Weekly Muppet Wednesdays: Hoots the Owl

WMW Hoots

Today’s article was written by Michael Baldasare.


Performed by…17812-hootssax
Kevin Clash

First appearance…
Sesame Street Season 17 (1985)

Most recent appearance…
Sesame Street Live show “Can’t Stop Singing” (2012)

Best known role…
Resident feathered jazz musician on Sesame Street

Hoots the Owl is the jazz musician who plays the saxophone on Sesame Street. Hoots often performs with his sax at Sesame Street’s local jazz club called Birdland, the hippest joint his side of Hooper’s Store. Hoots has a granddaughter named Athena whom he loves dearly.

In Sesame Street Episode 2504, Hoots explains his career history to Athena through pictures hanging along one of the walls of Birdland. He started out in “The Rhythm School” band where he got his first real gig. After that Hoots worked at a nightclub where he met his future wife. When Hoots flew downtown, he finally got into jazz music. Eventually he landed on Sesame Street where he got to jam with his new band, the Birdland Players.

Though Hoots first appeared as a character on Sesame Street in 1985, the puppet used for Hoots made its first appearance as the owl member of the Feathered Friends in Follow That Bird. Hoots was a popular character on the show during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Arguably Hoots’ greatest moment came in 1986 when he performed the jazzy hit “Put Down the Duckie,” which remains a Sesame classic. Hoots was also a favorite with celebrities, performing with the likes of Yo-Yo Ma and Whoopi Goldberg in his heyday.

However, during the “Elmo’s World” days, Hoots was slowly dropped from the show. In 2001, Hoots returned in the “Music Works Wonders” resource tape where he was puppeteered by John Tartaglia while Kevin Clash looped the dialogue. In 2004, Hoots played a major part in the “Veggie Monster” controversy surrounding Cookie Monster. Hoots sang the now-infamous song “A Cookie is a Sometimes Food,” which caused the world to explode in outrage over Cookie Monster’s supposed abandonment of cookie-eating. Of course, anyone who listens to the song will know that Hoots is the one singing about eating healthy, and at the end of the song Cookie Monster eats the cookie anyway.

In 2005 Hoots sang a song from atop 123 Sesame Street called “It Takes a Street” as he watched his friends play happily on the street below. Then, in 2006, the most recent Hoots puppet was used in “It Feels Good When You Sing a Song” with John Legend. This was Hoots’ most recent major appearance on Sesame Street, but just last year he appeared in the Sesame Street Live show “Can’t Stop Singing” and Hoots continues to appear in Sesame books and products.


Hoots the Owl is a great talented jazz musician on Sesame Street–something the show lacks completely without him. Now that Hoots’ performer Kevin Clash has resigned from the Street, it looks like Hoots might have to be retired completely. Hopefully this isn’t true. Bring back Hoots the Owl!!

The Muppet Mindset by Ryan Dosier, muppetmindset@gmail.com

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