“Money is awesome!” Gonzo said. “The trick is you can’t think of it as a number. You have to think of it as a tool.”
Gonzo didn’t want to interview over the phone or Skype — he insisted that I come to his home for dinner. He and his long-term girlfriend Camilla live in a spacious, clean, and comfortable trailer in the Bide-a-Wee Trailer Park, and as I took notes, the two of them shared the work of putting together spaghetti, salad, and garlic bread. (Gonzo and Camilla are vegan, for obvious reasons.)
I was expecting Gonzo to be one of the less financially-stable Muppets; I knew he lived in a trailer, and his internet presence suggested he made a living doing performance art as Gonzo the Great. The YouTube clips I found were pretty impressive — fire dancing, cannon stunts, etc. — but nothing that suggested he might be making a lot of cash.
He proved me wrong.
“Sure,” he said, “online I’m Gonzo the Great, and that’s who I am on Tumblr and Twitter too, and I do shows and Ren Faires and things almost every weekend. But performance art only generates about 20% of my income, and nearly everything I make as Gonzo the Great goes back into the work.”
When Gonzo isn’t performing or managing his large internet fanbase, he sells cars. Camilla is an office administrator at the local college and spends her free time both assisting Gonzo’s performances and working as an animal rights activist.
“I think it’s fantastic,” Gonzo said. “Camilla and I agreed that we were going to find work that allowed us to pursue our dreams. If we’d just tried for the dreams, we wouldn’t have the money that we needed to pursue them.”
I asked if he and Camilla had any debt or student loans. Everything’s paid off: both his and Camilla’s educations, her used car and his used motorcycle, the trailer itself, even the cannon resting on blocks in the backyard. They live simple lives so that they can afford to be extravagant in the ways that appeal to them.
“It helps that we’re DINKs,” Gonzo said. “But we’ve always made it our goal to use money in a way that benefits our lives, so we’re really careful about how we spend it and what we choose to spend it on.”
“Yeah, you’re right,” Gonzo said. “We’re also very lucky. Right now we have good jobs and savings, and we’re still young and in good health, but someday that’ll probably change. And then we’ll have to regroup and figure out what to do next.”
He handed me a plate of spaghetti.
“But for now,” Gonzo said, “we’re glad that we can use money to pursue our interests, prepare for the future, and host friends like you at our table.”
Previously on How Muppets Do Money: Scooter and Skeeter