|Sesame Street character|
|First appearance||c. 1972 (as Baby Monster)
1981 (in print)
November 18, 1985 (as Elmo)
|Portrayed by||Current incarnation
Kevin Clash (1984-2012)
Ryan Dillon (2013-Present)
Caroll Spinney (1970s)
Jerry Nelson (1970s)
Brian Muehl (1981-1984)
Richard Hunt (1984-1985)
Peter Linz (2013)
|Family||Louie and Mae|
Elmo is a Muppet character on the children's television show Sesame Street. He is a furry red monster with a falsetto voice, who hosts the last full fifteen minute segment on Sesame Street, Elmo's World, which is aimed at toddlers. He was most often puppeteered by Kevin Clash, until Clash's resignation in late 2012 and has recently been performed by Ryan Dillon, though Peter Linz has also provided his voice in recent performances but denied he would be taking on the character full time.
Elmo is self-described as three-and-a-half years old and his three-and-a-half years birthday is always on February 3, making his actual birthday August 3. Elmo characteristically avoids pronouns, referring to himself in the third person (e.g. "Elmo has a question" rather than, "I have a question"). Sesame Street staff writer Nancy Sans once described Elmo's origins: "There was this extra red puppet lying around and the cast would pick him up sometimes and try to create a personality, but nothing seemed to materialize."
The puppet was performed by Caroll Spinney and Jerry Nelson in the background of episodes from early 1970s, Brian Muehl from 1979 to 1981, and Richard Hunt from 1981 to 1984. Sans continues that "...one day [in 1984], Kevin Clash, a talented puppeteer, raised him up and brought energy and life into Elmo and from that day forward we would all write for Elmo. Kevin's performance inspired the writers to develop Elmo's character". John Tartaglia, Matt Vogel, and Jim Martin have all been secondary performers for the character, providing movement for Elmo's arms and legs, particularly in green-screen shots.
After becoming a regular guest on The Rosie O'Donnell Show, Elmo began touring the talk-show circuit. He has appeared on Martha Stewart Living and Martha, The Tony Danza Show, Rove Live, Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!, and The View. Elmo and a developmental expert gave babysitting tips on the June 18, 2005 episode of Teen Kids News. He has also appeared on Emeril Live, helping Emeril make (non-alcoholic) eggnog during a Holiday Special shown in December 2008. Kevin Clash and Aaron Neville were also guests on this show. On a special episode of Oprah called "The Faces Behind The Famous Names," Kevin Clash and Elmo appeared at the same time.
Elmo also appeared in a fifth season episode of The West Wing along with his friends Zoe and Big Bird. In that episode, Elmo receives a medical checkup from Abbey Bartlet, the First Lady (who is making a guest appearance on Sesame Street), and cheekily questions her about the validity of her medical license.
At the request and with the assistance of Rep. Duke Cunningham, he testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education in April 2002, urging support for increased funding in music education.
Emeril and Elmo's Healthy Start was a special featuring Elmo and Emeril Lagasse that aired on November 4, 2005 at 8 p.m. as part of the Food Network's second annual "Cook With Your Kids Week". The special was produced in conjunction with Sesame Workshop's Healthy Habits for Life program.
Criticism and controversy
Fans of Sesame Street have complained that Elmo's prominent status has caused some older characters (such as Oscar the Grouch, Big Bird, Count von Count, Prairie Dawn, Grover, and Cookie Monster) to see greatly reduced roles. Elmo has been referred to as the "Little Red Menace" by Sesame Street traditionalists (cf. Red menace).
In its FAQ, the Sesame Workshop responds to the allegation that Elmo referring to himself in the third person will teach children improper English, stating that this behavior "mimics the behavior of many preschoolers." However, Abby and Zoe, who are also in the same age group as Elmo, do not speak in the third person.
- Principal performers
- Kevin Clash (1984 - 2012)
- Ryan Dillon (2013 - present)
- Alternate performers
- Caroll Spinney and Jerry Nelson (1970s)
- Brian Muehl (1981-1984)
- Richard Hunt (1984-1985)
- Peter Linz (2013, voice only)
In the early 1970s and 80s Elmo was a rarely used background character and was very different from the persona he is most commonly associated with. Rather than appearing as a young child he was presented as a gruff "caveman" type character. During the 1970s he was operated by various puppeteers including Caroll Spinney and Jerry Nelson among others, with no permanent performer. In the 1980s he was more regularly used and was given a permanent performer, Brian Muehl and later Richard Hunt. Richard Hunt grew tired of performing the character and passed him on to Kevin Clash who adopted the persona most commonly recognised. It was Clash's incarnation of the character that people are most familiar with, but in 2012, Clash was forced to resign from Sesame Street. Since then no permanent performer has been announced though it is most likely to be puppeteer Ryan Dillon, who has performed the character in most live performances since Clash's departure. Peter Linz also provided Elmo's voice in a recent performance; however he declared he would not become Elmo's puppeteer.
- Kōji Ochiai (Japanese NHK dub of Sesame Street)
- Kenta Matsumoto (Japanese, TV Tokyo)
- Davide Garbolino (Italian version of Elmo's World)
- Eduardo Garza (Mexican Spanish, Latin Spanish dub of Elmo's World)
- Igor Cruz (Mexican Spanish)
- Sabine Falkenberg (German)
- Hein Boele (Dutch)
- Tomasz Bednarek (Polish version of Elmo's World)
- Damon Berry (Takalani Sesame, known as "Neno")
- Christophe Albertini (5, Rue Sésame)
- Ariel Doron (Rechov Sumsum)
- Kingsley, Emily Perl; Stevenson, Nancy W (1981). The Sesame Street circus of opposites : featuring Jim Henson's Sesame Street Muppets. Western Publishing. ISBN 978-0-307-23141-3. OCLC 8493158.
- "Elmo left behind on 'Sesame Street' as puppeteer Kevin Clash exits amid underage sex scandal".
- "This Week in Sesame Street: Elmo’s Birthday". Sesame Workshop.
- Rhoades, Shirrel. "Being Elmo". Tropic Cinema. Retrieved 5 July 2012.
- Shon, Debora (2006-01-31). "Sesame Street will spend this weekend in Poughkeepsie". Poughkeepsie Journal.
- Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me! : NPR
- A Guy's Guide to Oprah: "Barbie, Marc Jacobs, Jimmy Choo, and Elmo" (June 2008)
- Mr. Elmo goes to Washington
- "Just Tickled". People Magazine. Vol. 47 No. 1.
- "Jumptheshark.com". Archived from the original on 2007-10-10.
- "Elmo dethrones Big Bird", Kim Lyons, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Jan. 11, 2006
- "Why does Elmo refer to himself in the third person? Won't this teach kids improper English?". Frequently Asked Questions. Sesame Workshop.
- Elmo on Muppet Wiki, an external wiki
- Tickle Elmo
- Elmo's World
- Downloadable 15-minute interview with Elmo voice and puppeteer Kevin Clash from Wisconsin Public Television - Kevin Clash talks about how he became Elmo and how the muppet is able to affect children's lives
- "Sesame Street: A YouTube Interview with Elmo" - Sesame Street Official Channel, YouTube
- Cinderelmo at the Internet Movie Database