown to be an alien,[19] and his alien family tracks him down with the intention of welcoming him back into his long-lost community; before their departure, they ask him to return to space with them. Gonzo says goodbye to the Muppets, but soon realizes that he would be abandoning the friends who have been like his family all along, prompting him to decline the aliens' offer.


In a 1984 Muppets comic strip, Gonzo is seen passing by the gendered bathroom options of "Women" and "Men", and instead walking through a door labeled "Whatever", which some people have interpreted to mean that Gonzo is non-binary.[20]

On a 2021 episode of Muppet Babies parodying Cinderella, Gonzo puts on the glass slipper and transforms into "Gonzorella". Gonzo later admits to his fellow Muppets that "the princess who came to your ball tonight... was me." When Miss Piggy asks why Gonzo did not tell them, Gonzo replies, "Because you all expected me to look a certain way. I don't want you to be upset with me... but I don't want to do things just because that's the way they've been done, either. I wanna be me." When asked about the episode producer Tom Warburton said that early on the plan was to make Gonzo appear in a skirt as if it were no big deal, because "Gonzo is always 200 percent Gonzo 347 percent of the time", but the writing team decided to take it further with the Cinderella arc. Warburton remarked that "It was just SO wonderfully Gonzo. We hope he inspires kids watching to be 347% of themselves in their own way, too."[21][22]


Cultural impact

television still
Gonzo's appearance in the animated spin-off Muppet Babies.

Though primarily performed by Dave Goelz, he has also been voiced in animated form by Hal Rayle in Little Muppet Monsters. Brett O'Quinn performed Gonzo in Muppets Ahoy!, a 2006 Disney Cruise Line show. An infant-aged version of Gonzo appeared as a regular character in the animated spin-off television series Muppet Babies, voiced by Russi Taylor, alongside Kermit, Miss Piggy, and other central Muppet Show figures. Baby Gonzo is one of the cartoon characters featured in Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue.[23] Baby Gonzo later returned in the 2018 Muppet Babies series, voiced by Benjamin Diskin.

Gonzo was featured on the #28 Havoline Ford of Ricky Rudd in the 2002 Tropicana 400 in an advertising campaign in which Gonzo and his fellow Muppets were featured on a select few NASCAR Nextel Cup Series race cars. Gonzo also appeared alongside Gonzo's fellow Muppets on the Halloween 2011 episode of WWE Raw.[24]

Gonzo was announced as the Grand marshal for the Auto Club 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Ca. to give the famous command of "Drivers, Start your engines".[25] Gonzo fulfilled his duty on March 23, 2014.[26]

NOAA's Gulfstream IV N49RF, named for Gonzo.

Gonzo is also the namesake to the CT-142 Bombardier Dash 8 used by the Canadian Armed Forces for Air Combat Systems Officer training due to the blue paint job and elongated nose housing a specialized radar. A similar flying example is the Gulfstream IV light jetliner bearing US registration N49RF, flown for severe weather research by the US Federal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and is also named for Gonzo as portside nose art.[27]

Gonzo Station was a U.S. Navy acronym for "Gulf of Oman Naval Zone of Operations" or "Gulf of Oman Northern Zone." It was used to designate an area of carrier-based naval operations by the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps in the Indian Ocean during the 1979-1981 Iranian Hostage Crisis and the "Tanker War" between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran. Some U.S. military patches for personnel serving in the area depicted Gonzo the Muppet.


Reviewing Muppets from Space in 1999, Roger Ebert found the most humorous part to be Gonzo being denied entry in Noah's Ark for not having a second member of his species, and expressed sympathy for his loneliness as an extraterrestrial, stranded since the Roswell UFO incident, adding "Poor guy (or whatever he is)".[28] In 2012, The Guardian's Lizzy Dening, reviewing the Muppet films, identified Gonzo as a favorite.[29] That year, The Daily Beast wrote about appreciation for the Muppets in the LGBT community, calling Gonzo "the queerest Muppet of all".[30]

In 2015, Today.com, in reviewing the Humpty Dance YouTube video, referred to Gonzo himself as a "classic Muppet".[31] That year, The Huffington Post identified Gonzo as a popular Muppet, saying to his fans, "People just don't GET you" adding "And nothing would ever be the same without you."[32]


  1. ^ Shemin 2014, p. 80.
  2. ^ a b Jones 2016, p. 247.
  3. ^ a b Suddath, Claire (September 17, 2015). "Can the man behind television's biggest sitcom—and their puppet twin—help the Muppets take prime time?". Bloomberg Business. Archived from the original on September 20, 2015. Retrieved September 21, 2015.
  4. ^ "The Geeks Shall Inheirit the Earth: Dave Goelz Under the Stage part 2". Film Threat. March 31, 2004. Retrieved May 15, 2020.
  5. ^ Robinson, Tasha (December 17, 2012). "The Great Santa Claus Switch introduced Jim Henson's obsessions". The A.V. Club. Archived from the original on October 30, 2016. Retrieved July 15, 2017.
  6. ^ Jones 2016, p. 248.
  7. ^ a b c d Beaumont-Thomas, Ben (December 21, 2015). "How we made: The Muppet Christmas Carol". The Guardian. Archived from the original on December 30, 2016. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  8. ^ a b Culp 2015, p. 189.
  9. ^ "The A-Z of movie maniacs". Time Out. Archived from the original on July 15, 2017. Retrieved July 15, 2017.
  10. ^ a b Dale & Foy 2015, p. 233.
  11. ^ Glavin 2017.
  12. ^ "Muppets from Space". Billboard. October 2, 1999. p. 32.
  13. ^ Jurgensen, John (September 10, 2015). "The Muppets Grow Up and Go Back to Prime Time". The Wall Street Journal. Archived from the original on September 26, 2015. Retrieved September 28, 2015.
  14. ^ a b Culp 2015, p. 187.
  15. ^ Garlen & Graham 2009, p. 190.
  16. ^ Graham 2012, p. 245.
  17. ^ James Frawley (Director); Jim Henson (June 22, 1979). The Muppet Movie (Motion picture). Yeah, a little like a turkey, but not much
  18. ^ Westbrook, Caroline (October 14, 2015). "Muppets from Space Review". Empire. Archived from the original on August 9, 2016. Retrieved July 15, 2017.
  19. ^ Tatara, Paul (August 2, 1999). "Review: 'Muppets from Space' -- It's not easy being green". CNN. Archived from the original on June 19, 2006. Retrieved July 15, 2017.
  20. ^ "Gonzo the Great: Nonbinary Icon". ToughPigs. March 24, 2021.
  21. ^ "Muppet Babies have a beautiful message of acceptance for gender non-conforming kids everywhere". July 27, 2021.
  22. ^ "EXCLUSIVE: Gonzo Wants to Dress as a Princess in Muppet Babies Sneak Peek". D23. July 23, 2021.
  23. ^ Krcatovich, Dustin (April 21, 2016). "Recover From Your 4/20 Hangover by Rewatching 'Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue'". Esquire. Archived from the original on November 1, 2016. Retrieved July 15, 2017.
  24. ^ Stroud, Brandon (November 11, 2011). "The Best And Worst Of WWE Raw 10/31: Muppets, The Rock and Mortal Kombat". Uproxx. Retrieved July 13, 2017.
  25. ^ Staff (March 13, 2014). "Muppet To Utter Most Famous Words In Racing". NASCAR. Archived from the original on July 16, 2017. Retrieved July 15, 2017.
  26. ^ Mora, Celeste (March 23, 2014). "Mindy Kaling Takes a Selfie With Gonzo, Spreads the 'Muppets' Love". Bustle. Archived from the original on July 16, 2017. Retrieved July 15, 2017.
  27. ^ "NOAA's Hurricane Research Aircraft - Gulfstream IV jet - "Gonzo" N49RF". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. June 16, 2003. Archived from the original on May 4, 2016. Retrieved June 12, 2016. NOAA's Gulfstream-IV SP jet is a state-of-the-art, high altitude research platform. 'Gonzo' was acquired in 1996 to improve NOAA's tropical cyclone forecast capability by being able to deploy dropsondes from high altitude over large areas of open sea, where few observations are available.
  28. ^ Ebert, Roger (July 26, 2012). "Muppets from Space". Rogerebert.com. Archived from the original on June 10, 2017. Retrieved July 15, 2017.
  29. ^ Dening, Lizzy (July 14, 1999). "Muppet movie marathon: Treasure Island takes the pot of gold". The Guardian. Archived from the original on October 5, 2015. Retrieved July 15, 2017.
  30. ^ Setoodeh, Ramin (July 26, 2012). "Kermit, Miss Piggy and Chick fil-A: Why Gays Love the Muppets". The Daily Beast. Archived from the original on July 16, 2017. Retrieved July 15, 2017.
  31. ^ Dawn, Randee (April 1, 2015). "Gonzo goes wild in new 'Humpty Dance' video, plus more hilarious Muppet mashups". Today.com. Archived from the original on July 16, 2017. Retrieved July 15, 2017.
  32. ^ Ferreras, Jesse (July 16, 2015). "What Your Favourite Muppet Character Says About You". The Huffington Post. Archived from the original on July 16, 2017. Retrieved July 15, 2017.