Top 10 Songs of… David Rudman

Kieran Moore – In my last chart for Matt Vogel we counted down the top 10 songs of a Muppeteer who (until recently) was perhaps best known for his work on already established characters. This week we’re highlighting another Muppet performer who has done exceptional work with pre-existing characters – in fact, I’d go as far to say that with Cookie Monster, David Rudman has taken on what could have been the potentially poisoned chalice of one of Sesame Street’s best known and culturally most significant characters. Cookie Monster regularly goes viral and he must be one of the most recognizable Muppets ever. The furor over the “Veggie Monster” (can we call it “Veggiegate”?) debacle has probably only been matched in terms of mainstream column inches by the Bert and Ernie are they/aren’t they question and Mitt Romney’s views on a certain roller-skating bird.

But this chart isn’t just fuzzy and blue – it’s also liberally sprinkled with songs by characters that were originated by David and that balance between the old and the new is really the trademark of a great Muppeteer. It puts David in the same category as Steve Whitmire, Bill Barretta and maybe one or two other performers who have been able to walk that fine line between the new and the old. It’s made this a very interesting chart to work on so without further ado here are my top ten David Rudman songs.

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10.   How Do You Do? – Baby Bear from Sesame Street
So our first song on this list isn’t fuzzy and blue, but it is fuzzy (and is a Sesame classic!) Baby Bear is such a great character who like Sesame Street’s best young stars is so endearing. In previous charts I was able to truly discover the characters of Zoe and Abby Cadabby, and whilst I was already familiar with Baby Bear, listening to this song just made me warm to him even more. The speech impediment kind of works to instantly make us empathize with the character and be on their side. I’m not sure how deliberate that was with Baby Bear (or whether it was just cute), but it’s a master stroke. I really like the way Baby Bear mentions his “wee little musical cue.” There’s a really nice purity to David’s voice here that I really appreciate. How cool is it to start a chart with a song called “How Do You Do?” It wasn’t on purpose though I wish it was!

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9.   Baby Bear’s Bath Song – Baby Bear from Sesame Street
Poor old Baby Bear! Even bath time isn’t sacred for him! We’ve all had a friend who drives us up the wall, and for Baby Bear that’s Goldilocks! This is a fairly light song, but it’s upbeat and fun and has some nice actions that we can all join in with so it earns extra points for that. Any song that includes the word “scwubby” is deserving of a place on this list. Is there a Muppet Wiki page for songs sung in bathtubs? We’ve got this, “Rubber Duckie” and “Splish Splash” off the top of my head and I’m sure there’s at least another Ernie one… David has a hint of Junior Gorg here which maybe foreshadows his takeover of other Richard Hunt characters like Scooter and Janice. If they ever make a Fraggle Rock movie, I’d be up for David playing Junior Gorg.

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8.   Good Things Come to Those Who Wait – Cookie Monster and the Guy Smiley Singers from Sesame Street
I’ll admit that this first entry for Cookie Monster almost didn’t make the top 10, but as I went to close down the video to listen to something else I realized I was dancing along to this song and it instantly earned a place! There’s a bit of calypso flair mixed with some rock ‘n’ roll piano that just makes you want to move. I guess it reminds me of some of the songs from Hairspray and that’s never a bad thing. It’s a joyous musical and this song is equally as gleeful. There’s a good lesson to be learnt here and Cookie Monster with his love of instant gratification is the perfect character to teach it. David is on fine form here as Cookie and his puppeteering is every bit as good as his vocal performance – some of his reactions are priceless and we really get a sense of just how much the cookie is coveted.

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7.   Termite Chew – The Termite from Billy Bunny’s Animal Songs
I’ve written several times about my love of “Billy Bunny’s Animal Songs” because I think it’s a great way to get the whole family watching Muppets. It’s obviously aimed at kids, but there’s plenty for adults to enjoy too. As well as the humor there are some quite sophisticated musical numbers in a really wide range of styles that make this a lot of fun to watch – in fact “Please Don’t Bump into Me” from this special has been a number One in a previous chart. This jazzy number is super smooth and cool and the idea of having a termite dance with a cane just makes me happy. This isn’t an obvious David Rudman voice (though there is some Miss Poogy in there) and I like it when Muppeteers get to move away and do something different. Either way it goes without saying that this is sung with gusto and is well worth a listen.

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6.   Me Love Cookie Art – Cookie Monster, Prairie Dawn and Cast from The Cookie Thief
This song wins the award for quickest turnaround from premiere to top ten chart! This pun-filled song is very funny and David does a great job here, but an added bonus of including this song is that it gives me a chance to give one last shout out to the amazing Fran Brill who is (to the best of my knowledge) bowing out of Sesame Street with her performance here as Prairie Dawn. Both she and David are at their best and you’d never believe that Fran was about to retire from this clip. They play off of each other so well; both Cookie Monster and Prairie Dawn are captivating and are only overshadowed by Chris’ unique dancing style! I can only assume he was told not to move his arms too much? I am also praying for a line of merchandise featuring some of those cookie paintings as I’d love to get them on T-shirts or stationery!

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5.   If Me Had That Magic Wand – Cookie Monster from Sesame Street
Another song, another Disney trope mentioned by me. Right from the very first animated feature the “I Want” song was a staple of the Disney canon and this is Cookie Monster’s very own version. It’s a short, but sweet song that has echoes of “Changes” by Ozzy and Kelly Osbourne with a very similar sounding piano line. I must say I’m a little troubled by the idea of Cookie Monster ruling his own cookie country as that sounds like a recipe for genocide (assuming it had cookie citizens) so we’ll skip over that! Also, who knew Cookie Monster had ears? The animation here is so evocative and matches the song perfectly and David is showing his musical chops with this heartfelt ballad. It’s a song full of wonder that is performed and, might I add, directed beautifully. Bravo!

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4.   I’ll Show You the World – Baby Bear from Sesame Street (Song starts around 13:00 minutes in)
I can’t find an “official” name for this song so I’m calling it “I’ll Show You the World” as that’s what someone named it on YouTube. David is pretty much amazing all through this clip and the whole thing is well worth taking the time to view. His performance as Baby Bear here really captures the excitement, wonder, and insecurities that youngsters feel when a new baby arrives in the family. It must be extra confusing for Baby Bear considering he’s called… Baby Bear! It’s really important that Sesame Street shows how amazing the relationship between siblings can be – in an ideal world they’re your best friends for life. I just love the fact that Baby Bear wants to take his new sister on a journey of discovery – I was horrible to my younger brother when he was first born, but now I wouldn’t be without him. I said the last song was full of wonder and this continues that trend, in fact I guess in a lot of ways this is quite similar to the previous song, but this just has that extra dash of heart to give it the edge.

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3.   Me Am What Me Am – Cookie Monster from Sesame Street
Forget Bert and Ernie, maybe Cookie Monster wants to tell us something. Between this and his parody of “It’s Raining Men” he does seem to love a gay anthem. At least they gave the “YMCA” parody to Oscar! All joking aside it’s a bit of a shame that the whole “Veggie Monster” controversy got to the point where Cookie Monster had to address the situation on the show, but what a great way to do it! This is the ultimate affirmation song and using this opportunity to let kids know that it’s ok to be them, to be controversial and to still be happy in your own skin is such an important message. Cookie Monster’s quite a sensitive soul really, isn’t he? I wonder if the fact that this is set at night means that Cookie’s been doing some late night soul searching? In a weird Meta kind of way has the criticism been getting to him? David means every word of this song and sings it with great conviction which makes the crescendo at the end even more powerful. I think this is such a special moment and it’s what Sesame Street does best.

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2.   Moves like Jagger – Scooter feat. Pepe from Muppets Most Wanted
I make no apologies for including this song at number Two. I know it’s not for everybody and was controversial for being yet another not quite on trend, not quite dated pop-culture reference as is so prevalent in family films these days, but I think it has several merits and I’m prepared to defend it. First, I’m a huge Scooter fan (so this was always going to do well for me), but this is arguably his biggest musical performance on a Muppet movie soundtrack and what year was it released in? That’s right, 2014! That’s just mind-blowing on its own. I also think this is the perfect song for Scooter – it makes sense that he might be a little behind his peers in terms of musical references, but this is just close enough that he’s not painfully behind the times. The lyrics of this song make the fact that Scooter of all characters is singing it seem even funnier. Had Pepe been singing the whole thing it could have easily been sleazy, but Scooter has just the right balance of naivety and world-knowledge to carry this off. Furthermore, David has never been better as Scooter as he is in Muppets Most Wanted so I’m really happy that they both get their moments to shine – long may it continue!

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1.   Share it Maybe – Cookie Monster from Sesame Street YouTube Channel
As a man who loves a ballad who’d have thought my top two songs would be a couple of recent pop covers? I’m happy to admit that I think “Call Me Maybe” is a great pop song and this parody from Cookie Monster is just hilarious! In a similar vein as “Me Love Cookie Art” this is pun-tastic and full of some fun cookie jokes. I think it’s brilliant that Sesame Street has been able to harness the power of their characters and match it with the might of the internet in such clever ways. Cookie has had more than one dalliance with this kind of thing having also covered Icona Pop’s “I Love It” as “Me Want It (But Me Wait)”, but for me this is the original and best. The whole cast are clearly having a blast and David is on fine form as the star of the show. His reactions to the bowl of cookies as it goes around the office are just priceless. I just love the fact that when Cookie Monster finally gets to feast he remembers how much he wanted someone to share with him and decides to pay it forward by sharing his last cookie with the audience.

So I guess that’s a nice link into my thank you. Thank you David for sharing your varied talents with us – the audience. You’ve given fantastic moments of pop-culture fun as is shown in my top two songs, but you’ve also shown us heartfelt brilliance with original characters all of your own. It’s often easy to forget the man under the Muppet and I feel that David is one of the true unsung heroes of the current gang. So once again, thank you David for being an integral part of something I love so much, the Muppet world would be a little less bright without you.

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

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