Let’s face it – you get to a certain point in life and you feel like you’ve seen it all.
The good old “there’s nothing new under the sun”, a phrase drawn from the Book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible, that laments the unsurprising monotonous feel of life begins to feel more and more like it’s the defining paradigm of life.
And yes that kind of ennui can affect anyone and anything – even good old Sesame Street.
So Jimmy Kimmel, host of nightly talk show Jimmy Kimmel Live!, decided to shake things up a bit when he visited the venerable show, unveiling a brand new letter to an understandable sceptical Cookie Monster, Elmo and Grover in the hopes that the 26 rather over-used letters in the existing alphabet could have a break.
Alas, while the new letter, pronounced “yuke” is a daring move, opening all kinds of status quo-unsettling possibilities, it soon becomes obvious, in this highly-amusing piece, that its uses may be a tad limited.
Back to the alphabetical drawing board and the 649th featuring of the letter “T” it is then (which in the hands of the awesome people and muppets at Sesame Street will be just as good as the first) …
Sesame Street has always been way up to the minute and astutely hip to the groove.
And now thanks to Adam Schleichkorn, who previously gave us the mash-up gem of The Muppets performing the Beastie Boys’ “So What’cha Want”, they just got even more street cred thanks to his clever bringing together of Grover, Elmo, Ernie and the gang with Cleveland Ohio’s Bone Thugs-n-Harmony’s “Tha Crossroads.”
It’s smooth, soulful and pinpoint-perfect in the bringing together of visuals and song though it was not without its challenges according to Schleichkorn:
“This was, by far, the toughest song choice out of all the mashups I’ve ever created, but it’s one of the best rap songs ever, so it had to be done.”
We’re glad he did and no doubt so the ever-hip, ever-with it denizens of the funkiest street in the world.
It gives us the power to speak to a friend far away in an instant, or even fly quickly to see them, allows us to cure disease, throw together a dazzling, motivational Powerpoint presentation on a whim … and yes, create giant rampaging cookie dinosaurs from prehistoric crumbs trapped in amber …
Wait … wait … what what?!
You heard me, or read me rather, thanks to the power of advanced scientific-ness and a damn good oven, it’s possible to whip up a walking, talking, lumbering edible dinosaur who may or may be out to eat you (he could, if you’re paying attention, be after something else entirely).
Which is exactly what Cookie Monster does until one day in Jurassic Cookie as the rampaging and the lumbering kick into top gear, and he wonders how he can stop this beast conjured up from ancient slivers of butter, eggs and sugar.
The only trouble is, the warning sign, which gives clear instructions on what to do in the case of an emergency, has had most of its final word chomped off, leaving only a tantalising letter “H” behind.
What could it all mean for a Jeep-driving ancient cookie-summoning mogul and his grandchildren (yes Cookie Monster has progeny of his progeny in this hilarious number) and will they figure out what to do in time?
Quite a bit in fact, and of course, yes, since this is one of Sesame Street‘s enormously clever, very funny pop culture parodies, which are thankfully legion, this time taking the educational mickey out of Jurassic Park as its more modern successor Jurassic World storms its way to box office domination.
It could be that all you need is something reasonably warm and cuddly rather than all that newfangled technology but then you’ll have to watch this brilliantly entertaining video to find out.
“People of Earth, prepare to be desserted! Mwahahaha!”
You may have noticed that a small, low budget indie film by the name of Avengers: Age of Ultron is currently in cinemas, the latest in Marvel’s long line of super successful superhero movies to triumph at the box office.
Even if this minor teensy-weensy film has passed you buy, rest assured that the eagle-eyed creative geniuses at the Childrens’ Television Workshop, the inspired minds behind Sesame Street have well and truly noticed it and as is their wonderful way, come up with a parody to honour its presence in the cinemas of the world (where it is, of course, doing very nicely, thank you very much.)
And it is, as are all the parodies that Sesame Street unleashes upon a zeitgeist-embracing public, full of delightfully groan-inducing puns, fantastic names for the health-loving superheroes defending us from an exclusive diet of cookies and cream – Dr. Brownie (Cookie Monster as The Hulk), Onion Man, Captain Americauliflower, Black Bean Widow, Mighty Corn and Zuchin-eye – and naturally an evil calorie-rich villain named Bon Bon who unleashes a Star Trek-shaped giant cookie upon the good broccoli, carrot and asparagus-chomping people of Earth.
As you would expect from a Sesame Street parody, there’s also a message running through the piece; in this case that Cookie Monster, who is easily distracted by cookies, must focus if he is to do his part as a member of the Aveggies.
After all if he doesn’t, fine cauliflower-lovers everywhere could find themselves variously in a jam and creamed and no one wants that!
(OK I do occasionally but don’t tell the Aveggies till I’ve finished my caramel tart.)
It goes without saying that if you want to teach a lesson well, it must involve a piranha.
It’s an educational truth so self-evident that it’s a wonder every learning institution in the world isn’t equipped with a school of the cannibalistically-feisty Amazonian creatures.
Sesame Street, now in its 46th year of teaching kids – and let’s be honest, everyone else because we’re all watching – all the important words, numbers and life lessons they need to know, knows their importance all too well which is why when comedian Zach Galifianakis dropped into the show one day, they had an eager piranha on hand to add extra chomp to his segment with Murray.
And it’s a good thing too because Zach, sterling comedic talent that he is, doesn’t quite appreciate what the world “nimble”, defined as “movements which are quick and light”, means until said piranha makes his appearance at the end of Murray’s specially-adapted nursery rhyme.
In no time flat, Zach understands the word’s meaning all too well, educationalists cheered the world over and Sesame Street once again proves that it knows exactly what it’s doing when it comes to educating the world’s children.
And using piranhas as teaching aides.
Watch and learn, people, watch and learn … oh, and get ready to move!
If you’ve watched any episodes of HBO’s megahit Game of Thrones, which returns to our screens on April 12, you will have noticed that becoming the king or queen of Westeros and sitting upon its imposing Iron Throne involves quite a bit of Machiavellian manoeuvring, a dragon or three, and death on a grand and epic scale, that may or may not involve the death of close relatives and friends.
It is not a job for the fainthearted that much is certain.
In Sesame Street‘s hilarious parody of the show, the death quotient is unsurprisingly far lower, as in negligible, but the klutz factor is at all time high as Ned Stark seeks to find a new occupant of the throne of Jesteros with a jaunty, though no less competitive for that, game of musical chairs.
And not just any chairs mind you.
To accomplish his task of finding a new king or queen he will need the help of an able-bodied, quick-thinking assistant … or Grover Bluejoy, whoever manages to get over that great big wall outside first.
Unfortunately for Ned, but endlessly amusingly for us, it is Grover Bluejoy who arrives to help get things underway, although his ability to do this may be a tad hampered by his lack of understanding about exactly how you play musical chairs.
Once that is sorted out – to his disappointment, and frankly mine, it does not involve the use of a rubber chicken thought that could only add to the fun of the game surely – it is up to Grover to provide the music for this extraordinarily important undertaking.
One that Robb, Cersie, Joffrey, and Daeneyrus are taking very, very seriously, unlike Grover Bluejoy who seems blithely unaware of the chaos he is causing or the possibility that someone other than the contending four may end up atop the throne made of whiffle bats.
The parody, which is well and truly up there with the best parodies the always pop culturally on point Sesame Street has produced, is full to the dragon-filled skies with Game of Thrones references including a reminder to Ned to not lose his head.
Oh and an hilarious reminder to bring a sweater with you because as Grover Bluejoy reminds us, and we’re all too aware, “Winter IS coming” …
As is Game of Thrones, whose fifth season premieres on April 12.
If ever there was a word with which we all need to be familiar at this time of the year, it’s “Resist”.
But like Cookie Monster, who doesn’t quite get the concept, the idea of it evades many of us as we saunter off for another bathtub of eggnog, or our 10th serving of turkey and all the fixings.
Which is why we, and our seasonally expanding waistlines, should be eternally glad that Sir Ian McKellen decided to pop by and explain what the word “Resist” means, which he defines as controlling yourself and stopping yourself from doing something you really want to do.
Like eat your entire body weight in Santa-shaped chocolate.
Not that I ever be remotely tempted to do that of course #YESyesIhave
After failing to get the concept across to Cookie Monster using a “precioussssss” gold ring – wherever did he get the idea for that one from I wonder? Hmmm – he has more success with a cookie, something with which Cookie Monster is naturally quite familiar and the eating of which he really, REALLY, wants to do.
Of course while the meaning of “Resist” now rings crystal clear, that doesn’t mean that Cookie Monster, who admits the cookie is “calling me name” is a big fan of the word, clearly regretting opting to help out on this particular segment.
And yep you guessed it, the cookie gets it in the end.
Pretty much like my mother’s delicious, sumptuous Christmas buffet.
I may try to start resisting all that food sometime around January 2 I think …
It’s mid 1971, and in a lounge-room in Grafton, NSW, Australia, a wide-eyed five year old is sitting cross legged in front of his family’s TV set early one morning, unable to take his eyes off the program on the screen before him.
He had only just been introduced a matter of a year before to television – his first experience of the medium had been a rocky one with the young boy screaming in fright at the strange lady who sang from within the small box in the corner of the room; he couldn’t see any way she could have crawled inside there and was understandably and suitably freaked out – thanks to a childhood largely spent in the countryside of then East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) where his parents had served as missionaries.
Now an avid viewer, he was a convert to the power of television to entertain and delight, and thanks to a visionary group of people in New York in the late ’60s who believed television also had the power to teach everything from literacy to ethics and social skills to young, impressionable children, educate.
The program that so entranced him on that Australian winter morning was Sesame Street, a program which had first gone to air in Australia on Monday 4 January 1971 after premiering in the USA on 10 November 1969, and the people who made it possible for this young boy to be both entertained and edcuated in equal measure were Joan Ganz Cooney, a talented public TV producer and Lloyd Morrisett, trained as an environmental psychologist and now vice-president of the Carnegie Corporation.
They had conceived the idea of Sesame Street over a simple dinner party between close friends Cooney, Morrisett and TV producer Lewis Friedman (who inspired Cooney’s belief in the power of television to educate) in 1966, according to Michael Davis, author of Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street:
“Sesame Street began as a flash of brilliance that struck like a bolt from the gods. Cooney was its mother of invention, while Lloyd N. Morrisett, a well-connected vice president at the Carnegie Corporation, was its financial godfather. Sesame‘s moment of conception occurred at a dinner party at Cooney’s apartment, when Morrisett and his wife were discussing how their three-year-old daughter, Sarah, had become transfixed by television. She would sit in front of a test pattern at 6:30 a.m., waiting for the cartoons to appear at 7:00. It was the same thing millions of kids were doing across the country.”
Convinced that television could be much more than just a simple electronic babysitter, Cooney, Morrisett and a small team of similarly-inspired souls came together several days later to engage “in an outpouring of ideas on how to master the addictive qualities of television and do something good with them … ‘What if you could create content for television that was both entertaining and instructive? What if it went down more like ice cream than spinach? What if we stopped complaining about the banality we are allowing our children to see and did something about it?'” (Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street)
These initial brainstorming sessions set in train a three year odyssey to assemble the Sesame Street team, a one-of-a-kind group of visionary indivisuals that would come to include Jim Henson, the main responsible for Big Bird, Grover, Kermit and a slew of other puppets that would come to symbolise, as much as anything, this bold new programming initiative about to launch itself on American television screens.
He was the one who came up with what once he termed a “delicate balance between fun and learning”, the man responsible for bringing about “the two-tiered audience that was essential to Sesame’s vast and immediate appeal”:
“Kids watched in rapture, but parents watched, too, often laughing to the winking references to pop culture, song parodies, and outrageous puns that came out of the mouths of the Muppets.” (Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street)
But Cooney, Morrisett and Henson were not alone in their innovative brilliance, soon joined by people like scriptwriter/lyricist/poet Jeff Moss, writer/producer/director Jon Stone and Joe Raposo, a man Davis called “the musical prodigy who provided Sesame Street with its signature sound and sing-along melodies that endure to this day.”
Their fateful coming together was one of those kismet-laden happenstances that profoundly changed the lives of children the world over for the better, including one small boy in a country town in Australia (you’ve probably guessed by now that was me) who realised that this medium he had once been so afraid of was a magical and beneficial thing in the hands of people who intuitively knew how best to use it.
As Sesame Street celebrates its 45th season on air (now screening in more than 100 countries and in 20 international editions), we can all be thankful for a world in which Luis and Maria, Mr Hooper, Grover, Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch, Elmo and a vast array of celebrity presenters have become profoundly important parts of our lives, even if like me, you have long ago left that little boy far behind.
What wasn’t left back in the dim dark annals of the past however was my love and appreciation for many of the things that make Sesame Street such a unique and compelling show, even all these years after its debut, and so without any further ado, I present the five things I love most about this most wonderful and enduring of show.
Its larger-than-life but simultaneously relatable characters
Let’s be honest, lovely though your neighbourhood might be, the odds of it having a sometimes surly but ultimately kindhearted grouch living in a garbage can, or a giant yellow six year old bird in it are probably fairly remote.
More’s the pity really since their presence on Sesame Street transforms a reasonably ordinary New York street with small shops, Brownstones and trash cans, somewhere the kids who watch the show could identify as not that dissimilar from the community in which they live, into somewhere magical and amazing.
This remarkable balance between the relatably day-to-day environs of Sesame Street and its marvellous inhabitants is what makes it such a wonderful place to spend time in, and of course, learn in.
They might discuss ABCs and 123s and the need to treat others well and not over-indulge in cookies – I’m looking at you Cookie Monster – the sorts of things any kids needs to learn but they do it in a way that keeps you riveted to the TV set.
It remains the same for kids today who delight in every nanosecond that Elmo is on their screen, singing and taking them on grand adventures in his signature segment Elmo’s World.
But it wasn’t just the Muppet characters that entranced.
The humans who lived on the street such as Gordon and Susan, who own the 123 Brownstone, Mr Hooper, Luis and Maria and Bob were, and are, integral to the show’s appeal, comforting and caring for their young neighbours, and most crucially, making sense of the world around them to them.
They were the adults to the Muppets’ children and together they created a learning environment that remains at once relatably ordinary but also magically alive with possibilities and lessons far beyond our own.
Laugh as you learn
From the very beginning, Sesame Street had a cheeky sense of humour.
No po-faced lessons here thank you very much – the information imparted might be important but equally so is its delivery which is often subversively clever, pun-laden and, to the eternal delight of the child inside of me, just plain silly.
This inspired decision to mix silliness with education, which found expression in everything from Monsterpiece Theater, an affectionate send-up of PBS’s Masterpiece Theater (Sesame Street airs on America’s publicly-funded broadcaster), the messy pie falls of the Baker down an impossibly high set of steps – never was counting so much fun! – to today’s parodies of The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and Hunger Games, was a revelation to audiences used to dry educational programmes.
The real joy is that Sesame Street hasn’t relinquished one iota of this irreverent attitude, every bit as prone to pun its way through a segment now as it was back in 1969, a rarity in a world where advancing years often brings with it a calcification and dryness of expression, a tribute to the spirit of the original team, most especially one Jim Henson who believed important lessons didn’t have to be boring to take in and would be better learnt as a result of a little, or lot of, silliness and mirth.
Life isn’t always happy
It would be nice if life could always be one long line of happy Polaroid moments but the fact is that tragedy and setbacks can strike at any time, something kids need to be prepared as much as anything else.
To its enduring credit, Sesame Street has never sugar-coated the realities of life, willing to tackle things like, most notably, the death of a much-loved character like Mr Hooper (Will Lee) who ran the corner store for years and was a cornerstone of the tight-knit community and divorce, a sad fact of life for many of the show’s contemporary viewers.
As the AV Club notes, the way Sesame Street handled difficult issues like Mr Hooper’s death, which was especially sad for his closest friend on the street Big Bird who could never quite get his name right, was testament to the ethos which guided the entire show:
“Mr. Hooper’s death was revolutionary because of its frank discussion of a complicated subject that does not fit squarely into the box of children’s entertainment. “Farewell, Mr. Hooper” was ultimately the entire mission of the series boiled down into one episode. It defined what Sesame Street was for most kids: using everyday moments—be they silly or sad—as teachable ones, without being patronizing about the subject matter. Sesame Street had enough confidence in its audience to learn from the scenario they presented, even if that audience was still learning its ABCs. If vaguely Eastern European royalty could teach kids to count or a woolly mammoth could teach them about imagination, what was stopping Big Bird from allowing them to understand death?”
It makes sense that Sesame Street would be this brave in tackling what could be viewed as controversial issues.
After all, the show was founded on the belief that things could be done markedly different from the prevailing televisual ethos of the day, especially when it came to childrens’ programming, and this included naturally enough the sense that children could be taught the hard lessons of life if it was done in the right way.
I credit much of my willingness to approach life in an open, honest and authentic fashion to Sesame Street‘s willingness to admit that for to every slapstick pie fall there are sad moments that no one can quite explain, especially not when you’re 5 or 6 years old.
I am glad Sesame Street chooses to focus on a holistic view of life since kids don’t live in make believe world, they live in a real one and need to be taught in appropriate ways how to handle the worst and the best that life can throw at them.
Can you tell me how to get, how to get to Sesame Street: so many wonderful songs
The sound of happiness for me in the 1970s, and no doubt for countless people on countless days since has been the bright, inviting theme song that kicks off each Sesame Street program.
It’s a song that starts with the words “Sunny Day” so you just know it’s going to lead somewhere good, which then goes on to extol playing, friendly neighbours and sweet air.
This is exactly the kind of place anyone would want to go, and so we all did, not regretting it for a second ever.
Sunny Day Sweepin’ the clouds away On my way to where the air is sweet
Can you tell me how to get, How to get to Sesame Street
Come and play Everything’s A-OK Friendly neighbors there That’s where we meet
Can you tell me how to get How to get to Sesame Street How to get to Sesame Street… How to get to Sesame Street How to get to Sesame Street…
Besides one of the best theme songs in the history of television (yes I will be that bold), there have been a host of memorable songs, many, in the early days at least by the impressively talented Joe Raposo such as “Bein’ Green” (sung by Kermit), “C is For Cookie” sung by guess who (I can still sing all the lyrics perfectly), “Rubber Duckie”, Ernie’s ode to his favourite bathroom pal by Jeff Moss, and “People in Your Neighbourhood” again by Jeff Moss, and more recently “The Alphabet Song”.
What was delightful about each and every one of them is they were sing-songy fun and taught you something valuable, another nod to Sesame Street‘s core value of making learn endless, lifelong fun.
And giving you the kind of earworms that, right into adulthood, you don’t mind having for even a minute.
They must be someone famous right? The well-placed use of guest stars
To be fair, as a kid I wasn’t exactly au fait with the fact that many of these people were celebrities.
I knew they were important because everyone on Sesame Street gave them a great big warm welcome, and treat them beautifully – but then they did that with everyone so why wouldn’t they? – but given my time overseas in many places not exactly plugged into the world at large (remember I’d somehow missed out on what a TV actually was), I wasn’t sure why they were important.
It didn’t matter, and still doesn’t.
What matters is that these people are talented, kind, warm and are willing to have some fun, just like everyone else on Sesame Street.
Well played Sesame Street, and yet another example of the way the show always had its finger on the cultural pulse from day one.
And in case you’re wondering who will be carrying the official birthday cake to the celebrations, it won’t be the Baker (Alex Stevens) from the early 1970s episodes of Sesame Street who is, ahem, a little unsteady on his feet (he was one of my favourite parts of Sesame Street when I was a kid) …
And here’s the official sizzle reel for the 45th season of Sesame Street … and to 45 more happy wonderful funny educational years!
What’s with all the capitalised effusive declarations you ask?
Why I am just being ENTHUSIASTIC!, a state of being where, as Mindy explains to a happily-hyped Elmo, “you’re really excited about something”.
You know, like chickens (because who doesn’t like chickens right? Especially when they’re glistening golden brown and succulent and … wait, shhh, don’t let the LIVE chickens dancing with Elmo and Mindy hear you say that!) and dancing AND dancing with friends AND yes jumping … WITH chickens!
That’s a lot of excitability and one of the sweetest Sesame Street educational clips yet where dancing and jumping with chickens is something you can’t help but be enthusiastic about A LOT.
So strap on your dancing shoes, grab your Casio keyboard and get on down with Mindy, Elmo and some delightfully enthusiastic, excitable chickens!
A long time ago in a cookies and milky way galaxy far, far away…Princess Parfaita was taken prisoner by the evil Galactic Empire and had to be saved by a group of unlikely heroes including the young Luke Piewalker, Flan Solo, and Chewie the Cookie.
They’re always thigh-slappingly funny, visual and verbally delightful and clever, and most importantly, stick to Sesame Street’s educational philosophy which is that “all children deserve a chance to learn and grow; to be prepared for school; to better understand the world and each other; to think, dream and discover; to reach their highest potential”.
(If you want to know more about what drives Sesame Street to do the amazing work they do, it’s worth taking the time to read an excellent post at Nicholas O Stirling.)
They have triumphed once again with an inspired take on Star Wars, currently filming Episode VII, which sees Cookie Monster as Flan Solo teaming up with Luke Piewalker and Chewie the Cookie to …
Wait! What’s that? A cookie as a partner?
Cookie Monster isn’t so sure he can handle that since it’s highly likely he’ll eat his buddy in Princess Parfaita-rescuing well before they encounter the bad guys from the Galactic Empire.
But fear not! If he just exercises a little Self Control, everything should be OK.
As is usually the case, there’s an awesome message for today’s kids about the virtues of delaying gratification, delivered flawlessly and hilariously with wonderful word puns and clever visuals which include Princess Parfaita sporting Oreo-shaped hair buns and giant whisks powering the wind farm on Tatooine.
It makes you wish you were a fly on the wall at the planning sessions at Crumby Films (best studio ever!) and could listen in on their brainstorming of ideas – there’s clearly a lot of them and they’re uniformly good ones if this delicious parody is anything to go by.
Now if you’ll excuse I need to go and fall face first into a large cheesecake and pretend I am rescuing someone … after waiting an appropriate amount of time, of course (see I was paying attention Cookie Monster!) …