Jarrod Fairclough Presents: "?"

The Muppet Mindset presents…

“?” with Jarrod Fairclough
Because Asking Questions is a Good Way to Find Out Things
Question: Why do drawings of Oscar the Grouch wear a garbage can lid hat?

Jarrod Fairclough – Hi ho everyone, and welcome to the first of what will hopefully be a semi-recurring series here on The Muppet Mindset, simply called “?”

It’s about time some questions got answered, and seeing as no-one’s going to ask them, I am taking it upon myself as my duty to you.  I’ll be asking the hard-hitting questions, finding the best sources, and trying to provide whatever answers I can scrounge up on Wikipedia! I mean, after all, as Sesame Street has told us countless times (although I’m sure The Count would be happy to count them), “asking questions is a good way to find out things!”

We begin today with a question that has plagued mankind for centuries…  Okay, well maybe not centuries.  Decades, possibly.  Maybe a fourth of a century…  2 scores ago.   A score is 20 years right?  Like Abe Lincoln said?  I don’t know, I’m Australian…  Anyway, I’m getting off the subject.

Today’s question is: Why is Oscar always drawn with a garbage can lid on his head?

Oscar the Grouch is one of the most beloved Sesame Street characters on the show, and has been since his first appearance way back in 1969.  For over 40 years, Oscar has appeared in thousands of episodes, with his big green (or orange) head poking out of his trash can.  Now, I’ve done the research on this, spent hundreds of hours reading up on hinges and garbage cans.  And I can safely say that every time Oscar’s head emerges from the can, the lid is flung back, as seen in exhibit A:


I’ve seen his lid with my own eyes, and I can indeed be sure that it is flung back.

So why is it that in ALMOST every drawn image of Oscar, his lid is on his head, like a hat?  Observe exhibit B:


And exhibit C:


And while you’re at it, type in Oscar the Grouch in to Google Images and observe exhibits D through Z.
Now, before we continue, yes, I am well aware that there are drawings out there of Oscar WITHOUT a lid on his head, so let’s just nip that in the butt before it continues, shall we?

Where did this craze come from?  Where did it begin?  Who was the first to decide to draw Oscar this way?  We turn to Joe Mathieu, the incredibly talented illustrator who has been drawing the Sesame characters for almost 40 years.  He is possibly (and rightfully so) the most well known illustrator of these characters, and has certainly set the bar.

He (as far as I could find on Muppet Wiki, but I may be wrong, in which case disregard, this entire segment and read something by The British Correspondent–that dude’s funny) was one of, if not the first, illustrator to draw Oscar this way, evident in the early 1970’s books such as The Sesame Street 1, 2, 3 Storybook, The Sesame Street A, B, C Storybook and Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil, Smell No Evil. (By the way, is it just me, or is that the greatest name for a book EVER?)

And yet, upon extensive research, there is no recollection of Oscar in the first ten seasons wearing his lid as his hat. Unfortunately I couldn’t find images of the 1973 Character Style Guide, nor the 1978 version, so I am unable to assess whether or not these images contained a hatted-Oscar.

So sure Jarrod, you’ve probably just insulted one of the best Muppet illustrators of all time, and anyone who came after him. Or hey, possibly you’ve just written an article and blamed a guy who took a cue from someone else. I understand that completely. Joe, if you’re reading this, I whole heartedly apologize, and I want you to know that you’re the greatest Muppet illustrator in the world. But why the hat? Is it to block out the sun? Because I’m fairly sure that grouches can’t get fur-burn. Or can they? I’ll ask my doctor next time I see him.

So now it’s up to you, my Muppety Mindset reader friends. I’m genuinely interested in finding out the reason for this. If anyone has a contact to Joe, or any Muppet illustrator, or if you wanna take a stab in the dark as to why this is, e-mail Ryan Dosier at ryguy102390@gmail.com or me at jazza_rocks@hotmail.com (please put “Muppet Mindset” in the ‘subject’ line or I probably won’t open it) and I’ll reveal some answers next time in “Jarrod Fairclough Presents; ? – Because Asking Questions Is A Good Way To Find Out Things.”

The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier

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