Kevin Clash

  • Aired:  10/24/11
  •  | Views: 53,798

Kevin Clash, the puppeteer behind "Sesame Street"'s Elmo, talks about his early career and remembers working with mentors like Jim Henson. (7:27)

WELCOME BACK.

MY GUEST TONIGHT IS THE MAN

BEHIND SESAME STREET'S ELMOW.

HIS EARLY LIFE AND HIS CAREER

IN A CHRONICLE IN A NEW

DOCUMENTARY BEING ELMO, A

PUPPETEERS JOURNEY.

>> MY MOM HAD A CONSIDERABLE

AMOUNT OF KIDS SHE WAS

BABY-SITTING.

I WOULD SET UP A PUPPET STAGE

IN THE BACKYARD AND THE KIDS

AND MY MOM WOULD WATCH AND THE

KIDS IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD WOULD

COME AND WATCH THE SHOW.

THIS IS WHERE WE KEPT... MY

MOM WOULD PUT THE CLOTHES LINE

AT.

THAT WAS WHERE I HAD MY FIRST

PUPPET SHOW.

I WOULD THROW A BLANKET OVER

THIS AND THE KIDS WOULD COME

OUT HERE AND WATCH ME DO THE

SHOW.

I STARTED DOING LIVE SHOWS

AROUND THE BALTIMORE AREA.

>> Jon: I PLAYED THAT GIG.

THAT'S A GOOD GIG.

PLEASE WELCOME KEVIN CLASH.

( APPLAUSE )

HOW ARE YOU, SIR?

>> GOOD TO SEE YOU AFTER SO

MANY YEARS.

>> Jon: AFTER MANY MANY YEARS.

YOU AND I, OF COURSE, OLD PALS

FROM ELMOPALOOZA FROM....

>> HANGING OUT WITH DAVID

ALLEN GREER.

>> Jon: CHRIS ROCK.

>> A LOT OF MODELS WORKING ON

THAT TOO.

>> Jon: MY FAVORITE PART OF

THAT....

>> I MEAN, SERIOUSLY.

>> Jon: THAT WAS A JOKE?

MOSTLY HAND MODELS.

MY FAVORITE PART OF THAT WHOLE

SHOOT WAS IN BETWEEN TAKES THE

PUPPETEERS OF SESAME STREET,

VERY TALENTED PEOPLE BUT THEY

DON'T TAKE THE PUPPET OFF.

>> THEY HAVE A CONVERSATION

WITH EACH OTHER.

>> Jon: ALL OF A SUDDEN IT'S

LIKE THIS.

OH, MY GOD.

WHAT JUST HAPPENED?

IT STAYS ON YOUR HAND.

>> YEAH.

THAT'S HOW YOU CREATE, MAKE A

THREE KMENGSAL, YOU KNOW,

INSTEAD OF ONE DIMENSIONAL

CHARACTERS WE PLAY AROUND WITH

EACH OTHER.

THAT GETS US MORE....

>> Jon: IS IT THAT EASY.

>> TO MAKE THEM LAUGH IS IT

THAT EASY.

>> Jon: IT REALLY IS THAT

EASY.

YOU KNEW ALL ALONG YOU WANTED

TO GET....

>> YEAH TEN YEARS OLD, YEAH I

WENT BACK AND FORTH DRAWING

AND THEN, YOU KNOW, DOING THE

PUPPETS AND EVERYTHING.

>> Jon: BUT GETTING TO MEET

JIM HENSON AND ALL THOSE

PEOPLE.

>> WELL I HAD GREAT MENTORS

STARTING WITH STU KERR IN

BALTIMORE.

HE WAS A WEATHERMAN AND SAW ME

AT A SHOW.

HE ASKED MY MOM AND DAD COULD

I AUDITION FOR HIM.

THROUGH HIM I MET BOB BECAUSE

HE WAS A PAGE WITH BOB UP HERE

IN NEW YORK.

AND THEN BOB ASKED HIM TO WORK

ON "CAPTAIN KANGAROO" A LITTLE

BIT.

SO HE TOLD BOB ABOUT ME.

THEN AT THE SAME TIME I WAS

WATCHING SESAME STREET.

THERE WAS ACTUALLY A SHOW ON

PBS CALLED CARL A MACARONI.

THAT'S WHERE I SAW KERMIT LOVE

FOR THE FIRST TIME.

>> Jon: AND KERMIT LOVE.

>> HE DESIGNED BIG BIRD AND

OTHERS.

>> Jon: THESE GUYS JUST

RECOGNIZED IN YOU AN ABILITY

RIGHT AWAY.

>> TALENT.

>> Jon: (LAUGHING).

>> BIG TALENT.

>> Jon: THAT'S WHAT IT WAS.

( CHEERS AND APPLAUSE )

>> Jon: TALENT.

THEY RECOGNIZED YOUR TALENT.

THEY ALL LIKE AT EACH TURN

THEY'RE LIKE THEY MEET YOU AND

GO, OKAY, SURE, COME WORK FOR

ME.

EVERY SICKLE GUY.

>> KERMIT HAD THE CONVERSATION

ABOUT COLLEGE.

SHOULD I GO IN AND EVERYTHING

AND HE LEFT IT UP TO ME AND MY

MOM AND DAD.

WE DECIDED, YOU KNOW, I WOULD

JUST GO RIGHT INTO IT.

MY DAUGHTER IS IN COLLEGE NOW.

>> Jon: SO WHEN SHE WAS

DECIDING WHETHER OR NOT TO

PURSUE HER DREAM AND NOT GO TO

COLLEGE AND YOU SAID....

>> YOU BETTER GO.

>> Jon: THAT'S WHAT I FIGURED.

WHAT IS IT NOW?

YOU HAVE ELMO AND YOU HAVE

YOUR OWN DAUGHTER.

WAS IT HARD NOT TO USE ELMO AT

HOME ON HER?

>> OH, WHAT?

YES,.

YES, NO, YES.

WHAT WAS REALLY COOL IS, NO,

SHE REALLY LOVED THE

CHARACTER.

THERE WAS NO ANIMOSITY OR

ANYTHING.

BUT AT THREE-AND-A-HALF...

WHAT IS GOING ON?

>> Jon: TRYING TO FIGURE OUT

WHY SHE WOULD HAVE ANIMOSITY.

>> BUT AT THREE-AND-A-HALF SHE

SAID, ELMO, DADDY.

WE WERE VERY CONCERNED ABOUT

THAT.

AND THEN SHE WENT OUT OF THAT

PHASE.

THEN IT WAS LIKE DADDY, HEY,

CAN YOU PUT ON ELMO ON THE

PHONE?

ELMO WOULD SAY HI, SHANNON.

AND THEN SHANNON WOULD SAY,

ELMO THERE'S A BARBIE DOLL

THAT I SAW IN A COMMERCIAL.

COULD YOU TELL DADDY ABOUT IT?

ELMO WOULD SAY YEAH SURE.

PUT DADDY BACK ON AND SHANNON

WOULD SAY DADDY ELMO HAS

SOMETHING REALLY IMPORTANT TO

TELL YOU.

>> Jon: (LAUGHING) AND THEN

WOULD ELMO GET ON THE PHONE

AND JUST LIKE, YOU KNOW.

>> YOU MUST DO THIS.

YOU MUST DO THIS.

THE COMMERCIAL SAYS IT WAS

MADE IN CHINA.

SHE MADE ME TRY TO FLAG DOWN A

CAB WITH THAT VOICE.

TAXI.

ANOTHER THING THAT WAS REALLY

WONDERFUL IS I WAS ON A PLANE

ONCE.

I WAS, YOU KNOW, HIGHLIGHTING

MY SCRIPT AND EVERYTHING AND

THE FLIGHT ATTENDANT CAME PAST

AND SHE SAID WHAT DO YOU DO?

YOU DO ELMO?

WE WERE CLOSE TO GETTING TO

TAXI.

SO SHE TOOK ME UP TO THE MIKE

AND SHE SAID THERE'S A LOT OF

KIDS UP THERE.

THIS IS ELMO PLEASE BUCKLE

YOUR SEAT BELTS AND PUT YOUR

TOYS AWAY BECAUSE WE'RE

GETTING READY TO LAND.

>> Jon: WOW.

>> BUT WHAT WAS WONDERFUL

ABOUT IT IS, YOU KNOW, THEN

ALL THE PEOPLE IN THE AISLE

SEATS WERE LOOKING.

I CAME OUT AND THEY SAID.

>> Jon: ARE YOU EVER TEMPTED

IN THAT, TO GO THE OTHER WAY

BECAUSE IT'S SUFFICIENT SUCH A

CHEERFUL... WERE YOU TEMPTED

TO GO ON AND GO, OH, MY GOD,

WE'RE (BEEP) DOWN.

HEY, KIDS, DO YOU BELIEVE IN

GOD?

YOU'RE GOING TO MEET HIM?

>> NOW, JON, YOU KNOW I WOULD

BE OUT OF A JOB REAL QUICK.

JUST AS SOON AS THE PLANE

LANDED.

GIVE ME THAT PUPPET.

>> Jon: YOU DON'T REALIZE ELMO

WAS A CHARACTER FOR A COUPLE

OF YEARS.

YOU CAME ON AND TURNED IT INTO

THIS PHENOMENON.

>> TALENT, TALENT, TALENT.

YES, THE WONDER PUPPETERS,

BRIAN NEAL WHO ACTUALLY PUPPET

EERS THE CHARACTER FIRST HE

WENT ON AND PURSUED HIS ACTING

AND WRITING AND MR. RICHARD

HUNT HE WAS ONE OF THE MAIN

GUYS WITH JIM HENSON.

HE STARTED DOING IT AND DOING

THIS CAVE MAN VOICE.

AND THE HEAD WRITER OF SESAME

STREET SAID WHAT IS HE DOING?

AND RICHARD... I WAS IN THE

ROOM BY MYSELF THE RICHARD

THREW THE PUPPET AT ME.

AND SAID COME UP WITH A VOICE.

I SAID, HELLO, THIS IS ELMO.

HE SAID, OKAY FINE.

HE TOOK ME INTO THE PRODUCER

OF THE SHOW, LISA SIMON.

SHE SAID I DON'T CARE IF YOU

DON'T WANT TO DO IT.

HE CAN DO IT.

THAT'S HOW I GOT IT.

BY DEFAULT.

>> Jon: AN INSPIRING STORY OF

GENIUS AND TALENT.

I KNEW IMMEDIATELY.

>> THE REST IS HISTORY.

>> Jon: HISTORY.

BEING ELMO CURRENTLY PLAYING

IN NEW YORK.

IT OPENS IN OTHER SELECT

CITIES NATIONWIDE.

KEVIN, GREAT TO SEE YOU.

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