Sweeping the Clouds Away

Once again, Mr. Brown Snowflake has provided us with a guest column! With gratitude to him, and for our enjoyment, here it is. It originally ran on the Editorial pages of the Perry Chief on November 6, 2009.

Forty Years of Sunny Days on Sesame Street

One of the greatest gifts ever given to the children of America will be celebrating a birthday Tuesday.

A little experiment that was years in the making originally aired on New York Public Television on Nov. 10, 1969, sprightly singing “Sunny day/Sweepin’ the clouds away/On my way to where the air is sweet/Can you tell me how to get/How to get to Sesame Street?”
For four decades the geniuses at the Children’s Television Workshop (created to maintain artistic, non-commercial control over their productions) have taught untold millions their ABC’s and basic numbers, encouraged multi-ethnic friendships, offered assurance in times of trouble and provided a wholesome, safe haven where every day is a “sunny day.”
The seed that became Sesame Street first took serious root when driving force Joan Cooney first met Lloyd Morrisett of the Carnegie Corporation. Morrisett happened to notice one day in 1965 that his three-year old daughter, Sarah, happily sang back commercial jingles from television.

Cooney, who had spent years working with Bob Keeshan on Captain Kangaroo took it from there (to cut it quite short) and Sesame Street was on its way.

It so happens that, born in the summer of 1966, I was the perfect age — the exact beginning audience — when Sesame Street survived its first season (the show was trashed by a majority of critics, though the educational establishment was largely ecstatic).

WILL-TV 12, the PBS affiliate operated by the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, was one of the first midwestern PBS stations to latch on. I do not recall whether it was mom, dad, the baby-sitter or fate, but something plunked little Jeffrey down in front of the big Zenith one day and, well, he was hooked.

At 43 I still am, though I must confess to not having much tolerance for Elmo.
Jim Henson’s genius, was, of course, hugely instrumental in the success of the program and the Muppets remain so today. Henson never wanted his creations tied to Sesame Street, and went on to launch The Muppet Show in the late 70′s.  Naturally, I have that entire series — aimed very much at an adult audience — on DVD. You should, too.
The casting of Sesame Street has usually been perfect, too. Luis, Maria, Bob, Susan and Gordon, Mr. Hooper . . . all have been some of the more enduring characters ever created and several of the original cast are still there, helping Big Bird overcome various anxieties and still hoping to convert Oscar into a lovable lug.

That Oscar – irascible, bitter and negative – would immediately be a hit with children was one of the biggest surprises to early critics of the show. His inclusion, at Henson’s insistence, was a source of intense conflict in the early stages that ended up a gem, a pattern that has often been repeated (the baker who falls down a flight of steps while carrying a tray of various numbered items and the Snuffaluffagus are two other examples).

Anyone who spent a portion of their childhood watching Sesame Street is likely able to sing at least a considerable portion of at least a dozen of Joe Raposo’s brilliant musical creations. All someone needs to do is hum a bar of “The People That You Meet” or “Sing” or “Rubber Duckie” or “I Have Five” in a group of similar-aged adults and the fun begins all over again.

I still shed tears of laughter at the Yip-Yips looking in the Earth Book to figure out how to talk to a telephone or a grandfather clock. The manic energy of Cookie Monster is an undying hit, too, and who can forget looking skyward with Bob and Big Bird and some neighborhood children as Alphabet Bates uses his plane to spell a capital letter in the sky?

There is a wonderful kaleidoscope of programming on television for children now, but almost none of it would be there if we had not been asked for directions to Sesame Street.

While the idea may seem simple — puppets and people interact and sing songs to educate kids — take a moment to ponder what it must have been like to start from scratch, with no money and little support beyond encouragement from friends.

Sesame Street spent the better part of three years in labor, and it was not at all certain to live to be a toddler. Now CTW’s gem is 40 and shines as brightly as ever.

Sunny day, sweepin’ the clouds away. . . .

Much of the information in this column is courtesy of Michael Davis’ magnificent 2008 book Street Gang: The Origins of Sesame Street. It is a detailed trip through the early years  to the current day and comes with my highest recommendation. – JW.

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30 Responses to “Sweeping the Clouds Away”

  1. fsdthreshold Says:

    When I was in lower elementary school, I remember religiously watching Sesame Street every day — I absolutely loved it. Thank you for these facts about the show’s origin and development, and for this trip down Memory Lane!

    One of my favorite animation segments on the program was the people who live in the Capital I. Remember that?

    “We all live in a capital I / In the middle of the desert, in the center of the sky. / And all day long we polish up the I, / Rubbing it here, and scrubbing it there. / And as we work, we sing a happy tune: / It’s so great to be so happy on a sunny afternoon! / Capital I / Capital I!”

    I loved the fact that the I was floating in the sky over a desert, and all those people (as I recall, all hairless, androgynous people who looked like Ziggy) came out of a little door, set up their ladders (what were those ladders standing on?!), and worked on the I; then they all went back inside and the door closed. For me as a kid, that was a fascinating scenario, and it made me want to live inside a cool capital letter!

    As to Oscar’s popularity: for me, it was the garbage can. That can was much bigger on the inside than on the outside. I so much wanted a look inside that can, but we never, ever got one. We would just get tantalizing sounds of bowling balls rolling down the internal staircase, breaking things, etc. — and Oscar would retrieve all sorts of objects from inside. But the camera never went over the rim and down the stairs. I was forever wishing, wishing. . . .

    I think Oscar represents a freedom that kids hunger after. He was the character who was utterly free to say and do exactly the things that moms did not approve of. He is a Kid Unrestrained — free to be dirty, uncooperative, ill-mannered, and negative.

    My favorite character was Ernie. He was smart, funny, and forever getting the best of Bert, the “straight man.” And Ernie just looked cool with his football head, his shock of hair, and his deep purple tan. Heh, heh!

    How many of you share this feeling? — You know how, when the show ended each day, it would usually cut to a live scene, human characters out on the street, and the theme music would begin to play plaintively, slowly, sadly. . . . I never wanted that to happen. When it would be almost four o’clock, and the scene would shift to the street, and I’d hear the first strains of that music, I was like “NOOOOOOOOO!!!” Did anyone else feel that way?

  2. Chris Says:

    Great post! I too grew up with Sesame Street. I still recall listening intently to the counting in Spanish and then trying to memorize the most recent number I learned, running to a drawer in my dresser drawers in my bedroom where I kept a pencil and piece of paper where I dutifully wrote the number and pronunciation down in Spanish to the best of my ability.

    Sadly after 4 years of Spanish in high school the best spanish I ever learned was from Sesame Street.

    My favorites were, of course: Cookie Monster (for sheer brilliant non-sequituritiness), and Oscar (surprise, surprise). I too loved the Yip Yips.

    I am waaay to old to ‘get’ the whole Elmo thing. I always hoped Elmo would fade after it showed up but it appears to have metastasized into the hearts and minds of many of today’s new Sesame Street fan base.

    The unfortunately but probably necessary move to Cookie Monster’s recent “de conversion” to the heretical stance of “cookies are a sometimes food” saddens me but I understand. Even though I don’t have any kids and I am still a believer that cookies are anything BUT a “sometimes food” (they are meant to be consumed whenever available until they are no longer available pending the next availability event).

    But then I don’t pay any child’s healthcare bills so I hold my tongue.

    I also loved it when Cookie Monster played the role of “Aleister Cookie” on “Monsterpiece Theater”, largely because whenever I was over at Fred’s house as a child his folks would sometimes have Masterpiece Theater on as I recall, so I recognized “parody”.

  3. Chris Says:

    I should probably not confess this here on a family site but one of my favorite Bert and Ernie songs included the “La-la-la-linoleum” line in which Bert attempts to sing something about letters that Ernie had started but Ernie realizes that Bert has failed to grasp the “freedom” to not say or list “dull” items.

    To this day around the house I find myself singing to the wife or dogs: “La-la-la-L**bians/No Bert listen to me, L is such a very lovely letter wont’ you la-la-la-la with meeeee.”

  4. fsdthreshold Says:

    Wow. I have no idea who Elmo is, and it sounds like I don’t want to know. And Cookie Monster has become “Sometimes-Cookie” Monster? I’m much happier with my memories of Sesame Street pre-1978!

    Just as I always wanted a trip into Oscar’s garbage can, I also yearned for Big Bird to be vindicated — I wanted someone . . . anyone . . . else to see the Snuffeluffagus (sp?) so that Big Bird wouldn’t be seen as a fringe crackpot. Remember the day Big Bird finally took a photo of Snuffy? But unfortunately, he took it really close up, and that was also the day Gordon or someone had hung a shaggy brown rug on the clothesline, so everyone thought Big Bird had just taken a closeup of the rug. I was so frustrated!

    I remember that “La-la-la” song! Hee, hee, Chris! “La-la-la-la licentiousness! La-la-la-la larceny! Bert, listen to meeee!”

  5. fsdthreshold Says:

    Maybe this would also be better left unconfessed, but here in Japan, the themesong of Sesame Street is in the catalogue of songs at karaoke boxes. And I have frequently been known to. . . .

    • Scott Says:

      Thanks Fred. Not only is that song going thru my head in an un-ending loop, but now it’s going to be a JAPANESE KARAOKE VERSION!

      AAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  6. I am still a 'street' kid Says:

    The songs! I loved La-la-la, but how about the song David sang (you can see it on youtube, check out “whats the name of that song?)

    It goes la-dee-da-dee-da, la-dee-da-dee-da, something-something strong/ whats the name of that song?

    I loved the pratfalling chef: Five strawberry shortcakes (stumble, trip, spill, fall…)

    The King of Eight is another great Joe Raposo song — there are just so many!

    My advice to anyone who reads this is to go to youtube, search Sesame Street, and watch the absolutely brilliant — and I mean brilliant — way in which the death of Mr. Hooper was handled. I believe the episode won an Emmy for writing.

  7. Morwenna Says:

    Another wonderful guest column, Brown Snowflake.

    My Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations contains this spirited and immortal line: “Me want cookie!”

    • I am still a 'street' kid Says:

      Thanks, Morwenna. I once had a 3×5 ft. poster hanging behind my desk. On it is Cookie Monster, with his head in his hand and obviously dejected. He is surrounded by glasses and clear glass pitchers of milk. Above his head is written “Got cookies?”

  8. I am still a 'street' kid Says:

    I just spent over an hour on youtube.com watching and enjoying numerous clips from old Sesame Street episodes. Among the joys were viewing the ‘Capital I’ Fred mentioned and the ‘la-la-la-linoleum’ Chris discussed. Wonderful!

    Other highlights included the animated typewriter guy, Lefty Salesman (would you like to buy an ‘O’) and theYip-Yips (I laughed so hard I cried and had others in the newsroom in tears once they came over to see what on earth I was up to! ha ha!)

    I also stopped by the conservatory of Don Music, who was busy penning “row, row, row your boat, gently down the stream, merrily merrily merrily, life is but a…life is but a…life is but a …OH! I’ll never get it! (smash!)

    Suffer the little children …

  9. Marquee Movies Says:

    Ooh, what a fun topic! Another good article, Brown Snowflake! OK – a song I can still recite is “The Ladybug’s Picnic” – (“One two three, four five six, seven eight nine, ten eleven twelve, ladybugs at, the ladybug picnic.” I know it doesn’t seem like much written out, but I swear it’s one of the catchiest songs I’ve ever known in my life.) LOVED the baker trying to walk down the stairs – and every once in a great, great while, didn’t he actually make it all the way without dropping one? How wonderful that they kept us on our toes like that! And I also loved the rebus song, which was a series of images in the city that represented a word – the words together created the (yet again) catchy song of “I love you and…” (Don’t remember all the words.)) But it was magical to me how I was seeing the image of an eye while they were singing the word “I” – it helped me understand that images and words could have more than one meaning, more than one use. And the movie clip that put me into a non-blinking hypnotic state was so simple, yet so beautiful – it was an orange-reddish ball that was put into a Rube-Goldbergish maze, and it would follow this path, bouncing off this wall, rolling through this spinning door, all to drop down into a chute, where it stopped. On the side of the chute was a handle, a little crank, like on a music box, and a pair of hands would enter the shot. One hand waited under the chute, while the other turned the crank’s handle. And folks, what came out of that chute was this….powder….it was that same orange-reddish color, but the BALL WAS NOW THIS POWDER! I wanted to dig my hands into that powder, I wanted to put it in my mouth, it was so beautiful looking. Oh, man, did I love that show. (Mr. Snowflake, did you write an article on The Electric Company and Marlo and the Magic Movie Machine, too?) Oh, and as far as Elmo goes – I don’t think it’s fair to be too mean to him. If you think about it, most of the Muppets are fairly close to being grownup characters. Even the wonderful Bert and Ernie (who are quite silly and immature at times) have their own apartment. Elmo was brought in to BE a very young Muppet for the very young members of the audience to relate to. They can still learn from all the “big” Muppets on the show, but they love little Elmo, because he’s close to (or even younger than!) their age. Now I have to go do research on Youtube.

    • Chris Says:

      I hate to harsh anyone’s mellow, but I must firmly disagree with the assessment of Elmo as something I should not vehemently attack.

      I have been reticent to tell this story but now is the time I think. You see, before Elmo was “Elmo” on Sesame Street he was a common gutter punk in New Orleans. When I lived in New Orleans back in ’97 I was minding my own business walking down Bourbon Street in the Quarter. Now normally the gutter punks I’d encountered weren’t “bad”. They were usually just kids hanging and looked down on their luck. Elmo wasn’t in that same mold.

      Elmo was hanging out by “Big Daddy’s” bar, curled up on the urine-soaked sidewalk. I walked by and he asked me if I could spare a quarter.

      I said “sorry, no” and moved on. But Elmo wasn’t through with me, apparently. He followed me further down the street and started hurling nasty comments at me. First accusing my mom of all manner of indescretions, then suggesting my wife was my sister.

      Finally I’d had enough. I turned to face him, but even before I could turn around fully, Elmo hit me on the side of my head with a coke bottle. Jarred, I stumbled and fell to the ground. At that moment he was on me like a rabid dog.

      The things he was screaming were frankly very “un-Sesame Street like”, was my first thought. Here’s a line by line transcript:

      “Hey *&^%$, you (*&^%ing *&^%%@&@&&&0Q@-@#*(#**, gimme a *(&((*&@@(in’ quarter, just 25 (*&@#(@*#&in’ cents, you cheap *&@@(( *&^^@@#(*!~:”

      Finally he kicked me so hard in the stomach that it knocked the air out of me giving him sufficient time to rifle my pockets. (Small fluffy red feet are hard!) As he walked away and as my vision narrowed in to a shrinking circle of black I saw him kick a dog and then attempt to have “relations” with one of the horses of the carriages over by Jackson Square.

      So you can imagine how I felt when I saw him playing “innocent” on Sesamen Street a few years later.

      • I am still a 'street' kid Says:

        I never ran into Elmo in New Orleans (or “Naw-lihns” as the natives say it).

        However, I did stumble into a bar and caught Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem. Heckuva show, and you should have seen the entourage Animal had! Wow!

  10. I am still a 'street' kid Says:

    Thank you Marquee! You will — if you have not by now — find that both the ‘ladybug picnic’ and ‘Redball 1-2-3′ are easy to uncover on youtube.com.

    “HEY YOU GUYS!” I loved The Electric Company (TEC) but never as much as ‘Street’ and I know much less about it and have not written about it. Davis discusses TEC in his book (see note, end of my column) but spends much more time on Bob Keeshan and his creation, Capt. Kangaroo, which directly influenced ‘Street.’

    Fred, Chris and Scott can help me on this, but I seem to recall that the afterschool lineup on WILL-TV 12 was” Sesame Street, Mister Rodgers Neighborhood, TEC. A few years later another masterpiece, WGBH-produced ‘ZOOM!’ was tacked on after TEC.

    In the mornings I would sometimes watch Romper Room and then the Capt. but he was always a distant 4th or 5th on my list of favorites when I was a young youngster.

    Rita Moreno and Morgan Freeman were original cast members of TEC and others also went on the better things. Remember to two faces in siloheutte that put words together? “F (pause) ood’ F (shorter pause) ood. F-ood. Food!” Or how about this ditty: who can make a can into a cane?/who can turn a plan into a plane?/It is very plain to see it is ‘silent E!’

    Ohh what fun!

    • Chris Says:

      I believe you are correct. I don’t recall the exact order. But I watched them all, even “Zoom”.

      My wife (a heathen) didn’t watch Mr. Rodgers and so doesn’t understand my occasional Mr. Rodgers’ references (which are far more fundamental to my conversation than I would like to admit).

      In fact she is so jaded that she actually laughed out loud when I pointed out to her that there was a real Mr. Rodgers character named “Mr. McFeely”.

      Only recently while listening to NPR she heard an interview with the guy who played him, she came in and started talking about this. I said “Oh yeah, the ‘Speedy Delivery’ guy!”

      I try to tell Rita that my natural “calm nature” is due in large part from watching Mr. Rodgers Neighborhood. :)

  11. fsdthreshold Says:

    I’ve also been viewing a lot of old Sesame Street clips on YouTube, and I’ve had the songs about “Capital I” and “The Lowercase n” stuck in my head for the last two days! It’s funny how memory alters things — the “Capital I” song was longer than I remembered, and the people didn’t look exactly as I remembered them — but seeing and hearing that again was wonderful!

    Wow, some of the things you all are bringing up bring back such great memories!

    Marquee, you’re right: we shouldn’t be too hard on Elmo. I had to find out who/what he was, so I watched a clip of him talking to Julia Roberts (the real Julia Roberts). They were going to demonstrate what it looked like when someone was Scared or Afraid. Elmo, being a monster, was going to scare Julia, and she would show viewers what it looked like when a person was afraid. Except that, whenever Elmo would wave his arms and make a “Bula bula bula” noise, Julia would crack up laughing, because he was so cute. They tried it twice more, each time Julia promising that THIS time she’d be properly afraid. Finally she managed to scream and jump out of the frame when Elmo “scared” her. Then she came in from the other side, behind him, and genuinely scared him half to death. Elmo, when he’d recovered, told her she was really good at scaring people, and Julia said, “So are you.” They’re both adorable in the sketch, so yes, I agree that we shouldn’t condemn Elmo.

    What really disconcerted me was hearing the more recent Big Bird talking with a different voice. Of course as an adult I understand that — it’s been 40 years since the Big Bird I knew (who, I understand, was played by a woman, although Big Bird is supposed to be male). But it was . . . disconcerting.

    Yes, Mr. Brown Snowflake! Every afternoon, I would watch those three shows: Sesame Street, The Electric Company, and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. In the mornings before school, as I was eating my oatmeal or cream of wheat and drinking hot tea, I watched Scott McCloud, Space Angel and Tennessee Tuxedo.

    I loved Zoom, too! I think I had a crush on one of the girls, but I can’t remember who it was.

    I had no idea Morgan Freeman was a regular on TEC! I do remember those silhouette profiles of the woman and man saying the beginnings and endings of words. And I remember the jungle girl wearing a leopard skin and her friend the gorilla named Paul.

    And how about: “Tune in next time, when [so and so] says, ‘BWOO-OOO-WOOO-WOOOO!’”?

    • Chris Says:

      So you think Elmo attacking one of America’s beautiful actresses is “cute”, Fred?

      Really? What kind of MONSTER ARE YOU??

      Do you realize what Elmo would have done to the angelic Ms. Roberts if the cameras weren’t rolling?

      I do.

      She was lucky there.

    • Chris Says:

      Actually the first movie I saw Morgan Freeman on waaay back in the late 80′s or 90′s I almost screamed “Hey, that’s the Easy Reader guy!”

      I still think they should have named that horrible movie he did with Jack Nicholson (“The Bucket List”): “Easy Rider and Easy Reader”.

      (Marquee will no doubt get that).

  12. fsdthreshold Says:

    Wow. Now I’ve got “What’s the Name of That Song?” stuck in my head, and I’ve been singing it all day long! “La-de-da-de-dum, la-de-da-de-dum, what’s the name of that song? . . . .”

    Something else I noticed: when we were little kids, the humans on Sesame Street were just a bunch of adults. From my current perspective, I look back at the early, vintage episodes, and I notice how Maria is a woman. Wow. What a tiny waist she had! What luxuriant hair! What a beautiful face! Apparently, she made a lifelong career of Sesame Street.

  13. I am still a 'street' kid Says:

    Fred: It is almost impossible to get “What’s the Name of That Song?” out of your head in less than 48 hours. And yes, Maria was a babe, and Sonia (cannot recall her last name) is still there…

    I, too, watched Tennessee Tuxedo. I know I watched some Bullwinkle and Rocky, too (was this the same show, with different parts tossed together?) And, of course, I had a mad crush on a ZOOM! girl, too. I think it was Amy but am not sure.

    One thing I can recall about ZOOM! is that the kids often wore turtlenecks, and to this day I despise turtlenecks. I remember being forced to wear a heavy white turtleneck under a red blazer (this was 1974, after all) for my first communion. When the party at the house was over I ripped it off and swore to my mother that “I will NEVER wear a turtleneck again!” I was 8 then. I am now 44 and since that day I have not worn a turtleneck.

    yip yip yip yip yip yip yip yip yip
    get earth book yip yip yip yip yip yip
    ohhh…cow yip yip yip cow yip yip yip
    MOOOO! yip yip yip yip yip yip
    uh-uh uh-uh -uh yip yip yip

  14. I am still a 'street' kid Says:

    yip yip yip yip yip yip yip yip yip
    shieldmaiden? yip yip yip yip yip yip
    daylily? yip yip yip yip yip yip
    morwenna yip yip yip yip yip yip
    OHHH…ladies night yip yip yip
    yip yip yip yip yip yip yip yip yip

  15. I am still a 'street' kid Says:

    This is becoming contagious. Now, thanks to Fred, I have the “lower case N” song stuck in my head. Also currently lodged is “ma-nah ma-nah” and Roosevelt Franklin.

    Since a live 1978 version of “Rosalita” by Springsteen was already on board, my limited cranial capacity is being severly stressed.

    yip yip yip earth book yip yip yip yip yip yip
    hello shieldmaiden? yip yip yip yip yip yip yip
    hello daylily? yip yip yip yip yip yip
    yip yip yip morwenna? yip yip yip
    yip yip yip is at ladies night? yip yip yip yip yip yip

  16. fsdthreshold Says:

    It is like a contagion. The last few nights, before I could log off and go to bed, I’ve just had to go back to YouTube and hear “Capital I,” “Lowercase n,” and “What’s the Name of That Song?” again! And of course, that gets the songs stuck in my head again for the following day….

    I had to chuckle at a clip showing Julia Louise Dreyfuss on Sesame Street. It’s obviously an outtake that was never aired on the show. JLD is interacting with Elmo, and when she flubs a line, she says, “Sh*t!” Elmo goes right along in character and, aghast, says, “She said a bad word!” JLD says something to the effect of, “That’s going to happen a lot today.”

  17. Daylily Says:

    Sesame Street was born when I was past the age of watching it. I have been enjoying everyone’s comments, but I have had nothing to say because I’ve only seen bits of Sesame Street from when my children were young. (I do remember enjoying the Yip-Yips.) I was very strict about television when my kids were young, so I seized that little bit of time when they were watching to accomplish some chore in peace.

    I think there’s some validity to the opinion that the main thing Sesame Street taught was how to have a short attention span. I preferred the slower-paced Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, from that standpoint.

  18. Nick Oz Says:

    One thing that the Street had in those early years that gradually got “polished” out as it aged was a certain manic-ness. Case in point: that hippie muppet that would run toward the camera and then away, shouting “Near!” then “Far!” I swear that muppet was on cocaine.

    Fred: Did you know that the adults eventually did meet Snuffalupagus (sp?)? It was a pretty big event about 15 years ago, as part of a campaign to let kids know that they could talk to adults and adults would listen (out of concern about bullies or child molesters telling a child not to tell, and that no one would believe them).

    • fsdthreshold Says:

      Oh, yes! I DO remember that wild-haired “near” and “far” guy! And remember the “song” (?) [I think] about “all” and “some” and “none,” which involved a wild, manic group of monsters racing in and out of the frame? “All of the hairy and all of the scary and. . . .”

      Wow! I didn’t know that about how the adults finally were allowed to see the Snuffleuppagus [sp?]!

      • Chris Says:

        Personally I feel anything whose actual name defies consistent and obvious spelling is probably imaginary. Or maybe a Lovecraftian “Old One”.

        Wouldn’t that be a kick? If Snuffle-****-agus turned out to merely be biding his time until he could devour everyone’s soul on Sesame Street? Reveal his true self as a monstrous hideousness beyond time and space intent only on devouring creation and absorbing souls with fear and malevolence?

        Oh wait, that’s Elmo’s job.

      • fsdthreshold Says:

        Oooh, I want to write that episode of Sesame Street! Let’s see, what would make the best title for the Lovecraftian episode?
        “The Doom That Came to Sesame Street”
        “A Shadow Over Sesame Street”
        “The Shunned Street”
        “The Sesame Street Horror”

        Of course the episode will make good use of the mind-bending extradimensional horror of a garbage can that can be bigger on the inside than on the outside. An endless stream of gibbering, wiggling monstrosities will spew from the can’s reeking depths.

        And we will discover the moldering leather-bound book in which Mr. Hooper wrote by the light of a sickly candle while the rest of the street slept, translating the unutterable passages of the mad Arab.

        We will venture into the curious space partitioned off at the back of Ernie and Bert’s attic, where the walls bear chalk markings of abominable calculations and impossible geometric shapes.

        Most of all, it will at last be revealed why, for so many years, Muppets have been visible only from the waist up: it is because their lower halves . . . Aaaagggh! I cannot even now bring myself to utter that horror I glimpsed in the shadowy dooryard of 123 Sesame Street by the light of that wan and bloated gibbous moon. . . Ia, ia! Cthulhu ftaghn!

    • Chris Says:

      A few years back the wife and I went to a Barenaked Ladies concert in Boston. At one point in the show the entire band started running back and forth on the stage.

      They ran to the front of the stage and shouted “NEAR”, then ran to the back of the stage and shouted “FAR” a few times.

      I had completely forgotten about that on Sesame Street.

  19. I am still a 'street' kid Says:

    The manic action of the early shows was almost entirely due to Henson, who loved the ‘quick pop.’ As he slowly departs the scene we see less and less of the ‘in-out’ ‘near-far’ ‘all-some-none’ acts by the muppets.

    Henson (and Frank Oz, to a lesser extent) were adamant that the Muppets were characters, creations that had their own personalities. He would have been aghast at denying Cookie Monster cookies, and, I am convinced, would never had created Elmo in the first place, nevermind having the effeminate little brat boot Kermit from the lead role.

    The battles between Henson and CTW makes for great reading in Davis’ book. His demand to maintain proprietal rights and creative control over the Muppets was a stroke of genuis (in my opinion) that served both sides well in the end. (BTW: It was Henson’s victory in maintaining control of the Muppets that inspired Lucas to do the same with Star Wars).

    I think we might be able to sum up the entire subject with one observation: The smoke they had back then must have been incredible.

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