Weekly Muppet Wednesdays: Telly Monster

WMW Telly

Telly full copyPerformed by…
Martin P. Robinson (1984-present)
Brian Muehl (1979-1984)

First appearance…
Sesame Street Season 10 (1979)

Most recent appearance…
Sesame Street Season 45 (2014)

Best known role…
Neurotic, constant worrier; Baby Bear’s best friend; triangle lover

Also known as…
Television Monster

Also seen with…
Antennae coming out of his head and spinning eyes from watching too much TV (early appearances only)

Best friend…
Baby Bear

When Telly first appeared on the Street (almost thirty years ago!) he was quite a different monster than the one we know and love today. He was obsessed with watching TV to the point that the puppet had an eye mechanism built in that made his eyes swirl around. Telly (or “Television Monster” as he was called back then) also had antennae coming out of his head, making him actually look like a television.

His obsession with TV made him a somewhat one-note character that the writers soon, thankfully, worked around. After removing the antennae and the eye spinning, Telly became a more rounded character in the 80’s when he began to develop a “friendship” with Oscar the Grouch. Telly and Oscar would often be paired together, as seen in the movie Follow That Bird, and Oscar would always trick Telly or otherwise do something to make the nervous monster worry about something.

Oscar and Telly have been paired many times in Sesame Street’s 40 year run. In segments such as “Ask Oscar,” and “Sneak Peek Previews.” They were later paired in one of my personal favorite Sesame Street video releases, Sing Yourself Sillier at the Movies. In the video, they reviewed music videos from Sesame Street, and each time Telly would give every video five exuberant Wows and Oscar would, of course, follow up with five annoyed Phooeys.

In more recent years, Telly has been paired with his best friend Baby Bear. The duo have been featured in the Street Scenes of many recent episodes of Sesame Street. Together, they’ve done many fun things such as discovering a bagpipe, writing a story, and guarding a birthday cake.

Telly also acts as a Monster on the Spot reporter for Sesame Street news whenever something exciting happens. He appears to report on the occurrences and provide his monstery insight on the situation.

Triangles are Telly’s great obsession. He can’t get enough of their three sides, their three angles, and that wonderful hypotenuse. He greatly admires all-things triangle, especially The Grand High Triangle Lover. Telly has competed to be the Triangle Lover of the Day and he’s also adept at Dancing With Triangles. He’s not alone in his love for triangles, however, even recording artist James Blunt shows an affinity for the pointy shape in his song “My Triangle” performed with Telly. One of his favorite TV shows is “TriangleBob TrianglePants.”

The beloved monster is also quite the accomplished musician. Telly has been known to play the bassoon, the tuba, and the triangle (guess which one is his favorite).

Telly Monster is performed by Martin P. Robinson, veteran Sesame Street performer. Telly often appears with Marty in live-performances and panels. Marty has commented that, “With Telly, I’ll never need therapy!” Telly is Marty’s most popular character on Sesame Street and seems to be one of Marty’s favorite characters as well.

Telly has made many appearances on and off the Street. Most recently, he was seen with the rest of the Sesame Street gang at the Daytime Emmy Awards receiving the Lifetime Achievement award for Sesame Street.

He was also a main character in Sesame Street’s 25th Anniversary celebration. He, Prairie Dawn, and Big Bird set out to find dancers, singers, and “La-La-ers” for the big show they were planning to put on in the park.

In “Sesame Street Stays Up Late!” (Sesame Street Celebrates Around the World on DVD), during Sesame Street’s New Years Eve celebration, Telly worries about the prospect of entering a new, unknown year. He doesn’t want to leave the old year and starts a campaign to stay in the old year. Thankfully, Gina soon reassures Telly that a new year is a good thing and he comes to terms with it.

In Season 39, Telly appeared as Texas Telly, a direct parody of Indiana Jones. Texas Telly embarked on an adventure with Chris to discover the Golden Triangle of Destiny.

Telly is fun, Telly is funny, Telly is heart-warming. Telly… is sadly underrated. Out-shined on all fronts by Elmo, Cookie Monster, and Abby Cadabby–Telly may appear in nearly every Street Scene on Sesame Street, but he scarcely ever appears on any sort of merchandise.

Sesame Street needs Telly because Telly drives so many of the show’s plots. Sesame Street needs Telly, because without him every episode would be more Elmo or Abby Cadabby-centric. Telly provides a balance in the show’s hierarchy and also provides comic relief for older viewers of the show. Telly’s comedic timing is always priceless and hilarious.

Telly deserves more than he gets. Why aren’t there more Telly plush, toys, or t-shirts? I would proudly display my Muppet fandom with a Telly t-shirt or a Telly plush toy or a small Telly figure. Telly deserves to be more popular, it’s an enigma that he isn’t.

In short, Sesame Street needs Telly because he provides humor, heart, and an obsession with triangles. What’s not to love?

6 thoughts on “Weekly Muppet Wednesdays: Telly Monster

  1. My favorite moments with Telly were when he appeared with John Goodman in the mid-90's because I always thought Telly was alot like John. One part that comes to mind was in the special “Stars and Street Forever!” where John plays a “Tough Guy Helpline operator who Telly calls for advice about how to save the street when it was going to be bought and torn by Millionare Ronald Grump (Joe Pesci).

  2. I love when Telly and James Blunt sing My Triangle. It's cute cute cute. 😛 Plus, they are each probably about as worried that the world is about to end as each other.

    I still do NOT understand why Telly Monster gets no merchandise! Is the purple colour really so hard to copy?

  3. My daughter is named Telly and (somewhat obviously) Telly Monster is her favorite Muppet. I've searched far and wide and can't find jack in Telly merchandise! I'll be knitting a Telly tote bag for preschool this fall – after making my own graph, of course – if it's not Elmo, no one seems to care. 😦

  4. I've had a HUGE think about this and want to add a few more things to the list… Telly is cute, Telly is smart, Telly is worried and excitable, Telly and I have a LOT in common and are just like each other, We'd get along WELL.

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