Today’s Weekly Muppet Wednesday article was written by Michael Wermuth, Jr. with edits and additions by Ryan Dosier.
Sesame Street Season 1 Episode 0001 (1969)
Most recent appearance…
Sesame Street Season 45 (2014)
“Me want cookie!”
“C is for Cookie, that’s good enough for me!”
“Me not exactly TAKE the cookies; Me EAT the cookies!”
WHO IS COOKIE MONSTER?
Cookie Monster is the furry blue monster with googly eyes whose favorite food is cookies. Despite his name and favorite food, Cookie Monster does eat more than just cookies, including a wide variety of fruits and vegetables (but no, he didn’t give up cookies or change his name in 2006) in addition to various items that shouldn’t be eaten–including telephones and plates and tables and more. Cookie Monster often uses big words, and ususally says “me” instead of “I.” Cookie Monster has also hosted two recurring segments on Sesame Street: “Monsterpiece Theater,” under the identity of Alistair Cookie, and “The Letter of the Day,” sometimes co-hosted by Prairie Dawn.
A number of monsters resembling Cookie Monster were around before Sesame Street began. The first such monster had dark green fur and visible teeth, created for as series of un-aired commercials for Wheels, Crowns, and Flutes, where it was called the “Wheel Stealer.” Afterward, this monster appeared in an IBM industrial film (which was remade with the same monster in a sketch on The Ed Sullivan Show), in which the monster eats a talking machine, which describes each part as it gets eaten by the monster, and in the end the monster suffers explosive consequences.
When Sesame Street began, Cookie Monster was just one of many generic monsters with no consistent name or personality, though even then he was usually performed by Frank Oz. The character’s personality wasn’t determined until after a season one sketch that DIDN’T feature Cookie Monster. This sketch involved a monster couple, Ralph and Trudy Monster. The wife had to correctly answer some questions about her husband, and after winning, they were given a choice of prizes including an all-expense-paid trip to Hawaii, a free car, and a cookie. I don’t think I need to give away what prize was chosen. But although Cookie Monster was not in the sketch, the personality transferred.
Since the early days, Cookie Monster has become a Sesame Street staple and one of the most popular characters on the show. (Arguably the second most popular behind Elmo–definitely the second most merchandised.) Cookie Monster is also one of the few characters to have remained on the show for all 41 seasons. Cookie Monster’s highlights over his 41 year career are varied and extremely impressive, including appearances in all of the Sesame Street specials.
In Christmas Eve on Sesame Street, there is a running gag where Cookie Monster tries to contact Santa Claus to let Santa know he wants cookies for Christmas, but he gets so excited thinking about the cookies that he eats all modes of correspondence (including the pencil, typewriter, and telephone).
In Follow That Bird, Cookie Monster travels in Gordon’s Volkswagon during the search to find Big Bird. Throughout the trip, Cookie Monster eats various parts of the car, including the roof and the front hood. Of course this running gag has a payoff when it comes to rescuing Big Bird at the end.
In a famous sketch, Cookie Monster participates in a guessing game with Kermit. Kermit has a “mystery box,” and promises to give Cookie Monster a cookie if he can guess what’s inside after listening to the clues. However, despite Kermit’s insistence that it is not a cookie, Cookie Monster keeps guessing that it’s a cookie, only giving the correct answer after Kermit tells Cookie Monster what it is.
In recent years, Cookie Monster’s popularity has grown with the new generation and old fans alike. Even after the fairly recent “Veggie Monster” myth in which the media blew Cookie Monster’s eating of a few fruits and veggies way out of proportion and claimed that he would stop eating cookies forever. This is, of course, untrue. As we all know, Cookie Monster could never give up cookies (or legally change his name)–but who doesn’t like a nice apple now and then?
Most recently, Cookie Monster made an audition tape to host Saturday Night Live, which has appeared online as part of Sesame Street’s official YouTube channel (there’s also an official Facebook page created in an effort to make this a reality).
COOKIE MONSTER SONGS
- “It’s a Circle” with Herry Monster
- “Up and Down” with Herry Monster
- “One of These Things”
- “C is for Cookie”
- “Me Lost Me Cookie at the Disco”
- “Fuzzy and Blue (and Orange)” with Grover, Herry, and Frazzle
- “Me Gotta Be Blue”
- “Healthy Food”
- “The First Time Me Eat Cookie”
WHY DOES SESAME STREET NEED COOKIE MONSTER?
Kids identify with Cookie Monster because he is so child-like himself. Not to say all kids are monsters… but they are all innocents who love what they love and are proud of it. Cookie Monster is just that, a cookie monster–there is nothing he loves more. But when met with temptation or a hungry friend, Cookie Monster almost never chooses cookies first. As he himself once said, “Maybe friend someone you give up last cookie for.” If that isn’t one of the greatest life lessons, I don’t know what is. He may not seem like it, but Cookie Monster is perhaps one of the greatest teachers Sesame Street has.
Besides that, Cookie Monster is the perfect example of an incredible, complex, hilarious character being derived from a single joke: the love of the cookie. From that very simple premise, one of the most popular television characters ever was developed. Cookie Monster clearly defines Jim Henson’s mantra of “Simple is good” in many ways… in that he started from a simple idea, that he is a very simple puppet (basically a shag carpet with eyes and arms), and that he has a very simple mind. Cookie Monster’s main desire will always be cookies, yes, but from that has come an amazingly layered and hysterical character.
The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, firstname.lastname@example.org