New York has always felt like home. I always felt like I belonged here. I never understood why until I visited an exhibit at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.
You see, there’s a Sesame Street exhibit at the Library for the Performing Arts, “Somebody Come and Play: 45 Years of Sesame Street Helping Kids Grow Smarter, Stronger, and Kinder”. Sounds like kid stuff doesn’t it? That may be, but I went and loved it and learned a whole lot. Even about myself!
The Sesame Street set is based off New York City. There’s a neighborhood: a brownstone with a stoop (maybe this was the beginning of my stoop love!), a corner store (calling it a “bodega” would’ve alienated the rest of the country), even a subway station (modeled after the 72nd 1-2-3 stop). It’s not a sterilized play land like most other children’s shows, there’s trash! You can’t get much more New York City than Oscar the Grouch, can you! Making Sesame Street look like a “realistic urban environment” was important to the shows creators.
My favorite part of the exhibit was learning all the shows inspirations from NYC and some of the many scenes and skits that were filmed on location in New York. It’s funny, when you look at Burt and Ernie as New York City renters, you’d never jump to the conclusion that they’re gay. They’re easily just two guys trying to save on rent!
Big Bird’s nest area was built and based off a 1960’s practice for taking old doors and turning them into construction fences. No five year old knows (or cares) that, but as an adult I find it gritty, fascinating, and an awesome lesson in recycle/reduce/reuse.
I loved Sesame Street as a kid. Watching it everyday, the neighborhood feels like your own, the characters feel like your friends. It’s designed so it all feels comfortable and like home. With such a strong basis off the city, I draw a hypothesis: Sesame Street made the actually city of New York feel like home to me, starting when I was age three. Think that’s crazy? It just seems to make sense!
I still love Sesame Street. Occasionally when I’m bored I’ll youtube clips of celebrities on Sesames Street. They’re usually hilarious! There was a whole part of the exhibit about celebrity guests on the show. My favorite is this one with the late Robin Williams.
This is a Sesame Street original that I can still, literally sing all the words to. It’ll pop into my head if I have to travel 40 blocks. It’s undeniably the only reason I could coins past 20 in kindergarten. Play for super-catchy 90s awesomeness, it’s even better than Shake It Off.
There are so many brilliant parodies that are clear over children’s heads. I remember think this skit called “Cereal Girl” was the coolest. I actually remember watching it as a five year old and wanting to be as cool as this muppet. I guess I really wanted to be as cool as Madonna, but I had no idea who she or her song “Material Girl” was.
Did you know that Sesame Street has been so effective in educating children that it’s been produced in over 40 countries? That’s not surprising. What surprised me was that each country has it’s own set of characters! They don’t just have Elmo and Grover speaking another language, the who cast and set is built to fit the country it is shown in.
I highly recommend this exhibit to anyone who has a soft place in their heart for Sesame Street. If you have kids, it’s a no brainer. You have to go. They will have a blast, learn a thing or two, and so will you! There are enough interactive exhibits and activities to keep even a ADHD three year old happy. This exhibit runs through Jan 31st so you have plenty of time. Visit the NYPL website for more info.
Did you watch Sesame Street as a kid? Do you have a skit you still remember to this day? Grover is my favorite Sesame Street muppet, who’s yours? Share below!