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The concepts might be for the kids, but the references are sometimes for the grown-ups. Over its 50 years, hundreds of celebrities have appeared on Sesame Street to lend their talent and expertise. Politicians, actors, musicians, and athletes have all joined the gang on Sesame Street for some teachable moments, as well as some plain fun ones. Below is just a small sample of some memorable celebrity moments.
James Earl Jones
James Earl Jones lends his famously powerful voice to the alphabet in what was one of the first celebrity appearances on Sesame Street. It’s 90 seconds of Jones methodically stating each letter of the alphabet. Jones made a few other appearances on Sesame Street, including a visit to Hooper’s Store.
Anderson Cooper reports for “GNN” from a trash can, filling in for Oscar the Grouch, “who is on assignment at the dump.” Alongside Cooper are legendary albeit grouchy news anchors Walter Cranky and Dan Rather-Not. Cooper provides in-depth analysis on the letter G.
Sarah Jessica Parker
Grover wants to help out Sarah Jessica Parker, who’s on a park bench waiting for Big, a nod to her Sex and the City romance. Sadly, Grover—dressed as Super Grover—doesn’t quite get the concept, and presents her with a series of increasingly big things, like a pumpkin, a drum, and a boulder. “But it’s not the Big I’m looking for,” she says. Big Bird, however, shows up to save the day.
Standing next to Oscar the Grouch’s trash can, Johnny Cash sings a song about Nasty Dan, an unpleasant fellow with a bad attitude. In the end, Oscar recognizes the country star, but confuses his last name with “Trash” instead.
Ellen helps Elmo see how similar their names are in this clip from the 90s. It does take Elmo a few minutes to understand how their names are similar.
Adam Sandler uses his musical skills to create a truly catchy song about all the things that rhyme with Elmo—sort of. A group of friends join to sing along, including a shrimp lifting his barbell-mo.
In true early 2000s fashion, Beyoncé sports a red leather hat with Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams as they sing about “A New Way to Walk,” inspired by some dancing by Elmo, Grover, and Zoey.
In what would be the last of his many Sesame Street appearances, Robin Williams tries to get the Two-Headed Monster to demonstrate conflict. When both heads keep getting along, Williams ends up being the one in conflict. At least he speaks their language.
Sir Ian McKellen teaches Cookie Monster all about the word “resist.” Unfortunately for our cookie-motivated friend, he can’t grasp the concept. Sir Ian shows Cookie Monster how, for example, a golden ring that “was like your precious” might tempt someone the same way a cookie does, in a reference to McKellen’s role as Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings films.
Former First Lady Michelle Obama became a regular on Sesame Street during her time in the White House, often to promote initiatives like healthy eating and supporting military families. In this clip, she helps Elmo and a few kids plant a garden.
In an attempt to get Elmo to go to bed, Andrea Bocelli sings a duet with Elmo that sounds eerily similar to his song, “Time to Say Goodbye.” Bocelli recaps Elmo’s great day, though Elmo doesn’t seem to want to go to bed.
In this case, Liam Neeson’s particular set of skills is counting. Neeson joins the Count on set for a movie where he embodies the Count, but the Count doesn’t seem to have much experience as a director.
Steve Carrell helps Abby and Elmo understand voting by choosing between two things for snack time: cheese or peanut butter and jelly. But a third-party candidate—pizza—complicates the vote.