Weekly Muppet Wednesdays: Two-Headed Monster

WMW Two-Headed Monster

Today’s Weekly Muppet Wednesday article was written by John Papovitch.


Performed by…Two-Headed Monster

Peter Friedman and Richard Hunt (ca. 1978)
Richard Hunt and Jerry Nelson (ca. 1980–1991)
David Rudman and Jerry Nelson (1992–2000)
David Rudman and Joey Mazzarino (2001–present)

First known appearance…
Sesame Street Season 9: Episode 1121 (1978)

Most recent appearance…
Sesame Street Season 45 (2014)

Best known role…
Cooperating/arguing monster with two heads

The Two-Headed Monster is exactly that: a purple monster with two heads. One of the more unique monster creations of Sesame Street, the two characters showcase Jerry Nelson and Richard Hunt’s impressive chemistry with each other. Often, the format of their sketches involves one of the heads having some sort of prop that the other wants, the two briefly quarrel about it until they realize they can both share it. Of these sketches, perhaps the most famous are the ones where the two heads sound out the syllables of words and eventually put them together, like “telephone” or “run.”

Part of what makes them unique is that they are among the few main Sesame Muppets that don’t really talk. Jerry Nelson and Richard Hunt primarily spend their time in-character talking in baby-like gibberish to each other, with an even more limited vocabulary than, say, Animal. Despite their inability to talk, they have become favorites of many Sesame Street fans. While their inserts were mostly limited to being at their brick wall, they got to interact with the likes of Kermit the Frog and Cookie Monster. Plus, they even ran their own Two-Headed Monster School where the two heads had Elmo and Telly as students. They have even gotten to meet celebrities like Cab Calloway (who sang “Hi-De-Ho Man” with the two), Robin Williams, Jane Curtin, the band R.E.M., and Aaron and Nick Carter.

Outside of the show, the Two-Headed Monster made background appearances in The Muppet Movie and The Muppets Take Manhattan with the other Sesame Street characters, as well as being extras in Sesame Street’s big screen movie Follow That Bird while they were absent from The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland (I guess Bernie just couldn’t work out a deal). On television, the two joined in the song “We’re Going to China” in the special Big Bird in China and even showed up in China when the Monkey King briefly turns into them during a musical number. They also appeared in the 1987 special A Muppet Family Christmas, where we got to see them playing Santa Claus in the Sesame Street Christmas Pageant of “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” which led to an amusing conversation between Bert and Ernie regarding whether to refer to the Two-Headed Monster as “them” or “him.”

After Richard Hunt’s death in 1992, the Two-Headed Monster began to be downplayed despite new performer David Rudman taking up Hunt’s half of the character. Perhaps their biggest role in the post-1992 period was playing the Hunters in the 2001 direct-to-video “Elmo’s Musical Adventures: Peter and the Wolf.” In 2003, with the retooling of “Journey to Ernie,” the two appeared in every segment, wherein Big Bird would ask them if they’ve seen Ernie, to which the two heads would prove to be unhelpful, pointing in both directions.

Despite being mainstays of the Street, there has been very little merchandise of these two characters. They have appeared in books but other than that the sole piece of merchandise they’ve received is a 1998 PVC figure made by Tyco that’s rather hard to find. In 2005, Palisades Toys announced the Two-Headed Monster would be one of the four figures in Series 1 of their highly-anticipated Sesame Street line. However, the bankruptcy of Palisades Toys prevented the line from being released.

The Two-Headed Monster, despite never achieving the popularity Elmo or Big Bird, are, for whatever reason, likable and are perhaps Sesame Street’s most entertaining way to show cooperation. After all, as Herry Monster once sang to them “Two Heads Are Better Than One.”

Best of all about the monster, he’s (they are?) easily the Sesame character that seems to seamlessly retain their integrity whenever a different performer takes on one of the heads. When you compare Richard Hunt and Jerry Nelson performing them to David Rudman and Joey Mazzarino, you can usually tell very little difference between the two performances. Maybe that’s just because it’s all gibberish, but for anyone, they are iconic Sesame characters and never seem to get old despite being mostly underrated by the mainstream.

The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, ryguy102390@gmail.com

2 thoughts on “Weekly Muppet Wednesdays: Two-Headed Monster

  1. I think “Frank and Stein” was a one-time nickname that's not considered canon. There was also one segment where Olivia called them “Horn and Hardart.”

    I agree that Rudman and Mazzarino have taken over seamlessly, but I bet it wasn't easy. Have you ever actually tried to speak the Two-Headed Monster's language without just repeating the same sounds? It's tricky!

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