Everyone's Favorite Frog

It's not easy being green--or is it? Kermit the Frog is now pushing 50, from the day Jim Henson created him out of fabric from his mother's coat. Everyone's favorite frog made his debut on "The Tonight Show" in 1958, co-hosted "The Mike Douglas Show" in 1966 and saw the premiere of "The Muppet Show" in 1976. The star of six feature-length movies, with a voice that doesn't croak, Kermit spoke with NEWSWEEK's Ramin Setoodeh. Excerpts:

NEWSWEEK: What are you up to these days, Kermie?

Kermit the Frog: I am just living my life as a frog. At the moment I'm at home at the swamp, where I like to spend my spare time. I always go back to my roots when I'm not working. It keeps me centered.

Does the smell prevent visitors?

Well, it's not so much the smell. It's the mud and the mosquitoes. There's not a lot of traffic through here.

Do you get mosquito bites?

No. For me, it's a food source. They have to worry about the biting part.

The first season of "The Muppet Show" is coming out on DVD. I remember watching it as a kid. Are there any episodes that stand out in your mind as memorable?

You know, we did five years of the show. I look back really fondly to those days. It wasn't easy getting a show going back then as a frog. We depended on our friends that first season--people like Juliet Prowse and Joel Grey. Ethel Merman may have been the first singer in history who could reach the whole audience live. She had this voice that could blast through different countries.

Did anyone need earplugs?

I didn't. It's questionable as to whether or not I have ears. We actually shot that show in England. After the first season, we were this new thing--and everyone thought we started in England because we were such a big hit over there.

Was it hard living on the other side of the pond?

It's one of the biggest ponds I've ever lived on the other side of. During that time, I got to meet the queen. It was an honor for me. After all the years in show business, I got to meet someone who could turn a frog into a prince.

Did she give you a kiss?

She did, as a matter of fact. Nothing happened. I think she turned and kind of spat--that's what queens do. They don't spit, they spat.

You did "Sesame Street" as well. Is Big Bird a big diva?

Big Bird is terrific. It's an odd thing, he's being doing "Sesame Street" for 37 years but he's only 6 years old.

I hope you don't think this is too personal, Kermit, but are you still dating Miss Piggy?

The official answer is yes. I can give you a scoop. Should I tell you this? You could put this in the press--I could get hurt really badly. I get around when I'm in Hollywood.

Do you only date pigs?

I've only ever dated one pig. And that is Miss Piggy. But I think a lot of men can empathize with that. Probably women, too.

What was the last movie that you saw?

The latest "Star Wars." Yoda and I go way back. We both auditioned for that role at the time it happened. I don't know why they chose him exactly; we're exactly the same size.

You're not green with envy?

I'm always green, with various emotions. Envy could be one of them. But I guess I wasn't wrinkled enough. Of course, that's a good thing.

How often do you see the old gang?

We're together pretty often these days. We did this "Muppets' Wizard of Oz" film last year, which was great fun. People stay consistent through the years and they grow and change--it's like a high-school reunion every time we get together.

Who had a better voice--Ashanti or Miss Piggy?

Well, I'm going to go out on a limb and say Ashanti. But you know that's a tough call in my case. For most people it would be an easy call--tough for me.

Other movies in the future?

We certainly will be. We also just finished doing a Christmas album, with a lot of normal carols and some originals. I did "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." We're always talking about doing new stuff on TV. There are reality shows now. I think what we're best at is surreality--we're more surreal.

Is there ever fighting on the set?

Sometimes. There's a particular person who I work with often who sometimes causes problems.

Would that be Animal?

I won't give you her name. It's a she. But her initials are Miss Piggy. She can be difficult. But she's an artiste, or at least that's what she says. I see there's no problem with my arguing with that. It was a tough schedule working on "The Muppet Show." We'd spend hours and hours--trying to get Piggy out of her dressing room.

Is your dressing room bigger today than when you started?

Well, actually, I don't have a dressing room. We can only afford one dressing room, and I think you know who gets that.

So where do you change?

Well, it's pretty easy for me, because I normally appear naked.