It’s fitting that Kevin Clash starts an interview by proclaiming, “It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood,” because the 51-year-old has been a key part of the Public Television and “Sesame Street” teams since 1984.
The senior puppet coordinator and Muppet captain, as well as the Sesame Workshop’s senior creative consultant, Clash is best known as the man behind Elmo, everyone’s favorite furry red monster.
amNY spoke with Clash, the subject of “Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey,” a documentary about his life and career that opens Friday.
How has Elmo evolved over the years? Elmo talked a lot more caveman-like early on. It was even less words. They found that kind of got in the way of the children really understanding and being taught by Elmo. So his vocabulary got much better.
Other than that, he’s been pretty much the same. … [In terms of design,] one thing that Elmo loved and jumped around for [was when] he got a butt.
Why is Elmo so popular? I think that everybody wants to be loved and hugged and wants to be acknowledged, and that’s what Elmo does.
What’s made “Sesame Street” thrive despite an onslaught of competition? [We] really try to do a mirror image of kids’ voices and [feature what] the kids can relate to — and the cast being the parent, so the adults can learn from these cast members. … We have an unbelievable writers’ staff that loves to write humor. … We’ve always done it on two different levels — for children and for adults.