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Posted at 02:55 PM ET, 11/22/2011

Jason Segel: Star of ‘The Muppets’ and perhaps the most earnest actor in Hollywood


Jason Segel: in his element with Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy in a scene from "The Muppets." (Andrew Macpherson - AP)

Jason Segel isn’t just starring in “The Muppets.” Given his apparent optimistic nature, his fervent belief in seeking “Rainbow Connections” and his overall warm-and-fuzzy nature, Jason Segel might actually be a Muppet.

There’s even a song that addresses that issue (“Are You a Man or a Muppet?”) in the new Muppet movie, which arrives in theaters tonight at midnight. That crucial return-of-Miss-Piggy moment is one that Segel — who also co-wrote the screenplay — will spend right here in Washington, D.C., where he will introduce a 12:01 a.m. screening at a Georgetown multiplex, in the same town where Jim Henson got his start. (He’s also screening “The Muppets” at The White House this afternoon for veterans’ families, as he noted on Twitter earlier today.)

I recently chatted with the “How I Met Your Mother” star and recent host of “Saturday Night Live” about his lifelong love of Muppetry. And I discovered that Jason Segel just might be the most earnest man on Earth. (Exhibit A: He recently told Peter Travers that he “cried pretty hard the first time I met Kermit.” I mean, you guys — awwww.)

Here are five earnest things he said during our interview, plus a special bonus: Segel explaining what he thinks ultimately happened to his “Freaks and Geeks” character, Nick Andopolous. And don’t forget to check back tomorrow for video from Segel’s D.C. Muppets appearance.

1. “He was the glue that held the Muppets together. He’s in the same tradition as Tom Hanks and Jimmy Stewart as the everyman.”

Jason Segel, explaining with total sincerity why he loves Kermit the Frog.

2. “It was a huge honor.”

The words Jason Segel chose to describe what it was like for him to operate the Animal and Dr. Teeth puppets during a scene in “The Muppets.”

3. “I sure think it would be fun. But Billy Crystal has always been my favorite host of all time. No one does it better than he does.”

Segel offering his thoughts on the Muppets’ possible participation in the Academy Awards.

4. “They remind us of the best versions of ourselves. They remind us of who we wanted to be before the realities of this cruel world got hold of us ... I think there is a part of us that wishes we were all a bit more Muppety.”

This, a comment I included in this Style story, might be the greatest thing ever said to me during an interview. I plan to print the sentence, “I think there is a part of us that wishes we were all a bit more Muppety” and paste it on my wall where it can serve as a much better version of one of those inspirational cat posters.

5. “Bye now.”

Who says “Bye now” at the end of a phone conversation? Jason Segel, a man who truly understands the importance of being earnest.

And now, here’s our exchange about Nick Andopolous, drummer extraordinaire and extreme John Bonham mourner from “Freaks and Geeks.”

What do you think happened to Nick after “Freaks and Geeks ended?

Segel: Sadly, I think he went into the Army and moved back to the same small town.

Gave up the drums?

Segel: He gave up the drums and he probably gained 30 or 40 pounds.

What about the Muppet mentality? Where is that sense of optimism?

Segel: The Muppet mentality is that he joined Rush and he and Neil Peart are drumming on the stage every night.

All things are possible!

Segel: All things are possible, although that probably would not have been true to the “Freaks and Geeks” mentality.

So there you have it. Feeling depressed now? Hey, I hear there’s a new Muppet movie that just might lift your spirits.

By  |  02:55 PM ET, 11/22/2011

 
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