Can you tell me how to get, how to get to Sesame Street?
—Opening theme 
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 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 Jesse Jackson and Bill Cosby) 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, 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 .
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 characters having few tropes, if any at all. Please come help!
- 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 identical to 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 spiraling 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).
- Bald Black Leader Guy: As necessitated by the events of Follow That Bird.
- Balloonacy: Several examples, such as the very end of Kermit's What-Happens-Next machine demonstration, and the Light and Heavy Lecture.
- 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.
- Brought to You by The Letter "S": Sesame Street is the Trope Namer; the leading example for the trope on this show is Super Grover.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- The Yip-Yip aliens, who spent their first years on Earth attempting to communicate with inanimate objects... like telephones and radios. Hilarity Ensues.
- A more literal example of this trope would be the short-lived Wanda Cousteau (A Fish Called Wanda... get it?).
- Five-Token Band: The human cast.
- Follow the Leader: To the point where viewership decreased and the average age of viewers got younger.
- Forgetful Jones: Trope Namer
- 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..."
- 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
- There is this scene with Snuffleupagus and his little sister Alice. She constantly pesters him with the question "why?" to everything poor Snuffleupagus answers. And it leads to this.
Snuffy: Cause we're her children.
- The song "On The Subway" includes this lyric at 1:21:
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.
- The Golden Rule: How this show deals with bullying.
- Great Gazoo: Abby, Mumford the Magician and dozens of magical one-offs.
- Green Aesop: Once an Episode during seasons 40 and 41.
- Head Desk: Muppet composer Don Music had a habit, when unable to find a rhyme, of slamming his forehead into the keys of his piano in sheer frustration. Which is why you don't see him anymore.
- Here We Go Again: The end of the song "I heard my Dog Bark."
- The end of Christmas Eve on Sesame Street.
- Heterosexual Life Partners: Bert and Ernie. Probably Big Bird and Snuffy, too, eventually.
- Hulk Speak: Cookie Monster.
- The Hyena: Harvey Kneeslapper.
- I Call My Bathtub Rosie: In the very first episode.
- Iconic Item: Ernie's rubber duckie.
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: In Which a Trope Is Described
- Incendiary Exponent: It is overshadowed by the song, but a campfire in "The Ladybugs' Picnic" gets out of control, and has to be put out by the fire department.
- Instant Web Hit: "I Love My Hair."
- Invincible TV Show: Sesame Street's Emmy count is off the charts.
- Iris Out: One of the openings uses this.
- I Would Say If I Could Say
- Jeff Goldblum: Guest-starring as Minneapolis, Bob's Indiana Jones-esque brother.
- The Jimmy Hart Version: Very prevalent with most of the Parental Bonus segments, but most egregious with the Let It Be Affectionate Parody Letter B.
- Kent Brockman News: The Sesame Street News Flash segments with reporter Kermit.
- Also a scene in Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird where an anchorman, played by Chevy Chase, reports on the disappearance of Big Bird from his foster family's home in Illinois. He responds to a question by Grover (who is watching the broadcast), has to be corrected by someone offscreen on the pronunciation of the word "sesame", and finally gives the weather report as "It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood, a beautiful day for a neighbor. Would you be mine?" in a completely deadpan tone.
- Leitmotif: During the years when Mr. Snuffleupagus was only seen by Big Bird, Snuffy's entrances and exits were accompanied by one of these.
- Loads and Loads of Characters
- Long Runners: 42 years and counting.
- Loud of War: An early Bert and Ernie sketch has the duo engaging in one of these when Ernie hogs the TV set, and Bert turns the record player on to drown him out, which leads to Ernie turning the radio on to drown out the record player, then Bert responds by turning a blender on to drown out the radio... all of which leads to a fuse blowing and the power going out in their apartment.
- Manipulative Grouch: Oscar really likes to mess around with others, especially Elmo, Big Bird, and Telly.
- Medium Blending: Abby Cadabby moves from live-action to the computer-generated Flying Fairy School. Similarly, Bert and Ernie have Great Adventures in Stop Motion.
- The Movie: Follow That Bird and Elmo in Grouchland.
- Multi National Shows: We heartily recommend the documentary The World According to Sesame Street on this subject.
- My Name Is Not Durwood: Big Bird always addressed Mr. Hooper as "Mr. Looper". He even got away with "Mr. Pooper" on at least one occasion, in a literal application of...well, you know.
- "Hello, Mr. Cunningham--gee, that wasn't even close!"
- Mythology Gag: Season 40 is filled with them, ranging from props with an hidden reference on them to onscreen cameos from some of the performers. Click here for a complete list.
- Never Say "Die": Averted, with Mr. Hooper's death.
- The song "One Way" also opens with the line "I'm so lonely, I wish I was dead".
- As does "On The Subway" ("So hot I could die...").
- Niche Network: In Elmo's World, Elmo's TV tunes in to these kinds of channels to teach kids.
- No Fourth Wall: Often follows the common kids' TV convention in which the viewer is assumed to be "visiting" the show's characters.
- Episodes of Sesamstrasse (the German version) from 1978-88 -- when the show took place in a studio -- took it Up to Eleven, where some episodes involved the studio crew helping the characters out.
- Nostalgia Filter: Arguably, what some adult fans who object to the modern Retool are looking through.
- Not-So-Imaginary Friend: Mr. Snuffleupagus was one of these for about a decade. This was eventually changed because it infuriated children, seeing Big Bird driven crazy by everyone's disbelief. Also, as per above, it occurred to the writers that perhaps having all the adults disbelieve Big Bird sent a very irresponsible message.
- Odd Couple: Bert and Ernie.
- One Mario Limit: Good luck finding any character named "Elmo" from after the late 70s. The same goes for Grover, Bert and Ernie to a lesser extent. Oscar is luckily a common enough name to avoid this.
- Only Sane Man: Averted to extreme, as most of the cast acts pretty eccentric at times, but this is due to them attempting to simultaneously teach preschoolers about letters and numbers.
- Only Shop in Town: Hooper's Store is this to the titular street.
- Our Vampires Are Different: Count von Count.
- Out of Focus: Several characters after Elmo took over. The Count is rarely seen. Saddest of all, Big Bird is only a periodic guest star.
- Pantomime Animal: Barkley.
- Parental Bonus: If not the actual originator of the concept, then Sesame Street is certainly the most sophisticated. Includes parodies of current celebrities, movies and songs, such as 'Monsterpiece Theater', a Masterpiece Theatre spoof hosted by Alistair Cookie. It's really doubtful that preschoolers would get a Waiting for Godot parody. Or, for that matter, one based around The Thirty-Nine Steps.
- Or Old Spice... starring Grover. ("Anything is possible when you smell like a monster and you know the word 'on'. I am on a horse." "Moo!" "Cow.")
- They really do work hard to stay current, as also per a parody of Law and Order Special Victims Unit called "Law and Order: Special Letters Unit".
- Parental Substitutes: The original concept behind Gordon and Susan, according to Word of God.
- The Pig Pen: Oscar the Grouch.
- Pixilation: Milo Counting, Ordering a Pizza, and George the Farmer
- Put on a Bus: Roosevelt Franklin.
- The Martians.
- Oh, and Betty Lou.
- Really Dead Montage: Mr. Hooper would've gotten one, but the producers decided it would confuse the younger viewers.
- Robot Buddy: Sam the Robot, in the 1970s.
- Safety Worst: In one storyline, Telly breaks his arm after playing tag. Following his recovery he wraps himself up in pillows in order to protect himself, only to realize that this means he can't move and must remove it to have fun.
- Scandalgate: A crossover between Sesame Street and The MacNeil-Lehrer News Hour occurred during a PBS pledge drive in the '80s in which Robert MacNeil covered a presumed cookie theft by Cookie Monster known as "Cookiegate".
- Second-Person Attack: In the Elmo's World episode "Water", a boy is shown squirting a jet of water at the camera with a hose during a montage of kids playing with water.
- Sequel Hook: From Christmas Eve on Sesame Street: "How do you think the Easter Bunny can hide all those eggs in one night?"
- Serious Business: Under all the apparent silliness is a deep, deep dedication to their core educational mission, to the point of instantly dropping characters and concepts that might negatively impact young audiences. Sometimes can itself come off as over-the-top funny; as per this early short film wherein the process of getting milk from the cow to a baby's bottle is treated with just slightly less gravity than, say, the Normandy Invasion.
- Sesame Street Cred: The Trope Namer. This is also the most likely show to invert this trope, with characters making appearances on all sorts of shows from Rove Live to Scrubs to The Today Show.
- Sesquipedalian Smith: Forgetful Jones.
- Shoot the Money: The smaller version of Zoe, a.k.a. "Homunculus Zoe". See Throw It In.
- Shout-Out: Again, a fundamental part of the Parental Bonus:
- "Good morning, Mr. Cunningham! Gee, that wasn't even close!"
- Big Bird's teddy bear is named "Radar".
- Bert composes a letter to Mister Rogers Neighborhood in one skit.
- Aversion: No matter what you've heard, Bert and Ernie are not named for George Bailey's childhood friends in It's a Wonderful Life. Henson & co. have been driven crazy by that coincidence for years.
- This was lampshaded in Elmo Saves Christmas, where Bert and Ernie walk past a TV playing It's a Wonderful Life" and are surprised by the line "Bert! Ernie! What's the matter with you two guys? You were here on my wedding night."
- Show Within a Show: Abby's Flying Fairy School; Elmo's World.
- Signature Laugh: Several.
- Ernie's hissing, machine-gun-like "kh-h-h-h-h..."
- Bert's bleating "Eh-e-e-e-eh..."
- The Count's "ONE <insert noun here>, Ah-ha-ha..."
- Elmo has one of the most distinctive laughs in children's television, as anyone who has ever owned a Tickle-Me-Elmo doll can attest to.
- The Twiddlebugs have that high-pitched giggle.
- Singing in the Shower: Ernie sings "Rubber Duckie" in the bathtub.
- Smarmy Host: Guy Smiley.
- Spotlight-Stealing Squad: For a while after Tickle Me Elmo's runaway success, it seemed that more and more of the show was becoming devoted to Elmo, to the point where it was less Sesame Street and more The Elmo Show. Thankfully, though, it was reverted before things got too out of hand, so that now the character focus is much more balanced again.
- Stage Magician: The Amazing Mumford.
- Steal the Surroundings: There was a routine in which Ernie, fed up with Cookie Monster stealing his cookies all the time, acquires a safe in which to put the cookies. When Cookie Monster comes by, he realizes that he cannot open the safe, so he just eats the safe.
- Sting: Lampshaded and put to extensive use in "The Golden Triangle of Destiny".
- Take That:
- Talking in Bed: Several Ernie and Bert sketches.
- Talking Typography
- Theme Tune Extended: On Friday installments.
- These Questions Three
- Third Person Person: Elmo says Elmo like referring to himself as Elmo!
- Trademark Favorite Food: "COOOOO-KIEEEEE!"
- Unsatisfiable Customer: Mr. Johnson, Grover's customer in the "Charlie's Restaurant" skits, is sometimes this.
- Vacation Episode: In addition to the aforementioned Aloha Hawaii storyline, there were a series of episodes where the characters went to Puerto Rico to visit Maria's family. Also, there were one-hour specials like "Big Bird in China" and "Big Bird in Japan".
- Very Special Episode: Episode 1839, where Big Bird learns about death after Mr. Hooper (and Will Lee, who portrayed him) dies.
- The Von Trope Family: Count von Count.
- Wafer-Thin Mint: A mouse gets on an already overloaded elevator and it shakes and explodes.
- A kid yanks the bottom can off a stack, and the whole store collapses.
- In one of Prairie Dawn's pageants about "heavy" and "light", one character named Monty is struggling to hold up a boulder and another named Merry is holding a feather. Monty eventually drops the boulder onto Prairie's piano, nearly crushing it. Then, Merry places the feather on top, completely crushing it.
- What Do You Mean It's Not Awesome?: Andrea Bocelli singing a lullaby
- Whip Pan: Typical of Season 40.
- Who Writes This Stuff?: Elmo Live 2.
- Why Do You Keep Changing Jobs?: Grover.
- The Worst Seat in the House: One classic segment with Bert and Ernie at a movie theater saw Ernie having to contend with a woman in front of him wearing a really tall hat. Hilarity Ensues.
- You Look Familiar: The Orange Gold Anything Muppet, though this is due to the fact that it always has the same features no matter what it is wearing when it appears.
- Your Tomcat Is Pregnant: Telly's hamster Chuckie, thereafter called Chuckie Sue.
- Zeerust: Someday, Little Children
- Official location is in Manhattan, New York City. It is unclear where in Manhattan the street is, though.
- "Which key fits"
- "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.
- 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