Muppet Magazine
Fall 1987

   Donít Be Ridiculous!
Perfect Strangersí Bronson Pinchot Acts Up with Perfectly Strange Gonzo

As told to Jim Lewis
Photos by Aaron Rapoport

Bronson: "To play the part of Sherlock Holmes, you have to ask questions like a great detective . . .  ĎI say, my good man, do you know the way to Scotland Yard?í"
Gonzo: "Aye, I saw Scotland Yard while I was a-cominí through the rye."
Bronson: "Rye?  Actually, Iíd rather have whole wheat or pumpernickel."
Gonzo: "Youíll be the toast of the town!"

To be or not to be.  That is the question . . . Two bees or not two bees.  That is the question . . . Tubas or not tubas?  Is that the question?  Hello, acting fans.  It is I Ė The Great Gonzo Ė practicing the famous two bees in a tuba scene from Willie Shakespeareís tribute to Miss Piggy Ė Hamlet.  I love great acting.  And since I am about to audition for the biggest part of my career, Iím very lucky to be meeting that wonderful actor Ė Bronson Pinchot!

You all know Bronson as Balki, that odd and lovable shepherd from Mypos, on the hit TV show Perfect Strangers.  But is this the only acting Bronson has done?

Donít be ridiculous!

Bronson is a classically trained actor, which means he had to go to all of his classes when he studied acting at Yale University.  Heís starred on stage and screen, and wowed audiences everywhere with his performance in hit movies like Beverly Hills Cops, Risky Business and The Flamingo Kid.  Now join us as Bronson Pinchot helps me learn all about the wide, wonderful and sometimes weird world of acting.

BRONSON: Hiya, Gonzo!

GONZO: Howdy, Bronson!  Iím up for the biggest part of my career.  Can you help me?

BRONSON: Well, what do you want to learn?

GONZO: How to be a character.

BRONSON: Oh, Gonzo, you already are quite a character . . .  Just kidding.  You mean, how an actor creates the character he or she performs on stage or on television.

GONZO: Yeah.  Like your character, Balki, on Perfect Strangers.  I love him.  Heís funny, innocent, excited and sometimes a little weird.

BRONSON: There you go.  Youíve started doing the actorís job.

GONZO: I have?

BRONSON: Sure.  Before actors can play a part, they have to think about what their character is like.

GONZO: You mean, funny, innocent, excited, and stuff like that?

BRONSON: Exactly.  In fact, thatís the way the creators of Perfect Strangers described the Balki character to me.  And that was before we ever did the first show, or even had a name for the character.

GONZO: Gosh!  So then you created the character?

BRONSON: Uh, not quite.  I had to think about Balki some more.  I thought and thought.  Then, one day, I was sitting down and I became fascinated by my shoes.  They were just regular shoes, but I started to think about how some people donít have shoes, and what a great invention shoes are, and how lucky I was to have this pair of shoes.  You know what?  That was the very first time I knew how Balki would look and everything and everyone in the world around him.

GONZO: Wow!  What a story!  Remember, you heard it here first, folks!  Then you were ready to play Balki?

BRONSON: Almost.  I thought about how Balki is so kind.  I remembered all the kind, wonderful people in my life.  You might say that I collected pieces of purity from everyone Ė like my brothers and sister when we were all kids.  Then, using those memories and my imagination, I was able to create the character.

GONZO: Gee, but your voice doesnít sound like Balkiís.  How did you come up with his accent?  Itís . . . weird.

BRONSON: Uh, thank you, Gonzo.  The accent is only one part of the character, but it is important.  I adapted Balkiís accent from the accent of someone I had worked with.  Itís how I imagine a shepherd from the island of Mypos would sound.

GONZO: Do you ever have trouble turning into Balki when youíve been away from the show for a while?

BRONSON: Not really.  Thanks to Mark Linn-Baker, who plays Cousin Larry.  Iím able to get right into character once we get on the set.  Mark gives me a look that seems to ask "Do you understand?"  And I immediately start to think like Balki, who really only understands love.

Bronson: "To play the part of a swashbuckling pirate, you must feel like a pirate and you must talk like a pirate! . . .  ĎAarrggh! Shiver me timbers!í"
Gonzo: "Why?  Are they cold?"
Bronson: "Yeah.  Maybe I ought to buckle my swash."

GONZO: Before we try on these costumes and practice our acting, could you tell me how Balki got his name?

BRONSON: Sure.  You see, when I was younger, my sister Jennifer was always making up silly nonsense words . . .

GONZO: A very important talent!

BRONSON: You bet.  Well, when our family was about to get a dog, she said "Letís call it Balki . . . Thatís short for balcony."  I always remembered that, and so we decided to use it as the name for my character.

GONZO: Golly, Bronson, there sure is a lot of you in Balki.  Are you two exactly alike?

BRONSON: Not exactly.  After all, heís a shepherd from a Mediterranean island and Iím an actor who grew up in California.  But, with any actor, thereís always a little piece of you in any part that you play.

GONZO: Great!  That means I may pass this audition and get the biggest part of my entire career!

BRONSON: I hope so, Gonzo.  Tell me, whatís the part?

GONZO: Itís a great challenge: the title role of The Great Gonzo in The Great Gonzo Story, a new musical-comedy-drama-adventure-thriller written by me Ė the Great Gonzo!  Do you think Iíll get the part?

BRONSON: Donít be ridiculous!

GONZO: But, gosh, I am ridiculous!

BRONSON: Then I know youíll get the part, Gonzo!

GONZO: Thanks, Bronson!  What an actor!  What a pal!

Bronson: "To play the part of The Great Gonzo, all you have to do is be yourself."
Gonzo: "Thatís weird."
Bronson: "See, youíre perfect for the part.  Strange, but perfect."
Gonzo: "Yeah, Iím kind of a perfect stranger, too!"