Weekly Muppeteer Wednesdays: Dave Goelz

Today’s Weekly Muppeteer Wednesday article was written by Tom Stroud.


July 16, 1946

Notable Muppets…
Gonzo the Great, Zoot, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, Boober Fraggle, Uncle Traveling Matt, Beauregard, Digit, Philo, Waldorf (1992-present), Randy Pig, Bill the Bubble Guy, World’s Oldest Fraggle, Large Marvin Fraggle


Dave was born in Burbank, California in 1946. From childhood Dave had an interest in puppetry, and had a fondness for the children’s television show Time for Beany. After high school, Dave attended the Los Angeles Art Center’s College of Design and began to work as an industrial designer, working for companies like American Airlines and Hewlett Packard. When Sesame Street premiered, he was fascinated by the puppet’s craftsmanship, and began to dabble with puppet building.

In 1972, Dave met Frank Oz at a puppetry festival, and visited Sesame Street tapings while on vacation in New York. A few months later Dave met Jim Henson, and was offered a job with Henson Associates as a part-time puppet builder in 1973. The first assignment he was given was to build puppets for a planned Broadway show. However, the show was soon given up on in favor of The Muppets Valentine Show pilot, for which Dave built Muppets and performed his first character, The Guru, Brewster.

When Dave returned to California, he found that his electronics employer had replaced him, so he began to work on his own, creating puppets for industrial builders. In 1974, Henson offered Dave a full time job, building and designing puppets, and occasionally performing characters of his own. Dave returned to New York, and worked on another pilot, The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence, building Nigel, Animal, Floyd Pepper, and Zoot; the latter becoming his first major Muppet character.

Two years later, in 1976, Dave joined the rest of the Henson team in London to work on The Muppet Show. In the show, Dave was promoted to Principal Muppet Performer, playing a starring role as Gonzo the Great. He also performed Zoot, Dr. Bunsen Honeydew, and other background characters. Dave started out very nervous about performing a major character like Gonzo, but after some time he began to evolve as a performer, especially towards the end of the first season, in which Gonzo needed to shout “No!” in amazement. Dave was told to make it bigger, and he replied with a huge, overempathetic “NO!” gaining him his first laugh from crew members.

Towards the end of the first season Dave, feeling stressed out with his hectic schedule of working both in the Muppet Workshop building puppets as well as performing asked Jim Henson if he could come back the next season only as a performer, and was told he could.

As The Muppet Show worked through its five season run, Dave developed into a core performer and became one of the five main performers working on the show–the others being Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Jerry Nelson, and Richard Hunt. As Gonzo, Dave’s character matured from a timid, small, weirdo and became a avant-garde, charismatic, outgoing, weirdo with a thing for chickens.

When Fraggle Rock debuted, Dave was again given one of the main characters, a depressed Fraggle named Boober Fraggle. He has said in interviews that the main characters in Fraggle Rock were made out of their performers’ flaws, and that he was sometimes as suspicious and grumpy as Boober. He was also given other characters, such as Uncle Traveling Matt, Philo, The World’s Oldest Fraggle, and various other one-shot characters.

When The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth came around, Dave played several characters, including Master SkekUng and Fizzgig in The Dark Crystal and Sir Didymus in Labyrinth. Dave continued to play Gonzo and Bunsen Honeydew in various specials and movies, and created occasional new roles in other specials and TV shows, including Rugby Tiger in The Christmas Toy and Digit in The Jim Henson Hour.

After Jim Henson’s unfortunate death and Frank Oz’s heavy focus on directing, Gonzo and Dave gained significance, receiving top billing in The Muppet Christmas Carol, Muppet Treasure Island, and Muppets from Space. Dave has credited The Muppet Christmas Carol as his favorite Muppet project.

Dave continues to work with the Muppets in all of their projects, performing Gonzo, Bunsen, Waldorf, and Beauregard. Dave remains one of only two performers still working with the Muppets from the original Muppet Show team–the other being Steve Whitmire. The two of them have been noted as one of the most hilarious Muppeteer duos, performing notable teams including Gonzo and Rizzo, Bunsen and Beaker, Statler and Waldorf, Kermit and Gonzo, Wembley and Boober, Andy and Randy Pig, and many more.

Dave will be performing in the new Muppet movie and it seems like he’ll be performing with the Muppets until he can’t hold his hand up any more.

The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier

4 thoughts on “Weekly Muppeteer Wednesdays: Dave Goelz

  1. My favorite Muppeteer performinng my favorite Muppet with the Muppets and my favorite Fraggle in Fraggle Rock. If he'd been given a signature character on Sesame Street I'm sure it would have been my favorite too! He's the heart of the classic Muppets and a very nice guy!

  2. Yeah…why doesn't Dave have a regular Sesame Street character? I never figured that out. The guy's a brilliant performer! Hey, maybe that could be the next “?” question on the Muppet Mindset.

  3. Maybe its because of his work on both Muppet and Fraggle Rock projects keeping him so busy or that it was some what a tradition to have only 5 main Muppeteers on a show the Muppet Shows were Jim, Frank, Jerry, Richard, and Dave while Sesame Street's original were Jim, Frank, Jerry, Richard, and Caroll. Also maybe as the years went by they added six to the main as Steve Whitmire on the Muppet Show with Rizzo and Kevin Clash as Elmo on Sesame Street. Boy! I think you're right man. They need to do a question article on this!:)

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