When Nick Stoller and Jason Segel set out to make The Muppet Movie, they ran across a few bumps in the road. One of those bumps was a debate about whether a pair of shoes could be called “fart shoes” or “whoopee shoes.”
But it wasn’t really about the shoes at all. Just like debates about recapping the toothpaste or which direction the paper towels should unroll, the shoes weren’t the real issue. They just – ahem – stood in for the real issue and sidetracked the meaningful conversation into something that’s fodder for good stand-up.
In a recent interview with NPR’s Terry Gross, Stoller and Segel discussed others’ concerns about what they might do to the Muppets’ beloved reputation:
Jason Segel: That’s what they were nervous about…that these R-rated guys were going to come in and try to reinvent the Muppets or something. There is no reinvention going on here; if anything, we’re trying to hearken back to the Muppets that we love and get things back on course.
Nick Stoller: I’m not going to lie, we had endless hours of discussion about the fart shoes joke…
Jason Segel: That joke came down to such an issue of semantics, of them saying, “Well it’s fine if he calls them whoopee shoes, but Fozzie would never say fart shoes. I mean, it got down to this weird issue of semantics where it seemed like maybe there was more going on than just them being upset about this joke. [Laughter]
Terri Gross: I wish I had a transcript of that conversation.
Jason Segel: Yeah, at some point Nick and I looked at each other and thinking, this is a disagreement about something different.
Terri Gross: What do you think it was really about?
Jason Segel: I just think they were nervous a little bit about new blood coming in and justifiably so…
Next time you find yourself in a debate over something trivial, remember Fozzie and the fart shoes. Pause, take a breath, and consider the real issue you’re working way too hard to avoid.
By the way, if you didn’t get a chance to hear the interview on NPR, it’s worth the listen. Stoller and Segel are completely delightful and it’s clear the Muppets are as beloved to them as they are to many of us. Have you seen the movie yet? What did you think?