Muppet Monday

Grover and I share a birthday, according to the awesome book 'Sesame Street' Unpaved — Oct. 14th.

A prototype of Grover called Gleep appeared as early as 1967 on an episode of The Ed Sullivan Show. I get that info from the Muppet Wiki link at the beginning of this post, which is not to be confused with The Monster at the End of This Book (on which more shortly). Nearly all proper nouns seen in blue hypertext during Muppet Mondays, if not otherwise specified, head over to that expansive and entertainingly informative website despite it not being an authorized outlet. 

I've been tickled by having a birthday in common with Grover since I found out about it. He is so earnest and so lovable and so game for anything — running Near and Far to exhaustion, for example, as seen right now on his home page at the official Sesame Street website — that he edged out Kermit as my favorite Muppet; his occasional adventures as Super Grover didn't hurt, of course. [Just in case "Near and Far" has cycled off by the time you visit the page, I'll throw in a YouTube link.]

The Monster at the End of This Book was a classic of my childhood (and many others') that I've read to my nieces in character exactly once at severe peril to my throat — Kermit, The Count, and even Cookie Monster are much easier on the vocal cords, let me tell you. Like many of the Sesame Street sketches that involve throwaway lines or parodies of pop-culture for parents and other adults to enjoy, Monster at the End rewards sophisticated sensibilities by virtue of its metatextuality as well as the sheer emotionality of Grover. It was such a joy that I even bought its belated sequel, Another Monster at the End of This Book, in which Grover is joined by Elmo (who's considered by many to be the hellspawned price that the Sesame Street people were forced to pay when making a deal with the devil for their show's success). The original's above-linked Muppet Wiki entry reveals not only numerous printings but adaptations of the book to multimedia formats and even a Twitter take on it from 2009.

Super Grover was introduced as a parody of a certain costumed Kryptonian who sported a red cape, chest insignia, and old-fashioned knight's helmet that often obstructed his vision. He's been much more of a merchandising phenomenon than I'd realized, according to his own Muppet Wiki page, and last season on Sesame Street he was given a newer, more complicated costume that (intentionally or otherwise) reflects the trend towards such outfits in comics and films. The Sesame Street website has some brief videos featuring the so-called Super Grover 2.0 — dubbed thusly in his introductory appearance — along with recipes, games, and other content. I'm still partial to old-fashioned, more unkempt, less encumbered Super Grover 1.0 myself.

Grover has become less shaggy and a brighter blue in recent times, with Eric Jacobson taking over performance duties in 1998 from the legendary Frank Oz. If you compare the way other long-running characters, from Batman to the Bart Simpson, looked in their earliest appearances to the way they look today, they've all changed. When he first appeared on Sesame Street during the opening season, the Muppet who would be dubbed Grover actually had dark green fur and a reddish-orange nose (as opposed to the pink he sports now), just as he looked when known as Gleep on Ed Sullivan in 1967 and Jim Henson's 1968 Muppets on Puppets special — but he was given the name Grover towards the end of that first season, and it stuck through the changes the following season that brought us the Grover we came to know. The Muppet Wiki, no surprise, has an entry on the Grover prototype that bridges his Gleep days and the later familiar version of Grover, an incarnation that has apparently been nicknamed Fuzzyface by fans. 

With Grover's official birthday falling just a month before Sesame Street's 1969 premiere I can only conclude that, while he has remained whatever age he is for the past four decades in the Muppets realm, the guy is exactly one year my elder as we humanfolk reckon time. I think that both of us look pretty good for a few days shy of 41 and 42, respectively, although he's obviously had some work done. Maybe it's time to start dying my fuzz?

Images © 1971, 1975, 2011 Sesame Workshop.

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