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Sesame Street character
First appearance1980 (season 11) (as a supporting character); 1985 (season 17) (as a permanent character)
Created byCaroly Wilcox
Portrayed by
In-universe information
SpeciesMuppet monster
  • Louie and Mae (parents)
  • Daisy (sister)
  • Mimsy (cousin)
  • Cousin Pepe (cousin from Mexico)
  • Elmo-noske (cousin from Japan)
  • Elmer (cousin from Texas)
  • Aunt Sue
  • Elmo's Grandma and Grandpa
  • Selmo
  • Elmo's Great Grandmother
  • Elmo (great-great grandfather and namesake)
  • Uncle Jack
  • Aunt Jill
  • Jesse (cousin)
  • Chester (cousin)
  • Chester's parents (aunt and uncle)
  • Funella Furchester (aunt)
  • Furgus Fuzz (uncle)
  • Phoebe Furchester-Fuzz (cousin)
  • Ollie (cousin)
Fur colorRed[1]
BirthdayFebruary 3[2]
Elmo and Rosita film a PSA in 2005 with then-Senator Hillary Clinton

Elmo Monster is a red Muppet character on the children's television show Sesame Street.[3] A furry red monster who speaks in a high-pitched falsetto voice and frequently refers to himself in the third person, he hosts the last full five-minute segment (fifteen minutes prior to 2017) on Sesame Street, "Elmo's World", which is aimed at toddlers. He was most often puppeteered by Kevin Clash, but since Clash's resignation in late 2012, Elmo has been puppeteered by Ryan Dillon.[4][5]


Elmo is self-described as three-and-a-half years old and his birthday is on February 3.[6] Elmo characteristically avoids pronouns in reference to himself, instead referring to himself in the third person (e.g. saying "Elmo wants this" instead of "I want this").[7] 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."[8]

Elmo and Kevin Clash at 69th Annual Peabody Awards, May 2010

The character of Elmo was originally conceived as a supporting character and background character by Henson Associates-based Muppet artist/builder Caroly Wilcox in 1979, first appearing in the Sesame Street song "We Are All Monsters", which first aired in a Season 11 episode during 1980. Elmo became a named and recurring character on Sesame Street (during the street storylines) sometime later that season (episode 1439, to be exact), although he still appeared as a supporting character in segments in later episodes of the show at the time. The character was performed by a rotating ensemble of Muppet performers such as Jerry Nelson and Kathryn Mullen while he was a background character in such Sesame Street segments from 1980 to 1984. As a named character, Elmo was performed by Brian Muehl from 1980 to 1984, and later Richard Hunt from 1984 to 1985 upon Muehl's departure. However, in 1985, Hunt was so frustrated with the puppet, he squeezed it and threw it at Kevin Clash, who then performed Elmo. Clash said that Elmo should be a character who is kind and loving. Sans says of Clash, "one day in 1985, 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."[9] Modern Elmo debuted with the Season 17 premiere of Sesame Street, episode 2096 (first aired November 18, 1985, following the release of the Sesame Street film Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird). In the episode, Big Bird is tired of the adults refusing to believe him about Snuffy, so he decides to arrange for them to come to his nest and meet Snuffy, and Elmo offers to help. Snuffy returns, then tells Elmo he had better go home and brush his fur to prepare for the grown-ups' arrival, but Elmo holds on to his snuffle so he cannot go; as such, the adults meet Snuffy for the first time ever. Clash cites a moment later in season 17 (from Episode 2215 in which Elmo packs for an imaginary vacation) as the moment when he "found his voice" as Elmo, and by 1987, he became added to various episodes and product lines. 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.

Alongside Cookie Monster, Elmo has appeared in The Furchester Hotel, where he is taking an extended stay because of his fascination with the Furchester Hotel. His father Louie is the brother of Funella Furchester. On May 27, 2020, The Not Too Late Show with Elmo premiered on Max. The series stars Elmo as the host of his own late-night talk show.[10]

Popular culture

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, Martha, The Tony Danza Show, Rove Live, Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!,[11] 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.[12]

Elmo was the star of the 1999 full-length, theatrically released motion picture The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland. He also starred in the film Elmo Saves Christmas.

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.

Elmo also appeared in the eighth-season episode of Scrubs, "My ABC's", along with Oscar the Grouch, Grover, and an Anything Muppet named "Ex Ray". All four characters are in separate fantasies of J.D.'s in the episode.

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.[13]

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.

In 1996, a Tickle Me Elmo doll became a fad toy.[14]

Some traditionalist fans of Sesame Street have complained that Elmo's prominent status has caused roles to be greatly reduced for several older characters,[15] with some referring to him as the "Little Red Menace".[16] Some fans also blame Elmo for the semi-permanent departure of Kermit the Frog from Sesame Street.

In its FAQ, the Sesame Workshop addresses the allegation that Elmo referring to himself in the third person will teach children improper English, by stating that this behavior "mimics the behavior of many preschoolers. Like 3-year-olds, he doesn't always have the skills or knowledge to speak proper English."[7]

Casting history

Principal performers

Alternate performers


International puppeteers

  • 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 dub of Sesamestreet)
  • Jogchem Jalink (Puppeteer of the Elmo replica puppet used on the Dutch version of Sesamestreet)
  • Tomasz Bednarek (Polish version of Elmo's World)
  • Damon Berry (Takalani Sesame, known as "Neno")
  • Christophe Albertini (5, Rue Sésame)
  • Ariel Doron (Rechov Sumsum)


  1. ^ Sesame Street (September 16, 2014). "Sesame Street: Lupita Nyong'o Loves Her Skin". YouTube. Archived from the original on November 18, 2021. Retrieved September 17, 2014.
  2. ^ @elmo (February 3, 2023). "Elmo wants to thank everyone who wished Elmo a happy birthday! And when Elmo says "everyone," Elmo means . . . everyone. #HappyBirthdayElmo" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  3. ^ "'The Muppets': Where's Elmo?". The Hollywood Reporter. November 17, 2011.
  4. ^ "Ryan Dillon is the New Voice of Elmo". DailyEntertainmentNews.com. April 2, 2013. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  5. ^ "Elmo Left Behind on 'Sesame Street' As Puppeteer Kevin Clash Exits Amid Underage Sex Scandal". The New York Times. November 21, 2012.
  6. ^ "This Week in Sesame Street: Elmo's Birthday". Sesame Workshop. Archived from the original on July 8, 2016. Retrieved August 15, 2012.
  7. ^ a b "Why does Elmo refer to himself in the third person? Won't this teach kids improper English?". Frequently Asked Questions. Sesame Workshop. Archived from the original on September 27, 2011. Retrieved October 29, 2008.
  8. ^ Rhoades, Shirrel (December 20, 2011). "Being Elmo". Tropic Cinema. Retrieved July 5, 2012.
  9. ^ Shon, Debora (January 31, 2006). "Sesame Street will spend this weekend in Poughkeepsie". Poughkeepsie Journal.
  10. ^ "Sesame Workshop to debut 'The Not-Too-Late Show with Elmo' on HBO MAX on Tuesday, May 27, 2020 | Sesame Workshop". www.sesameworkshop.org. Archived from the original on May 30, 2020. Retrieved May 30, 2020.
  11. ^ "Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!". NPR. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  12. ^ "A Guy's Guide to Oprah: 'Barbie, Marc Jacobs, Jimmy Choo, and Elmo'". Aguysguidetooprah.com. June 2008. Archived from the original on February 19, 2012. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  13. ^ "Mr. Elmo goes to Washington". CNN. April 24, 2002. Archived from the original on October 11, 2012. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  14. ^ "Just Tickled". People. Vol. 47, no. 1. January 13, 1997. Retrieved October 5, 2022.
  15. ^ "Jumptheshark.com". Archived from the original on October 10, 2007.
  16. ^ "Elmo dethrones Big Bird" dead link at the Wayback Machine (archived August 23, 2010), Kim Lyons, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, January 11, 2006

External links