Wednesday 16 December 2009, 08:49
But what do you say to a Muppet?
The makers of Sesame Street offered some guidance. They sent my colleague Julia Ross, who fixed the interview, a document - 'Interviewing Muppets'. It suggested some appropriate questions: 'How do you like living on Sesame Street?', for example, or 'Who is your best friend'.
The same document gently steered us away from some less appropriate lines of questioning: 'Are Bert and Ernie gay?', for example.
We had no intention of asking the Count to speculate about what Bert and Ernie get up to in the privacy of the bedroom they, er, share... No, we were happy to stick to the numbers questions.
But when the time came to record our interview we were hit by a disorientating array of technological problems. Had I read 'Interviewing Muppets' carefully I would have been more prepared for what happened next. 'Muppets', it says, 'always stay in character'.
So that's how I found myself discussing ISDN line settings and 'simul-reccing' not with Jerry Nelson, the venerable occupant of the Count costume, but with the Count himself - who punctuated my lengthy technical briefing (we were fiddling about for at least 40 minutes) with cries of 'Werry good!', 'Yeees' and, of course, 'Ha ha ha ha!'.
Eventually we made the interview work. And, rigorous as ever, we elicited some revealing information. What's the first thing the Count counted? His fingers, his toes, his ears and his nose. His favourite number? 34,969. Are Bert and Ernie gay? I'm just kidding. As if we'd dare...
Richard Knight is Series Editor of More or Less