Jarrod Fairclough – Ask any Muppet fan, and they’ll tell you one of their favorite things is when Muppets appear on talk shows. Whether it’s Big Bird on Jimmy Kimmel Live, The Count on Late Night with Seth Meyers, or Oscar on Ellen, the appearances are often a chance to let these beloved children’s characters get just a little adult, to hilarious results. And while he may spend his days playing with Abby, Zoe, Grover and Telly, for a while Elmo spent many nights playing with another friend – comedian and talk show host Rove McManus.
From 1999-2009, Rove hosted his own live weekly talk show in Australia, Rove Live (fitting title). The show was much loved, and was the go to for most international celebrities in town to promote a film or album, or to just screw around on. In early 2001, Rove had his first Muppet on the show, and an endearing, lifelong friendship was formed – Elmo. Though via satellite, Rove and Elmo had an instant chemistry, as the red furry guy danced, talked rollerblading, and showed off his impressive comprehension of Australian slang.
Elmo soon became a favorite, with Rove revealing that this interview was the most requested to be replayed in future episodes. So it wasn’t long before Elmo returned again, via satellite, to promote Dancing Chicken Elmo in 2002. As they discussed Kofi Annan and exercise, Elmo disappeared, only to emerge wearing a chicken suit. Elmo, Rove and the audience clucked and danced. And still via satellite, the timing between Rove and Elmo (and, of course, Kevin Clash) was im-peck-able. Get it? Coz he was a chicken? I wrote that.
And then nothing. Miss Piggy appeared via satellite to promote It’s A Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie, and Grover appeared in house (of which I cannot find footage anywhere), but it seemed the friendship between Elmo and Rove had stalled. It wasn’t until 2006 that Elmo appeared again, this time in person, and this time blowing all other appearances out of the water.
Dressed in matching suits, Elmo and Rove sat together on the couch singing the alphabet, talking pizza, screaming in each others faces, and showcasing their burps. Say what you want about Elmo’s appearances with someone like Jimmy Fallon, but Elmo and Rove seemed to have timing and chemistry that isn’t often found in too many host-guest relationships. It seemed completely improvised with no pre-planning, and Kevin seemed to relish being in front of a large excited crowd. The appearance lasted 10 minutes (poor Kevin’s arm) and went gangbusters from start to finish.
That wasn’t Elmo’s only appearance that night. As teased in the above video, Rove later interviewed Kevin (and Elmo) in one of the rare present day occurrences of a Muppet performer and Muppet being in the same shot. It was a great little interview.
With Elmo coming from Sesame Street to Melbourne, it was only fair that Rove should head to New York to see Elmo on his home turf. In 2007, during a run of shows in the US, Rove did a small pre-recorded bit with Elmo on set of Elmo’s Christmas Countdown, where he also came face to face with Ernie and Bert, who had no idea who he was.
In 2008, to promote Season 38 of Sesame Street, Elmo returned to the Rove Live set, to talk doing flips, fat bombs, and to attack the poor crew girl tasked with keeping time on the show. This could have been Elmo’s most adult appearance yet, with a urine joke even Kevin could tell might have been a tad inappropriate (but no less hilarious). Though it was Elmo’s final time live in the studio, it wouldn’t be his last time on the show, nor live in person with the talk show host.
To celebrate his tenth anniversary on air, Rove hosted a very special episode, with pre-recorded congratulations from some of his favorite guests, which included Steve Carell, Jay Leno, and of course, Elmo.
Later that year, Rove announced that he was ending the series. After a few gigs in the US, including a new talk show based in LA, Rove has occasionally made appearances on the Australian news panel series The Project. In 2015, Rove returned to the newly renovated Sesame Street, where he was reunited with his furry red pal. Though 7 years had passed, and Elmo was now being performed by Ryan Dillon, amazingly that relationship was still there, which is not only a credit to the character of Elmo, but also to Rove and Ryan, who must have just met.
These appearances have often been cited as favorites by Rove himself, as well as Kevin Clash. In speaking with Kevin in 2008, he once told me that they were some of his favorite things he’d done as Elmo, and he was looking forward to continuing that on. Ryan Dillon did a great job in 2015, and we’re excited to see the bromance between Elmo and Rove McManus continue.