Guests: Elmo, Grover, Rosita, Bob McGrath, Carol-Lynn Parente
DEBORAH NORVILLE, HOST: Hi, everybody. We‘ve got a very special show for you tonight. It‘s all about “Sesame Street,” and look who‘s here with me. It‘s Elmo.
ELMO, MUPPET: Hi, Ms. Norville. Kiss, kiss, kiss.
NORVILLE: Welcome. It‘s great to have you here. Have you been on MSNBC before?
ELMO: Yes, Elmo—Elmo, he says he hasn‘t. No.
NORVILLE: We‘re very excited you‘re here, because tonight we‘re going to talk all about “Sesame Street,” all about your friends and all about the amazing things that happened down there. OK?
ELMO: Amazing. Amazing.
NORVILLE: But first we have to tell the people about what‘s coming up on the show. And here‘s the part where we don‘t that.
ANNOUNCER: DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT.
BIG BIRD, MUPPET: Hi, welcome to “Sesame Street.”
ANNOUNCER: For the past 35 years this has been one of the happiest places on television.
KERMIT, MUPPET: Why is it that I‘m the only frog in broadcasting that has to put up with stuff like that?
ANNOUNCER: “Sesame Street” set out to give preschoolers a head start.
And turned into a cultural phenomenon.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, welcome to “Sesame Street.”
ANNOUNCER: With wit and warmth.
OSCAR THE GROUCH, MUPPET: Wait, I wasn‘t trying to be nice.
ANNOUNCER: And a roster of high profile supporters.
“Sesame Street” has taught generations of kids to read, count, learn about other cultures and about themselves.
Tonight we‘ll take a stroll down “Sesame Street” with Elmo...
ELMO (singing): This is the street Elmo lives on.
GROVER, MUPPET (singing): I‘m fuzzy and blue.
ROSITA, MUPPET: Me, too. I‘m so happy.
ANNOUNCER: And Bob.
BOB MCGRATH, ACTOR, “SESAME STREET”: That should do it.
A special hour of DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT is brought to you from the letter K. That‘s studio 3-K in Rockefeller Center.
NORVILLE: The letter K, the studio number three. And welcome, everybody.
Sounds like a really fun show. And let‘s get to it. Visiting us on MSNBC Street tonight is my friend Elmo. And also with you tonight are some of his good friends.
First of all, Grover, how are you? It‘s nice to see you.
GROVER: Hello there. I was just smelling the flowers here.
NORVILLE: Smelling the flowers.
GROVER: Nice synthetic mixture, yes.
NORVILLE: No, they‘re real. We got real flowers for you. Yes, if you‘re allergic you might sneeze.
GROVER: That would explain the bee!
NORVILLE: Also with us tonight is our friend Rosita. Buenos nochas, Rosita.
ROSITA: Buenos nochas, Deborah. Como esta?
NORVILLE: Big kisses to you, too.
And our other great friend from “Sesame Street,” Bob McGrath, Mr. Bob.
MCGRATH: Thank you.
NORVILLE: For 35 years you‘ve lived on this street. It‘s great to see you.
MCGRATH: Great to be here.
NORVILLE: It‘s so amazing that a program that started out, really, as an experiment, as something that people didn‘t think really could be done...
NORVILLE: ... is still going on. What‘s the most special part about living on “Sesame Street” for you, Bob?
MCGRATH: There‘s just an awful lot of special parts. It would be hard, you know, after 4,500 shows and 35 years.
But I guess first of all, being with an incredible cast for almost that long. Most of them have been there well over 30 years. So we are wonderful friends there.
Wonderful things happen on the show and off the show. At this point after 35 years we‘re meeting a lot of our graduates who were 2 and 3 and 4 years old who are now in their late 30‘s, early 40‘s and meeting them and knowing what the show meant to them has been phenomenal.
NORVILLE: And knowing that their children also are watching it.
MCGRATH: Our second generation “Sesame Seeds,” I think we call them.
NORVILLE: Grover, you‘ve been a “Sesame Seed” for a very long time. What‘s the funnest part about being on “Sesame Street” for somebody like you?
GROVER: You know, “Sesame Street” is sort of like the Bermuda Triangle.
NORVILLE: How so?
GROVER: You would not believe all the celebrities who wind up there.
NORVILLE: It‘s true. Lots of people have come through. So, seeing the famous people that visit is pretty exciting for you.
GROVER: Yes. Yes. We have a lot of them. You know, I remember Stevie Wonder I met a long time ago and more recently, Ray Romano.
NORVILLE: Well, you know what? We‘re going to talk about some of the celebrities that have come and visited you in just a few minutes.
Elmo, what‘s been the most fun for you to live on “Sesame Street”?
ELMO: Actually, the same thing that Grover said. Meeting so many wonderful friends.
NORVILLE: And what about the kids? Lots of kids think that you‘re pretty special, too.
ELMO: Elmo thinks they‘re special, too. They‘re special. Elmo loves them all.
NORVILLE: You know what? They love you, too. Do you ever get hugged too strongly by kids?
ELMO: Never, never, never.
NORVILLE: No. And Rosita, what about you? You always have a special word each day for the kids on “Sesame Street.”
ROSITA: Yes, you know, that‘s my favorite thing on “Sesame Street.”
I can teach my friends Spanish, you know, because my family is from Mexico. So I speck English and Spanish, and everybody on “Sesame Street” welcomes me with my English and my Spanish.
NORVILLE: What was your favorite word today? What was your favorite word today?
ROSITA: My favorite word today was “amigo.”
ROSITA: Do you know what that means?
NORVILLE: I think it means friend.
ROSITA: Yes, friend. Amigo in Spanish means friend.
NORVILLE: That‘s great. You know, speaking of friends, Elmo, who is your best friend?
ELMO: Big Bird.
NORVILLE: Big Bird. Why?
ELMO: My best amigo.
NORVILLE: Your best amigo. Why is he your best amigo?
ELMO: Because he‘s so big and tall. He helps Elmo reach things up, way, way, way high up.
NORVILLE: That‘s a good thing for a friend to do.
GROVER: And if you‘re not friends with Big Bird, he could squash you like a little ant on the ground. So you‘ve got to watch out.
NORVILLE: Who‘s your best friend?
GROVER: He‘s a big guy, you know.
NORVILLE: Who‘s your big friend, Grover? Who‘s your best friend?
GROVER: It would have to be Kermie-baby.
NORVILLE: Kermie-baby. That‘s because you‘re such good friends.
And Rosita, what about you? Do you have a best friend?
ROSITA: Well, you know, I have a little problem with that, because I love everybody and I think everybody is my best friend there. So, Big Bird, Elmo—everybody—Bob. I love everybody.
NORVILLE: You love everybody.
ELMOS: Even Oscar.
NORVILLE: Even Oscar. But he‘s so grouchy.
ELMO: That‘s OK. He still is wonderful. He‘s kind of grouchy on the outside but kind of soft on the inside.
NORVILLE: And what about Cookie Monster? He‘s always snitching cookies. He‘s always making a mess.
ELMO: Sometimes he shares cookies, too.
NORVILLE: He does share?
NORVILLE: And he‘s good at cleaning up sometimes, too.
ROSITA: Yes. He eats the chairs, too. He cleans everything. He eats everything in his plate.
NORVILLE: Elmo, can you tell me something about Elmo‘s world. We asked about Rosita‘s word for the day. Tell me about Elmo‘s world for today?
ELMO: You know, Elmo has a goldfish named Dorothy.
ELMOS: She is so, so, so, so smart. She has such really good questions.
NORVILLE: What did Dorothy ask you today?
ELMO: Well, Elmo—asked Elmo what are you—why you don‘t have any teeth?
NORVILLE: She asked why you don‘t have any teeth?
ELMOS: Yes, but Elmo does have...
NORVILLE: Let me see there. Let me see.
ELMO: Elmo does have teeth. You just can‘t see them.
NORVILLE: Maybe way down in there. I don‘t know.
ELMO: Yes. Elmo is learning a lot on Elmo‘s world. And I learn about cats and some other things, too.
NORVILLE: Cats and other things, yes. And Dorothy wants to know about your teeth. Does Dorothy have any teeth?
ELMO: Well, Elmo asked her that and she said yes, too.
NORVILLE: She did?
ELMO: We just can‘t see them either.
NORVILLE: But you know what?
ELMO: So we have something in common.
NORVILE: Yes, you both have teeth you can‘t see.
NORVILLE: Bob, I see your teeth, though.
MCGRATH: You can see my teeth.
NORVILLE: What‘s your favorite moment on “Sesame Street”?
MCGRATH: Gosh, I have hundreds of them. I guess having a chance to work with some of the great guests that we‘ve had over the years.
Victor Borge was one of the all-time favorites.
NORVILLE: The piano man.
MCGRATH: We had a wonderful piece written together, yes. And it was teaching loud and soft and close and near and fast and slow. So he was playing for me. And you know Victor, and he‘s wonderful. He was incredible. He passed away.
But he was way ahead of me on the song. He was accompanying. I said a little bit slower, and then he was way behind me. And then I said, “Please just follow,” so we started around this grand piano and by the time I got to the end of the piano, I realized there was no sound. I turned around, and we‘re nose to nose.
I said, “What are you doing?”
He says, “You told me to follow you.”
But a lot of working with—Jeff Goldblum. We had a wonderful show with him.
NORVILLE: Well, you know, you‘re mentioning so many great people. I want to come back and spend a lot of time talking about all the famous friends...
NORVILLE: ... who come to visit on “Sesame Street.” So we‘re going to take a short commercial break.
ELMO: Just short.
NORVILLE: That‘s where we let the people look at some other stuff and we rest for a second. And then we‘ll come back.
Elmo, Grover, Rosita, Bob will all be back as we continue with a stroll down memory lane on “Sesame Street.”
ELMO: Don‘t change the channel.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHER, MUSICIAN: Well, I love everything about “Sesame Street”. But I remember one particular night, afternoon. I was in New York, and I was all by myself and was feeling very blue and it was a big, rainy day.
And I turned on “Sesame Street” and there‘s are all my favorite kids, there‘s all my favorite friends. The Count. I thought, “Well, today is not a bad day. There‘s ‘Sesame Street.‘ I‘m not alone in this big city. There‘s ‘Sesame Street‘.”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: Tonight we‘re taking a special look at “Sesame Street.”
I‘m back with Bob McGrath who has lived on “Sesame Street” for 35 years.
And we‘ve got some old tape of you. Check this out.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything happens here. You‘re going to love it.
They play games. Hi, Bob.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is Sally. She just moved into the neighborhood. This is Bob.
MCGRATH: Hi, Sally. Nice to see you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And that‘s Mr. Hooper.
MCGRATH: Hi, Mr. Hooper. Here‘s a dime for your paper.
WILL LEE, MR. HOOPER ON “SESAME STREET”: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come here, Mr. Hooper, come here. Say hello to Sally.
LEE: Hi, Sally.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sally‘s new. She just moved into the neighborhood.
NORVILLE: The very beginnings of 35 years ago.
MCGRATH: The memories. Will Lee.
NORVILLE: Does it seem like a blink?
MCGRATH: Absolutely. Never would have guessed it was 35 years. It‘s gone by so quickly.
NORVILLE: You know—go ahead.
MCGRATH: They managed to keep the show, you know, very, very fresh. I think one of the fun things—we were talking about favorite moments and the cast. We‘ve been allowed to sort of grow with the show.
Not too long ago, I think—wasn‘t it you, Rosita, told Sonya she found a gray hair. She said that‘s OK. That‘s what happens. So we‘ve been—every generation has its own look. And I think the show continues to look fresh every year.
And we can deal with things like—like 9/11 by putting a hurricane on the show and a fire on the show to help kids learn to deal with those kinds of things. So it‘s always fresh.
NORVILLE: But when you deal with those kinds of things, Rosita, when you do a show when you‘re telling the kids who come to “Sesame Street” and you‘re telling them about a fire or you‘re telling them about a hurricane or something like that, how do you tell them about it without them getting scared or worried?
ROSITA: Well, the thing is I get scared, but I have Bob and Maria and Luiz and they help us to understand that it‘s OK to be scared. But you have to be safe, and you have talk to a grown-up and ask for help so—so they help us through the scary moments, you know.
NORVILLE: But you‘re not afraid to talk about being scared.
ROSITA: I‘m not afraid, because they tell me that it‘s OK to be afraid, to talk about, you know, about the problem with a grown-up and then I feel better.
MCGRATH: I think the other thing is even like in the goodbye Mr. Hooper show, Will Lee, reassuring them that there will always be there somebody to take care of them. And I think that‘s one of the most comforting things.
MCGRATH: So that was a—that was a marvelous show.
ROSITA: Elmo was—Remember, Elmo, you got a little bit scared with the fire and in Hooper‘s store.
ELMO: I had never seen a fireman before and it was kind of scary.
NORVILLE: They come in and they‘re big, and they have the masks.
ELMO: They have masks. But they explained Elmo what to do and they took Elmo to a firehouse so Elmo got to learn about what firemen do.
NORVILLE: Can I tell you a secret, Elmo?
ELMO: Go ahead.
NORVILLE: You wrote a book about that trip to the firehouse, didn‘t you?
ELMO: Yes. How did you know?
NORVILLE: Because it‘s in my library at home.
ELMO: Well, Elmo thought it was important for every kid to understand.
NORVILLE: Yes. And there‘s one scene in the book...
NORVILLE: ... where somebody is stuck in the upstairs window and the fireman has to use the ladder truck to get up and rescue them.
NORVILLE: And that person was scared but then they were happy when the firefighters came.
ELMO: Yes. Very important.
NORVILLE: A lot of kids—we even went to visit the firehouse the way you visited on “Sesame Street”, after we read your book about it.
ELMO: Oh, really? Wow.
MCGRATH: I think one of the things that...
NORVILLE: And there you are, just like you did on your show.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hello Elmo.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I‘m sorry I scared...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hi, can I help you?
SONIA MANZANO, MARIA ON “SESAME STREET”: Yes, my name‘s Maria and this is Elmo.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You‘re Bill‘s friend.
NORVILLE: Yes. And that‘s where you visited.
NORVILLE: You went with Maria and you guys went to the firehouse and learned all about it.
ROSITA: They are very good cookers. They cooked breakfast for us and it was delicious.
NORVILLE: It was very good? Did your get to ride on the pole? ROSITA: Yes!
NORVILLE: Was it really fun? I bet you slide really well, because you are furry.
GROVER: I got a little bit of rug burn but...
NORVILLE: It happens. Now let‘s talk about some of the famous friends that have come to visit you all on “Sesame Street.”
One friend that you had that came and visited is married to the president, Laura Bush.
NORVILLE: That must have been pretty exciting to know somebody who knows the president so well came to visit.
ELMO: Yes, she was very nice.
NORVILLE: Was she very nice?
NORVILLE: And she‘s a librarian, so she knows all about books and you guys talk about books a lot.
ELMO: Yes, she read—she read a wonderful back to all of us, too.
NORVILLE: Do you remember which one it was?
ELMO: It was when you don‘t want to get scared you go “wubba wubba wubba.”
NORVILLE: Wubba, wubba, wubba?ELMO: Wubba, wubba, wubba!
NORVILLE: And Grover, you‘ve got a book that‘s a very good book.
It‘s about libraries like where Mrs. Bush used to work, and it‘s about little baby animals. That book of little cute baby animals that you put together for the children.
GROVER: Actually, I have somebody else write the book for me.
NORVILLE: But you helped pick out the animals?
GROVER: But I picked out the animals and the pictures. And yes, yes, I was very much involved.
NORVILLE: Another famous person that came was Kofi Annan.
ROSITA: Oh, yes, he was wonderful.
NORVILLE: Can you explain to me what Kofi Annan does?
GROVER: Absolutely not.
ROSITA: He keeps the peace.
NORVILLE: He keeps the peace?
ELMO: He keeps the peace everywhere.
ROSITA: All over the world. Yes.
MCGRATH: I think he solved a little argument between these guys, also.
NORVILLE: So he had to do a little peace keeping on “Sesame Street”?
MCGRATH: On “Sesame Street,” yes.
ROSITA: And he works in this beautiful building that is in New York and I think is—what are the letters? I don‘t remember.
MCGRATH: The U.N.?
ROSITA: Yes, yes, yes, yes.
GROVER: That was it.
NORVILLE: The U.N. Did he tell what you goes on at the U.N.?
ELMO: He says there‘s a lot of important people from all over the world that—that talk about problems that they have in their countries and how we all can solve it together.
GROVER: Yes. You know, I am something of an ambassador myself.
NORVILLE: You are, Grover. You go everywhere.
GROVER: I‘ve been traveling around the world and learning about other people‘s cultures and then coming back home to “Sesame Street” and telling my friends there about them, all the things I‘ve learned.
NORVILLE: Of all the places you‘ve gone, Grover...
ROSITA: I love that.
NORVILLE: ... which has been the most interesting that you visited?
That you tell your friends about?
GROVER: I‘ve been to many exotic places, as you know, like Puerto Rico, China...
GROVER: ... Canada. Yes, Canada.
NORVILLE: That‘s not very exotic.
MCGRATH: He is Global Grover now.
GROVER: I guess, you know, one of the places I went to Trinidad, and I learned how to walk on stilts.
NORVILLE: And they have really nice music in Trinidad, too.
GROVER: Yes, really great. We danced the night away on our stilts.
MCGRATH: And that one in China was wonderful, also. Remember that, the peacock dance.
NORVILLE: The peacock dance from China?
MCGRATH: That was beautiful.
NORVILLE: Pretty fancy stuff.
MCGRATH: Very fancy.
ROSITA: And the one in Africa where you learned to jump and jump and you jumped more and more and more.
NORVILLE: All of that jumping can make—can make a person tired.
What do you say we take a little break?
NORVILLE: We‘ll let you guys rest from all your jumping and dancing and, Bob, we will come back and talk. And we‘re going to talk more about “Sesame Street,” 35 years of adventures.
NORVILLE: Back in a moment.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BILL COSBY, COMEDIAN: I saw James Earl Jones on “Sesame Street.” It was absolutely wonderful to see him working with the children.
It really spoke to me and said celebrities have a place in the field of education and television. And I said I can do that, too. And to this day I still owe “Sesame Street.” The letter “O.”
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ESTELLE HARRIS, ACTRESS: My favorite moment about “Sesame Street” is all 35 years.
BIG BIRD (singing): Things that I remember. Times that never end.
Favorite things inside my head, special friend to friend.
HARRIS: To be educated through humor and sound and dance. It‘s wonderful. I wish I was a young child and was able to see “Sesame Street” as a young kid.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: Elmer—Elmo, Grover and Rosita are all taking a little bit of a short break. We‘re going to do some grown-up talk about “Sesame Street,” but they‘re going to be back with us in just a little bit.
And as you heard, for 35 years “Sesame Street” has been entertaining and educating millions of children, not only across the country but across the planet.
The show first aired in 1969, when Head Start programs for kids were being cut across the country. “Sesame Street” is now seen in 120 countries. It has won more than 91 Emmy awards. That‘s more than any other TV program in history.
Back now with Bob McGrath, who‘s been on “Sesame Street” for all 35 of its years. And also with us is “Sesame Street‘s” senior producer Carol-Lynn Parente, who‘s been with Sesame Street Workshop more than 15 years. The workshop is the nonprofit educational aspect of the program.
And it‘s good to see you.
CAROL-LYNN PARENTE, SENIOR PRODUCER, “SESAME STREET”: Did you really start out with “Sesame Street” in front of the TV watching like little kids?
PARENTE: I did. I was one of the first viewers when it first came on. I was in that target audience age of being in kindergarten, and I grew up with it. It was something I loved.
So now to sort of be behind the scenes and working on it is really real.
NORVILLE: Does that change the dynamic, having that personal connection from your earliest years?
PARENTE: You know, I think that for—not just working behind the scenes but for all of the people who are parents now that grew up on the show that have kids, it does. There‘s a connection.
What “Sesame Street” has been has been a neighborhood for all these years, and I think it gives a feeling of home and a feeling of comfort and to sort of share that feeling with their kids now is something special.
So I have that same experience as having grown up with it as a kid.
And now have an intimate relationship of my own with it.
NORVILLE: One thing that I forgot until I was reading up for our visit tonight was that “Sesame Street” really was there to fill a void back in the, what, late ‘60s. The Head Start programs were being cut.
And Bob, what was the thinking at the time that we would be able to do what?
MCGRATH: Well, I think Joan Ganz Cooney—was an absolutely brilliant, innovative concept, a new way of—it was a supplement to teaching.
And as you said, the Head Start funds were being cut for thousands or maybe millions of low-income kids all over the country.
And so, she thought, you know, what can we do to raise that level or raise the bar up for these kids? And this is what came out.
And it was such an incredible concept, which has now really encircled the world, because as you mentioned we are in 120 countries.
So it shows what—you know, I have five children, six grandchildren. And I thought back now as a senior citizen, if you can instill a sense of imagination in a child and lead them towards discovery, that‘s probably the greatest gift that you can give.
And I think that‘s what Joan and all of the folks they have had happen over these years. They have developed kids‘ imagination. There‘s a sense a humor. And led them towards discovering things in life.
NORVILLE: And make it fun in the process.
NORVILLE: One of the things, Carol-Lynn, about the program is it seems, from a viewer sitting with your child watching, that it‘s all very loosey-goosy, it‘s all very ad hoc.
But the fact is, everything on the program is very, very careful researched. What is the formula that you want to be sure to adhere to on every single program?
PARENTE: Well, you know, humor is one of the important ways we teach. But everything we do and every script we do starts with a curriculum seminar.
And in that curriculum seminar we work hand in hand with a wonderful research department that we‘ve have from the very beginning that researches everything we do. They start off by giving us some curriculum focus for every season.
NORVILLE: Like this season‘s focus is what?
PARENTE: We‘ve been doing for the last few seasons the thinking child, which is sort of dealing with the whole child curriculum, and how children have all of these skills they need to do to prepare themselves for success, not only in kindergarten when they enter it but in life.
Skills like, you know, getting along with people, cooperation, sharing, tolerance, understanding of others. And that‘s always been, you know, every season we have goals that are pretty much the same. We still do letters and numbers, just like season one.
NORVILLE: But that‘s an important part of it. I mean, there are a lot of programs that, you know, you can pick any number of the kids‘ programs, and they‘ll talk about sharing or they‘ll talk about being sensitive to, you know, the kids feeling sad, trying to find out why they sad.
But it‘s the hard curricula that...
PARENTE: And we‘re still one of the only shows that does that after all these years.
NORVILLE: And you have research that you say proves that a kid who‘s been watching “Sesame Street” and had that hard curricula being instilled along the way enters kindergarten, enters first grade better prepared to learn.
PARENTE: And not just—and these are outside studies that outside universities have done on the show that show, not only for kindergarten and those first years, but they do better throughout further education from, you know, elementary school to high school to beyond.
MCGRATH: Sometimes, you know, you don‘t have to go to—I mean, those are—it‘s all great research. I think there have been over, what, a thousand of those done.
But sometimes what I find, as being Bob on the streets and the airports, you find these one-on-one, real life situations.
One of my favorites, I was in the Newark Airport some years ago and I heard someone said, “Yo, Bob.” And I turned around and it was this very attractive African-American girl behind a major airline. And we went over and started talking and she started telling me how much “Sesame Street” meant. So I said, I suppose it changed your whole life. I was just kidding her.
And she said, as a matter of fact, it was. And she proceeded to tell me that she lived in a very, very tough situation in Newark and no one had ever graduated high school in her family. And she said, I looked at the show and I thought, whatever it takes, I‘m going to live in a neighborhood like that. She finished high school, got a four-year scholarship to Rutgers and now had a top executive job.
NORVILLE: You didn‘t need an airplane to fly where you wanted to go.
You could float there after that.
MCGRATH: Yes, I didn‘t need a ticket at that point. And we hear this all the time.
NORVILLE: Yes, which is wonderful, but there was a study that just came out, Carol-Lynn, what, a week or two ago that was alarming for me as a parent. And I‘ve really tried to be good about curtailing the amount of television I would let my kids watch when they were small.
But the idea that kids who saw a fair amount of television, it wasn‘t a large amount of television, ages 1 to 3, by the time they reached age 7 showed signs of attention issues. That is a very worrisome report to see in the newspapers.
PARENTE: And all of those reports not only do we watch, we listen to.
We evaluate. And there‘s, you know, something to be said for that.
But what we like to focus on is, first of all, one of the reasons
“Sesame Street” is written on two levels and has been from the very
beginning is to encourage parental co-viewing. And there‘s plenty of
studies that show that a child gets much more out of television and much
more meaningful messages and not just our program, but any co-viewing if it
NORVILLE: If mom, dad...
PARENTE: With an adult.
MCGRATH: I think it is really necessary for parents to really monitor very carefully the amount of time and what they are watching. We really played hardball with our kids. We even put a twist lock on the TV and take it out when we went out and hid the parts. We disengaged the whole TV for several weeks.
NORVILLE: Wow. And this is a man who makes his living in the business.
And I have had parents when we were on the air even more than we are now, they would come up after a concert and say my kid watches five or six hours of “Sesame Street” a day. And I would say—they were expecting compliments. I would say, well, that is about five hours a day too much. One hour would be fine. So it can‘t be used as baby-sitter.
NORVILLE: Yes. Yes. I‘m thrilled to hear you say that because I think too many parents do rely on it.
PARENTE: And we‘ve made modifications to the show over the years.
One of the things that that research tells us is that our audience has been younger over the years because of the competition and the increased marketplace for children‘s programming. And so what we did was take the pacing of the show down a little bit for the younger audience. And that is part of, you know—there‘s plenty of studies that show that a show like ours that has such a strong educational background has wonderful benefits.
PARENTE: So if you outweigh some of the benefits of what they are watching and know that we do pay very close attention to all studies and weigh the validity of them and have taken with our younger audience the pacing of the show down.
Now, the meat of the curriculum is still there because we want to not only reach our younger audience, but we have a lot to offer the older ones, too.
NORVILLE: I want to talk about the education aspect, too.
I know, in the last segment, we talked about some of the themes that you touch on. There are actually some areas where you won‘t go. There was one program you did on divorce that you ended up just leaving on edit room floor. What happened?
MCGRATH: From what I understand, they researched it, because we had a lot of comments saying, can you deal with this? Some things you can and you can‘t.
We have to always have very positive messages. I‘m not in research, but I find this out.
MCGRATH: And they couldn‘t do it with Maria, Louise (ph), or Gordon and Susan. That would be devastating. They tried it with Snuffleupagus‘ mom and mother and dad. And they shot that and tested it. And it was devastating to kids, so that did end up on the cutting room floor.
NORVILLE: So divorce was just not something you could come up with a way to deal with comfortably little kids?
PARENTE: I guess not. We did it with death, as you know.
NORVILLE: Well, let‘s look at that. This was really quite extraordinary. When Mr. Hooper died, who ran the store, it was a very, very sad day on “Sesame Street.” And here is how you dealt with it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIG BIRD: He‘s never coming back?
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Never.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTRESS: No.
BIG BIRD: Well, I don‘t understand. Everything was just fine. Why does it have to be this way? Give me one good reason.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Big bird, it has to be this way because.
BIG BIRD: Just because?
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Just because.
BIG BIRD: Oh.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MCGRATH: That was an incredible show to try and tape. We barely got through it. We rehearsed it dry with no sentiment or anything and just read lines and just said lines. And then we finally went to tape. We did it one time through. We barely got through. They wanted to do one pickup we tried to pick up and it didn‘t work. We all just...
NORVILLE: That‘s it.
MCGRATH: ... evaporated.
But they had the luxury of four or five months. We were on a hiatus. And so they did incredible research, identified six or seven areas of things kids that should know about death and dying. And they were able to write those beautifully into the script. So it was magnificent.
NORVILLE: Carol-Lynn, another thing that this show has very early on been very proactive about is diversity. You have got every kind of color imaginable of puppet. And you have been careful to keep a real diverse cast of characters in there as well.
How wide a diversity net can you comfortably spread? With gender issues being so big on the front pages, is that something that you should deal with in “Sesame Street” or are those topics that are just, like divorce, too grown-up for little kids to understand?
PARENTE: Well, you know, I think we‘ve—from the very beginning, we have always dealt with a diverse community. The show was originally there to model an urban setting. So we from the very beginning have had people on the show, human cast and puppets that would reflect what these urban kids were seeing in their community.
And I think over the years we have tried to have gender diversity and not only that, but showing physical disabilities, where really you need to breed acceptance just by modeling them there. And you don‘t even need to write storylines necessarily about it, but just by being inclusive and showing it.
NORVILLE: The presence of the character.
PARENTE: The presence of it, really.
And many years ago, when I first watched the show, we didn‘t have even
female puppet characters. So we made an effort to introduce them. And
when we write storylines for our female characters, that is often one of
places where we worry about being too stereotypical. So it is a little
more difficult to write for the female characters, because we don‘t want to
make them stereotypically female and yet we want them to be able to be
female and to resonate with our audience that is
MCGRATH: Susan‘s role has changed drastically over the years—in the first year, Loretta Long, Susan, who was one of the original cast, from being a mom and cooking cookies and all that kind of thing to being a nurse and being a...
NORVILLE: It‘s a much wider world out there.
MCGRATH: A much wider world, right.
NORVILLE: We are going to take a break.
We have got much more coming up on “Sesame Street.” It has seen more than its fair share of celebrity cameos in 35 years. Plus, do you remember who was on the program when it started? You‘re going to see them next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JULIANNE MOORE, ACTRESS: Memory about “Sesame Street,” I always loved the song:
(singing): Who are the people in your neighborhood?
MCGRATH (singing): He‘s in your neighborhood.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR (singing): A postman is a person in your neighborhood.
MOORE: Because it made me think about people in my neighborhood, the people that I met while I was walking down the street, the people that I‘ve met each day, and how important they were to me and how important my community was to me growing up. And I think it is important for my kids, too.
NORVILLE: The Muppets aren‘t the only stars on “Sesame Street.” They have had a lot of famous visitors over the last 35 years. Find out who next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCGRATH: Hello, triangle lovers. I‘m Triangle Bob, Triangle Pants. Look at my pants. They are made of triangles. See, one, two, three sides, one, two, three angles. One, two, three sides, one, two, three angles. That is why I‘ll called Triangle Bob, Triangle Pants.
(singing): Triangle Bob, Triangle Pants. Triangle Bob, Triangle Pants. Triangle Bob, Triangle Pants.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: Triangle Bob, Triangle Pants is one of the new relatives on “Sesame Street.”
MCGRATH: No respect, no respect. Wouldn‘t you think for a senior citizen they would have a little more respect after 35 years?
NORVILLE: Well, it is part of the tradition of trying to update. And I think we all know that there‘s a square somebody out there...
MCGRATH: Yes, that‘s right.
NORVILLE: ... that‘s sort of spongy that we might be getting a cue from.
MCGRATH: And this point on Trianglelodeon.
NORVILLE: OK. We are back with Bob McGrath, Carol-Lynn Parente, Rosita, Grover and Elmo, as we talk about 35 years of “Sesame Street.”
I want to go back into time. Let‘s throw up a picture of the very first cast of “Sesame Street” and see who the friends were back then. Big Bird, who else have we got up there? I see Elmo.
ELMO: Oscar is orange.
NORVILLE: Loretta Long is Susan.
MCGRATH: Matt Robinson is Gordon.
And now let‘s look at how big the “Sesame Street” neighborhood has grown today.
MCGRATH: Has grown.
NORVILLE: Lots of friends.
NORVILLE: Snuffy takes up half the picture.
MCGRATH: Susan is there, of course.
NORVILLE: And there is Rosita over there over there.
ROSITA: Cookie Monster.
MCGRATH: And Maria and Louise.
NORVILLE: Cookie Monster, yes.
ROSITA: Zoe. There‘s
ROSITA: ... and Miles.
NORVILLE: Yes. There is the Count up at the top.
MCGRATH: Yes. And Alan.
GROVER: And the chickens.
NORVILLE: And the chickens.
GROVER: And the chickens.
GROVER: Let‘s not forget the chickens.
NORVILLE: So, as “Sesame Street” has changed, one thing that hasn‘t changed is that famous faces come all the time.
And you mentioned, Grover, that Stevie Wonder was one of your favorites.
GROVER: Yes. Yes.
NORVILLE: And let‘s see, Rosita, did you tell me who your favorite was?
ROSITA: No. I had a lot. I had Gloria Estefan, Celia Cruz, Tito Puente, Placido Domingo.
GROVER: There‘s theme running here, huh?
NORVILLE: Is it all because they speak Spanish, maybe?
ROSITA: I don‘t know. Maybe.
NORVILLE: And you can tell secrets in Spanish that your other friends can‘t always understand?
ROSITA: Yes, all the time—no, I don‘t do that. Right, Carol-Lynn?
MCGRATH: No, not you.
ROSITA: Not me.
NORVILLE: Well, you had a very famous friend that came just recently, as you celebrated your 35th birthday. Norah Jones came with a special tribute to the letter Y.
NORVILLE: That had to be pretty exciting.
MCGRATH: That was great.
GROVER: She is a cutie.
NORVILLE: She is a cutie?
ROSITA: And she has an OK voice, too.
NORVILLE: And she has an OK voice.
NORVILLE: Well, let‘s listen to it and let‘s hear what she sounded like. Here‘s Norah Jones on the letter Y.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NORAH JONES, MUSICIAN: The letter Y.
(singing): I waited until I saw the sun. I don‘t know why, why I didn‘t come. I thought we had made and had some fun. I don‘t know why, why I didn‘t come.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NORVILLE: It‘s the letter Y, a Grammy winner and the letter y.
NORVILLE: One of the things the Triangle Bob Squarepants, Triangle Pants was a parody on obviously a pop culture thing kids are familiar with.
You have also gone, Carol-Lynn, with Dr. Feel?
NORVILLE: What‘s Dr. Feel all about?
PARENTE: Well, Dr. Feel is a character that parodies Dr. Phil and in fact met Dr. Phil in a second episode we did. And it‘s a characters that talks about feelings, which is something kids can relate to, and teaches them how to express their feelings and identify their feelings.
NORVILLE: And the feedback from parents was what?
PARENTE: Just one...
PARENTE: One of the reasons, parodies, we do them on the show is because they appeal to the parents. And a lot of times, the kids don‘t necessarily, especially in our audience, they don‘t really understand what the parody is.
I think Triangle Bob was probably unique in that, that the kids understood what that reference was. But most of the parodies are really there for the parents. And the kids just get the humor. And the humor is there for them, but the parody is there for the parents.
NORVILLE: For mom and dad.
NORVILLE: And, Elmo, you had a famous friend who visited not too long ago. Harvey Fierstein came.
ELMO: Oh, yes.
NORVILLE: And you guys traded noses?
ELMO: But that wasn‘t the first time either
NORVILLE: He‘s been a lot.
NORVILLE: And what happened with that? I think maybe we have some pictures of this. See, here he is.
ELMO: Oh, there is. Everything is coming up noses.
MCGRATH: Everything is coming up noses.
ROSITA: I love him. He was so funny.
ELMO: He is.
NORVILLE: He was so funny, giving noses to everybody.
ROSITA: And you know who else?
NORVILLE: And who else, Rosita?
ROSITA: Julianne Moore.
NORVILLE: Julianne Moore? That‘s right. We saw her a minute ago.
ROSITA: I love her. She is so nice.
NORVILLE: You know what my favorite part of “Sesame Street” is?
MCGRATH: No. What‘s that??
NORVILLE: You know, at the very end, when you guys say goodbye and it was brought by this letter and by that number and then the song plays and the Statue of Liberty starts dancing.
MCGRATH: You like that?
NORVILLE: Do you guys do—we do the dance at my house.
MCGRATH: Do you?
NORVILLE: The Statue of Liberty dance.
MCGRATH: Are you going to do it now?
NORVILLE: I‘m not going to do it now, no.
NORVILLE: I‘ve got a job I‘m trying to hang on to.
MCGRATH: I know the feeling.
NORVILLE: But we are going to turn the tables a little bit.
I have been the one asking all the questions here.
When we come back, I hear that you and you and you have some questions that you want to ask me. So we are going to take a break.
NORVILLE: And when we come back, the gang is taking over.
ROSITA: Yes, baby.
NORVILLE: Hold on.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JONES: My favorite “Sesame Street” moment was when Bert and Ernie went fishing. And Bert couldn‘t catch any fish with a fishing pole. But Ernie said, here, fishy, fishy, fishy, fishy.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Here, fishy, fishy, fishy.
JONES: And they just jumped right into the boat. And for like five years, I thought that that‘s how you caught fish.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GROVER: And now some hard-hitting questions for Deborah.
GROVER: Who does your hair?
NORVILLE: Jody (ph).
GROVER: Jody. OK. Next?
Deborah, can you tell me, please, if you have any memories or nice thoughts about “Sesame Street”?
NORVILLE: Oh, yes.
I remember when you guys took us to the Crayola factory and we learned how they make Crayons. And I thought that was really neat to see the machine spitting crayons out. So I think that was something I always liked, was when you took us places to learn about how they make stuff.
ROSITA: And your favorite color?
NORVILLE: My favorite color is blue.
NORVILLE: Go ahead.
ELMO: Ms. Deborah?
NORVILLE: Yes, sir.
ELMO: How many children do you have and what‘s their names?
NORVILLE: I have three children. I have Niki, who used to sleep with somebody who looked just like you.
ELMO: Elmo remembers that.
NORVILLE: You remember that? OK.
NORVILLE: I have Kyle.
NORVILLE: And he‘s 9. And I have Mikaela. And she‘s 6.
ELMO: Niki, Kyle, Mikaela?
ELMO: Elmo loves you.
NORVILLE: Oh, thank you, Elmo. They love you, too. Yes, I think all the kids love you.
ELMO: We live on “Sesame Street.” Do you live close by?
NORVILLE: Pretty close.
NORVILLE: I could probably take a subway to “Sesame Street.”
ELMO: We would love to have you come and visit us.
NORVILLE: I would love that. How did you guys come here? Did you take a subway?
GROVER: I took a boat.
ELMO: And Elmo cabbed it.
NORVILLE: And you did what, Elmo?
NORVILLE: You took a taxi. Why didn‘t you let the friends come in your taxi cab with you?
ELMO: Elmo had Ms. Ellen (ph) and Elmo had Ms. Pam (ph) in the car with Elmo.
NORVILLE: Ms. Pam was in the car with you, too.
ELMO: Yes, because Elmo doesn‘t go anywhere without adults.
NORVILLE: That‘s very important.
NORVILLE: That‘s very important.
ROSITA: Well, I like public transportation like the subway. Mm-hmm.
NORVILLE: You‘re a woman of the people.
ROSITA: Yes, indeed. What‘s that?
NORVILLE: That‘s a good thing to be.
ROSITA: Oh, good.
ELMO: Ms. Deborah Norville?
ELMO: You‘re a great interviewee.
NORVILLE: Thank you.
ELMO: Is that what you say, interviewee or interviewer?
NORVILLE: Interviewer is what you are when you ask me the questions.
ELMO: And how is Elmo as a interviewer?
NORVILLE: You‘re a very good interviewer.
ELMO: I get a kiss for that.
ROSITA: I want to teach a Spanish word of the day.
NORVILLE: Oh, now.
ROSITA: Here now that Elmo said his, I want to teach you the word beso.
ROSITA: Beso in Espanol means kiss. And I blow you one because you‘re wonderful.
NORVILLE: And I blow you one back.
NORVILLE: Now, Rosita, can I teach you something?
ROSITA: Yes, please teach me.
NORVILLE: Can I teach you a word in Swedish?
ROSITA: Oh, yes, please, por favor.
NORVILLE: Yes, because my husband is Swedish and I‘ve learned Swedish words from him. And I‘m going to teach you a word, Swedish word for kiss as well.
ROSITA: Puss to you.
GROVER: Keep them coming. Keep them coming. Oh, heaven.
ROSITA: Gracias, Deborah.
NORVILLE: De nada.
NORVILLE: Got it.
GROVER: Do you know kiss in any other languages?
ROSITA: We learned something here, too.
NORVILLE: You can learn something every day and that‘s why “Sesame Street” is so fun.
Let me shake your hand, Elmo.
NORVILLE: It‘s been so much fun to have you. Thank you for being here.
ELMO: Oh, thank you.
NORVILLE: Grover, it‘s great to see you. And, Rosita...
ROSITA: I love you.
NORVILLE: Oh, you‘re the best. Thank you so much for coming.
I hope you have many more years of fun on “Sesame Street.” And thank your friend Bob and your friend Carol-Lynn and all the friends at “Sesame Street.” It‘s been lots of fun to have you on the program.
Do you want to wave goodbye?
ROSITA: Thank you. Bye.
NORVILLE: And as we take a break, when we come back, we‘re going to talk—about one of the persons made a positive impact on all of us this week besides these guys. Find out who is it with “American Moment” in a moment.
ROSITA: Don‘t go away. Adios.
NORVILLE: And finally a segment we call “American Moment,” a look at uplifting stories we wanted to be sure you heard about.
This week‘s American moment, Army Staff Sergeant Michael McNaughton of Denham Springs, Louisiana. Sergeant McNaughton is a military veteran who served in Kuwait, Bosnia and Saudi Arabia more than a decade ago. And he wanted to do more after the 9/11 terror attacks, so he enlisted in the National Guard, where he was sent to Afghanistan in January of 2003.
There, he stepped on a land mine and lost two thing fingers and part of his right leg. Eight days after that land mine accident, President Bush paid a visit to McNaughton and four other injured soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The president praised McNaughton‘s courage and asked him what kind of sports he liked. McNaughton said he enjoyed running. And the president promised him that, as soon as he was recovered, they would go for a run together.
Well, on Wednesday, the president made good on that promise at the White House jogging track, where he and Sergeant McNaughton, outfitted with a prosthetic leg, jogged around the track three times. When asked if the run got competitive, McNaughton said, no, it was just a casual run. He said they didn‘t want to show each other up.
A really great story for this week‘s “American Moment.”
As always, we look forward to hearing from you. Send us your comments by e-mail to NORVILLE@MSNBC.com.
And that‘s our program for tonight. Thanks for watching. I‘m Deborah Norville.
And now my apprentice. That‘s you.
ELMO: Here, here, here.
NORVILLE: Elmo is going to help me tell you about what‘s coming up on Monday. How fitting.
On Monday, the winner and runner-up from “The Apprentice,” Bill and Kwame, and Donald Trump‘s right-hand man and woman, George and Carolyn, all join Deborah on Monday night.
NORVILLE: That‘s right. And it‘s been great having you...
ELMO: You‘re fired. You‘re fired.
NORVILLE: You‘re fired?
ELMO: You‘re fired.
NORVILLE: You‘re fired?
Coming up, “EXPLORER FRIDAY” with Lisa Ling. That‘s next.
See you Monday.
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