Who Are The People (and the Muppets) In Your Neighborhood?
March 29, 2009 6:32 PM   Subscribe

In honor of the 40th anniversary of Sesame Street, let's take a few moments to honor those Sesame Street humans overshadowed by their Muppet counterparts. Check out Bob (Bob McGrath) singing Danny Boy in Japanese on a 1966 broadcast of To Tell The Truth or singing a Japanese ballad. Watch Gordon (Roscoe Orman) as the big pimpin' title character in this original trailer for the film Willie Dynamite. See Maria (Sonia Manzano) as a lady trucker on B.J. & the Bear or getting menaced by Jeff Goldblum in the movie Death Wish. And Mr. Hooper (Will Lee) plays Pac-Man in an Atari commercial. Meanwhile, the Muppet stars of Sesame Street have gone some interesting evolutions as well in their career.

Check out the Cookie Monster prototype in this Munchos commercial or this Computer Monster skit. The original prototype of Grover was a thieving Muppet named Gleep who appeared on a Christmas sketch on the Ed Sullivan show with Arthur Godfrey as Santa Claus, but Grover also appears as Fuzzyface in a 1st season appearance on Sesame Street with Kermit. Last but not least, this Monsterpiece Theater production of Me Claudius features Elmo with a much raspier voice than the childlike Muppet who monopolizes the show today.
posted by jonp72 (40 comments total) 37 users marked this as a favorite
Happy birthday, Sesame Street!
posted by Faint of Butt at 6:35 PM on March 29, 2009

Cameo by Sweetums at the 1.52 mark of the Willie Dynamite trailer.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 6:38 PM on March 29, 2009

Wait, Maria's name isn't really Maria? *mind blown*
also: one two three four five, six seven eight nine ten, eleven twelve

posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 6:42 PM on March 29, 2009

Maria has also been in The Vagina Monologues.

And it was not brought to you by the letter Y.
posted by middleclasstool at 6:42 PM on March 29, 2009

Great post! (Roscoe Orman is only one of at least 3 Gordons, btw.)

Also, I always find it weird watching these really old TV shows over the Internet. Who then could have predicted that in the future people would watch them while sitting in front of a flickering screen at home?
posted by DU at 6:45 PM on March 29, 2009

Maria's real name isn't Maria, but (at least for a while) her on-screen daughter Gabriella was played by her real life daughter Gabriella.
posted by DU at 6:47 PM on March 29, 2009

Feist on Sesame Street.
posted by delmoi at 6:49 PM on March 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

MetaFilter: The most powerful exploding device known to man.

I absolutely love the Muppets. My kids are going to watch every single episode of Sesame Street and The Muppet Show, and that's that.
posted by secret about box at 6:53 PM on March 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

True story: Bob sang 'the dishwasher is a person in your neighborhood' to me when I first started working at 14... and yes, I was a dishwasher.
posted by Nanukthedog at 7:12 PM on March 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

Yeah, I used to hang out on the street. You come back and see everything's changed. But it's still the same in a lot of ways. Elmo is bigger than Grover. Wow. But, I saw this a bit ago, always puts a smile on my face, so the street is still in good hands.
posted by Smedleyman at 7:16 PM on March 29, 2009

Stay tuned for the second half of that Christmas sketch. It's weird and a little bit dirty.
posted by empath at 7:19 PM on March 29, 2009

When you said that Will Lee played Pac-Man in a commercial, I pictured him in yellow make-up, running around chasing ghosts and eating giant dots. I was very disappointed at the real thing.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 7:28 PM on March 29, 2009

How about Mr. Noodle's brother Mr. Noodle appearing in "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas"
posted by 445supermag at 7:44 PM on March 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Lest anyone doubt the vocal abilities of the human cast...

Gimme Five (inspired by this)
posted by evilcolonel at 7:56 PM on March 29, 2009

Gordon number one: Matt Robinson
Gordon number two: Hal Miller

Bonus Gordon: Unknown Actor (from a test episode that only aired in Philadelphia) (Bob McGrath sings theme song instead of kids)
posted by evilcolonel at 8:07 PM on March 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

This is one of the finest shows ever put on television. I could watch with my son and get almost as much out of it as he did. Some of the videos like the visits to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Japan, and China, and then the 25th Anniversary video were amazingly good. The recent political correctness though kind of ruins that and dumbs down the whole thing. Cookie Monster is not supposed to crave veggies, I am sorry.
posted by caddis at 8:32 PM on March 29, 2009

Bob McGrath singing Japanese is the best thing ever.
posted by cazoo at 8:35 PM on March 29, 2009

Can you pick out Bob McGrath singing along with Mitch?
posted by evilcolonel at 8:36 PM on March 29, 2009

Yay, Sesame Street!

Here's a video for all the mefite librarians out there.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:52 PM on March 29, 2009

Some more trivia you can take to the bank: Toots Thielemans is the guy playing the harmonica on the theme song.
posted by evilcolonel at 8:56 PM on March 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

I grew up with this show. I still remember many of the things I learned from it. Here's to 40, and another 40. May Sesame Street outlast Meet the Press (61 years), and the Tonight Show (54). May there be a Sesame Street on the colonies of Mars, and beyond.

Because we are all the people in your neighborhood.
posted by strixus at 9:02 PM on March 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

The Funky Chimes (by unknown)
posted by evilcolonel at 9:04 PM on March 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Don't get me wrong, I love Sesame Street.

Hell, I even remember the good old days when Big Bird was the only one who ever see Snuffy and everyone else thought it was a symptom of some undiagnosed mental infirmity.

I remember before they started to add characters like ~Elmo~ to make up for flagging plot-lines in the show.

I remember when Mr. Hooper died, and everyone was very genuinely sad (including myself).

I even had Sesame Street Fever.

But then I grew older and my interests shifted as they often do towards the beginning adolescence.


... then, the interwebs came along and gave me this, and honestly I had never laughed so hard in my life.
posted by Don't_deceive_with_belief at 9:05 PM on March 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

I grew up in Teaneck, New Jersey, where Bob has lived (and still lives) most of his life during his Sesame Street career. You have to understand that I cannot actually use his last name. At all. No one in our town can. He rides on the July 4th float and people just scream "BOB!" at him. Basically, he's magical. He was at a store once and suddenly discovered something tugging at his pants leg. He looked down at it was a four-year-old child. And she looked up at him, and whispered "Boooobbbbbbbb."

My sister used to work at the health food store on the main street and one day I came by and she had this weird look on her face, and when I asked her what was up she just whispered to me, much like a small child would tell their parents that they see a deer outside in the yard and do not want to scare it away but at the same time would very much like to go up to it and ride it, "It's. Booooooooobbbbbbb. Bob's heeeeeerrrrreeee." Not a memory from childhood. This was a recent occurrence. We were both post-college.

And I looked at her and said "Booooooooobbbbbb."
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:12 PM on March 29, 2009 [15 favorites]

Carroll Spinney is now 76. How much longer can he perform for them?

And what would Sesame Street be without Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch? They found a replacement for Henson to do Kermit, but I don't see how anyone else can do Big Bird or Oscar.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 9:28 PM on March 29, 2009

A guy named Matt Vogel has been backing up Carroll Spinney as Big Bird in some segments for several years. Some of these new people are pretty good -- I have a hard time detecting Eric Jacobson when he performs Frank Oz's characters.

For the record, few of the Muppet characters are being done by their original performers at this point. Jerry Nelson still does the Count but has retired from performing his Muppet Show characters. Frank Oz has been trying to distance himself professionally from the Muppets but will still occasionally perform one of his characters. He won't be photographed together with them, though, or perform voices on request.

Of course, Jim Henson and Richard Hunt have been deceased for many years. Steve Whitmire inherited Henson's characters, but at least one other person has done some Ernie bits.

Fran Brill remains on the show as Zoe, as well as her longtime character Prairie Dawn. And of course, Kevin Clash is still the one and only Elmo.
posted by evilcolonel at 10:11 PM on March 29, 2009 [3 favorites]

Sesame Street: 30 Rocks.

Related: How Kenneth the Page Sees the World.
posted by Guy Smiley at 10:45 PM on March 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

Original Orange Oscar (1969).
posted by Guy Smiley at 10:49 PM on March 29, 2009

MetaFilter: The most powerful exploding device known to man.

It is over. The "Optimal Metafilter Tagline" problem has been solved, by someone calling himself "Mikey-San."

Frank Oz distancing himself from the Muppets? How horrible. Why would anyone do that? Muppets are love, baby. Any employer who'd hold the Muppets against him is not a person worth working for.
posted by JHarris at 1:20 AM on March 30, 2009

Yay is all I have to say! Yay!
posted by The Whelk at 7:06 AM on March 30, 2009

My god, that picture of Frank Oz with a...a...an empty Cookie Monster is just horrible. As if he's killed him.

I will never, ever get used to seeing non-full body muppets below the waist. It's unclean.
posted by Jilder at 8:47 AM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

Anyone interested in how Sesame Street was created should check out Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street. It's an amazing and quite thorough look at the development of the show over the years.
posted by oozy rat in a sanitary zoo at 9:07 AM on March 30, 2009

It is over. The "Optimal Metafilter Tagline" problem has been solved, by someone calling himself "Mikey-San."

mathowie, i take my royalty payments in jujubes

posted by secret about box at 9:51 AM on March 30, 2009

One of the highlights of my year thus far has been Gordon following me on Twitter.
posted by brundlefly at 12:45 PM on March 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

445supermag: Christ, what an asshole. (Not you. Brando.)
posted by JHarris at 5:01 PM on March 30, 2009

drat, i thought mr. hooper was going to play the part of pac-man.
posted by ioesf at 8:47 PM on April 1, 2009

my goodness, the humor in henson's wilkins coffee ads is dark.
posted by ioesf at 8:56 PM on April 1, 2009

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