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Oscar the Grouch

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Oscar the Grouch 1

Oscar the Grouch.

Design Team:
Jim Henson(Designer)
John Lovelady(Original Oscar builder)
Oscar the Grouch 2

The Oscar puppet from the 1970s.

Oscar the Grouch 3

The Oscar puppet from the 1990s - present.

Oscar the Grouch 4

Oscar wearing his usually grouchy smile.

Oscar the Grouch trash can

Oscar in his infamous trash can.

Big Bird

Big Bird, 1 of the few Sesame Street residents that Oscar is able to tolerate (also performed by Muppeteer Veteran Caroll Spinney).

Grundgetta 1

Grundgetta, the most important Grouch in Oscar's life.

Oscar the Grouch is, without a doubt, the most famous Grouch in the world & also 1 of the key characters on Sesame Street. He lives in a trash can right between Big Bird's next & 123 Sesame Street. In fact, he loves trash so much that he's rarely seen outside of his trash can, ever. His trademark song is "I Love Trash" explaining his love of trash. 1 tradition is, whenever Oscar sings "I Love Trash", his signature song, he is always shown singin at his trash can, & nowhere else. Oscar's birthday, according to Sesame Street Magazine, is June 1st.

Like all Grouches, Oscar's mission in life is to be as miserable & grouchy as possible, & pass that feeling on to everyone else. When a visitor knocks on his trash can -- invariably interrupting him from a nap or an important task, Oscar greets them with a snarl. He complains that he wants to be left alone, although when he's left entirely to himself, he's dissatisfied -- there isn't anybody around to irritate or complain to. Oscar has said that: "I don't really like being happy. But then, sometimes somebody will give me a nice bag of trash, & I'm going to get a chance to look through it. So that makes me happy. But I don't like to be happy. I'd like to be miserable. But being happy makes me miserable. So I like being miserable, so that makes me happy. But I don't like being happy. That makes me miserable. But being miserable makes me...I'm a mess."

Oscar has had many pets but his closest companion is his worm, Slimey. He also has a girlfriend, a Grouch named Grundgetta, although a romantic relationship between 2 Grouches is understandably rocky. Grundgetta usually calls him Oskie while he occasionally calls her Grungie. Oscar & Grundgetta, in addition to being a "couple", are best friends as well. Oscar & Grundgetta have been friends for "a very long time", as stated by Oscar & Gordon's sister Olivia in episode 2107. Elmo & Telly Monster both consider Oscar to be a close friend, although Oscar disputes this since Telly & Elmo are the 2 monsters that Oscar just doesn't like at all. Oscar reluctantly confirmed in Grouchland that Elmo was, however, indeed his friend.

Oscar's family includes his grandmother. Granny Grouch, who appeared in season 2 of Sesame Street, & was the 1st indication on the series that Grouches are a completely separate species. Since then Oscar has been visited by his grandfather, Grandpa Grouch & his mother, Mrs. Grouch, & sometimes babysits his niece, Irvine. He has 2 brothers, Ernest & Otto along w/ a sister named Bunny. In both episode 0131 & A Special Sesame Street Christmas, Oscar revealed that he also has a father.

Oscar is 43 years old, according to performer Caroll Spinney.[1]

Origins

According to Sesame Street Unpaved, "The character of Oscar was inspired by a nasty waiter from a restaurant called Oscar's Tavern in Manhattan. Jim Henson & Jon Stone were waited on by a man who was so rude & grouchy that he surpassed annoying & started to actually amuse both Jim & Jon. They were so entertained that going to Oscar's Tavern became a sort of masochistic form of luncheon entertainment for them, & their waiter forever became immortalized as the world's most famous Grouch." In the Ask Henson.com web column, Jim Henson Company Archivist Karen Falk said that the restaurant was named Oscar's Salt of the Sea -- & went on to say, "Some of the designs that we have in the Archives were done by Jim on Oscar's paper placemats!"

While Jim Henson's 1st Oscar sketches were colored purple, the original Oscar puppet was orange (Henson later said in an interview that this change was made cause the early cameras couldn't capture the color right[2]). In chapter 9 of the book The Wisdom of Big Bird, Caroll Spinney says that the Oscar puppet was rebuilt about a month after Sesame Street started taping. Jim tore apart the original puppet, & a new puppet was built. An early version of the green Oscar debuted on The Flip Wilson Show in 1970 & Oscar's explanation for that was that he had vacationed at Swamp Mushy Muddy, where the dampness had turned him green overnight. In a 2003 appearance, Oscar stated that while his time in Swamp Mushy Muddy made him appear green, he is still in fact orange underneath all the slime & mold. (with an exception, he's just never taken a bath).[3]

Oscar explained his family roots & fur color again in a Life Magazine article in 2009, "Most of the family was orange. But I had a lovely vacation in Swamp Mushy Muddy resort. It was so dark & dreary I kind of turned green. It's mostly moss. I like it it goes with my eyes. I accidentally took a bath once, turned orange again & washed all the moss off, so I went right back to Swamp Mushy Muddy, & here I am."[4]"

In his introduction to the book Sesame Street: A Celebration - 40 Years of Life on the Street (which also contained his lunch from yesterday, grape juice, & something unidentifiable), Oscar tells how he ended up on Sesame Street, saying he was a normal Grouch when Joan Ganz Cooney & Jon Stone decided to create the show, they hired Jim Henson, who bugged him until he agreed to be on the show for the 1st episode only. He headed off to Swamp Mushy Muddy after the production wrapped, disgusted, but discovered that his agent, Bernie, had signed a contract to have him on the entire run of Sesame Street. Oscar became so mad he that he turned green (a fictitious explanation around how he became green), but figured the show wouldn't run for more than 6 months anyway (obviously disappointed).

Caroll Spinney says that Oscar's voice on another New York resident -- a Bronx taxi driver who drove him to his 1st day performing the character. On entering the cab, the driver snapped, "Where to, Mac?"[1]

Oscar's 1st line on Sesame Street, in episode 1, was "Don't bang on my can! Go away." This would sum up his personality as it would remain for over 40 years.

Performing Oscar

During season 1 of Sesame Street, the set of the street was arranged in such a way that Spinney, who is right-handed, was forced to operate Oscar's head w/ his left hand. Eventually, a subsequent redesign of the street let Spinney switch hands.

Also, when Oscar & Big Bird (characters both performed by Caroll Spinney) are required in a scene together, Jim Martin often operates Oscar to a vocal track by Spinney, letting Spinney perform Big Bird.[5] Or sometimes, Matt Vogel operates the Big Bird suit to a vocal track by Spinney, letting Spinney perform Oscar.[6]

At the 2003 Annual Sesame Workshop Benefit Gala, Oscar is performed by Paul McGinnis.

Transportation

Oscar has many forms of transportation. He can move w/ his legs sticking out of his trash can, as seen in early 1970s Sesame Street episodes (portrayed by Hervé Villechaize), in the specials Christmas Eve on Sesame Street, Don't Eat the Pictures & various stage shows. He also often had Bruno the Trashman just carry his trash can around while he's inside. While the puppet Oscar frequently moves outside of the trash can on his own his limbs are rarely shown. A rare moment where his full body was shown was in episode 3958. In a few episodes he has also made a few out-of-his-trash-can appearances during which the top half of his body is shown. Also, when he sings, "I'm Sad Because I'm Happy", we see his feet splash in the mud but his voice is off-screen.

Oscar has a car, The Sloppy Jalopy, which was used in Follow That Bird & episodes of Sesame Street. The Sloppy Jalopy's New York license plate says "SCRAM". Oscar has also been seen driving a broken-down taxi.

Trivia

  • According to Caroll Spinney's book The Wisdom of Big Bird, Oscar's eyebrow has never changed in the entire run of Sesame Street. It is the same eyebrow that graced the Grouch's face when he was still the orange Oscar of Season 1.
  • In the show's early years enthusiastic young viewers frequently mailed gifts of trash to Oscar in care of the Children's Television Workshop, eliciting dismay from the mailroom staff. An Information Department staff member wrote in March 1971, "Aside from an unopened can of sardines, which are probably perfectly good, Oscar has been gifted with a box of old sneakers (not a box of Snickers), a ratty old bathing cap, some stale poppy seeds & some used Kleenexes. On the other side of the coin, an adult fan sent a $50 check to purchase a new trash can. We may soon need 1 for his fan mail!"[7]
  • Oscar temporarily turned white (& nice) in the Sesame Street Live show Elmo's Coloring Book in 1997.
  • Although he doesn't have a nose visible to the TV audience, he insists he has one (as well as ears), as he did in an early 90s episode when Ruby kept giving him a hard time about it. Years earlier, another episode had explained that he has a "cute" nub hidden among his fur.
  • When appearing on the game show 1 vs 100, Oscar revealed his age to Bob Saget claiming he's 43 years old & has always been 43.
  • In A Muppet Family Christmas, Oscar shares his trash can as a bed w/ Rizzo the Rat stating he never had a rat in his trash can before & that it might be nice. He also complained that he hated "Deck the Halls", as when it came time for him to sing the line "Follow me in merry measure" he shouted "I will not sing this song!".
  • Along with his girlfriend Grundgetta along with the rest of his fellow Muppets, Oscar participated in singing "Just One Person" at Jim Henson's Memorial. (YouTube)
  • Caroll Spinney is also a golf fan & brought Oscar to the 2007 Irish Open at Adare Manor, where the puppet posed with Padraig "the Grouch" Harrington, the eventual tourney winner.[8]
  • Oscar has become somewhat of a mascot for waste reduction & waste management, including Canada's Waste Reduction Week, the Japanese Eco Kids Project, & various unofficial uses.[9]
  • Oscar claims to own a cell phone. He says of it, "but it weighs 7 pounds it's an old one Jim Henson threw away."[10]
  • Oscar makes a cameo appearance in the film Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian. He tries to get recruited into Kahmunrah's army, alongside Darth Vader from Star Wars, as evil people can join, but Kahmunrah finds him "mildly grouchy."
  • On the show, the lidon Oscar's trash can opens by swinging up, with the back edge still attached. In illustrations, Oscar normally wears the lid like a hat. & whenever Bruno carries the trash can, the lid hangs from the side.
  • Oscar eats a lot of the same foods that people like. However, he prefers them mixed together in unusual combinations. He paid Ernie & Bert a visit once & traded his ice cream cone for a banana with ice cubes & gravy on it. Another time, he invited Candice Bergen to join him for lunch, which would consist of clam tuna pie with chocolate sauce & anchovies.
  • For Sesame Street's 40th season, Sesame Workshop created an online promotion spoofing Facebook called "Muppetbook". For his profile, Oscar said he likes Anchovy milkshakes, but dislikes that he likes anchovy milkshakes. Among his other dislikes were rainbows, candy & chocolate. He lists his favorite songs as "I Love Trash", "All You Need Is Trash" & "I Wanna Hold Your Trash"

Photo galleries

Photo gallery 1

Photo gallery 2

Photo gallery 3

Photo gallery 4

Photo gallery 5

Photo gallery 6

Photo gallery 7

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Photo gallery 9

Photo gallery 10

Photo gallery 11

Photo gallery 12

Sesame Street Live Appearances

Cases where Oscar the Grouch & Big Bird (characters both performed by Muppeteer veteran Caroll Spinney) have appeared in the same scene

Oscar the Grouch & Big Bird

Oscar the Grouch & Big Bird together at Oscar's trash can.

File:Oscar the Grouch & Big Bird Start to Read Video.jpg
File:Oscar the Grouch & Big Bird 3879.jpg
File:Oscar the Grouch & Big Bird as a drawing.jpg

TV/Movies/Specials

Books

Audio

Songs

Sesame Street Live

Proof

  1. 1.0 1.1 "He's happy being Big Bird", Ellen Simon, The Washington Times. June 19th, 2008.
  2. a clip of this interview can be found in the "Bonus Behind-the-Street Scenes" feature on disc 2 of Sesame Street: 40 Years of Sunny Days
  3. Caroll Spinney (as Oscar the Grouch) at a book signing appearance in Anderson Bookshop, Naperville, IL. May 13th, 2003. (YouTube)
  4. "The Reflections of Oscar the Grouch", Oscar the Grouch, Guest editor, November 5th, 2009. Life Magazine.
  5. Sesame Street Unpaved
  6. Episode 3997
  7. Patricia Tornborgh, memo, "Summary of Fan Mail Processed from Feb. 1st to Mar. 6th, 1971", Children's Television Workshop archive, series II, box 45, folder 48, National Archive of Public Broadcasting, University of Maryland, College Park, Md.
  8. "When Grouches Meet," Irish Abroad, May 24th, 2007.
  9. "South Euclid: City wins 'Oscar' for having most improved recycling rate in county", Piorkowski, Jeff The Plain Dealer. November 25th, 2008. Web. Accessed November 25th, 2009.
  10. "The Reflections of Oscar the Grouch", Oscar the Grouch, Guest editor, November 5th, 2009. Life Magazine.

See also

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