November 16, 2011 / 2:54 PM / 7 years ago

A Minute With: Jason Segel on Muppets and puppets

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Actor Jason Segel is best known for starring on the hit TV show “How I Met Your Mother,” and for comedies like “Bad Teacher” and “Forgetting Sarah Marshall.”

Now Segel, 31, stars in a big screen adaptation of “The Muppets,” a family musical that debuts in theaters on November 23 in time for the U.S. Thanksgiving Day holiday.

The actor also co-wrote and is executive producer on the film, which follows a couple, Gary and Mary (Segel and Amy Adams, respectively), on a visit to Los Angeles with Gary’s brother who happens to be a Muppet fan. When they discover an oilman plans to raze the Muppet Theater to drill a well, they convince the Muppets to reunite to save the theater.

Segel spoke to Reuters about the film, his love of puppets and his desire to channel his inner creep.

Q: Your filmography of raunchy comedies doesn’t exactly scream family friendly films. What gives?

A: “‘The Muppets’ movie is right in my wheelhouse. It was nice to do something that was really pure and sweet and innocent. It’s sort of a trade off. You can’t do the raunchy jokes, but you get to do these totally Muppety jokes that you don’t do in regular films. It was a fair trade off for me.”

Q: What is about Muppets that appeals to you?

A: “I think what separates the Muppets (from other comedies) is that they never get laughs at other people’s expense. Their jokes are kind and honest and pure. Even as an adult when you turn on the Muppets, you’re reminded of the best version of yourself, that sense of wide-eyed wonder that the world beats out of you.”

Q: Did you have a favorite Muppet?

A: “Kermit. I remember watching Kermit and thinking, that’s who I want to be when I grow up. He’s Tom Hanks, or Jimmy Stewart. He’s the moral compass of the Muppets and he’s the every man, the glue that holds it all together.”

Q: And are you?

A: “I strive for it when I do my movies. I try to come across as the every man, but no one does it like Kermit.”

Q: But Kermit didn’t flash his genitalia like you did in ‘Forgetting Sarah Marshall!”

A: “Have you ever seen Kermit wearing pants? Kermit did full frontal way before I did!”

Q: Speaking of “Sarah Marshall,” your character in the film put on a puppet show and you yourself have been into puppetry for years. Where does that come from?

A: “I came of age during the Apple digital revolution, when they introduced Final Cut Pro and when digital cameras became accessible. All of a sudden you could make short films without needing an editing suite or renting equipment. I would write and make these short films but I had no one to participate with me. So I went to the toy store and I bought a bunch of puppets and did my short films with them.”

Q: That hobby must be either very cool or very creepy when it comes to getting the ladies.

A: “Well I’m still single! There’s some satisfaction that I’ve done ‘The Muppets’ because now this is my job, so there’s some context to it. But there was a period where I was just the weird dude with puppets in his house.”

Q: You first worked with the Henson company when they created the puppets for “Sarah Marshall.” At what point did you feel brazen enough to pitch them a Muppet movie?

A: “I was born without a sense of shame! (Laughs) What really hit me was that the last Muppet movie was 12 years ago. Kids ages zero to 12 have grown up without a Muppet movie in their lives and that seemed wrong to me. They were such an influence on who I am and who I became that I just put my head down and said, ‘I’m gonna make a new Muppet movie.’ I would not take no for an answer.”

Q: You’re on a hit sitcom, you do R-rated comedies and now family films. What else do you want to play?

A: “I really want to play a villain. I keep walking the line between charming, accessible and creepy and I always fall on the charming and accessible side. For once, I’d like to fall on the creepy side.”

Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Patricia Reaney

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