Dave Goelz

The legendary Dave Goelz himself.

Dave Goelz (b. July 16th, 1946) has been 1 of the lead Muppeteers for more than 35 years, performing famous characters, such as the legendary Gonzo the Great, as well as Zoot, Beauregard & Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, on The Muppet Show, Boober Fraggle & Uncle Traveling Matt (the uncle of Jerry Nelsons Gobo Fraggle) on Fraggle Rock & Rugby Tiger in The Christmas Toy. However, he is also 1 of the few very major performers to have no prior experience as either an actor or puppeteer. Goelz also succeeded the role of Waldorf following JIM HENSONs very tragic, sudden death. He also provided the voice for Huxleys Humongous Chicken in The Adventures of Elmo in GROUCHland.

Goelzs Early yearsEdit

Zoot & Dave Goelz

Goelz & Zoot, his very 1st major character, a character that Goelz also built personally.

Born as David Charles Goelz in Burbank, California, Goelz had an interest in puppetry as a child, including an affinity for the childrens TV show Time for Beany, but after high school, attended the Los Angeles Art Center College of Design & began work as an industrial designer. The mechanically-minded Goelz worked for such companies as John Deere, American Airlines, & Hewlett Packard. However, when SESAME STREET premiered, he was fascinated by the craftsmanship, as he recalled in a Muppet Central interview: "I had been a Muppet fan for many years, but now I started getting fascinated with the design process that went into what I was seeing on the screen. Who were these people who created the puppets, costumes & performances that were so evocative? I got very curious."

While working full-time for an electronics firm, Dave Goelz had also began dabbling with building Muppets for Jim Henson.

As Goelz later told Disney twenty-three; "I got interested in the Muppets from a very holistic standpoint. I was fascinated with the consistency of characters as it was expressed in the words they said-the physical movements, what they wore...everything...Take Ernie & Bert. Ernie is relaxed, wears horizontal stripes, is low contrast, has dark orange skin, soothing oval eyes, & he looks up toward the sky. Hes at rest & peaceful. Bert, on the other hand, is harsh. He has a monobrow that cuts across his absolutely circular eyes, has high-contrast hair & skin , wears vertical stripes, & hes NOT at rest. So as a designer, I looked at this & thought, wow, the people who perform the Muppets are on the same page as the people who do the costumes & built them. That still fascinates me. Its so cohesive, & its all about character.[1]

Building MuppetsEdit

Dave Goelz builds puppets

Dave Goelz at work building a puppet for the special Emmet Otters Jug-Band Christmas.

In 1972, Goelz met FRANK OZ at a puppetry festival, & during a vacation in New York City, he also attended the daily SESAME STREET tapings. A few months later, Goelz showed his design portfolio to Jim HENSON, & in 1973, he was offered a job w/ HENSON Associates as a part-time puppet builder. His 1st assignment was to build puppets & design effects for a proposed Broadway show. However, the show was soon abandoned in favor of an ABC pilot, The Muppets Valentine Show, for which Goelz also built many characters & he got his very 1st crack at performing, playing Brewster, who he also designed personally.

UNfortunately, following Goelzs return to California, he learned his electronics employer had, for some reason replaced him, so he set shop up creating puppets for industrial videos. He performed Ray the Raychem Seal in 1 such video. 8 months later, in the fall of 1974, HENSON offered him a full-time position as a builder/designer, & occasional performer in specials,while still letting him keep his industrial clients on the side. Returning to New York City, Goelz began work on The Muppet Show: Sex & Violence, for which he built the new host character, Nigel. Working from sketches by JIM HENSON, Michael K. Frith & Bonnie Erickson, he also personally built Floyd Pepper, Animal & Zoot, the latter becoming his very 1st major character.

The birth of Gonzo the GreatEdit

Dave Goelz Gonzo the Great

Dave & his most famous, popular character of all time, Gonzo the Great.

Dave performin Gonzo the Great

Dave & his most famous, popular character of all time, Gonzo the Great.

Dave Goelz Gonzo the Great

Dave & Gonzo the Great.

Peter Sellers Dave Goelz Gonzo the Great

Dave with Gonzo the Great both pose with Peter Sellers.

Gonzo the Great with Dave Goelz

Dave with Gonzo the Great

In 1976, Dave Goelz had now officially joined the rest of the Henson team & flew to London to begin work on The Muppet Show. In addition to reprising his role of Zoot & Dave also got to play a couple other quite minor background roles, as in the earlier specials, Goelz was promoted to "Principal Muppet Performer" with the starring role of Gonzo the Great. The puppet had debuted in The Great Santa Claus Switch, as Snarl, & had made brief appearances in Muppet Meeting Films & Herb Alpert & the Tijuana Brass, with different performers. The sad-eyed creation was now given a permanent name & puppeteer. However , in addition to playing Gonzo, Dave Goelz was still completely employed in the Muppet Workshop.

Goelz recalled the hectic schedule of working full - time behind the scenes & in front of the cameras in a 2004 Film Threat interview :

"So my typical day involved running back & forth between making puppets & performing. & I of course didnt know anything about performing. At all. I guess I had an aptitude for it, but it was something I hadn't had any training for. So I was learning on the job, & I found the whole thing very stressful. At the end of the 1st season, I said, "Jim, look, is there any chance I could come back next year & just be a performer, & not work in the workshop?" & he said "yes". So Goelz sort of blended into the performing world that year."

Gonzo the Great, that 1st season, like many of the new Muppet Show creations, was a work in progress, & especially for Goelz, playing his 1st starring character & major speaking role. When he was assigned the character, he panicked: "I have no voice!"

He thought of a voice the morning before the 1st taping performance. As recalled later, Goelz thought that he had the worst voice out of all the Muppet performers[2], & was scared the 1st time he had to sing.[3]

The earliest version of Gonzo the Great, with a permanently sad expression, inspired a similarly depressed portrayal from the novice puppeteer:

"The downcast eyes made him easy to play, because that was exactly how I felt. I was an impostor in show business. I was learning how to perform & to puppeteer on the job."[4]

In that 1st season, Gonzo was a misfit & out of place, which, according to Goelz, was how he saw himself as a performer:

"When I came to "The Muppet Show", I found myself suddenly with a different & enormous star every week, & I had absolutely no credentials. I felt so out of place. So that came into the character, & for the 1st season, he was very self-effacing & he felt like a misfit.[5]"

Looking at the character in retrospect at MuppetFest, he recalled that "over the years, he sort of evolved along with me... I was an impostor in show business. In season 1, Gonzo is always self-effacing & embarrassed. But he knows he has something special." Adding to GOELZs insecurity was the jaded veteran crew members of ATV Studios, who had worked with the likes of Julie Andrews & Bing Crosby, & were thus hard to impress.

Finally, towards the end of season 1, Gonzo had a scene where he had to shout, in amazement, "NO!" JIM HENSON told him to go bigger, so GOELZ obliged with an overempathetic "NO!! " This earned his 1st laugh from the crew members. Goelz had once said:

"I got another laugh the 2nd season. It was unstoppable now!! & I thought, I could make a character of this. Then when I got that 1st laugh...I felt limited because he couldnt look excited. His droopy eyelids always made him look pathetic. So after that 1st season I asked Jim if I could build a Gonzo with an eye mechanism. He said "sure", so I went back to New York & did that. Now he could convey his excitement & enthusiasm for his silly acts, & it was much more entertaining. Along with this I was becoming more comfortable with performing. So it started to work better. I think he grew because I was growing, & I was capable of doing more."

As Goelz increased in confidence , & Gonzo transitioned from a nervous depressed failure to a manic, confident stuntman, other facets of the character fell into place. Season 2 introduced his romantic fascination with poultry, most especially Camilla the Chicken, a character who was eventually performed by Muppeteer veteran Jerry Nelson. As the performer reminisced in Of Muppets & Men: "There was a moment during the 2nd season when I had Gonzo ad-lib a line that was, I think, important for my understanding of his character. Hed been auditioning chickens for the show -- dancing chickens --& they were all terrible. At the end of the scene I had him turn to the camera & say, 'Nice legs, though.' Something jelled right there. It told me something about him."

Muppet Show charactersEdit

In addition to the starring role of Gonzo the Great, during season 1 of The Muppet Show, Goelz also had the slightly less-challenging but still time-consuming supporting roles of Zoot & another new creation, brilliant but still not very bright scientist Dr. Bunsen Honeydew. Goelz had once said:

"Its easy for me to do Bunsen, cause Ive known dozens of Bunsens. Actually Idont think hesvery funny except as a foil for Beaker, who is 1 of my favorite characters. Zoot is a big puzzle for me. People write to me & say they know People exactly like Zoot. Well, I'd like to meet 1 of them, because Ive never met anyone like that. I found that when the writers gave Zoot lines to speak, I would always try to give them away to other characters, because I didnt know what to do with him. Maybe that helped to define the character. Perhaps its best that hes so non-verbal."

In later seasons, a new Goelz character was added, the well-meaning but still extremely slow-witted janitor, Beauregard:

"Bo is very similar to a character I performed in Emmet Otters Jug-band Christmas. His name was Wendell Porcupine & I had a lot of fun with him. Bo was sort of modeled after him. Hes big & strong & clumsy--I love him--but hes passive, weve never found a hook for him. "[6]

Work on Fraggle RockEdit

Dave Goelz Steve Whitmire Large Marvin Fraggle on Fraggle Rock set

Goelz performs Large Marvin on the Fraggle Rock set with Steve Whitmire.

Dave Goelz Boober Fraggle

Dave Goelz w/ his character on Fraggle Rock, Boober Fraggle.

With the debut of Fraggle Rock, Goelz was cast as 1 of the 5 leads, the depressed, pessimistic Boober Fraggle. Boober stemmed from something Goelz had said while working on The Muppet Show, that he was so busy on the show that the only things he had time to worry about were death & laundry (The Muppet Show Season 1). At Muppetfest, Goelz related the process of character creation for the show:

"They looked at the performers, & picked out performers flaws, & made character out of them. They denied it...So thats how I ended up with Boober, the suspicious, paranoid character ." In the Fraggle Rock: "Complete 1st Season" interviews, Goelz also mentioned that "I was cast with Boober, who was sort of grumpy & inflexible, just like I could be a lot of the time."

Demonstrating his versatility, he also played Gobo Fraggles pompous Uncle Traveling Matt, the rat-like Philo, & the cantankerous The World's Oldest Fraggle, as well as a variety of guest characters & memorable incidentals, such as the obese Large Marvin Fraggle. In the Fraggle Rock: Complete 2nd Season interviews, Goelz talked about how he developed Traveling Matts character, from the starting point as Matt being simply a misinterpreting chronicler of human life, to determining that Matt was also inherently clumsy & inept, which led to Matt covering up his blunders in his postcards & developing a comedic air of ostentation.

Muppet Movies/much much moreEdit

Dave Goelz with a frantic podling on the set of The Dark Crystal

Dave Goelz works on The Dark Crystal.

Dave Goelz Waldo C. Graphic

Dave & Waldo C. Graphic.

Goelz continued to reprise his roles as Gonzo the Great, Zoot, Bunsen & Beauregard in feature films, slowly adding more aspects to "the weirdo", & also worked on HENSONs forays into "realistic" fantasy, The Dark Crystal (performing the Garthim Master SkekUng & the dog-like Fizzgig), & Labyrinth (playing a variety of roles, notably Sir Didymus). "I loved the atmosphere on Dark Crystal. That turned out to be a very stimulating project, because it was pretty much unprecedented. On the very 1st day we filmed , the Skeksis had to file past the deathbed of the Skeksis emperor, performed by JIM. The Skeksis all had ulterior motives as they walked by the bed to pay their respects. In our very 1st shot, I was inside the Garthim Master Skeksis with another puppeteer doing the right hand. I was totally blind except for a little monitor on my chest, & I just stepped off the platform & we started to fall. Fortunately, somebody was there & caught us & pushed us back up."[7]

As the '80s progressed, in addition to switching between the manic Gonzo the Great & the phlegmatic Boober (a variety which Goelz recalled as "stimulating"), Goelz played occasional new roles in specials, notably Rugby Tiger in The Christmas Toy: "I had such a good time. Hes just a naive, self-centered & self-satisfied, little tigercub, & he was just so much fun. He was just completely UNaware of the feelings of others. The crew loved him. It doesntshow up much on the show, but it was just a fun thing to do with the crew."[8]

Another new character was Digit in The JIM HENSON Hour.

1990s - presentEdit

Gonzo & Dave Goelz workin on the set of The Muppet Christmas Carol

Gonzo the Great & Goelz workin on the set of The Muppet Christmas Carol.

Dave Goelz Gonzo bts A Muppets Christmas Letters to Santa

Goelz & Gonzo the Great entertain a young Muppet fan during the filming of A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa.

Soon after JIM HENSONs very tragic, sudden death in 1990, & with FRANK OZ continuing to focus heavily on directing, Gonzo the Great the character & GOELZ the performer gained increased significance starting with the 1st new feature, The Muppet Christmas Carol. By performing Gonzo the Great as Charles Dickens as the movies narrator, Goelz (accompanied by Steve Whitmire as Rizzo the Rat, a pairing which would be repeated in subsequent productions) largely dominated the Muppet side of the film, & received top billing as "Muppet Performer" (a distinction which would continue through Muppet Treasure Island & Muppets from Space) "...when we did The Muppet Christmas Carol, Gonzo developed a soulful side. He played the part of Dickens, & I just loved doing that. It just paralleled my own growth. Jerry Juhl wrote it as a way of getting Dickensian prose into the movie. But the fact that he chose Gonzo was very satisfying to me. & I think it was because he saw me changing & I think he felt that Gonzo could change too" (Film Threat). Goelz also took over the part of Waldorf following Jim HENSON's death to JERRY NELSONs Statler, whom NELSON had recently taken over from his very dear friend RICHARD HUNT who had passed away in 1992.

Apart from a brief stint operating the face of Earl Sinclair & performing hand-puppet guest characters on Dinosaurs, & reprising Rugby Tiger in The Secret Life of Toys, Goelz most notable new TV character was Stinky the Skunk in The Animal Show. Otherwise, the Muppeteer remained mostly occupied with Gonzo the Great in movies, videos, & the 1996 series Muppets Tonight, the latter introducing a few new but minor characters such as Randy Pig & Bill the Bubble Guy. Goelz also performed a handful of minor SESAME STREET characters, & appeared in The Adventures of Elmo in GROUCHland as Humongous Chicken. His most recent credits include Extreme Makeover:Home Edition & the Muppet viral videos.


Dave & Steve perform Statler & Waldorf

Steve & Dave perform Statler & Waldorf.

Muppeteer CreditsEdit

Dave Goelz Gonzo episode 305

Dave & Gonzo the Great.

Dave Goelz posing with the new Gonzo the Great

Dave & Gonzo the Great.

Goelz & Whitmire

Dave & Steve Whitmire.

Dave Goelz headshot picture

Dave Goelz poses for a headshot.

The Muppets Take the Bowl : Gonzo the Great (1976 - present), Zoot (1975 - present), Dr. Bunsen Honeydew (1976 - present), Beauregard (1978 - present), Waldorf (1992 - present)




  • "The public interest always surprises me. I come to work in these rooms with windows. At night I go home. I just live my life. I guess I just dont think much about whether people are going to watch. Most of my friends don't know much about what I do, & we dont talk about it. I have a different life away from work. Which is fine, because my work can get pretty intense."
- DAVE GOELZ, Interview with Ken Plume, January 2000
  • "Jim led by example. He was so gentle & kind. & he sought everybody out, to the degree that pretty soon the whole studio was a big team."
- DAVE GOELZ, MuppetFest, December 2001
  • "I have a theory on how I develop characters. I try to look for a character flaw within myself, & then I find a way to amplify it & make it lovable. That process ends up creating foolish characters who are flawed, but you still root for them. The process is therapeutic because you start to love your own flaws & recognize the flaws of others as endearing."
- Dave GOELZ, Disney twenty-three, Winter 2011 issue, page 52


  1. Disney twenty-three, Winter 2011 issue, page 50
  2. Muppet Morsels -- episode 111: Lena Horne
  3. Muppet Morsels -- episode 116: Avery Schreiber
  4. Goelz, Dave. MuppetFest, "Creating the Classic Muppets Panel." 2001.
  5. Film Threat
  6. Finch, Christopher. Of Muppets & Men. Alfred A. Knopf, 1981. p. 40 (Beauregard quote), 85 (Zoot & Bunsen)
  7. Interview with Ken Plume
  8. Film Threat Interview
  9. Camilla the Chickens Casting history

Special extra imagesEdit

See alsoEdit

Previous page: Next page:
Dave Conner DAVID (disambiguation)

Wikipedia has an article related to:
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.