While the current incarnation of Sesame Street has the squeaky clean feel of Giuliani's Disneyfied Times Square, its roots, much like the city it calls home, are funky, anarchistic, and full of vibrant, unpredictable life reminiscent of early Saturday Night Live or The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. When you think about it, can't you see Grover getting a part time job with The Ministry of Silly Walks or the Two Headed Monster paying a visit to The Pit of Ultimate Destruction for a lesson on sharing? Everything really could happen on Sesame Street, because the people and puppets who inhabited it were fully realized individuals with unique personalities and real problems to deal with, from worrying about making friends in a new place or facing the harsh realities of life. Today, though we have a scant two hours to cover 40 years worth of stuff, we dive head first into this exceptional world that gave so many of us a classroom with no walls, a family who always loved us, and a safe place even in hard times.
One of the things I do think is a loss for kids and adults alike is no longer having musical guests on Sesame Street play their own songs rather than parody or learning-ified versions. As much as I like the changes to "Two Princes," kids deserve exposure to good music for its own sake. While no one will argue the benefits of giving Mozart and Chopin to younglings, the same is rarely said about Talking Heads or Mos Def, but anyone with kids in their lives knows that they love to head bang along with "The Immigrant Song" just like the rest of us. I don't know if a moment like the one below would even be possible today, the spontaneity of the kids, the gritty feel, and the undeniable funk, but man, am I ever glad it was once upon a time. Even if things have changed, it means a lot to know that Sesame Street was once a place for a dirty bass line and a soul filled horn section.
Though I have a wide range of opinions and analyses on the subject of all things Street related, I think I'll limit you to what was said on the show. If you'd like to know more about the development of Sesame Street, its impact on culture, or the mountain of general trivia that's out there, follow the links in this blog, make use of the Muppet Wiki, check out the articles done by the New York Times over the years, and get your hands on any of the historical/memoir books about the life of Sesame Street. If you're lucky, you might even get a chance to see the stuff in the Jim Henson traveling exhibit when it swings by your corner of the globe. (Kalamazoo folks? Yeah, we have just under a year until Chicago, but then, oh boy!)
Podcast for 11/14/09 - Sesame Street
We didn't have time to get to so very many things I would've liked to, some controversial nowadays and some just a whole mess of fun, so I've included a few videos that I hope you'll enjoy. If you're old enough to remember these beauties, share them with someone in your life who isn't, and if you're new to them, well, just remember that there are a gazillion more out there just as good waiting to be seen. YouTube is your friend. ;)
As with all things, age has brought changes to how we experience and use the world of Sesame Street. We've seen Bert and Ernie doing gangsta rap, Grover getting his near and far on with The Todd, Big Bird and Elmo on The West Wing, outtakes with comic geniuses, and an entire stage production lovingly satirizing the entire Sesame Street experience and life throughhilariously filthy musical numbers, but none of that changes how so many of us feel when we hear those first few chunky notes on the piano. No matter what crazy things happen in the world around us, we can always count on a vampire obsessed with numbers, a neurotic triangle lover, and an incorrigibly lovable trash can dweller. Well done, Sesame Street.
"Hope you liked it. Now scram!"
- DJ Muppet
"Hope you liked it. Now scram!"
- DJ Muppet
P.S. Massive Beta and Muppet congrats to superfan Ray, who informed us today that he and his wife (also a fan of the show) are expecting a baby! SQUEE! We could not be happier for them and wish them all the best. Now I need to learn how to knit baby booties that look like Optimus Prime. :p