Meeting the Muppets
One of the best things about being a journalist - particularly one that focuses on all things entertainment - is that you don't have to be the greatest writer in the world to get some interesting opportunities.
Over the years i've been fortunate enough to interview a delightfully diverse group of individuals. My last permanent job saw me as a features writer on a weekly TV listings magazine in the UK. It may well have been nationally available, but you'd have to be a fool to imagine people bought it for its insightful interviews; they bought it for the comprehensive TV listings.
I didn't care though, as i got sent off a lot to interview all manner of famous people. And not so famous.
Since leaving that position (OK i was 'let go') i've been mainly focusing on building my own media empire, which currently consists of a reviews site for films, DVDs, games, music and books. It's been a hard slog, and it's by no means there yet, but i'm passionate about the project.
Anyway, to cut a long and rather dull story short, i now get sent a lot of emails. They usually take the form of an email from a PR company informing me of the latest release of something or other. Most of the time i send a nice reply back, and sometimes i get a reply. Yes, i'm that far down the food chain.
But a few weeks ago, one email caught my eye. It was an invite to interview the Muppets. The curious thing about it was, was that it was personalised as it had my name on it. This meant that someone had taken the time to actually type my name before cutting and pasting.
It was clearly a mistake. Despite being fiercely proud of what myself and my special team of helpers have achieved with the site, we don't get many personalised emails PRs asking if we'd like to interview the likes of Brad, George or Angelina on any regular basis. Or Muppets come to think of it.
But there it was, an invite to chat with Kermit and Pepe. Of course i replied. Often replying to a PRs email is like a written form of poker; they don't really know what kind of hand you've got, so they rarely call your bluff. So holding the worse kind of hand possible close to my chest, i replied.
A few days later i got an email from the PR saying that i was now on the list to interview the Muppets and she would send more details later.
Now as i've already mentioned, i've been lucky enough to interview a fair number of celebrities and famous types (oh and Lenny Henry), but i've never interviewed a muppet before. I also very rarely suffer from pre interview jitters, but i was one of those kids who sat down religiously and watched the original Muppets TV show every week. I was going to sit and have a chat with the legend that is Kermit the frog; this made me both excited and nervous at the same time.
When i spoke to my mother on the phone, i told her there was a chance i could be interviewing Kermit and that i was a little nervous about it. "You're nervous about interviewing a puppet?" she asked. After correcting her that he was actually a muppet and not a puppet,i said i was, after all, he's a real icon. "But you've interviewed Tom Conti" she retorted. I had indeed interviewed Mr Conti, who was extremely charming, but told my mother that i doubt he was as well known around the world as Kermit. She didn't reply.
With only a few days before the interview was scheduled, i had yet to hear back from the PR, so i decided to send her a polite email to inquire where we stood. I got an immediate reply, which is always nice. It was an out of office email, which was not so nice. Apparently the PR was on holiday and wasn't back in the office until after the interviews took place. Thankfully, she gave an email address of someone else to contact. Phew. They we're also out of office. Things weren't looking good.
In the last hour - almost literally - i was given the green light and everything was set.
The interview was to take place in a suite in one of London's new, swanky hotels. I turned up on time, which is quite professional of me. There was no-one in the foyer with a big sign that read "Muppets interview here", which pleased me, as it gave me the opportunity to be witty at the front desk.
"I never thought i'd say these words," i declared to the young, European chap behind the desk "but i'm here to see Kermit". "Kermit?" he replied, somewhat puzzled, "The frog?". I was tempted to ask him how many other Kermits he knew, but let that one slide. "Yes, Kermit the frog" i replied, matter of factly. "Is he a guest here?". "I was hoping you would be able to tell me that, but yes, i believe he is". You could tell that i was clearly not only the first person that day, but also the only person ever to ask this young man about this iconic frog being a guest at his hotel. "He means Muppets" interjected a gruff colleague, "room 207".
So i finally found myself in a lift, on my way up to see Kermit and Pepe. Now i have to admit, i wasn't that nervous about meeting Pepe; he was a character that hadn't really appeared on my Muppet radar until the recent film. But Kermit was different. Of course he wasn't Tom Conti, but he was still a character i had grown up watching as a kid.
A few well placed signs on the second floor led me into a room that had be turned into a media hub. It had free drinks and snacks, which is always a pleasing sight. I signed in, grabbed a drink and proceeded to wait my turn. I triple checked i had my trusty tape recorder, which i'm well aware is old school in this digital age, but it's rarely let me down.
As i struggled to get the top off of my drink (it felt like it had been welded on), some media type handed me a piece of paper informing me of video sizes. I knew some sites were taking video cameras to record their interviews, but as the tape recorder suggests, our site isn't quite ready for such technological advances. But as i soon found out, we were going to be, ready or not.
Sitting there, in a comfortable chair, i was informed that i could have a copy of the interview on some compact flash cards after the event. So it soon dawned on me that not only was i going to be interviewing Kermit and Pepe, it was going to be filmed.
Now i can't stress enough that despite not being a terribly good journalist, i have been fortunate enough to have interviewed hundreds of celebrities over the years. The closest i got to having one filmed however was when Meatloaf asked to have his picture taken with me after our chat. To this day i'm still not entirely sure why he wanted it, but it's very difficult to say no to Meatloaf.
Before i could raise my hand and announce that this was some terrible mistake and that i really shouldn't be there, i was escorted to another room where Kermit & Pepe were waiting.
All i can say is, without spoiling the magic, that these two Muppets have some entourage. The room was full of people, although i didn't see any actual faces. Except two. And before i knew it, i was deep in conversation with the world's most famous frog, and not so famous king prawn.
It was wasn't until i left the room that i realised how quick the entire interview went. I didn't get to ask all my questions, as you only get a certain amount of time with the 'talent'. Although i was trying to impress - not only my interviewees, but the entire room - i noticed at one point i couldn't have been doing that great a job because, out of the corner of my eye, i noticed one of their team was fast asleep. Everyone's a critic.
To say it was the most surreal afternoon of my life is an understatement. And regardless of who i'm lucky enough to interview in the future, hanging out with Kermit (& Pepe) will be one that's hard to beat.
If your curious at all as to how the interview actually went, you can see it here.
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