Caroll 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.
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.