The man who gave life to Big Bird & Oscar the GrouchA is retiring after calling “Sesame Street” home for nearly a half century.


Behind the Beak

  • Carol Spinney (84) joined “Sesame Street” at its start in ’69.
  • Originally was asked to play Big Bird as “a funny, dumb, country yokel,” but a few episodes in, Spinney suggested he be played “like a child” who “can learn with the kids.”
  • Met his wife of 45 years while working on the show in 1973.



“Before I came to ‘Sesame Street,’ I didnat feel like what I was doing was very important. Big Bird helped me find my purpose. Even as I step down from my roles, I feel I will always be Big Bird. And even Oscar, once in a while!”

Caroll Spinney, who was hand-picked by Jim Henson to join the cast, has been recognized for his work with 6 Emmy Awards, 2 Grammy Awards, & Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006.
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Did You Know?

  • Oscar the Grouch was orange in Season 1. After a vacation in the swamp, he came back green.
  • When the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded mid-flight in 1986, NASA had originally wanted Big Bird on it, but the plan was shelved.
  • “Sesame Street” was almost called “123AvenueB” or “Fun Street.”

“Sesame” Set to Turn 50

  • Idea began at a NYC dinner party to use TV to educate kids.
  • First episode aired Nov. 10, 1969.
  • In 1981, gov’t stopped funding “Sesame Street” so the show turned to licensing.
  • Inked 5-season deal with HBO in 2015.
  • Adapted adding online programs, but remains longest running children’s TV show of all time.

Playing Big Bird, standing 8 feet 2 inches, all these years has been physical challenging. Spinney stopped in 2015 after developing problems with balance, but remained the voice. Big Bird will now be played by Matt Vogel, Spinney's apprentice since 1996.

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