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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Review: Being Elmo

Posted By on Wed, Nov 23, 2011 at 3:38 PM

Whether you love or hate Elmo, you'll probably love Being Elmo, the story of the man behind Sesame Street's most popular character. For years, Elmo was a little noticed figure in a large cast of puppets who had not strongly resonated with audiences or found an identity. Cookie Monster his gluttonous charm. Oscar the Grouch is a curmudgeon for kids. Ernie and Bert are an odd couple whose rocky friendship is ripe for soft-edged Punch and Judy style feuding. Elmo looks like a smaller version of Grover and had multiple personalities before he landed in Kevin Clash's hands. Renowned Sesame Street puppeteer Richard Hart had given him a gravelly voice and broken dialect of caveman phrases, until he gave up and literally tossed the furry red mess to Clash.

While growing up in Baltimore, Clash discovered his love of puppetry at an early age, and he held onto it regardless of how he was teased and harassed by other boys for playing with dolls. In high school, his puppets became regulars on local TV, and when he graduated, he went right to New York to try to find a job in Jim Henson's company. But working with Henson and Frank Oz made him so nervous that he even wrote down and carried the tiniest snippets of dialogue so he could remember them. Henson noticed and just shook his head. But Clash kept trying.

Being Elmo tells Clash's story and reveals just where the inspiration for Elmo comes from. It opens Friday at Zeitgeist. Full review here.

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