Ricky Gervais' Muppet Connection

The often-inappropriate British comedian would make an appropriate movie co-star for Kermit and Co.

If you harbor doubts that Ricky Gervais would prove anything less than a great human co-star in the latest Muppet movie, just ask Elmo.

Three years ago this week, the caustic British comic and the lovable American monster produced an instant "Sesame Street" classic in which Gervais’ "Celebrity Lullaby" – sung to an insomnia-plagued Elmo – morphs into a fur-raising heavy metal ode to the letter “N.” Elmo, meanwhile, gets some revenge by not-so-innocently suggesting Gervais isn’t a major star (“Is Mr. Ricky Gervais a celebrity?”).

Gervais now is apparently a big enough name to be sought for the latest installment of the Muppets' triumphant big-screen comeback, according to The Hollywood Reporter. He would be wise to take the correct turn at Fozzie Bear's proverbial giant fork in the road and make a Muppet connection.

Sure, Gervais probably isn't the first actor who comes up when casting children’s films – but the Muppets were never only about the kids. Gervais and Jim Henson’s franchise share an irreverent sense of humor that mixes the silly and the smart, playing on different levels to different viewers.

If he takes on the role, Gervais would be following in a long line of top comedians who made a Muppet match – Steve Martin, Richard Pryor and Bob Hope led a parade of comic cameos in 1979’s “The Muppet Movie.” George Burns, Jonathan Winters and Gervais’ fellow Brit John Cleese were among the many funny folks who hosted “The Muppet Show” in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Jason Segel proved a great choice for last year's "The Muppets," with his wide-eyed, overgrown kid mixing well with Kermit and Co. From “The Office” to “Extras” to “Life is Short,” Gervais has honed a pompous persona that alternately clashes and meshes with oddball characters. His favorite comic foil, Karl Pilkington, at times, seems more a Muppet than a man – he’d be at home grumbling beside Statler and Waldorf, or trading strongly held misinformed opinions with Sam the Eagle.
Segel and Gervais, although separated in age by nearly two decades, grew up Muppet babies, like most of today’s top performers. Segel, who isn’t returning for the sequel, showed his affinity for Henson's enduring creations in last year’s film, clearly a labor of love. Gervais displayed his Muppet chemistry in his 2009 appearance with Elmo – along with a musical talent that would serve him well in any song-filled Muppet outing.

The Elmo-Gervais musical meeting has notched some eight million hits on YouTube. Check out the video below as Gervais reportedly negotiates on whether to bring his Muppet act to the movie-going masses:

Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.

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