If you are a parent, hell if you are a human, you not only know what Elmo is, you can doubtless impersonate him to a T and may even have a sealed Tickle Me Elmo in your closet right now, waiting for the furry apocalypse.
Little more than a red, high-voiced version of Grover, Elmo captured a new generation of kids (and parents), in such a complete way that during Christmas shopping seasons past, adults would trample each other, sometimes resorting to fisticuffs, to procure the giggling child’s toy. More depressing still were the recent child molestation accusations leveled at Elmo puppeteer Kevin Clash, who despite his proclamations of innocence and the recanted testimony of his accusers, resigned from Sesame Street in 2012.
But this column is not about those kinds of memories. Elmo may be one of the most annoying children’s characters ever created, but kids adore him and through him, parents maintain a connection to their favorite childhood memories, many of which involved Sesame Street and its gaggle of loveable furries.
So here are five of Elmo’s greatest moments, starting with a guy who killed a lot of people – on screen, that is.
1. Elmo Meets DeNiro
He was Travis Bickle, for crying out loud. Robert DeNiro, who began his career playing junkies, hoods, brawlers and killers, takes a few minutes to sit with Elmo and talk about imagination. For most of his life, that’s what DeNiro has done better than anyone: Pretend he was someone else. Here he even references his two greatest roles: taxi driver Bickle and boxer Jake LaMotta. The closing few seconds of this clip, with DeNiro as an alter-ego Elmo laughing along with the real red dude will have you and your kid laughing right along. You, because you may well be envisioning DeNiro cackling while he busts someone’s face open in “Cape Fear” or “Good Fellas.”
2. Elmo Sings with Katy
This controversial clip placed loveable Elmo opposite tabloid diva and pop singer Katy Perry, who’s clad in a cleavage-revealing dress. Like any Katy Perry song, this one is more grating than Elmo’s laugh, but the surrounding media hoopla makes it worth remembering. Sesame Street pulled the clip before it aired, and Perry responded with an appearance on Saturday Night Live, during which she wore a bust-accentuating Elmo T-shirt.
3. Elmo and India Arie
Few could make the ABCs sound as sultry as Arie, and despite Elmo’s best efforts to thwart her, the Grammy Award-winner makes magic. The clip-concluding “I love you … kiss, kiss” is actually very sweet. Think of your little one when you watch this with him or her. Then think of yourself 20 years from now, when you happen upon this clip and remember when you and your baby shared that little kiss kiss. (Sniff, sniff.)
4. Elmo & Abby Splatter Kristen Bell
The intro is great, with Abby and Elmo yelling “splatter” over and over, interrupting Bell, is worth the price of admission. As is seeing Bell splattered with colorful condiments. Call it payback for all of her cruddy movies.
5. Elmo and the Service Dog
My daughter is fascinated by dogs, especially service dogs. We have impressed upon her the importance of the animals, and she fully respects them. She will never approach one in public, and always points out a service dog when we come across one at the grocery store or in a park. Here Elmo and his canine friend get the scoop on how challenging it is to train a service dog, and how they change the lives of the people they help. This is Sesame Street at its best, and Elmo at his least annoying.