Weekly Muppeteer Wednesdays: Kevin Clash

Once again, our Weekly Muppeteer Wednesday article is written by Tom Stroud.


September 17, 1960

Notable Muppets…
Elmo, Clifford, Hoots the Owl, Baby Sinclair, Baby Natasha, Kingston Livingston III

Kevin Clash was born in 1960 in Turner’s Station, Maryland. Kevin loved building puppets from a young age, with his parents, George and Gladys Clash, supporting his interest, not even becoming angry when Kevin cut the black lining off his father’s good overcoat to build a monkey puppet.

In the 1970’s, Kevin met Muppet designer Kermit Love, who arranged for him to visit the Sesame Street set and perform in The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade as Cookie Monster in 1979. In 1983, Kevin was hired to join the cast of Sesame Street for ten episodes. Unfortunately, he was working on two other shows at the time, whose producers refused to work around the Sesame Street schedule, forcing him to cancel his appearances. In 1984 he officially joined the cast, performing characters such as Hoots the Owl, Dr. Nobel Price, and Baby Natasha. His most famous character, of course, would arrive in the form of Elmo.

Elmo started out as furry, red, generic “Baby Monster” in the 1970’s. In season 12 he was first known by the name Elmo, and was performed by Brian Muehl. After Muehl left the show, Elmo was recast to Richard Hunt. Hunt grew tired of the monster however, and threw the puppet to Kevin in the Muppeteer break room and told him to “come up with a voice for this thing.” Kevin performed Elmo in his next sketch, introducing the now well-known Elmo falsetto voice. Elmo grew popular among audiences, soon becoming arguably the most popular Muppet character on the show.

Towards the end of the 1980’s, Kevin began to branch out to other Henson productions, performing roles such as Billy Bunny in the video Billy Bunny’s Animal Songs. He also performed Clifford in The Jim Henson Hour. Clifford went on to host the 1996 Muppet television show, Muppets Tonight. Clifford has not appeared since 2005’s The Muppets’ Wizard of Oz but remains one of Kevin’s favorite characters.

In recent years Kevin has talked about his life as Elmo and the life-changing meaning Elmo and Sesame Street have brought to his life. In 2006, Kevin wrote an autobiography, My Life as a Furry Red Monster, and a brand new documentary, Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey, which chronicles Kevin’s life and work, premiered at Sundance in January, 2011. Kevin was also just interviewed by The Muppet Mindset.

The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s