Sesame Street: Elmo's Virtual Playdate tackles coronavirus
Big Bird has been washing his wings regularly and sharing virtual hugs with Cookie Monster while someone has been stockpiling toilet paper in a special episode of the beloved TV show.
From the moment the performer auditioned for Big Bird’s original puppeteer, Caroll Spinney, he was taken under his yellow feathered wing.
“When I met Caroll Spinney at the audition when he was looking for someone to mentor, I was introduced to him and he was like: ‘Oh, oh, your name Vogel means
bird in German, so this could be the job for you!’,” he said.
Like most children, Vogel grew up watching Sesame Street, but never imagined one day he would become one of the colourful characters who live there.
“I was always very interested in what was going on below the frame, but I didn’t think
that was a job,” he said.
The role of Big Bird has seen Vogel not just working on Sesame Street but strutting
his stuff for his many grown-up fans on shows such as Lip Sync Battle and The
Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon.
Vogel is also behind another famous Sesame St resident: The Count.
But the father-of-five reached the pinnacle of puppeteering in 2017 when he took
over as Kermit the Frog.
Playing such iconic characters comes with its challenges, one of which, he says, is
making sure that each puppet stays true to the creature that children, their
parents and grandparents know and love.
He admitted it’s also “inevitable” that he lets some of his own flourishes creep into
“It is a huge honour to play Kermit and Big Bird but with it comes a lot of
responsibility too,” he said.
“I try not to think about that responsibility. I just focus on the audience and
entertaining them and trying to make them smile.
“You start by trying to vocally match the characters but you also have to remain true
to the heart of who that character really is and that was defined by Jim Henson or
Caroll Spinney or Jerry Nelson [who played the Count before Vogel].”
One of Vogel’s most recent projects has been working on Sesame Street: Elmo’s
Virtual Playdate, alongside such stars as Anne Hathaway, Lin Manuel Miranda and,
of course, Elmo.
The special, which airs on the ABC on May 30 at 9.30am as well as being available
on ABC iView and the ABC Kids app, is aimed at educating preschoolers about
Speaking to young Daily Telegraph readers via Skype, Big Bird revealed some of the
facts behind the feathers:
Emma, three, asked for his favourite colour. No surprise, yellow. Does he share her
passion for Rice Bubbles for breakfast.? Much shaking of the head. They’re called
Rice Krispies in the land of Sesame Street.
Isabelle, seven, was keen to know if he sleeps in a nest. He does.
Alice, nine, might have been teasing when she inquired if he gets recognised a lot in
public after being on TV for so many years.
Fame has not given Big Bird a big head. “Oh sure, I go out all the time and get
recognised!” he enthused.
“They go, ‘Hi Big Bird!’ and I go, ‘Hi Oscar (The Grouch).’ And then Elmo will say, ‘Hi
Big Bird,’ so you know it works like that.”
In lockdown he’s been washing his wings regularly while singing the show’s famous
theme song and sharing virtual hugs online with Cookie Monster.
He also enjoys social media and tweeting (for obvious reasons).
Tom, 11, wondered if there had been any stockpiling of toilet paper on Sesame
Street. Big Bird spilled the beans: Elmo has been guilty.
The kids also learned that Oscar is enjoying social distancing because it means that
everyone has to leave him in peace.
For the many kids wondering exactly what species of bird he is, the giant yellow
creature was only too happy to shed some light.
“Why, I am a Big Bird,” he explained.
Not even David Attenborough could argue with that.