|OSCAR THE GROUCH|
|PERFORMER||CAROLL SPINNEY (1969-2018)|
|ERIC JACOBSON (2015-present)|
|DESIGN||JIM HENSON designer|
|Don Sahlin original builder|
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 that is right between BIG BIRD’s NEST & 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 always 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 (OSCAR had previously courted a GROUCH named Hermine). 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.
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 first 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). 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).
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.""
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 first 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 first day performing the character. On entering the cab, the driver snapped, "Where to, MAC?" This event was referenced in SESAME STREET’s 50TH ANNIVERSARY special, where CAROLL SPINNEY dubbed the voice of a cab driver uttering the same quote.
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.
During CAROLL SPINNEY’s tenure as the character, in scenes where BIG BIRD & OSCAR (both performed by SPINNEY) interact in a scene together, the situation has varied depending on the amount of lines 1 or the other is given. When SPINNEY performs BIG BIRD, a 2nd puppeteer operates OSCAR to SPINNEY’s voice. These puppeteers have included JERRY NELSON (c. 1970s)., RICHARD HUNT, & Jim Martin (1990s - 2000s). Paul McGinnis also puppeteered OSCAR at the 2003 Annual SESAME Workshop Benefit Gala.
In 2015, SPINNEY stopped physically puppeteering OSCAR on the show, but continued to provide his voice (& the voice of BIG BIRD) for seasons 46 & 47. SPINNEY also continued to perform OSCAR sporadically for live events. By then, ERIC JACOBSON became SPINNEY’s understudy for OSCAR; sometimes lip-syncing to SPINNEY’s vocals, & performing the voice himself in other appearances & media. With SPINNEY’s formal retirement in 2018, ERIC JACOBSON officially succeeded him in performing OSCAR full-time. See also CAROLL SPINNEY character transitions.
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.
- According to CAROLL SPINNEY’s book The Wisdom of BIG BIRD (& the Dark GENIUS of OSCAR THE GROUCH): Lessons from a Life in FEATHERS, 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 one for his fan mail!"
- 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 1 Person" at Jim Henson’s Memorial.
- CAROLL SPINNEY was an avid 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.
- 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.
- 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."
- 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 lid on 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"
SESAME STREET Live Appearances
- SESAME Jamboree (1982 - 1984)
- Around the World (1983)
- Save Our STREET (1985 - 1986; 1986 - 1987)
- BIG BIRD Goes Hollywood (1986)
- BIG BIRD & the ABCs (1987)
- BIG BIRD’s SESAME STREET Story (1988)
- Silly Dancing (1989)
- Sleeping BIRDIE (1990)
- Let’s Play School (1990)
- When I Grow Up (1993/1994; 1995/1996)
- Where’s the BIRDIE? (1990)
- Let’s Be Friends (1994)
- Elmo’s Coloring Book (1997)
- BIG BIRD’s Sunny Day Camp Out (1999)
- Everyone Makes Music (2001)
- Out of This World (2003)
- 1-2-3 Imagine! (1996)
- Super Grover! Ready for Action (2005)
- When Elmo Grows Up (2007)
- Elmo’s GREEN THUMB (2008)
- Elmo’s Super Heroes! (2010)
- Can’t Stop Singing (2012)
OSCAR THE GROUCH & BIG BIRD (characters both performed by CAROLL SPINNEY) in the same scene
- Episode 0131 (1970)
- Episode 2483 (1988)
- Episode 2485 (1988)
- Episode 2977 (1992)
- Episode 3158 (1993)
- Episode 3656 (1997)
- Episode 3664 (1997)
- EPISODE 3698 (1998)
- Episode 3699 (1998)
- Episode 3790 (1998) (MATT VOGEL operating the BIG BIRD puppet to a vocal track by CAROLL SPINNEY)
- Episode 3797 (1998)
- Episode 3804 (1999)
- Episode 3831 (1999) (MATT VOGEL operating the BIG BIRD puppet to a vocal track by CAROLL SPINNEY)
- EPISODE 3838 (1999) (MATT VOGEL operating the BIG BIRD puppet to a vocal track by CAROLL SPINNEY)
- Episode 3845 (1999)
- Episode 3863 (2000)
- EPISODE 3866 (2000)
- Episode 3879 (2000)
- Episode 3958 (2001) (MATT VOGEL operating the BIG BIRD puppet to a vocal track by CAROLL SPINNEY)
- Episode 3986 (2002)
- Episode 3991 (2002)
- Episode 3992 (2002)
- Episode 3995 (2002)
- Episode 3996 (2002)
- EPISODE 3997 (2002) (MATT VOGEL operating the BIG BIRD puppet to a vocal track by CAROLL SPINNEY)
- Episode 3998 (2002)
- Episode 4004 (2002)
- EPISODE 4030 (2002)
- EPISODE 4041 (2002)
- Episode 4057 (2004)
- Episode 4065 (2004)
- Episode 4081 (2004)
- Episode 4131 (2006)
- Episode 4141 (2007)
- Episode 4142 (2007)
- EPISODE 4181 (2008)
- EPISODE 4253 (2010)
- EPISODE 4266 (2011)
- EPISODE 4412 (2013)
- Episode 4625 (2016)
- SESAME STREET Theme Intro (Episode 4187 (2009) - present)
- Christmas Eve on SESAME STREET (1978)
- A Special SESAME STREET Christmas (1978)
- DON’T Eat the Pictures (1983)
- BIG BIRD in China (1983)
- The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984)
- Follow That BIRD (1985)
- The Muppets: A Celebration of 30 Years (1986)
- SESAME STREET Home Video Visits the Hospital (1991)
- BIG BIRD’s Birthday or Let ME Eat Cake (1991)
- Elmo Saves Christmas (1996)
- Quiet Time (1997)
- Learning to Share (1997)
- Elmopalooza (1998)
- The Adventures of Elmo in GROUCHland (1999)
- SESAME STREET 4-D Movie Magic (2003)
- What’s the Name of That Song? (2004)
- A Celebration of ME, GROVER (2004)
- SESAME STREET (comic book) (1970s - present)
- OSCAR’s Book (1975)
- How to Be a GROUCH (1976)
- ERNIE’s Work of Art (1979)
- A Day in the Life of OSCAR THE GROUCH (1981)
- OSCAR’s ROTTEN Birthday (1981)
- BERT & the Missing Mop Mix-Up (1983)
- Ernie’s Little Lie (1983)
- COUNT All the Way to SESAME STREET (1985)
- BIG BIRD Can Share (1985)
- It’s a Deal! (1986)
- Oh, Brother! (1987)
- Imagine That! (1987)
- Friends to the Rescue (BIG BIRD StoryMagic) (1987)
- A Birthday Surprise (SESAME STREET) (1987)
- Don’t Be Shy (1987)
- The Day SNUFFY Had the Sniffles (1988)
- Oh, I Am So Embarrassed! (1988)
- A GROUCH’s Christmas (1990)
- A BIRD’s Best Friend (1990)
- BIG BIRD Plays the Violin (1990)
- BIG BIRD Is YELLOW (1990)
- The Poky Little Puppy Comes to SESAME STREET (1997)
- SESAME STREET coloring books (Sony) (2010s)
- BIG BIRD at Home (2011)
- GROUCHES Are GREEN (2011)
- Just Three Colors (1972)
- Simple Song (1972)
- Singing in the Shower (1986)
- Itch & Scratch (1993)
- Great BIG Beautiful World (1998)
- If You’re Happy & You Know It (2001) from Kids’ Favorite Songs 2 (album)
- Is It Alive? (2002)