The Muppets' Pepé the King Prawn on Fun in the Writer's Room and Why Miss Piggy Is Scarier Than Red Lobster
Like the title of his 2008 self-help book, it can be hard out here for a shrimp. But Pepé the King Prawn is living large these days as one of the writers for Up Late With Miss Piggy, the nighttime talk show at the center of the ABC comedy The Muppets. With a little (garlic and) buttering up, we baited the frisky shellfish into an exclusive chat about about camera hogs, celebrity crushes, the terror of endless buffets and how he is changing the face of diversity on TV.
How has it been working for Miss Piggy? She's not all bad, right?
Miss Piggy is very easy to work with as long as you avoid her. That’s easy for me. I am a writer on her show “Up Late with Miss Piggy”, and in Hollywood nobody ever pays attention to the writers, okay. The one who has the tough job is our executive producer, Kermit. ¡Dios mío! He stopped dating her and just when he thought he was out, he gets sucked back in!
What is it like in the writers' room on Up Late?
We have a lot of fun in the writers room, especially when we are playing Texas Hold ‘Em or my personal favorite, TIGWAR—The Incredible Game Without Any Rules; I always win. When we are actually writing? This is not as much fun, but we do our best. Gonzo is the head writer, which means he has to actually meet with Piggy. But hey, he was a daredevil, so for him being head writer is the same thing. And Rizzo and I are the writing team. We spend all day coming up with ideas for sketches, monologues, location shoots…and finding ways to avoid actually writing them.
Who is the most likely to cause a problem?
We split that three ways. [Laughs]
You have gotten to work with some big names. Do you have a celebrity crush?
Oh yes, we have the biggest names. Reese Witherspoon, Elizabeth Banks, Christina Applegate…and some guys, too. But it is the womens I like the most. I love to write for them. I write, “Oh, Reese, you are so beautiful, come away with me.” And, “Elizabeth, how about you and me go away for the weekend. Or, “Christina, please, I am not that kind of prawn!” And sometimes I even write them things that have to do with the show, but mostly I go all out to date them. When it comes to celebrities, I don’t “crush,” I “woo.”
What scares you more, pitching jokes to Miss Piggy, Deadliest Catch, or Red Lobster's Endless Shrimp menu?
Pitching jokes to Miss Piggy is the most dangerous. The pig packs a wallop and she is not afraid to use it, okay. As for “Deadliest Catch,” I love that show. It has given work to so many of my relatives. Oh sure, it’s a one-time appearance, but at least you get residuals. And it’s a whole lot better than getting hypothermia on a bed of ice chips at Red Lobster.
What show is always on your DVR?
Fresh Off the Boat needs more crustaceans, but is very, very funny. And it comes right after the ABC show that’s all about us—The Muppets, Tuesdays at 8 pm on ABC! See how I promote two shows in a single answer? This is why the network loves me.
Tell us one embarrassing thing about one of your coworkers.
Sometimes when Miss Piggy is trying to find Kermit, he turns off all the lights in his office and pretends to be a statue. Wait, on second thought, this is not embarrassing…this is very, very smart. No wonder he is the EP. [Laughs]
In your book It's Hard Out Here for a Shrimp, you write about living "La Vida Pepé." What does that mean?
First of all, thank you for mentioning my book. It’s very funny. Buy it. Now, what is “La Vida Pepé”? Well, my philosophy of life all comes down to one simple phrase: “Life Is a Party…Don’t Be the Piñata.” Living La Vida Pepé is about enjoying every day as much as you can. Celebrate with the womens, the foods, the moneys and the good times! But whatever you do, don’t let life poke you with a sharp stick or all the candy pours out and the party is over.
As a Latino AND a king prawn, how do you feel TV has done with diversity?
TV is doing better on the diversity, but let me be honest here, what I really care about is me. We need more shows with me in it. Oh sure, I write on Up Late with Miss Piggy and I am a star on The Muppets, but this is not enough, okay? I still think television needs more shows about King Prawns like me. You know shows like Game of Prawns and Keeping Up with the Crustaceans. You are TV Insider, do something about this now, okay? I have to go now so Rizzo and Gonzo don’t get to craft services before I do.
The Muppets, Tuesdays, 8/7c, ABC