Ryan Dosier – In our efforts to continue to celebrate Sesame Street‘s monumental 45th Anniversary, I keep grasping at ways to write about the greatest television show ever. So I’ve decided to pen a simple article, but one I don’t think I’ve ever done before (although after five years who even knows). Anyway, here’s some thoughts on 10 of my favorite Sesame Street Muppets just because.
10. Guy Smiley
Jim Henson was arguably best with calm, collected characters like Kermit or Rowlf, but my favorite performances from Jim involve his manic, explosive characters such as Guy Smiley. When Jim performed Guy Smiley, he truly got to let loose and shout his way through wickedly funny game show segments. Moments from various “Beat the Time” sketches will always stand as some of the funniest Sesame Street bits in the show’s lengthy run. Guy Smiley is a cocky, outlandish, wonderful extension of Jim’s glorious sense of humor. It’s a shame that he had to disappear, but it’s wonderful that Eric Jacobson has carried on with the character.
Zoe holds a very special place in my heart, as she was the very first Muppet that I ever met in person. It was after this that Zoe rose to be one of my very favorite characters. I love Zoe for her youthful energy, her delightful laugh, and, most of all, her pet rock Rocco. Zoe is perhaps my favorite “new” Sesame Street character, with an electric personality provided by the exceptional Fran Brill. I’m not as versed in Zoe’s many appearances, since even as a kid I was more exposed in the classic material, but I still love her as a character and hope that she finds a suitable replacement performer after the recent retirement of Fran Brill.
8. Telly Monster
Perhaps the most under appreciated Muppet on Sesame Street, poor Telly is probably the Sesame Street character with the most screen time and the least amount of merchandise. It’s a crying shame that Telly doesn’t get more love outside of the show, because he is hysterical. Martin P. Robinson, Telly’s performer, is immensely talented and gives Telly such lovely neuroses. I adore Telly when he interacts with almost every character. He’s a slightly older kid who can be a sort of leader with the other Muppets, but a leader so adept that he is always worrying. Telly is also delightful with the adults, especially Gordon. He’s a wonderful character who deserves all the love.
Among fans, Elmo used to be one of the more divisive characters on Sesame Street. It’s understandable, since for quite awhile Sesame Street became the Elmo and Friends Hour. But it’s easy to understand why. Charismatic, adorable, loving, funny, and fun, Elmo is the most precocious and beloved three year old ever. Kevin Clash created a character who became a true institution and an undeniable entertainment juggernaut. Ryan Dillon carries on that tradition with remarkable ease. Rarely have I seen a character recast as fluid and immediately wonderful.
6. Cookie Monster
Like Elmo, Cookie Monster has almost become more of a pop culture icon than he is a character. Of course, to Muppet fans and viewers of the show, Cookie Monster is so much more. Thanks to Frank Oz and now David Rudman, Cookie is one of the funniest most consistently wonderful Sesame Street Muppets. He’s much more than just a hungry monster. He’s clever, has a wide range of interests, from acting, to art, to eating, and everything in between. Cookie Monster is a beautiful representation of Sesame Street‘s past, present, and future.
5. Oscar the Grouch
Very few characters in television and fiction are as refined and singular as Oscar the Grouch. Of course, this is because the one and only Caroll Spinney has been the one and only performer of Oscar for 45 years. Oscar is the rare children’s character who can be a major jerk and still be beloved at the end of the day. He has a grouchy exterior and a heart of gold and adds a much needed layer of snark to the otherwise saccharine Sesame Street. Without Oscar, Sesame Street would verge into territory that may be too sweet. Oscar makes being grouchy fun.
4. Count von Count
Ah, yes, the Count von Count! He loves to count things! It’s so hard to begin talking about the Count without immediately jumping into a Count impression. And that is one, one vonderful reason why the Count is so great. The master himself, Jerry Nelson, made the Count one of Sesame Street‘s most adore Muppets for his obsessive counting, his innately distinct voice, and his flair for the theatrical. The Count is a character who gets even better as an adult, because you realize just how batty (pun intended) and fun this arithmomaniac really is.
Another of Jim Henson’s best creations is Ernie, the eternal prankster. Although Ernie is aided greatly by Bert, he is still incredibly fun, funny, and charming on his own. His love of Rubber Duckie, his penchant for using his imagination, and so much more make him one of Sesame Street‘s best characters. I think what I love most about Ernie are his songs, “I Don’t Want to Live on the Moon,” “Imagination,” “I Wonder,” and, of course, “Rubber Duckie,” are all absolute favorites of mine. My only wish is that we had more Ernie to love these days. He’s one of the few classic Sesame Street characters to not appear on the show terribly often. He’s used quite a bit in merchandising, but rarely seen on the show. He’s the opposite of Telly! More Ernie, please.
2. Big Bird
Big Bird for president! Big Bird for king! Big Bird for supreme ruler of the world! Is there any character better than Big Bird? Big Bird is the epitome of childhood. Who among has didn’t learn how to read or count or sing or love from Big Bird? I have so many wonderful memories of Big Bird in my life. There was a Big Bird toy in my crib the first day I came home from the hospital, for crying out loud! So much of who I am is due directly to Big Bird, and Caroll Spinney inside of him. Big Bird represents the child in all of us. And that he is still around after 45 years is nothing short of miraculous.
Far and away my favorite Sesame Street Muppet is Grover. Cute, fuzzy, adorable Grover. No character on Sesame Street gets to be as funny or subversive as Grover. He gets the best jokes, the best lines, and the best jobs. His many, many sketches taught me more as a kid than any other character. I have vivid memories of learning “Near and Far,” “Over, Under, Around, and Through,” and so much more with Grover as a kid. Now, as an adult, I adore Grover for his humor more than anything, thanks to both Frank Oz and Eric Jacobson. Watching him in sketches like “Outrageous Makeover: Home Addition,” Super Grover 2.0, and so many others make Grover a Muppet fan’s best friend… and the best friend to any and every kid he entertains.
The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, firstname.lastname@example.org