The Man Who Became Big Bird

A big thanks goes out to @99U for sharing this LongRead on Caroll Spinney! So happy I saw this tweet, “@99u: The man behind Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch, Carol Spinney, on character creation + holding things above your head”


Jessica Gross | Longreads | May 2015 | 13 minutes (3,430 words)

Caroll Spinney has performed Big Bird and Oscar on Sesame Street since the show launched in 1969, almost half a century ago. A new documentary, I Am Big Bird, follows Spinney’s journey from a somewhat difficult childhood—his father had abusive tendencies, and he was picked on in school—to becoming a childhood icon, not to mention a man in an almost absurdly happy marriage. Spinney’s wife, Debra, sat nearby (laughing and interjecting sporadically) as we discussed the film, the physical and emotional reality of playing these characters, and what kind of guy a grouch really is. Big Bird and Oscar made cameo appearances.

* * *

The film features a lot of old footage that you and your wife, Debra, gathered over the years. What was it like to go through all those old tapes?

We didn’t look…

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