From the Archive: Caroll Spinney, Big Bird's Performer

Daniel Hautzinger
Sesame Street puppeteer Caroll Spinney on WTTW's Chicago Tonight in 2003
Sesame Street puppeteer Caroll Spinney on WTTW's Chicago Tonight in 2003

Caroll Spinney, who performed Sesame Street's Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch for almost 50 years, died on Sunday at the age of 85. He voiced and operated the two puppets almost exclusively from the inception of the show in 1969 until well into his 80s: he switched to only performing their voices in 2015, and only retired fully in 2018, the year before the show's fiftieth anniversary.

In 2003, he visited WTTW's Chicago Tonight to discuss his book The Wisdom of Big Bird (and the Dark Genius of Oscar the Grouch): Lessons from a Life in Feather and tell some memorable stories, from how he got the job on Sesame Street ("The Muppets are The Beatles of the puppet world," he says) to the origins of the Oscar's gravelly voice and how he got into an argument with Mister Rogers. Watch an excerpt from the interview here.

window to the world