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sesame street

Joy

1991 blooper clip of Robin Williams and Elmo is a wholesome nugget of comedic genius

Robin Williams is still bringing smiles to faces after all these years.

Robin Williams and Elmo (Kevin Clash) bloopers.

The late Robin Williams could make picking out socks funny, so pairing him with the fuzzy red monster Elmo was bound to be pure wholesome gold. Honestly, how the puppeteer, Kevin Clash, didn’t completely break character and bust out laughing is a miracle. In this short outtake clip, you get to see Williams crack a few jokes in his signature style while Elmo tries desperately to keep it together.

Williams has been a household name since what seems like the beginning of time, and before his death in 2014, he would make frequent appearances on "Sesame Street." The late actor played so many roles that if you were ask 10 different people what their favorite was, you’d likely get 10 different answers. But for the kids who spent their childhoods watching PBS, they got to see him being silly with his favorite monsters and a giant yellow canary. At least I think Big Bird is a canary.

When he stopped by "Sesame Street" for the special “Big Bird's Birthday or Let Me Eat Cake” in 1991, he was there to show Elmo all of the wonderful things you could do with a stick. Williams turns the stick into a hockey stick and a baton before losing his composure and walking off camera. The entire time, Elmo looks enthralled … if puppets can look enthralled. He’s definitely paying attention before slumping over at the realization that Williams goofed a line. But the actor comes back to continue the scene before Elmo slinks down inside his box after getting Williams’ name wrong, which causes his human co-star to take his stick and leave.

The little blooper reel is so cute and pure that it makes you feel good for a few minutes. For an additional boost of serotonin, check out this other (perfectly executed) clip about conflict that Williams did with the two-headed monster. He certainly had a way of engaging his audience, so it makes sense that even after all of these years, he's still greatly missed.


This article originally appeared on 06.30.22

Pop Culture

The Gen X grief when a 'Sesame Street' character dies is so real

We're the first generation to have educational programs molding our core memories.

Bob McGrath, one of the original "Sesame Street" actors, has passed away.

"A loaf of bread, a container of milk and a stick of butter."

It's a simple, repeated line from a one-minute sketch, but as a Gen Xer raised on public television, it's one of thousands of "Sesame Street" segments etched into my brain. Such memories still pop into my head at random times, clear as day, well into my forties. Bert singing about his oatmeal box while playing it like a drum. Kermit lamenting that it's not easy—but it is beautiful—being green. Buffy Saint-Marie breastfeeding her baby and explaining it to Big Bird. Mr. Hooper—the sweet, bow-tied man who ran the Sesame Street corner store—dying.

I was 8 when Mr. Hooper died. It was a big deal. I rewatched part of that episode recently to see what I'd think of it as an adult. The "Sesame Street" gang of 1983 handled it masterfully, helping us all process his unexpected death through Big Bird's own experience of learning about what it means to die.


"Big Bird, when people die, they don't come back," said Susan.

Big Bird let that reality sink in, then said that things wouldn't be the same without Mr. Hooper—exactly the sentiment we all had.

Bob comforted Big Bird, saying, "You're right, Big Bird. It'll never be the same around here without him. But you know something? We can all be very happy that we had a chance to be with him, and to know him and to love him a lot when he was here."

And now the always kind, always gentle Bob has joined Mr. Hooper and the original Big Bird, Carol Spinney, in whatever comes next. Bob McGrath passed away this past week at age 90, and I found myself mourning the loss more than I would have expected.

I suspect I'm not alone.

Those of us in the original "Sesame Street generation" were the guinea pigs on which the theory of educational children's television programming was tested. It was an experiment that proved beneficial for millions of us, helping us grow up smarter, stronger and kinder, according to research—but it also gave us a unique relationship with the people and characters who lived on Sesame Street.

The generation that came before us didn't have anything like "Sesame Street" or "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" or "The Electric Company," and the generations after us have had so much more educational programming to choose from. But those shows were all we had besides mostly-horrible-in-hindsight Saturday morning cartoons. For us, the people and characters on "Sesame Street" formed a core part of our most wholesome childhood memories. They weren't just entertainers, but teachers. They helped us become better humans in addition to teaching us our letters and numbers, and the emotional connection created from that mentorship during our formative years is profound.

I'm not a huge crier, but I cried when Mr. Rogers died and I cried when Jim Henson died. I didn't expect it, but I couldn't help it. And when I saw the news this weekend that Bob McGrath from "Sesame Street" had died, I had the same visceral reaction. A piece of my childhood is gone, just like that, never to come back. I didn't know him, of course, but I felt like I knew him. And in some odd way, I feel like he actually knew me, because he knew and understood kids.

Perhaps that's why so many of us feel an emotional attachment to our childhood educational show icons. We weren't just mindless consumers of cartoon entertainment to them, but precious children with the potential to learn and discover, to become more caring and more knowledgeable. We knew they saw us and understood the stages we were going through. I felt that genuine respect for me as a human being even as a young child. And as an adult, I've learned about the sincerity and earnestness of the "Sesame Street" creators and how hard they worked to create the absolute best for kids, which only crystallizes what I felt back then.

"Sesame Street" didn't just make learning the alphabet and counting entertaining. It taught us about life, about people, about relationships and about ourselves—lessons that became part of our identities. I've often thought that the world would be an entirely different place if every young child was raised on a steady diet of "Sesame Street," and the older and more experienced I get, the more I believe that. It really did make us smarter, stronger and kinder.

Rest in peace, Bob. Thank you for everything you taught us and for being such a positive part of our childhood memories.

gerlalt/Canva

James Earl Jones helped "Sesame Street" prove its pedagogical model for teaching kids the alphabet.

James Earl Jones has one of the most recognizable voices in the entertainment industry and has for decades. Most of us probably heard that deep, resonant voice first as Darth Vader in "Star Wars," or perhaps Mufasa in "The Lion King," but just one or two words are enough to say, "Oh, that's definitely James Earl Jones."

Jones has been acting on stage and in film since the 1960s. He also has the distinction of being the first celebrity guest to be invited to "Sesame Street" during the show's debut season in 1969.

According to Muppet Wiki, clips of Jones counting to 10 and reciting the alphabet were included in unbroadcast pilot episodes and also included in one of the first official television episodes. Funnily enough, Jones originally didn't think the show would last, as he thought kids would be terrified of the muppets. Clearly, that turned out not to be the case.

Jones' alphabet recitation served as a test for the "Sesame Street" pedagogical model, which was meant to inspire interaction from kids rather than just passive absorption. Though to the untrained eye, Jones' slow recitation of the ABCs may seem either plodding or bizarrely hypnotic, there's a purpose to the way it's presented.


As education researcher and Children's Television Workshop consultant Gerald S. Lesser describes the video, "Mr. Jones' recitation of the alphabet takes a full minute and a half. He stares compellingly at the camera. At the time the sequence was made, his head was shaved for his role of Jack Johnson in 'The Great White Hope,' and it gleams in the close-up. His immense hollow voice booms the letter names ominously. His lip movements are so exaggerated that they can easily be read without the sounds.

The letter is shown on the screen a second or so before Jones says the name of the letter, and there is a pause after he says each one. This pattern allows kids to say the name of the letter if they recognize it and then have the name reinforced by Jones. If kids don't know it, they repeat it after him. For kids who are more visual or who have auditory processing issues, seeing the letter displayed and seeing Jones' clear mouth movements as he slowly says each letter are helpful learning aids.

Lesser and other researchers coined the term "James Earl Jones effect" for how the learning process played out.

Jones' alphabet segment may have helped prove the effectiveness of "Sesame Street"'s educational model, but it's also just mesmerizing to watch. When he gets to "J" and the facial expressions really kick in? Priceless.

Watch and enjoy:

Zoe's pet rock, Rocco, sends Elmo over the edge.

Elmo has been a fixture on "Sesame Street" since 1984 and is one of the most recognized and beloved characters around the world. His signature cute voice and third-person references to himself endear him to children and adults alike, but one of his ongoing bits has the people of Twitter in stitches.

Elmo's decades-long beef with his friend Zoe's pet rock, Rocco, occasionally goes viral, and for good reason. It's hilarious. Rocco first appeared on "Sesame Street" in 1999, and Elmo has been exasperated by it ever since. Who can blame him, though, when Zoe constantly puts Rocco first, insists that he's real and forces Elmo into her make-believe world?

Perhaps it feels extra relatable right now, as so many people watch friends and family descend into alternate realities, unable to convince them that what they believe isn't real. How many of us have been in Elmo's shoes, at the end of our wits, fruitlessly stating facts in the face of fantasy?


Watching Elmo lose it is almost as cathartic as it is funny. Over-the-edge Elmo is the best Elmo.

"HOW? How is Rocco gonna eat that cookie, Zoe? TELL ELMO."

This is how I'm going to respond to everyone who refuses to get vaccinated and refuses to wear a mask and complains about every other pandemic mitigation tool. "HOW? How are we going to get through this pandemic doing nothing, Chad? TELL ELMO."

Rocco has Elmo in an existential vice grip, torn between mind-numbing annoyance and the desire to be supportive of his friend. Pretty tough spot for a perpetual preschooler.

Elmo reassures us that he and Zoe are fine, their friendship is solid and all is well.

He just doesn't want to talk about Rocco.

He's also still stuck on the cookie thing.

People are loving it.

And people are loving debating the potential deeper elements of Elmo and Zoe's Rocco fiasco.

Even The Rock himself got into the action, responding to Elmo's tweet about whether a rock can actually eat a cookie. Well played, Dwayne.

For more Elmo vs. Rocco fun, here's a compilation of some highlights. Enjoy.