Caroll Spinney (STILL ALIVE), aka Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, Retires
October 17, 2018 8:43 AM   Subscribe

After nearly 50 years, Caroll Spinney (WHO IS STILL ALIVE) has announced that he is stepping down as the primary performer of Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch. Spinney, last of the original Sesame Street Muppeteers, has already taped his final performances as Messrs. Bird and Grouch have already been taped for Sesame Street's 50th season, which will air next year. The tall yellow role will be taken by Matt Vogel, currently Count Von Count and Kermit the Frog; the short green role will be taken by Eric Jacobson, currently at least 10 other Muppets.
posted by Etrigan (31 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
(WHO IS STILL ALIVE)

Thank you!
posted by Going To Maine at 8:46 AM on October 17, 2018 [23 favorites]


Nice to see him take a well earned retirement.
posted by ZeusHumms at 8:56 AM on October 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch represented the kids’ feelings and points of view on Sesame Street. Because of the heart and emotion of Carroll Spinney, I can still remember where I was and what I felt watching the show where Mr. Hooper died and the devastating effect it had on Big Bird.
posted by zooropa at 9:01 AM on October 17, 2018 [9 favorites]


I love Big Bird - please Lord, don't give us another wrong-sounding muppet....
posted by ersatzkat at 9:03 AM on October 17, 2018 [3 favorites]


I had no idea he was still alive!

Aww, Big Bird. I still remember his reaction when Mr. Hooper died, too. Sesame Street and BB were a big part of my childhood.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 9:07 AM on October 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


Will there be cake?
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:08 AM on October 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


A reminder that I Am Big Bird is streaming on Prime Video.
posted by uncleozzy at 9:10 AM on October 17, 2018 [11 favorites]


His name is literally Bird.
posted by wanderingmind at 9:14 AM on October 17, 2018 [5 favorites]


I deeply appreciate the framing; I saw Caroll Spinney trending on Twitter and had a moment of frankly deep despair.

I hope he has a long and wonderful retirement; performing Big Bird in particular strikes me as incredibly physically difficult, he's clearly an amazing performer on many levels!
posted by kalimac at 9:15 AM on October 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


I thought he had retired already! Bless, so many children were positively influenced by him. I hope he has many great years ahead of him.
posted by droplet at 9:16 AM on October 17, 2018 [2 favorites]


Bless the Bird and the Man.
posted by KleenexMakesaVeryGoodHat at 9:36 AM on October 17, 2018


(STILL ALIVE) must become the gold standard for all these kinds of posts, thank you.
posted by poffin boffin at 9:42 AM on October 17, 2018 [12 favorites]


Warning: article includes disturbing picture of strange half-Oscar, half-Big Bird chimera with some hippie-looking guy in the middle of them both.
posted by yhbc at 9:52 AM on October 17, 2018 [5 favorites]


This cut-away illustration shows how the Big Bird puppet was operated.
Carol Spinney walked around like this for 50 years.
Respect.
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:54 AM on October 17, 2018 [5 favorites]




When our daughter was very little, we took her to one of the myriad live Sesame Street shows that come around several times a year, and Big Bird was one of the featured characters (operated by someone other than Spinney, obvs). Having watched Sesame Street myself almost from the very beginning, I was surprised and saddened at how fake and lifeless Big Bird seemed compared to the character on the show, who seems as completely real as any of the human characters.
posted by briank at 10:10 AM on October 17, 2018


This cut-away illustration shows how the Big Bird puppet was operated.
Carol Spinney walked around like this for 50 years.
Respect.
posted by Atom Eyes at 11:54 AM on October 17
After all those years he must have one giant muscly arm and one regular person arm, like ancient longbow archers.
posted by Horkus at 10:10 AM on October 17, 2018 [3 favorites]




After all those years he must have one giant muscly arm and one regular person arm, like ancient longbow archers.

From a few years back:
After decades of holding your arm above your head in the Big Bird costume, is your right shoulder just so much stronger than your left?
There was an urban legend going around in the early days that my right arm was twice the size of my left. I went to a wine and cheese gathering where I met Dr. Seuss on the roof of the Sesame Street headquarters. I had to convince this group of people it wasn’t true. They said to me, “how would you know?” I told them “I guarantee you, it’s the same size.”
posted by Etrigan at 10:30 AM on October 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


Aww, I hope that he enjoys his retirement. I read his Ask Me Anything on Reddit a few years ago and he sounded like he just loved what he did...making kids happy for 50 years.
posted by Elly Vortex at 10:40 AM on October 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


Well, shit.
posted by Melismata at 10:41 AM on October 17, 2018


This cut-away illustration shows how the Big Bird puppet was operated.

[Clicks link]

Daughter from behind: Dad, what's that man doing inside Big Bird?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:42 AM on October 17, 2018 [10 favorites]


Will there be cake?

Try not to panic.
posted by Melismata at 10:42 AM on October 17, 2018


wow thank you caroll spinney.. I had a chance to revisit the henson exhibit at the museum of the moving image. It was just as religious an experience this time round as it was when I first saw it in 2011, I really don't have words to describe how grateful i am for the many butterfly wing flaps that transpired to allow henson to create muppets, and all of the muppeteers ans crafts people who together manifested them into the world. They have so profoundly shaped me and my generation for the better ..
posted by elgee at 10:52 AM on October 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


what's that man doing inside Big Bird?

Susan: Hey, Big Bird. What are you doing?
Big Bird: Talking to Caroll.
Susan: Who's Caroll?
Big Bird: Caroll is the little man who lives in my mouth.
Susan: So... Caroll is your imaginary friend?
Big Bird: No, Mr. Snuffleupagus is my imaginary friend. Caroll controls everything I do and say. RED RUM, RED RUM, RED RUUUUM!!!
posted by Atom Eyes at 11:08 AM on October 17, 2018 [8 favorites]


I took a much-needed break from wedding planning to go see the premiere of his documentary, “I Am Big Bird,” at Hot Docs in 2014. He was there and did a panel after the show, and part of the way through it, he reached down and picked something up...and all of a sudden started answering questions as Oscar the Grouch. As a grown woman, I will admit I shrieked (quietly) and nearly burst into tears. Caroll Spinney, you’re a wonderful guy, even if you are accidentally and tangentially responsible for my childhood trauma.

(My parents taped “Follow That Bird” for me to watch when I was a small child, but they didn’t get all of it, which they found out when they came downstairs to find static on the screen and me bawling, “Big Bird is lost and all alone and he has no friends!!!” I hear it was the quickest trip to the video rental store ever.)
posted by ilana at 11:15 AM on October 17, 2018 [13 favorites]


a wine and cheese gathering where I met Dr. Seuss on the roof of the Sesame Street headquarters.

You can have your Playboy mansion debauchery. This is the kind of party I want to get invited to.
posted by CaseyB at 11:25 AM on October 17, 2018 [19 favorites]


The things we loved as children have such a special place in our hearts. It's like they become part of our dna, in a way. Thank you, Caroll Spinney, for being one of the comforting voices of my youth!
posted by acidnova at 12:12 PM on October 17, 2018 [4 favorites]


“The best episode we ever did was Mr. Hooper's death.
Those were real tears. Will was the sweetest man.” —Caroll Spinney

Another article about that show, with a video clip.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 5:59 PM on October 17, 2018 [1 favorite]


Ohhhh, Caroll Spinney is an absolute blessing. He taught me a lot, even after I aged out of Big Bird's target preschool demo.

When I was in high school, I went to the local hippy coffee shop/bar with a couple of friends for an open mic night that, unbeknownst to us, fell on Dr Seuss Jim Henson Day and so was supposed to be entirely Seuss- or Muppet-themed.

My friends and I decided that this was stupid, and unsophisticated, and childish, and that we should make fun of it. We signed up for three consecutive slots, announced before the first that we were changing the theme to "Dr. Sex Day," and then read three raunchy poems, FROM OUR OWN LITERALLY SOPHOMORIC CATALOGS, to a roomful of people who wanted to talk about children's books and Sesame Street. Then we sat down and enjoyed feeling superior(!) to everyone else in the room.

A few slots later a very nervous young woman, probably in college or just out, got up to talk about Caroll Spinney. She explained, haltingly, and clearly with some anxiety about public speaking, that he was the original Big Bird, and the only one, and that she found his work so meaningful that she had written him a fan letter, without expecting much. Spinney replied with a really kind letter, she said, and they struck up a correspondence, and eventually she offered to build him a website, because he didn't have one and she knew how and thought he should have one. So she built the first version of his professional website and ended up running it for a few years. Plus, Spinney sent her a few of the drawings he did between takes in the Big Bird costume, and these were particularly special to her. She had brought them with her, in archival envelopes, to share with other fans. She had come kind of a long way, actually, to talk about Spinney and Sesame Street and the Muppets with other people who loved those things.

I made a point to talk to her afterwards and tell her how cool I thought she was. She was really sweet and showed me the drawings (which were also very cool!) and wrote down the website URL for me. I decided that in the future I should try to be more like her (brave, open to authentic connections with other people, possessed of practical skills like web design, secure in her own interests and hobbies) and Caroll Spinney (kind, generous, dedicated, hard-working), and less like a smug fucking asshole.

I'm not 100% successful, obviously, but I'm very grateful for their good examples. I hope he enjoys the hell out of his retirement.
posted by Snarl Furillo at 11:45 PM on October 17, 2018 [7 favorites]




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