Caroll Spinney (1933–2019)

DvYBv2NX0AAUFQuCaroll Spinney died yesterday. Although millions of us grew up with him, most of us didn’t know his name. That’s an occupational hazard for a puppeteer, and Spinney was one of the best.

For nearly half a century, he performed and voiced Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch —  two ends of the emotional spectrum — on SESAME STREET. Like the children who watched, Big Bird was curious, loving, sometimes gullible. Also like the children who watched, Oscar was moody, self-centered and often unapproachable.

Together, these characters created a safe, relatable space on SESAME STREET for generations of kids. And, with that comfort, we opened ourselves to learning.

I stammered words to this effect when I met Spinney about a decade ago. And, while I’m sure he had heard it all before, he let me say my peace while smiling beatifically. He assured me that he understood, and respected, the important role he played in the lives of so many of us. And he took a picture with me, as if we were old friends, which we kind of were.

Caroll Spinney Will McKinley

So it was my great pleasure to be interviewed (via Skype) by Sky News about this man, his show, and his impact. I consider it a thank you, in a small way, for his great gift.

The first of these clips is a segment that aired in Australia. The second is a package from the UK.


About willmckinley

I'm a New York City-based writer, producer, and digital marketing consultant. I've been a guest on Turner Classic Movies (interviewed by Robert Osborne), NPR, Sirius Satellite Radio, and the official TCM podcast. I've written for, Game Show Network, getTV, Sony Movies, and NYC weeklies like The Villager and Gay City News. I'm also a contributor to four film-and-TV-related books: "Monster Serial," "Bride of Monster Serial," "Taste the Blood of Monster Serial," and "Remembering Jonathan Frid."
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3 Responses to Caroll Spinney (1933–2019)

  1. Great tribute! Thanks for posting.

  2. Veebs says:

    Well done on that Skype interview, Will! At first, I thought you were wearing the same button-up shirt in it as you did in the photo with Caroll! Sesame Street was, hands down, my favourite show when I was a kid. My older sister and I even had the Sesame Street records that came out in the late-70s and early-80s and we listened to them ALL THE TIME (my sister had a crush on Bob).

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