Sesame Street first entered the world of television in 1969 and since then, it has become a go-to educational and entertainment source for children. This show was created by Joan Ganz Cooney, and her team at Children’s Television Workshop, whose aim was to "master the addictive qualities of television and do something good with them." It is clear that Sesame Street has successfully accomplished this goal over the last decades. In fact, a study conducted by Melissa Kearney and Phillip Levine showed how this particular children's show is able to deliver "lasting educational benefits", even those as powerful as the ones provided by preschools.
Even after many decades, Sesame Street's beloved characters seem to be winning many hearts. It is also possible to say that any viewer, regardless of their age, will easily fall in love with these characters simply because they have so much to teach and so much to say. What is quite interesting about these characters is that they are unique in their own way. Sesame Streethas created different personalities and identities and has focused on adding more depth and nuances to these characters, so they seem very much real and relatable. Here's a list of some of the most popular characters in the Sesame Street world.
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16 Prairie Dawn
This tiny little muppet played a pivotal role in Sesame Street as she was the first featured female muppet on the show. Prairie Dawn made her debut in 1971 with Fran Brill giving life to her. Brill is Jim Henson's (one of the show's creators) first woman puppeteer and is someone who gave life to other notable Sesame Street characters like Zoe. As Brill points out, Prairie Dawn started off as an Anything Muppet, which are muppets that can be changed according to the script. However, this muppet ended up being an adorable six-year-old pink color muppet with blonde hair, who is very much a "girly-girl". Even though there were several absences of Prairie in the show, she plays a prominent role as someone who is bringing in a very feminine personality. Following Brill's retirement, Prairie has been taken over by Stephanie D'Abruzzo. She is definitely one of the sweetest characters in the show.
15 Telly Monster
Telly was first introduced as a monster who was obsessed with TV and thus, had antennas and red-spiraled eyes. However, given that this can be portrayed as a negative influence on children, the character was subsequently developed into a neurotic young monster who is obsessed with triangles. This character seems to be one that easily worries and panics, which creates a clear contrast with his huge physique. The character's humble nature makes him quite lovable. Telly is also well known for his music and his ability to play different instruments.
14 Sherlock Hemlock
As the name suggests, this particular muppet is a parody of the infamous detective, Sherlock Holmes. Thereby, he is also wearing a very much Sherlock-Holmes-like detective outfit with a cloak, a hat, and a magnifying glass. However, unlike Holmes, Hemlock is focused on invoking humor, as he tends to be the culprit in some of his mysteries. Interestingly, Hemlock is one character that taps into the detective skills of young viewers while encouraging them to explore their imaginations. He also feeds into the curious nature of the viewers and that is why he was so popular during his first appearances. Unfortunately, Hemlock is not exactly a frequent visitor to modern day Sesame Street. It would definitely be intriguing to see him with his own shows which focus on his absurd mysteries.
This four-year-old muppet is yet another significant character in the show. What makes Julia important is her ability to spread awareness on autism as she is autistic herself. In fact, the Autistic Self Advocacy Network and other autism advocates and researchers helped shape her, which might be one reason why she became a successful character. Julia's introductory episode is used as an opportunity to spread awareness on autism. At the same time, the episode illustrates how the other characters of the show try to make her feel comfortable while appreciating her differences. It is beautifully executed so that the viewer instantly takes a liking to Julia. Julia is also a brilliant artist and is known for her extreme focus on her paintings, which always end up with a blend of imagination and creativity.
One can easily recognize Abby Cadabby on Sesame Street due to her sparkling nature. Abby is special in her own way as she is a fairy and is someone who is fascinated by normal things like drawing. This character is yet another diverse character simply because the creators have intentionally made her different without assigning a specific race or culture. Given that Abby's parents are divorced, the show attempts to educate the young children on divorce and how it is very normal. We see Abby trying to explain to her friends (and subsequently, the viewers) what divorce is, which can be seen as a very educational moment of the show that not only focuses on diverse personalities but also the different family backgrounds we come from.
This turquoise character is a five-year-old monster with a Mexican heritage and focuses on educating the viewers on her rich culture. She is bilingual and has a very close relationship with her family. Rosita is quite friendly and gets excited easily, especially when the topic of family is brought up. Given that Rosita's family members can fly, the character initially had wings which were later removed and reinstated. Either way, every time this character appears, viewers are reminded of the importance of loved ones and the bonds we share.
10 Mr. Snuffleupagus
Often seen with Big Bird and known as "Snuffy" among his friends, Mr. Snuffleupagus is a four-and-a-half-year-old huge monster who was considered Big Bird's imaginary friend for around 15 years until he was finally revealed to the main adult characters of the show. Snuffy's debut was very important to Big Bird and the episode illustrates how excited he is. Snuffy's character contributes to the idea of imagination and imaginary playmates. As Snuffy's current performer, Martin P. Robinson, explains, the irony of this huge woolley mammoth-like character going unnoticed by adults is that "he’s big, you can’t miss him, but adults being the way they are—preoccupied, going to work, you know—they miss those little details". This shy character can be quite funny sometimes, and it is always a delight to see him alongside Big Bird as it emphasizes on their beautiful friendship.
Grover is one character that has many layers to him. This blue-color furry monster has been a favorite among many Sesame Street fans for decades simply because he is able to brighten up the show with his many talents. One incident this is very clearly seen is during his performance of "Sing After Me" with Madeline Kahn, which includes both great music and humor. Grover is known for three key attributes; his eagerness to help everyone even if he is not the best at it, his unique way of speaking by avoiding contractions, and his multiple personas like Super Grover. With his constant appearances on the show, one cannot miss this character.
Bert is often seen with his best friend and roommate Ernie and is a foil to Ernie. Easily recognizable through his unibrow and his long face, Bert is a serious character who seems to be no-nonsense. Bert might come off as a boring, bland character who may not be the popular friend, but his dull nature is exactly what makes him interesting. It goes on to say that just because one enjoys indulging in an organized lifestyle with not-so-exciting passions like collecting paperclips, it does not mean they are not fascinating. Bert's "boring" persona might be the very reason why he stands out in Sesame Street.
Unlike Bert, Ernie is very carefree and can be a nuisance to Bert. Ernie is known for his special laugh and is someone who is ready to crack a joke. There are many instances in which the show taps into Ernie's life and brings forth his love for bubble baths. Ideally, he loves to enjoy it with his Rubber Duckie. This can be quite soothing for the viewers. Both Bert and Ernie have been on the show since its premier and are known as a comic duo. Ernie's interruptions on Bert's uneventful events are one way in which the characters add humor to the show.
6 Count von Count
Yet another parody of an infamous character, Count Dracula, who is known for his impact on the gothic genre. However, unlike the actual Dracula, Count von Count of Sesame Street is a friendly vampire who is obsessed with counting, which is also a nod to his name. This particular character helps the young viewers develop their mathematical skills and makes it fun. The Count is known for his supernatural background. From the castle filled with bats, which is his home, and the random thunder flashes which allows him to keep on par with the traditional ideas of a vampire. Yet again, this vampire is one that is not bothered by the sun and even finds himself enjoying sunbathing. The Count's Eastern European accent is another way in which he is differentiated from other characters.
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5 Oscar the Grouch
Perhaps the most irritated and displeased character of the show, Oscar is quite famous for his love for trash and his trashcan-home. This green monster with brown brows is always miserable and is adamant in making others feel the same. Nonetheless, he is one character that almost every viewer has enjoyed. Oscar's negative persona allows him to stand on the other end of the spectrum as he is seen as the foil of the other main characters of the show. Even if Oscar comes off as annoyed and rude, the show suggests that he has a nice heart. There are several occasions where this is seen like when he is among the children. This character's relatability is one main reason why he is so popular.
4 Cookie Monster
This googly-eyed, blue-furred monster has been on Sesame Street for many years, and is one of its main characters. As his name suggests, Cookie has an abnormal obsession with cookies, and he is often seen with chocolate-chipped cookies. His simple dialect as well as the "nom-nom" sound he makes when munching down his cookies makes him one adorable monster. Even if Cookie is obsessed with cookies, he is not one to stay away from other foods. In fact, to counter many debates on the character's possible bad influence on children through his unhealthy eating habits, the show has attempted to illustrate that he is also consuming different kinds of food like vegetables. Nonetheless, Cookie's babyish nature that contradicts his size and monster appearance has allowed him to play a huge role on the show.
Zoe is a little ballerina who was introduced in order to ensure there are more female leads in Sesame Street. Thus, Zoe is one character who has been playing a lead role in the show. She complements Elmo in many ways; from the looks to the personalities; both characters are balls of brightness and positivity. Zoe is known for her dancing skits and is often seen with some adorable jewelry pieces. She definitely resembles a small child who is quite excited and happy almost all the time. She can be seen as one strong female lead and a role model for many young viewers. That is why this character ranks third on this list.
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2 Big Bird
Everyone knows and absolutely loves this hard-to-miss character. Big Bird with his bright yellow feathers and beak, is quite friendly, calm and the character that everyone wants to hug. The character was originally performed by Caroll Spinney, who also performed in the role of Oscar. Even though Big Bird has been six-and-a-half years old for decades, he has not lost his compassionate nature, which helps a lot when it comes to educational skits. He is also very responsible and empathetic, which makes him easy to approach. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Big Bird educated the young viewers on how to be safe during the crisis. Thus, the character continues to be one of the most important features of Sesame Street.
Obviously, Elmo is the most adored character of the whole show for many reasons. His high-pitched voice and friendly nature has allowed him to gain much popularity among the viewers. What makes him so relatable is his childish nature, which is also why he is super nice to everybody around him. Nguyen of Buzzfeed calls him "the embodiment of childhood guilelessness" and for good reason. Elmo is frequently seen learning, in turn, placing him amidst the young audience. This red muppet has taken the forefront of the show and continues to do so. In fact, Elmo has his own world called Elmo's World.