The funnyman talks Muppets, entering Celebrity Big Brother and blocking his fans on Twitter
How did you get involved in The Muppets: Most Wanted?
I got a call when I was during a little arena tour in Scandinavia last Christmas from one of my American agents, saying they wanted me to be the lead in the new Muppet movie. At the time I thought I was too busy to do it and my agent told me I was mad, and that I had to do it.
I saw the finished film yesterday and a chill went down my spine at the thought that I nearly didn’t do it, because I think it’s great, and I had a great time doing it. We had to move a few things around so I could do the days filming. They even gave me a little hiatus; they gave me two weeks off because I was launching Derek at the time.
It’s amazing, I’m so glad I did it.
It doesn’t sound as if you jumped at the chance…
Oh god I did! I’ve loved The Muppets for about thirty five years. I literally thought I wouldn’t have time to do it all, that was all. I was filming the special of Life’s Too Short, which couldn’t be moved, so that’s what I was given the time off for. Then I was launching Derek and I wanted to do publicity for, but I didn’t in the end but it all worked out fine.
So yeah, don’t get me wrong, I wanted to do it, I even said yes before I read the script. The moment I decided I could do it, I did. I’ve watched The Muppets since I was a kid, it was on every Sunday at about four or five O’clock. My older brothers and sisters used to laugh at it and so I thought it was cool, then I saw John Cleese in it and I thought it was proper cool!
I watch The Muppets’ Christmas Carol every Christmas, sometimes twice. I love it as a movie, not just a kids’ movie, it’s just a great story. So I’m a huge fan of The Muppets, I love them even more now.
What’s Kermit like when the cameras are off?
It’s funny because I made them carry on talking. I felt sorry for the guys because not only had they done an eight-hour day with their hand in the air, I made them carry on talking between takes because I wanted a chat with Kermit!
I sometimes made them go and get the Muppet even if he wasn’t in the scene, just so I could have a chat with him. I’m a big kid and sometimes I had to try and remember there were human beings there holding these things. I loved it. I could’ve spoken to them all day.
Disney encourages people to talk to the Muppets rather than the puppeteer, right?
Yeah, luckily I got on well with them. I’ve never met the guys before but it was just like a big family that comes together and it was great to be welcomed in.
I’ve now got a special relationship with Constantine, the evil Russian frog in the film. I love that frog so much, he’s evil, he’s smart, he’s got a soft centre, in fact I think he’s my favourite Muppet. This won’t mean anything to anyone until the film comes out, will it but he’s great. Have you seen the movie?
It’s good isn’t it! The thing with me is I like to be in charge, you know writing it and directing it, so I rarely take acting roles, so when I do, I do my best but then you’re at the mercy of someone else putting it together. Not only was I relieved when I saw the final film, I thought it was great! I was laughing from beginning to end. I thought it was fucking great.
Do you sit at home laughing at other stuff you’ve done?
No because the other stuff I’ve done, I’ve been in the edit. I watched The Office go out, I watched Extras go out, I missed Derek go out because I was filming this and it was on at ten pm and I was already in bed.
But no, I don’t watch my own stuff. Also with films, you’ve done the premieres so you’ve sat through it a few times already before they’ve been on TV. I will watch The Muppets: Most Wanted again though because I think it’s great. I can say that because it’s not my baby, I’m just in it. It’s what the Muppets is all about, I love the fact that it’s mildly satirical and deconstructing of celebrity, it’s funny and sweet and the songs in it are genuinely brilliant and funny songs.
There’s a scene in the film where you’re having dinner with The Muppets and you’re interrupted by someone famous ringing you up. Is there anyone famous that always rings you up who you don’t answer to?
Ha-ha, erm, I don’t know about that, the last famous person to call me up was Chris Martin asking me to do his charity gig for free. They’re only ever bothering ya! Whenever I get a call these days from someone famous it’s for a charity thing. You name anyone in Hollywood who does a charity and they’ve called me!
Does Keith Chegwin call wanting work?
Nah, he’s doing alright now I think. He’s a much underrated actor actually. He’s very good.
I don’t know and I don’t think it matters. They are going to see a master thief with a criminal frog, trying to over throw the Muppets. They’re going to love to hate me. I don’t think they need to know I’m the bloke who did The Office.
You might be known now as the guy in the animal onesie after this.
Yeah maybe, I think you’re known for different things by all different demographics. I think it can hold you back sometimes if you’re recognised for the same thing. When I watch a film I don’t want to watch Hollywood millionaire Brad Pitt playing an Amish person, you know what I mean? I doubt I’m known by little kids though.
In Extras there’s a bit where Maggie tells Andy he’ll never be happy because he’ll never be famous enough. Is Ricky Gervais famous enough?
I’m more famous than I should be. I think that’s what confuses people. I deal in taboo subjects if you look at my stand-up, I deal in things like race and religion, all things that make people uncomfortable.
I did a watered-down version of that at the Golden Globes and there was uproar. I think what confuses people is because I’m not like that. I’ll do things like Sesame Street or The Graham Norton Show and have fun, which confuses people because people who would normally do my kind of material wouldn’t be as famous.
Does that make sense? I don’t do anything to up my profile; I just do things I enjoy. If you want to up your profile you can just do something fucking stupid, you know.
If you had to throw all of your awards away and only keep one, which would it be?
Fucking hell! Well I can see them all now.
My Golden Globes are very close to my heart, especially the one I won for The Office. Actually, the short film award I won for the twenty-three minute, non-broadcast pilot of Derek is very close to my heart. I think I did well there.
Surely they gave you that to get some press?
It’s a lovely award, I’ll tweet you a picture of it.
Speaking of Twitter, how many hours a day do you spend on it?
About twenty minutes a day I’d say. I do about ten two-minute bursts. I think I miss ninety per cent of my tweets these days now though because I’ve said I’m going to tweet something in particular to someone. Or I should tell my followers I’m doing a Q&A or something.
I do more if I’m in the back of a cab or something though. That’s the good thing about Twitter, you’re never alone, you don’t have to read a beer mat if you’re on your own waiting for someone who’s late to the pub!
Has anyone ever got under your skin with something they’ve tweeted you?
No because it’s like reading the graffiti on the back on a toilet, what you read on there. I usually block for stupidity. Although what I’m doing now is blocking people who offend me but I look at their tweets and the first fifty are complementary so they want a reply, then they insult me. I think I block more fans than haters for selling and being an idiot!
Do people offer to sponsor your tweets?
No I don’t do that. If someone suddenly tweets, ‘I can’t believe it I’ve just bought this great new face cream!’ I’m just like: “Did ya?” No it’s not for me.
Don’t forget about the #ad
Ha-ha! I know! I tweet about my own stuff and charities. I do my own tweets as well. People don’t think it’s me sometimes but I don’t know who to answer that? “Yes!”
Ha-ha it is him! You’re a fan of reality TV. If you needed the money and the publicity would you go on Celebrity Big Brother?
I don’t know why people need publicity, so no. If I lost all my money, you might get paid but then you’ve got to live with the fact you’ve been on the show haven’t you. I think they’d have to say someone has got my family locked in a room and you’ve got to do Big Brother for a week. Even then I’d ask which members of the family they’ve got! I think I can safely say I won’t do Big Brother.
Could you persuade Karl Pilkington to do Celebrity Big Brother?
I don’t think I’d want to. I could probably get him to do anything but I torture him for my amusement not anyone else. That would be someone else humiliating him and that’s no fun for me.
Have you noticed a change in Karl since he’s been around the world a few times and earned a lot of money?
I think he’s getting on with it all a bit more now but generally he’s the same.
People genuinely thought he was acting…
Yeah well I think he knows what he’s doing. He’s really not an idiot. He’s an actor when he’s in Derek but he wasn’t acting when he was doing the podcasts or anything.
Final question. If you could have four dinner quests, living or dead, who would they be?
They’re alive at the dinner party though right? I’m not having four corpses propped up or anything am I?
No they’re all breathing.
Good I don’t want a dead Winston Churchill, Laurel and Hardy and Sir Isaac Newton around the table. I think they are the first people that have come into my head though so they’re the ones I’d settle on. What a fucking party that is, on that note I’m going off to get drunk!