Here is why a happy show like & # 39; Sesame Street & # 39; I wanted an intrepid character like Oscar the Grouch

adminOctober 19, 2018

Caroll Spinney and Oscar the Grouch at the Daytime Creative Arts Emmy Awards in New York City in April 2006. (Brad Barket / Getty Images)

It's green, lives in a trash can and is always waking up on the wrong side of the bed.

His name is Oscar the Grouch, and even the people who saw "Sesame Street" when the children found it a bit confusing. Why is it green? How did you choose your house? And why is he in such a bad mood?

The answer lies in Caroll Spinney, the actor behind the roles of Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, who announced his retirement from the show on Monday after nearly 50 years. (The puppeteer companion Eric Jacobson, who plays Miss Piggy, Grover and Bert will take the reins).

Spinney met the characters when the creator of "Sesame Street" Jim Henson called him in the early sixties.

"[Henson] He said: "Why do not you come to New York and talk about the Muppets?" & # 39; said Spinney to NPR in 2003. "I have some characters that I want to build, one is a tall, funny-looking bird and the other will be a grumpy character who will live in a heap of garbage in the gutter."

After Oscar Grouch was born as that grumpy Muppet, although originally it was orange, Spinney had to give him a voice.

"I had never made a character like Oscar, and I did not feel that any of my voices sounded like the Muppets I was used to hearing," wrote Spinney in his book "The Wisdom of Big Bird."

He looked at the streets of New York City for inspiration, and found the Bronx taxi driver who took him to the meeting with Henson.

"He was the stereotyped taxi driver of the time, a guy in his 40s from the Bronx who wore a tweed cap with a bit of a wing, and growled from the corner of his mouth:" Where, Mac? & # 39; ", wrote Spinney. . "Who could be more grumpy than a taxi driver in the Bronx? I had my ideal model for my new character. "

Oscar's purpose, according to the character description of the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, is to teach "the importance of understanding, tolerance and diversity." According to Robert W. Morrow's book "Sesame Street" and Children's Television Reform, "Oscar acted differently and lived in a different kind of home as a metaphor," to dramatize tolerance for those who are different. … In segments about the conflicts between Oscar and others on the street, the program taught how children could deal with them. Diversity in the context of school disaggregation ".

However, despite the admirable intentions behind the character, Spinney originally thought it might not be suitable for children.

"I used to question that in the early days of Sesame Street." "Why is Oscar on? He's such an unpleasant and even rude character," he told HuffPost. "One producer said:" Well, I think it takes all kinds of things to make a world, and he's just another guy. "

But in the end, Spinney discovered that Oscar always had a heart. Although he would complain, he still helped the needy, he just did it while complaining. When his human friend, Maria, needed a lock to fix a car, for example, Oscar rummaged in his trash can to help find one, but not before muttering: "Wow, another rotten day." "As cranky as he is, he always would, let a hungry child eat before him," Spinney wrote.

The character turned out to be a great success. On the show, he sometimes complained to famous musicians like Johnny Cash and Billy Joel. And the character generated several versions around the world: his cousin Moishe Oofnik appears in Israel, living in an old car. In Turkey, his name is Kirpik and he resides in a basket. And in Pakistan, he is Akhtar, and his home is an old oil barrel.

It has even appeared in a series of other Popular shows, such as "Scrubs", "The Simpsons" and "South Park".

Oscar may be a world celebrity right now, but for Spinney, it's just the grumpy guy who goes to great lengths to hide his heart of gold.

Spinney admitted that Oscar "does not think the way I think at all," but that's what makes the character so special to him.

"I'm dealing with a mental entity that is not me, although I'm empowering it," wrote Spinney. "Oscar has taught me the power of the puppet."

"And I'm going to say this," he continued. "After playing Big Bird all day, it's almost therapeutic to change Oscar, to live for a while with the attitude opposed to life."

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