The Book of the Week is “Sesame Street Unpaved” by David Borgenicht, published in 1998. This book commemorates (almost) thirty years of the scripts, stories, secrets and songs of “Sesame Street,” an award-winning American educational television show for very young children. It went on the air November 10, 1969. It features dialogues between human and combination-marionette/puppet characters, animated segments and music/video snippets.
There have been countless humorous features, such as the recurring early-episode bits when Big Bird kept flubbing the name of human store owner Mr. Hooper, calling him Mr. Looper, Mr. Blooper, Mr. Duper, Mr. Snooper, Mr. Pooper, Mr. Scooper, etc. In one of many memorable skits involving puppets Ernie and Bert, the latter asks the former whether he’s aware that he has a banana in his ear. Ernie asks him to repeat that. Bert starts yelling. Ernie yells back, “I’m sorry– You’ll have to speak a little louder, Bert! I can’t hear you! I have a banana in my ear!”
“Kermit the Frog” came into being around 1955, and in previous shows, his appearance evolved through the years. For the sake of neatness, the puppet character “Cookie Monster” usually ate painted rice cakes rather than real cookies on-screen. Another early, (but short-lived) popular character included Roosevelt Franklin. A purple puppet featured in a classroom, he was booted off the air because some of the show’s creators felt he portrayed a “negative cultural stereotype” in that he was a smart-alecky, paper-throwing disruptive kid, and he appeared to be African American.
A host of celebrities have also visited the show, and usually sung songs. When Ralph Nader visited, he insisted on correcting a grammatical error in the song “People in Your Neighborhood” by changing a line to “…the people WHOM you meet each day.”
On one occasion, the Boston Pops accompanied the show’s cast in playing the song, “Rubber Duckie” but a union rule considered squeezing a rubber duckie (so it would squeak) to be an instrument additional to that each musician was already playing– requiring that extra wages be paid. The rule was skirted by having only the percussionists play rubber duckies.
Sesame Street has garnered wide international appeal through the decades, airing in Kuwait, Turkey and Mexico, among many other nations.