Fearless Zero

As we near our August 29 launch of ZERO HOUR, we’ll start to give blog readers a glimpse at the man behind the title: Zero Mostel.

Becky has already posted this on twitter, but for our readers here, enjoy Zero’s appearance on THE MUPPET SHOW (December 13, 1977/Episode 26):

Looking back on the episode, Brian Henson wrote: “One of the funniest pieces in this episode is a classic monologue he performs (written by Jerry Juhl) called The Fears of Zero in which Zero’s greatest anxieties appear to him as Muppet Monsters who gang up on him and eventually do away with him. In the poem, Zero lists the various things that he is afraid of, including baldness, missing a train, spiders, insects and the dread fear that, someday, he will grow fat! The fears take the forms of various monsters that crawl all over Zero, but he is able to quickly ‘dispel’ them by counting them and wishing them away. At the end of the sketch, Zero reveals that his greatest fear has yet to come. Timmy Monster walks onto the scene and Zero warns the audience that his most terrible fear is that the monster will count and dispel him! Sure enough, Zero fades away, leaving Timmy to ponder what has happened.”

It’s a fantastic peek at Mostel’s sense of humor and playfullness, aspects that can at times be over-shadowed by the stories of his fiery temper and competitiveness.

Along those same lines, check out the stills from a photo-book published in 1963–by the photographer Robert Frank here; and these shots from a 1962 issue of Theatre Arts Magazine (photos by Max Waldman)that featured Mostel right before he was to open A FUNNY THING HAPPENED ON THE WAY TO THE FORUM. Both spreads give us a sense of the remarkable elasticity of Mostel’s face, matched only by the size of his opinions. As they say, a picture’s worth a thousand of them…