Thursday, March 24, 2011

Who Is This Elmo Guy?

Ezra began using his first proper noun at the end of January.  Proper nouns are exciting because when a baby starts saying your name it is like winning a popularity contest.  You are so special to someone that your name is one of the first words ever uttered by that person.  I had a mental list of the most likely individuals to receive this honor: one of Ezra’s daycare friends, Piper, Grace, Stella, an aunt, an uncle, Amanda, me.  No.  The first name Ezra said was “m’Elmo.”

I can’t help but wonder how Elmo swooped in and stole this glory from actual people Ezra knows and loves.  We don’t even own a TV.  Ezra is only familiar with Sesame Street from clips on YouTube we have watched a few times and two Sesame Street albums he received for his birthday.  Compared to most children his age his exposure to Elmo is pretty minimal, but apparently Elmo is the type of monster toddlers fall in love with at first sight.

Before Ezra was born, I would have been able to pick Elmo out of a Muppet line-up, but other than being able to recognize him I knew nothing about this Elmo guy – I had never even heard him speak.  I did know the character was extremely popular.  I vaguely remember news reports from the mid-late 1990s of fistfights between Christmas shoppers anxious to give their kids the opportunity to “Tickle Me, Elmo.”  So, I was curious to learn more about the most popular celebrity among 1-3 year olds.

The first thing I learned was that Sesame Street claims Elmo has been on the program since 1972.  Does anyone from my generation remember him?  No. He was more of an extra hanging out in the background.  In 1985, puppeteer (or is it Muppetteer?) Kevin Clash took over the character.  The character, previously only known as baby monster, was rechristened Elmo and quickly became the star of the Children’s Television Workshop eclipsing all other Muppets, including the classic Sesame Street characters.

After watching Elmo in action I began to realize why he became so popular.   He is a master of self-promotion.  Does any other character or person refer to himself in third person as much as Elmo?  “Elmo wants to . . .”  “Elmo loves the . . . ”  “Elmo can learn . . .” This little monster will say his name 500 times in a two minute clip. His name is said so often that Ezra became a little confused and decided everyone on the show must be named Elmo.  He points to Cookie Monster, Oscar the Grouch, Bert and/or Ernie and says, “m’Elmo,” but without the joy and enthusiasm he displays when the actual “m’Elmo!” appears.  To Ezra Sesame Street is a show starring Elmo along with his co-stars, the lesser-Elmos.

Ezra discovered “C is for Cookie” when Garry's sister played a clip for him on her phone.  As you can see, he loved it. Because he liked it so much, his grandparents bought him Sesame Streets CDs for his birthday.  Elmo’s two songs, “Elmo’s Song” and “Happy Tappin’ with Elmo” quickly became his favorites.  (Notice Elmo even puts his names in his song titles).


Chad Roots said...

Thanks for putting a smile on my face this morning! Maybe he can join me in my dance class! :) Too cute!

Garry said...

He's pretty good at making us smile most mornings. Ezra would like to see a video of you dancing:)