45 years ago today, families everywhere were invited to a friendly new neighborhood called “Sesame Street.” In the decades since its launch, the show has become a cultural staple, teaching children the most basic, but important lessons, while connecting with parents through its multitude of special guests.
From song-and-dance numbers such as the famous “Put Down the Duckie,” or the memorable “C is for Cookie,” to its lovable Muppet characters to the likes Elmo, Big Bird, and Oscar the Grouch, each sketch served an import educational purpose, and continues to teach generation after generation.
Throughout the years, Massachusetts has boasted a number of personalities that have made an appearance on the show. Some were born and raised in the Commonwealth, while others may have just spent a few good years here in college. Either way, we figured it would only be appropriate to find each and every celebrity with Massachusetts ties who has found his or her way to “Sesame Street.” Happy 45th!
Attended Boston University from 1977 to 1980 before dropping out to pursue his acting career (clearly, the choice paid off). In 1996 the “Seinfeld” star appeared on an episode of “Muppets Tonight” and an episode of “Sesame Street,” where he did “A Very Special Dance” with Big Bird after missing his bus.
Born in Concord, Massachusetts on August 16, 1962. The actor and former correspondent for “The Daily Show” explained the word “vote” to Elmo and the gang during a “Word of the Day” segment in 2012.
Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts on September 6, 1947. The original “Saturday Night Live” cast member appeared on the celebrity-filled version of “Put Down the Duckie,” which taught viewers to not let possessions get in the way of other activities. She also played Cinderella in a 1986 episode of the show.
Born in Wareham, Massachusetts on January 21, 1956. The Golden Globe winning actress appeared in the celebrity-version of “Monster in the Mirror” with Julia Roberts, Ray Charles, and others. Davis also founded the SeeJane program, a group that works to increase the number of female characters in media made for children.
JULIUS ERVING (DR. J)
Attended the University of Massachusetts in 1968. Erving joined Oscar the Grouch in a 1982 episode of the show. The four-time basketball MVP also put his cooperation skills to good use and helped a child slam dunk.
Attended Berklee College of Music for three semesters before dropping out (like many successful Berklee students). The rock star performed a parody of her hit “Like The Way I Do” on the show in 1996.
Born in Boston on December 17, 1894. The long-time conductor of the Boston Pops Orchestra led the ensemble during “Evening at the Pops: A Special Program with Arthur Fiedler and Friends from Sesame Street” on PBS in 1971. The one-hour special featured Cookie Monster, Kermit the Frog, and Ernie singing some of their most popular songs. Big Bird also took a turn conducting the orchestra in a counting song.
Attended Boston University before acting in films such as “Walk the Line” and “He’s Just Not That Into You.” She appeared on the show in 2013 to introduce the word “adventure” on the show’s Word of the Day segment.
Attended Wheelock College in Boston. The original Wicked Witch of the West reprised her role in a 1976 episode of the show in which she loses her broom on “Sesame Street.” This episode of the show received a great deal of negative feedback from parents who insisted it was “too scary” for children.
Graduated from Boston College in 1999 before being a cast member on “Survivor” and “The View.” She appeared on an episode of the show in its 40th season to introduce “camouflage” as a Word of the Day.
Born in Boston on November 19, 1959. She appeared on the show with some of her “West Wing” co-stars in the celebrity version of “Dance Myself to Sleep,” which premiered on The Street We Live On, the 35-year celebration of the show.
Born in Boston, Massachusetts on September 29, 1942. She made a cameo appearance in “The Muppet Movie” in 1979 but she made several cameos on the show throughout the ’70s. Her most memorable appearances were when she played a bird watcher with partner Richard Hunt and when she convinced Grover the Grouch to perform “Sing After Me” with her.
Born in Newton, Massachusetts on October 20, 1979 and went on to star in “The Office” as well as a number of films. He helped Sesame Street Monster Murray during one of his regular “Word of the Day” segments by explaining the what the word “soggy” means.
Born in Fall River, Massachusetts on October 15, 1959. This Food Network celebrity chef put his cooking skills to the test when he prepared a meal with Elmo in a 2009 DVD special, “Elmo’s Magic Cookbook.”
Graduated from Emerson in 1973. Leno did a couple different sketches with Big Bird throughout 1987. One of his best known skits with the big yellow bird was about all of the things Leno does before he rides a motorcycle; after all is said and done, Leno ends up being pulled around on a tricycle by Big Bird. The Muppets were also frequent guests on Leno’s signature program “The Tonight Show.”
Attended Berklee College of Music for two semesters in 1997. Mayer co-hosted the Muppets’ special Coming Home episode with Queen Latifah. Mayer sang a rendition of his popular song, “Say What You Need to Say,” with the backup vocal stylings of the Muppets themselves.
Graduated from Brandeis University in 1990. In the 40th season of the show, Messing appears in “Grover Learns Hebrew” and “Grover Plants a Tree”: Sesame’s special Shalom episodes.
Graduated from Boston University in 1983. Moore made her “Sesame Street” debut during the show’s 35th season when she contributed to a short parody of her own movie, “Far from Heaven.”
The professional juggler was born in Greenfield, Massachusetts in 1955. Moschen showed off his renowned juggling skills during his Sesame Street appearance.
Graduated from Harvard in 1978. Newman’s relationship with the show began in the ’80s when Newman wrote for Muppet Magazine. In 1984, Newman worked with Mark Saltzman to co-write the stage show “The Muppet Show On Tour.” Newman continued to foster his relationship with “Sesame Street,” contributing as a puppeteer and doing voiceovers for various characters on the show. He was occasionally on screen with the Muppets; one of his most popular performances was in 2007 in the “Mouths” episode of Elmo’s World.
Earned her J.D. from Harvard Law School in 1988. The First Lady spent her 2009 “Sesame Street” debut delivering a public service announcement about the importance of a healthy diet and lifestyle. She shows Elmo and the Kids how to grow your own vegetable garden.
Born in Brookline, Massachusetts in 1963 and graduated from Harvard University in 1985. O’Brien has made multiple appearances on “Sesame Street” over the years. In addition to being a guest on the show, he was featured in two special episodes; in the first, Big Bird accidentally runs on to the set of “Late Night with Conan O’Brien” as he is interviewing the Yip Yips. And in the “Sesame Street” 2004 DVD release “What’s the Name of That Song,” O’Brien makes a cameo appearance in “Sing.”
Attended Boston University for some time in 1981. O’Donnell made an appearance on “Sesame Street” in 1996 to help promote the sale of Tickle Me Elmo toys; O’Donnell continued to endorse them on “The View” and even had Elmo come on as a guest.
Earned his master’s degree in broadcast journalism at Boston University in 1983. O’Reilly is said to have “met his Grouch likeness” when he did a skit with Sesame Street’s grouchiest Muppet in November 2009. The clip above shows a visit from a very special character, “Spill O’Reilly” on “The O’Reilly Factor.”
Born in Newton, Massachusetts on September 16, 1971. In season 41 of the show, Poehler made a cameo on the Word of the Day segment, in which she prompted the Muppets to define “challenge.”
Earned her degree from Harvard University in 2003. She portrays the princess in a skit with Elmo, entitled “The Princess and the Elephant.”
Born in Everett, Massachusetts on November 10, 1969. Pompeo appeared in the 41st season of the show, helping the Muppets understand what the word “healthy” means during the Word of the Day segment.
Moved to Cape Cod, Massachusetts when she was 8 years old. The celebrity chef also appeared on two segments, the first where she shared her enthusiasm for pumpernickel bread. In a later segment, she marveled at a tap-dancing, mambo-ing tomato while explaining the word ‘amazing.’
PAUL REUBENS (PEE-WEE HERMAN)
Attended Boston University before moving to California to study acting. He appeared on two separate segments — the first in 1987, where he recited the “Pee-wee Alphabet” as his infamous character Pee-wee Herman. In another episode in 1988, Reubens appeared on the PBS pledge drive special, where he participated in the celebrity version of “Put Down the Duckie.”
Grew up in Wakefield, Massachusetts then attended UMass Amherst, earning her BA in 1963 and PhD in 1983. The singer appeared on an eventful 1976 episode where she breastfed her child in front of Big Bird, then sang the songs “Gonna Be a Country Girl Again” and “Cripple Creek” with her farm friends.
Majored in English (and joined an a cappella group) at Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts. Sawyer demonstrated some of her vocal talent during an episode with Elmo, Zoe and a duck, where they sang the mathematical melody “It All Adds Up.”
Attended Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts then studied acting at UMass Amherst. In a 2011 episode, Liev was hilariously third-wheeled by his wife Naomi Watts and the furry red monster Elmo, where they all learned the meaning of the word “exchange.”
Born in Boston on September 13, 1953. The professional clown appeared in a 1993 skit on the show where tap dancer and Sesame Street-rhymer Savion Glover taught him some lively dance moves.
Born at Boston’s Massachusetts General Hospital on March 12, 1948. The folk rock singer-songwriter broke out his guitar during a ’70s “Sesame Street” special where he sang “Jelly Man Kelly” with a group of children.
Attended Boston University for a year before transferring. The actress appeared on a 2008 episode where she read and acted out “The Monkey Book,” a “Princess and the Frog” spin-off. Tomei played a fast food worker with quite the thick New York Accent who just so happened to marry a Banana King.
Born in Boston on September 25, 1929. During a 1988 pledge drive special, the news anchor and TV personality guest-starred on the “People in Your Neighborhood” special where she reported “the inside news from Sesame Street.”
Earned a B.A. in communications from Northeastern University in 1986, before she went on to host “The Wendy Williams Show” nearly 22 years later. Wendy appeared on the show’s Word of the Day segment to explain the word “veterinarian,” where she suggested that an allergy-infested tabby cat and a talking chicken with chicken pox head to the vet.