23 Fun Facts About "Sesame Street" You Never Knew
Even if you're a lifelong fan, these behind-the-scenes "Sesame Street" facts will surprise you.
Sesame Street has been a part of countless people's childhoods since it first premiered back in 1969. Over the course of well over 4,000 episodes, the series has helped kids learn about numbers and the alphabet, as well as tolerance and self-esteem. And while you're surely familiar with the show's beloved characters and instantly recognizable set, here are 23 fun facts about Sesame Street you might not know.
Oscar the Grouch used to be orange.
Oscar the Grouch is a trashcan-dwelling monster who happily (or rather, grumpily) embraces the nastier side of life, which is why his grimy green color seems to suit him so well. But it turns out that during the first season of the show, the testy character was completely orange. According to the Smithsonian, "Jim Henson's original drawings for Oscar the Grouch show him as purple in color, but he evolved to be orange in the first episodes of Sesame Street. By 1970, Oscar the Grouch was the green color he is today. Oscar explained that this change was due to his vacation at Swamp Mushy Muddy where it was so damp that he became covered in slime and mold."
Bert has a twin.
With his signature tuft of spiky hair and epic unibrow, Sesame Street's Bert may seem like a one-of-a-kind character. But if you happened to see an episode that aired back in 1974, you'll know that it featured an appearance by Bert's twin brother Bart.
Big Bird was played by the same performer for almost 50 years.
In 2018, Caroll Spinney, who was 84 years old at the time, left Sesame Street behind after spending nearly 50 years with the show. During that time, he brought beloved characters like Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch to life. "I always thought, How fortunate for me that I got to play the two best Muppets?" he said while talking to The New York Times. "Playing Big Bird is one of the most joyous things of my life."
Prices are going up on Sesame Street.
When Sesame Street first hit screens in 1969, characters on the show could head to Hooper's Store to get themselves a treat. But these days, they'll need a little more money if they want to enjoy their favorite snacks. For instance, birdseed milkshakes originally cost just 20 cents, but these days Big Bird has to hand over $2.99.
The writer of "Rubber Duckie" also wrote two other beloved Sesame Street songs.
Multiple Emmy Award-winner Jeff Moss was the man who wrote "Rubber Duckie," which is undoubtedly one of the most famous songs to ever come from the popular children's show. He was also responsible for two other tunes that you might recognize: "People in Your Neighborhood" and "I Love Trash."
And "Rubber Duckie" is the only original Sesame Street song to hit the Billboard charts.
"Rubber Duckie" wasn't just a hit with children. It was so popular, that it reached No. 16 on Billboard's Hot 100 Singles chart. It was also nominated in the Best Recording for Children category at the 13th Annual Grammy Awards in 1970.
The rubber duckie itself is considered a percussion instrument by the Boston Pops.
In 1971, the Boston Pops performed the catchy children's song and couldn't possibly leave out the squeaking noise from the titular duck. In order for the rubber duckie to be a proper part of the orchestra, it was deemed a percussion instrument, and only those particular musicians were allowed to "play" it, according to The New York Times. "Charley Smith, who in his 28 years with the Boston Pops has played everything from the xylophone to bird whistle, gave a virtuoso performance last night on the rubber duckie," wrote John B. Wood for The Boston Globe.
Elmo's favorite food is wasabi.
Elmo may be a little red monster who's eternally three-and-a-half years old, but he apparently has a mature palate that can tolerate hot food. That might why his favorite thing to eat is wasabi. He confirmed that himself while chatting with KQED in 2010, saying, "Elmo loves wasabi." He also added, "Elmo loves [sushi], but it's a sometime food. An anytime food is like broccoli or any kind of really good fruits and vegetables and stuff."
James Earl Jones was the first celebrity to appear on Sesame Street.
It's almost a rite of passage for famous folks to appear on Sesame Street. But actor James Earl Jones was the very first celebrity to pop up on the children's show. He appeared onscreen in 1969 to recite the alphabet, which may sound less than thrilling, but if you know the performer's unmistakable voice—which can also be heard as Star Wars' Darth Vader and The Lion King's Mufasa—you can imagine why it would capture the attention of young viewers.
Snuffleupagus' puppeteer performs through a plumbing tube to get the right sound.
Along with Snuffleupagus' unique name and appearance, he also has a distinctive voice. And that's partially due to the fact that puppeteer Martin P. Robinson speaks through a foot-and-a-half-long plumbing tube which wraps around his head. "[A]t the end of the tube is the guts of a microphone," vocal music director Paul Rudolph told The New York Times. "I would say Martin does 70 percent of the voice, but having that tube in there adds that little weird snuffle."
Rosita used to have wings for an unexpected reason.
Fans of Sesame Street will be familiar with the fact that Rosita is a lovable blue monster who hails from Mexico. What viewers might not know is that the character was meant to have wings because she was supposed to be a fruit bat. "Rosita originally came to Sesame Street in 1991," writes Rachel Figueroa-Levin for NBC Latino. "Did you know she originally had wings? Like a fruit bat. Rosita the fruit bat. Rosita the bilingual guitar playing Mexican fruit bat."
Hey Arnold! debuted on Sesame Street.
The animated children's show Hey Arnold! first aired on Nickelodeon on October 7, 1996. However, the character popped up years earlier on Sesame Street. The PBS show tweeted, "In 1990, a clay stop-motion short starring a character named Arnold debuted on the show. It would become Hey Arnold!"
The Count has had three different "lady friends."
Count von Count may spend most of his time focused on figures, but when the number-loving vampire wants to head out on the town for some fun, he has three women he can call up for a date. According to Sesame Street, the Count "has had one, two, three lady friends: Countess Dahling von Dahling, Lady Two, and Countess von Backwards."
Super Grover is not Grover in disguise.
You might have grown up believing that Super Grover, who first popped up during a Sesame Street segment in 1974, is the secret superhero identity of Grover the monster. But that's not the case. In his everyday life, Super Grover is Grover Kent, a doorknob salesman.
Telly had a crush on Feist.
Feist famously popped up on Sesame Street in 2008 to perform a kid-friendly version of her song "1234." While the segment was very popular with viewers, fans weren't the only ones who were thrilled by the singer's appearance. Telly the monster was especially enamored by the star. "A subplot that was in no way being filmed, was that Telly was crushing out so hard on me," the singer told The New York Times in 2019. "Like, the guy just had Telly nibbling on the tips of his fingers while he stared at me, nervously. And then I'd look, and he'd look away. And if you watch the video, there's a couple of times where you'll see Telly facing me, in profile, with this kind of awe. It was going on for, like, eight hours. It was incredible." If you watch the video, you can indeed see Telly keeping his eyes on Feist, and at one point, sweetly holding her hand.
Cookie Monster has a little something extra.
While all the monsters on Sesame Street have their own distinctive characteristics, they also share many similarities—they're colorful, fuzzy, friendly beasts. They also all have four fingers on each hand, except for Cookie Monster, who has five fingers on each hand and ten in total.
Bert's bottle cap collection is pretty impressive.
Having a bottle cap collection isn't a typical hobby nowadays, but that doesn't dissuade Bert from continuing to pursue his passion. According to the character himself, collecting bottle caps is "more exciting than a birthday party or a circus or a parade." That's probably why he's managed to gather a total of 368 bottle caps, including the coveted cap for Fizzy Fizz.
Ernie's favorite number isn't always the same.
If you have a favorite number, it has likely been your preferred digit for a long time, and probably always will be. But, from time to time, Ernie tends to change his mind when it comes to his favorite number. Of course, when you pick a number like 8,243,721, there's a good chance you'll forget it.
Cookie Monster and Snuffleupagus both have first names.
Snuffleupagus is a pretty fantastic name on its own. But what makes it even more fabulous is that Snuffy's first name is the fancy-schmancy Aloysius. You can also call Cookie Monster by what he thinks is his first name, Sid.
Two of the puppets are left-handed.
Most people are right-handed: only around 10 percent of the population is thought to be left-handed. That's why it shouldn't be surprising that most of the puppets on Sesame Street are also right-handed, with the exceptions being Cookie Monster and Ernie, who are both lefties. The performers who control the characters use their left hands as the puppet's dominant hand and use their right hands to move the mouths.
Big Bird once ran for president (and got caught up in a different presidential campaign).
It's hard to imagine the characters of Sesame Street living anywhere else. But in 1976, during the seventh season of the show, Big Bird set his eyes on the White House and ran for president. And that wasn't the only time he got caught up in politics. In 2012, he "swoop[ed] into [a] presidential campaign," CBS News explained at the time, when the "over-sized bird … found himself at the center of a political controversy, as candidates of both stripes [took] to projecting their political messages in the image of the 8'2" primrose-yellow bird." The move was in response to Republican Mitt Romney saying earlier, "I like PBS [Sesame Street's network], I love Big Bird. But I'm not going to … keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for." President Obama commented on the statement, saying, "He'll get rid of regulations on Wall Street, but he's going to crack down on Sesame Street. Thank goodness somebody is finally cracking down on Big Bird. Who knew that he was responsible for all these deficits? Elmo has got to watch out."
Elmo once testified before Congress.
Big Bird isn't the only Sesame Street character to get involved in politics. In 2002, Elmo testified before Congress, wearing a suit and tie no less. According to CNN, the "red, furry friend to toddlers everywhere gave evidence before the Education Appropriations Subcommittee to urge more spending on music research and musical instruments for school programs."
Sesame Street has multiple Guinness World Records.
It shouldn't be surprising to find out that a show that's been on the air for 50 years has broken its fair share of records, but Sesame Street officially has at least two Guinness World Records. Back in 2010, the series earned the record for most daytime Emmys won with a staggering 122. It also won the title of the most popular children's educational program, thanks to the fact that it's seen in more than 143 countries around the world with an international cast of characters. There's also a record for the largest collection of Sesame Street memorabilia, which was claimed by Flushing, New York's Sheila Chustek, who owns 942 mostly Big Bird-themed items.