Sesame Street

    Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.

    Can you tell me how to get, how to get to Sesame Street?

    Opening theme [1]

    Joan Ganz Cooney of the Children's Television Workshop (now Sesame Workshop) created this hour-long PBS series in 1969. Initially, it was created as a means of preparing young inner-city children for kindergarten. Instead, it got to everybody and became one of the all-time great educational shows.

    The show teaches literacy, counting, simple logic[2] and the What Happens Next machine, see below, demonstrate tools of logic and reasoning such as trial and error, process of eliminations, and cause and effect, and social skills through a kaleidoscopic mix of puppetry, animation and short films. In a radical departure for the time, it was designed to deliberately mimic the fast pace and style of TV advertising in order to 'sell' learning to kids: An Aesop-friendly story featuring the recurring characters on the Street would be intercut with rapid-fire 'commercials' for that day's 'sponsors' ("Sesame Street has been brought to you today by the letters A and S, and the number 7...").

    The show was — and still is — also revolutionary in having an elite squad of educators and child psychologists pore over every single aspect of every segment in the whole show. Sesame Street has been called a living laboratory, and the show has been constantly tweaked to introduce new curriculum and improve its educational value. Most recently, the show was completely retooled in 2002 to respond to new child development research. As per The Other Wiki:


    Sesame Street underwent an obvious, dramatic makeover... The new format emphasized rituals and repetition, featured brighter, more cartoon-colorful real-life characters and sets, and more exaggerated, simplistic mannerisms in addressing the screen and seeking viewer interaction. Regular segments... are almost identical from one episode to the next, with only minor story details changing between shows.


    The set has expanded and contracted over the years but in classic form is a typical New York cul-de-sac, with a brownstone apartment block, a convenience store, a boarded-off vacant lot, and a big open area at one end used as a playground. This urban setting, multiracial human cast (plus guest stars, including Buffy Sainte-Marie, Jesse Jackson, and Bill Cosby at different times) and multicolored Muppets added to the hip, inclusive feel.

    Although aimed at preschool children, Sesame Street deliberately includes enough mainstream pop culture references to entertain older children and parents as well, the better to encourage family involvement in the learning process. A cameo appearance on the Street quickly became celebrity chic, showcasing such diverse stars as Stevie Wonder, REM, Madeline Kahn, the Star Wars droids, Paul Simon, Mel Gibson and Patrick Stewart. All of this has had the side benefit of the show developing a very strong adult fanbase over the decades, as the original audiences have grown up and introduced the show to their children.

    On November 10, 2019, Sesame Street celebrated its 50th anniversary, making it the longest-running and most successful children's show in American TV history. For the sake of education, we hope it stays around for at least 50 more.

    The human cast has varied over the years, but the core has remained relatively stable: Black married couple Susan and Gordon (and later their adopted son Miles), who work as a nurse and a junior-high science teacher, respectively. Puerto Rican college student Maria and (until 1990) black student and store clerk David. White freelance musician Bob and (until 2003) his deaf librarian girlfriend Linda. Hispanic "Fix-It Shop" owner Luis, who later married Maria. They have a daughter, Gabriella.

    When Will Lee — who played crotchety storekeeper with a heart of gold Mr. Hooper — died mid-season in 1983, the show tackled the character's death head-on, with honesty,[3] dignity and respect, in what is still considered a milestone of children's programming. His store's ownership has changed hands a number of times — Mr. Hooper left the store to his assistant David, who sold it to black retired firefighter Mr. Handford following his own departure, who handed over ownership to Japanese-American Alan in 1998 — but the store retains Mr. Hooper's name to this day.

    Various specialized Muppets, created and performed by Jim Henson and his crew, star alongside the humans. The Sesame Muppet characters were initially intended as parts of the "commercial" shorts that would only air on occasion, but they became such a hit that the show was tweaked very early in the season to include them into the core structure. They were developed separately from the rest of the Henson stable and are the property of what is now Sesame Workshop; with the exception of Kermit the Frog, they only very rarely cross over into the Muppet Show universe. Disney's deal to purchase those characters now prohibits Kermit from appearing on the show any more [4].

    Memorable Muppets include:

    • Kermit the Frog, seen most often in the guise of a trenchcoat-sporting roving reporter, whose 'fast-breaking exclusives' on fairy tales and other Street developments tended to run into the same problems as Wally Ballou's;
    • Sweetly naive Big Bird, developmentally age six but physically eight-foot-two, who makes his nest in the vacant lot and is 'parented' by the human characters;
    • Giant... Hawaiian woolly-mammoth-type-thing... Mr. Snuffleupagus, Big Bird's not-so-imaginary friend, originally always just out of visual range of the grownups but eventually revealed a decade or so in, out of fears that he was teaching kids they wouldn't be believed if they had something important to tell;
    • Odd Couple roommates Bert and Ernie, the former a seriously uptight fan of pigeons and oatmeal and the latter an imaginative dreamer and prankster;
    • Green and flamboyantly grumpy trash-can resident Oscar the Grouch, designed as a way to gently mock bad attitudes -- not, as is sometimes claimed, as a cute'n'fuzzy homeless person;
    • Cookie Monster, the googly-eyed personification of appetite ("Me want COOKIE!! OMNOMNOMNOM!!!") much to the consternation of whoever was currently trying to teach him Valuable Lessons (counting, sharing etc.) using a plateful;
    • Prairie Dawn, a pretty, prim, sometimes bossy little overachiever, who gets a lot more facetime lately thanks to being one of very few major female Muppets in the cast;
    • Count von Count, a vampire (or possibly not, depending on who you ask) who pursues his numerical fetish to the point where his victims would probably be thrilled with requests for their blood instead ("One! One irritated person! Two! Two irritated people! AH AH AH AH AH!");
    • 'Loveable, furry old Grover', a blue monster whose endless enthusiasm and good intentions repeatedly run up against a less-than-impressed universe (especially when he puts on a cape and helmet and, er, 'flies' as Super-Grover);
    • Various other fuzzy monsters, notably Telly, a neurotic worrywart with a strange enthusiasm for triangles; Herry, an athlete who Does Not Know His Own Strength; the gibberish-talking Two-Headed Monster who sounded out words, and Zoe, a ballet-dancing preschooler added in later years;
    • Abby Cadabby, the most recent female addition, a pink-and-purple 'fairy-in-training' who — despite having a cell phone for a wand — is perpetually wowed by basic learning concepts in the human world ("That's so magical!");
    • Elmo, a cutesy-voiced red monster with a 'psychological age' of three and a half and a distinctive habit of referring to himself in the third person ("Elmo not sure this good idea..."). A later addition to the cast who became Urkel-level ubiquitous after the spinoff 'Tickle Me Elmo' toy proved a mega-hit for Christmas 1996. (As a public television broadcast in a country whose government does not fully fund public broadcasting, the show is heavily dependent on merchandising revenues, so...) He was eventually given his own regular 15-minute segment, Elmo's World, soon spun off into a series in its own right outside the US. Whether all this is a good thing or not is the subject of much adult skepticism — to put it kindly — especially among fans of the show's earlier years.

    This show has a very rudimentary character page, with many characters having only one-sentence descriptions. Please come help!

    Sesame Street is the Trope Namer for:
    Tropes used in Sesame Street include:
    • Acid Reflux Nightmare: Cookie Monster's cookie-induced nightmare (well known as a notorious Nightmare Fuel moment).
    • Acme Products: The appliance company is known as Nologo.
    • Aloha Hawaii: A multi-episode story arc in 1978 had the main human characters traveling to Hawaii, along with Big Bird and Snuffy. The latter learned that Hawaii happens to be the point of origin for all Snuffelupagi.
    • All or Nothing: In the Sonny Friendly game show, The Crying Game Show, The grand prize turned to be Sonny Friendly's very own teddy bear. However, Sonny Friendly declined it by crying the hardest and thus, wins the game. And leaves the poor contestants (Luke Warm, Ida Normer, and Pierre Blue) sobbing in failure after the announcer blurts there is no consolation prize.
    • Amazing Technicolor Population: Especially among the Muppets.
    • Ambiguously Jewish: Mr. Hooper. On rare occasions the show would make it more explicit, as when Bob wished him a happy Hanukkah in the Christmas Eve special, or when Big Bird inquired about the different languages the characters could speak and he mentioned that he learned Yiddish as a boy.
      • The Count may be a Space Jew (his leitmotif is actually a Roma tune, but it happens to sound like it's klezmer). Meanwhile, Oscar the Grouch has Israeli relatives, as seen in "Shalom Sesame", and they don't seem to be Israeli Arabs.
    • Anti-Christmas Song: Sung by Oscar, of course.
    • The Artifact: Telly was originally "The Television Monster", an example of a child who watched too much television — the prototype even came complete with wildly spiralling eyes from sitting too close. This characterization has largely died away, leaving only his trademark nervous personality.
    • Audience Participation Song: Which requires Breaking the Fourth Wall.
    • Bald of Awesome: Gordon, as currently played by Roscoe Orman (the early 1970s Matt Robinson version having had an Afro of Awesome).
    • Balloonacy: Several examples, such as the very end of Kermit's What-Happens-Next machine demonstration, and the Light and Heavy Lecture.
    • Beary Cute: Baby Bear, whose cuteness is further accented by his Elmuh Fudd Syndwome-style speech impediment.
    • Big Applesauce: Sesame Street has been shown to be in New York on maps in both Follow that Bird and the five-part hurricane story arc.
    • Big Bird Movie: 1985's Follow That Bird, which required a bigger, more elaborate street set in Toronto (and in the same studio where Fraggle Rock was shot) to make it look good on the silver screen.
    • Big Eater: Cookie Monster.
    • Big Friendly Dog: Barkley.
    • Blessed with Suck/Driven to Suicide: Everything King Minus touches ceases to exist. This includes the princess he wanted to save; he annihilated himself in horror after that.
    • Blowing a Raspberry: The movie in which Elmo goes to Grouchland features the Queen of Trash demanding one hundred of these "raspberries" in a set time.
    • Breakout Character: Elmo.
    • Bus Crash (to explain death to children): Mr. Hooper, after actor Will Lee's death.
    • Calling the Old Man Out and Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: Big Bird actually did this to freaking Osiris when encountering him in Don't Eat the Pictures when demanding he give the little Egyptian ghost prince he helped get this far another chance on the weighing of the heart.
    • Canon Discontinuity: Because of the passage of time and as their child audiences grow up, some concepts need to be retaught. One 2006 episode saw Bob introducing his deaf niece to Telly and Elmo and teaching them the concept of deafness, never mind the fact that they had previously known (and in Bob's case, even courted) Linda.
    • Carrying a Cake: The inevitable climax to the "number song" bits from the first season.
    • Cartoon Juggling: This clip uses shower juggling.
    • The Cast Showoff: Emilio Delgado (Luis) has played the guitar on the show, as seen here. He also played it again in a more recent episode.
    • Catch Phrase: Dozens; learning is all about repetition, after all.
      • "Hi! Welcome to Sesame Street!"
      • "That's Hooper, Big Bird, Hooper!" - Mr. Hooper.
      • "A la peanut butter sandwiches" - The Amazing Mumford.
      • "Ah, heigh-ho, Kermit the Frog here for Sesame Street News..."
    • Cats Are Mean: Chip and Dip, twin cats who would often prank Oscar. However, this Muppet/kid moment subverts it.
    • Character Blog: The Muppet cast shares one Twitter account.
    • Characterization Marches On: Big Bird started out as an adult-aged country bumpkin rather than the innocent Man Child he's become.
      • The Count also acted a bit more like a vampire in his early appearances, moving his hands around as if hypnotizing others as well as walking around with his cape across his face. His laugh was also louder and more sinister as opposed to the softer chuckle of today.
      • Cookie Monster behaved more like a toddler: he interfered with others (though unaware he was doing so), was occasionally fussy when he didn't get his way, and was scolded by other characters when he misbehaved. It wasn't until his Signature Song "C is for Cookie" in 1971 that Cookie Monster's personality was firmly established.
    • Character Outlives Actor:
      • Northern Calloway, who played David, was fired from the show in 1989 due to having serious mental health issues and the wildly erratic behavior it caused. He was institutionalized and died several months later. David was said to have moved to a farm to live with his grandmother.
      • Gordon's sister Olivia moved away, never to be heard from again, when her actress Alaina Reed Hall left the show to play Rose on NBC's 227. She died sometime back in 2010 (she also sang the theme song for Reading Rainbow). Both of these actors had been long mainstays who played major characters. You can see David in this clip and Olivia in this clip.
      • Averted, as mentioned in its own paragraph in the description above, with Will Lee — who played Mr. Hooper.
    • Children Are Innocent
    • Christmas Special: The utterly adorable Christmas Eve on Sesame Street.
      • Not to mention A Special Sesame Street Christmas, which first aired on CBS -- the same year as Christmas Eve on Sesame Street (and the same network as The Star Wars Holiday Special) -- and is known primarily for being less "utterly adorable" than it was utterly awful.
      • Most of the Muppet cast also hit the road for A Muppet Family Christmas.
      • Then there's the brilliant Elmo Saves Christmas featuring Harvey Fierstein and Maya Angelou.
      • And there's Elmo's Christmas Countdown, and the utterly pointless A Sesame Street Christmas Carol which, you guessed it, is Yet Another Christmas Carol Clip Show comprised of the "main" plot with clips from Christmas Eve on Sesame Street, Elmo Saves Christmas and Elmo's World: Happy Holidays half-assedly connected with the plot.
      • How Can Santa Deliver All Those Toys?: Subverted. In Christmas Eve on Sesame Street, Oscar's question is, more accurately, "How can Santa fit down the chimney?" Big Bird nearly freezes waiting up for the answer, and doesn't get one. Elmo Saves Christmas reveals that he has a time-traveling reindeer.
    • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Sadly, numerous Muppet characters have gotten the hook over the years. One, Don Music, the piano player who would bang his head against the piano in frustration, had to be discontinued when kids at home started doing the same thing. Another, Harvey Kneeslapper, was let go because his signature laugh was too much of a strain on Frank Oz's vocal cords. Then there was Roosevelt Franklin, arguably one of the first breakthrough Sesame Street Muppets, who had to go as he was considered to be a negative cultural stereotype (he was the only African-American Muppet at the time and was seen mostly in detention after school). Finally, Professor Hastings, a teacher whose lectures were so dull that he'd put himself to sleep while he was giving them, was discontinued because he was too dull.
    • Clark Kenting: Parodied by Super-Grover, whose bespectacled alter-ego is "Grover Kent, ace doorknob salesman for ACME Inc."; which leaves the fact that they both just happen to be furry blue monsters wholly unexplained.
    • Classical Movie Vampire: Complete with fangs.
    • Cloudcuckoolander: Several Muppet characters to some degree.
    • Clown Car Base: Oscar's trash can, which among many other things contains a pet elephant named Fluffy. And an indoor pool.
    • Clutching Hand Trap: In a episode from the mid-70s, Oscar has his hand stuck in a jar. Throughout the episode, the adults try many methods of prying his hand out, even by greasing it with lard. Turns out he wanted to look at his rock collection that he kept in the jar. The adults convince him to let go and his hand comes out easily; the adults then pour the rocks into his hand. Immediately after, Luis comes by with an old alarm clock in pieces as a gift to Oscar. Luis puts the pieces in the jar, which Oscar immediately grabs. He finds his hand stuck once again as the closing credits begin.
    • The Collector of the Strange: Bert and bottlecaps. Telly and triangles.
    • Commuting on a Bus: Several of the human cast, but most notably Bob and Susan, since season 29. Also happens to the Muppets from time to time, usually due to concerns over the character's particular impact on young audiences.
    • Companion Cube: Big Bird's teddy bear, Ernie's rubber duckie, Zoe's pet rock.
    • Content Warnings: On the "Old School" DVDs: "These early episodes of Sesame Street are intended for grown-ups, and may not meet the needs of today's preschoolers". A bit unnerving for now-adult fans, but it must be remembered that the target audience of Sesame Street is very young children. Word of God is that the main concern -- however awkwardly it was phrased -- was that seeing early episodes with a goofy Big Bird, bright orange and surly Oscar, younger versions of the humans, and no Elmo would be a Mind Screw for contemporary toddlers.
    • Crazy Consumption
    • Crossover: Mister Rogers passes through the neighborhood in one 1981 episode. Later that year, Big Bird appeared in turn in an episode of Rogers' show.
      • Big Bird, Oscar, and Grover all made appearances on The Electric Company.
      • Kermit the Frog became the host and main character of The Muppet Show, of course. Another early Jim Henson Muppet, Rowlf the Dog, appeared with Kermit in the promotional pitch reel for Sesame Street (and made a single cameo appearance in the "Song of 9" from the show's first season) before becoming a Muppet Show regular himself. Big Bird guest-starred in one Muppet Show episode, Ernie and Bert in another. Still another episode had practically *all* of the Sesame Muppets turn up in one sketch. And then there was A Muppet Family Christmas...
    • Deadpan Snarker: Bert or Oscar, normally. Though the writers have infused many of the characters with this trait when the sketch calls for it.
    • Defictionalization: The name has been placed on real streets in multiple communities; "1 Sesame Street, Plattsburgh NY" and "23 Sesame Street, Richmond VA" are the official physical civic addresses of real-world PBS member stations, for example.
    • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: In the TV Movie Don't Eat the Pictures several of the human cast and Muppets are accidentally locked in the NYC Metropolitan Museum of Art overnight. Big Bird's subplot involved him and Snuffleupagus helping the 4000 year old ghost of an Egyptian boy confront the god Osiris when he refused to let the boy into the afterlife. Repeat: Big Bird confronted a god and told him he was wrong.
    • Digging to China: The Big Bird In China TV-movie special. Oscar and Telly feel left out, so they decide to dig (Oscar makes Telly do all the actual work). As soon as they get there, Oscar decides that "Ehhh, it's not so special!" and immediately turns around to go home.
    • Distant Duet: "One Little Star" from Follow That Bird, except that it's done with three people.
    • A Dog Named "Dog": Big Bird and Little Bird.
    • Dripping Disturbance: In one early episode, one sketch with Bert and Ernie involves a dripping faucet that keeps Bert awake, so he sends Ernie to take care of the problem. How does Ernie solve the problem? By turning on the radio to play loud music to drown out the dripping.
    • Eagleland Osmosis: It was rumored that in a British primary school, a teacher showed this clip to her class and later asked where milk comes from. Their response? America.
    • Early Installment Weirdness: Early seasons were much slower-paced, and frequently relied on lectures (such as the aforementioned segment about how milk is made), making it more in line with competitors such as Mister Rogers' Neighborhood and Captain Kangaroo. Also, some segments tended to repeat at least twice, since they acted like TV commercials. They abandoned this around the mid 1970s.
      • Some of the Muppet characters looked and sounded very different, too. Oscar, for example, was orange, and only his head was visible. Big Bird missed most of the feathers on his head, and had the mindset of a dim-witted adult bird rather than a child. Plus, Grover was green. And Ernie and Bert talked with New York accents.
      • Animated segments outnumbered Muppet segments, too. Also, the characters broke the fourth wall more frequently, addressing their audience as well as introducing and commenting on segments, as if they tied into each other more.
    • Educational Song
    • Edutainment Show
    • Episode Code Number: They've always used four digits, so the first episode is 0001. Displaying the episode number has become a Couch Gag:
      • In the middle of a cloudy sky in the mid nineties.
      • Super Grover flies through the air, crashes, and holds the sign up in a daze.
      • At one point, it shared a signpost with the Sesame Street sign.
      • These days, the episode number is written in chalk on a sidewalk.
    • Every Episode Ending: Up to three letters of the day and two numbers of the day are reviewed and given sponsor credits.
    • Everything's Better with Bob: Bob McGrath has been part of the cast for the show's entire run.
    • Expository Theme Tune
    • Expy: The many co-productions around the world contain their own versions of Big Bird. One example is Abelardo in Plaza Sésamo (Mexico's version), a large green parrot (and officially Big Bird's primo-- urm, cousin).
    • Extreme Omni Goat: In an interstitial cartoon demonstrating "zero". A complaint was received from the Dairy Goats Association, leading to a follow-up clarifying that dairy goats only eat healthy, sensible foods. See them both, one after the other, here [dead link].
    • Extreme Omnivore: Cookie Monster. Oscar eats some extremely strange food combinations -- like sardine ice cream with chocolate sauce -- but they are generally at least edible.
    • Faceless Masses: The anything Muppets. The reason that they are called this is because they can be anything as needed, however the most memorable are The Count, The Amazing Mumford, Guy Smiley, Prairie Dawn and of course Forgetful Jones.
    • Fairy Companion: Abby Cadabby, who is a serious point of contention for some fans, as it looks disturbingly like the character was designed by a marketing committee. However, the book "Street Gang" — while quite frankly admitting that that is how Zoe was designed, and how much she was hated by the writers because of it — takes pains to point out that Abby was created in the traditional manner by the show's longest established writer.
    • The Family for the Whole Family: Lefty the letter-pushing salesman, usually shown sidling up to Ernie: "Psst! Hey, kid - you wanna buy an 'O'?"
    • Fish Out of Water:
    • Five-Token Band: The human cast.
    • Follow the Leader: To the point where viewership decreased and the average age of viewers got younger.
    • Four-Fingered Hands: According to Word of God, every Muppet has them except Cookie Monster.
    • Friendly Neighborhood Vampire: The Count is one of the finest examples of this.
    • Funny Foreigner: The Count.
    • Game Show Appearance: Big Bird and Oscar appeared semi-regularly in episodes of the original version of Hollywood Squares (with Big Bird calling host Peter Marshall 'Mr Marshmallow'), and Elmo has appeared on the revival versions.
      • Kermit appeared with his 'friend' Jim Henson, and Big Bird with his 'friend' Carroll Spinney, on separate episodes of the syndicated version of What's My Line.
    • Game Show Host: Guy Smiley and Sonny Friendly. Also "Pat Playjacks", in a one-shot Wheel of Fortune parody.
    • Getting Stuff Past The Radar: Parental action groups largely hadn't been invented or weren't equipped to handle this kind of kiddie-TV innovation in the early years, leading to such dazzling high points as the aforementioned Lefty, slapstick practical joker Harvey Kneeslapper, and Roosevelt Franklin, the first (and still the only) Muppet hip-hop poet. Can you imagine a modern preschool show ending up with classic moments like this?

    Cop: "My name's Stan. I'm the Man. You just got ten years in the can for stealing the Golden An..."
    Lefty: "Awwww...I shoulda ran!"

      • An episode featuring Gaby trying on an old fairy costume has Elmo, Telly and Baby Bear coming up to her with Baby Bear saying to the other two, "Hey fellas, check out those great lookin' wings!"
      • From Oscar's Anti-Christmas Song, in the Christmas Eve special:

    Here comes Santa, girls and boys
    So, who needs that big red noise?
    I'll tell him where to put his toys
    I hate Christmas!


    Snuffy: Cause we're her children.
    Alice: Why?
    Snuffy: Oh why did I start this?


    Old Lady: You could lose your purse and you might lose something worse on the subway...

      • Kermit is trying to give a lecture about the letter B, but Cookie Monster keeps breaking parts off to make them look like different letters, making Kermit become progressively more frustrated and use Stealth Insults that begin with each letter. Eventually, it looks like an F.

    Kermit:Now the letter 'F' starts a number of words I can think of.


    Kermit: You will now notice that there are more monsters than frogs here. Which means that there are... less frogs than monsters. Uh, which means you're going to see more and more of them, and... less and less of me. Uh... PIP! (makes a run for it)

    1. Official location is in Manhattan, New York City. It is unclear where in Manhattan the street is, though.
    2. "Which key fits"
    3. "He isn't coming back." And, despite the tendency Sesame Street has for rerunning clips, Mr. Hooper has never been shown on the show since then. Sesame Workshop does not lie to children.
    4. Though archived clips featuring him are still shown from time to time and he did have a cameo during an "Elmo's World" segment for the show's 40th anniversary