From 1971, here’s Jessie Jackson on Sesame Street doing a call-and-response with the children of the poem I Am - Somebody.
I May Be Poor
But I Am
I May Be Young
But I Am
I May Be On Welfare
But I Am
It’s difficult to imagine something like this airing on the show now. Sesame Street was originally designed to serve the needs of children in low-income homes, but now the newest episodes of the show air first on HBO…a trickle-down educational experience. (via @kathrynyu)
Dan Lewis is the director of new media communications at Sesame Street, which I’m sure is hard work but sounds like the best job in the world.
For years, he’s also run a daily email newsletter called “Now I Know,” featuring little science and history vignettes. For example, did you know… Abraham Lincoln signed the legislation creating the US Secret Service the day he was fatally shot… in order to investigate counterfeit money schemes. (Which is why the Secret Service was part of the Treasury department before being absorbed into Homeland Security.)
Now Dan has put those stories in a book, also called Now I Know, available for preorder for October 18. It’s like a newer, less snarky iteration of Cecil Adams’ The Straight Dope. Or, even better, Cliff Clavin’s CliffsNotes.
PS: Tell me on Twitter: did Notorious B.I.G. really coin (and not just popularize) “and if you don’t know, now you know” with “Juicy”? I swear, as a younger teenager pretty much immersed in hip-hop, I remember that that specific phrase being in the air or even in a song or by a comic or DJ well before 1994. But it’s in that weird window of 1990s history where Google gets all tangled and useless. You know, this is the sort of question I should probably be asking Dan Lewis.
Sesame Street is insane, BTW. They aired 130 60-minute episodes over six months for that first season and over its 43 seasons, the show has averaged 100 episodes per season. A truly amazing combination of quantity and quality.
Today being the first day of Spring, it is also Big Bird’s birthday. To celebrate, the Sesame Street blog posted an interview with Big Bird creator, Caroll Spinney, who shared anecdotes from BB’s life. Interestingly, Big Bird used to celebrate his 4th birthday, but since he learned how to read, he now celebrates his 6th birthday. And has for quite some time. Dude never seems to age.
Since he couldn’t read or write, he was 4-years-old. By the end, he was writing little poems and stuff, so then he had to be six so he could read. He’s turning six and he always turns six. His birthday came about on a calendar on the early days of the show. Someone decided he should have a birthday and I decided it should be the first day of spring.
Then Spinney brought everyone’s good cheer down a notch by talking about Mr. Hooper.
They said, “Don’t’ you understand? Mr. Hooper has died.” And I said, “Yes, well when is he coming back?” They said, “Don’t you understand? Mr. Hooper is never coming back,” and quickly everyone is moved to tears. It was probably the most sensitive show we have ever done. When we finished there were tears on all the actors’ faces. When I came out of the suit, I had to have a towel because I had been crying.
Lastly, aside from never aging in 40+ years of birthdays, it must be weird to have a birthday on a calendar date that has changed over time. Remember when the first day of Spring was March 21st?
(via Dan Lewis who you might want to check out if you like learning a new thing everyday)
In an interview on a Canadian telethon that was hosted by Bob McGrath, Snuffy’s performer, Martin P. Robinson, revealed that Snuffy was finally introduced to the main human cast mainly due to a string of high profile and sometimes graphic stories of pedophilia and sexual abuse of children that had been aired on shows such as 60 Minutes and 20/20. The writers felt that by having the adults refuse to believe Big Bird despite the fact that he was telling the truth, they were scaring children into thinking that their parents would not believe them if they had been sexually abused and that they would just be better off remaining silent.
Nonetheless, and in spite of all its successes, I feel very strongly that Sesame Street has aimed too low, has misunderstood the problem it is trying to cure, and will be a disappointment in the long run. I also feel that it has misunderstood the nature and underestimated the opportunities of its chief subject, the three R’s, and its medium, television; and therefore, that even what it sets out to do in the short run it does not do nearly as well as it might.
This is probably my all-time favorite childhood TV moment. I loved watching the smiling workers and relentless machinery turn all that formless wax into something that I USED EVERY DAY. My favorite part is the crayons popping up out of their molds. Still gives me chills, it does! BTW, the YouTube page says the video originated from Sesame Street but it was actually from Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. (thx, janelle)
Update: I stand corrected…the above clip is from Sesame Street. But Mr. Rogers did show a similar clip on his show (stills here). I know I’ve seen the one on Mr. Rogers but I don’t know about the Sesame Street one. (thx, everyone)
Update: Ok, here’s the clip from Mr. Rogers:
Its pace is a lot more leisurely than the Sesame Street clip.
Me know. Me have problem. Me love cookies. Me tend to get out of control when me see cookies. Me know it not natural to react so strongly to cookies, but me have weakness. Me know me do wrong. Me know it isn’t normal. Me see disapproving looks. Me see stares. Me hurt inside.
Some changes coming to Sesame Street. “After destroying several garbage cans due to rage issues, Oscar receives a more modern plastic garbage container. Sadly though, the new receptacle has an air-tight lock designed to keep a newly homeless Ernie out. Oscar suffocates and the neighbourhood must now figure out how to properly mourn someone they didn’t really like.”