Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey

Elmo pic

It’s hard to watch this documentary now without thinking of the charges against Kevin Clash (recently dismissed from Court due to lack of evidence I believe). Since Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey was made about him, he has had a severe fall from grace, whether or not the offences occurred, he is still tarnished. Luckily for us this hasn’t affected Elmo’s image and understudies have landed that sweet gig.

Lovable red monster Elmo is Clash’s most famous creation. Although not physically created by Clash, Elmo’s character is all his creation. It’s hilarious to see Elmo’s first appearances on Sesame Street with a deep cave-man voice that is just so wrong! Elmo is a squeaker or at least he has been since Clash got his hand up Elmo (OMG! – so bad it’s good).

We watch Clash’s ascendance from poor Baltimore suburb boy to Sesame Street king, from a kid who secretly makes puppets from his Dad’s jacket to the man surrounded by muppety eyes in the Sesame Street workshop. He makes his way through local TV and Captain Kangaroo, turns down The Dark Crystal (what? Who does that?) even though Jim Henson is his absolute idol but eventually wins a gig on Labyrinth (oh yeah!).

This is really an inspiring story – a boy with a passion makes it all the way to the top and along the way creates one of the world’s most beloved characters. His story will inspire so many children out there to follow their dreams even if other people tell them that what they do and what they love is weird. People are weird, quirky, funny, individual – we should just get used to that.

Clash is an amazing puppeteer. He taught himself to make puppets by watching Sesame Street as a child (as close as he could to the TV but he didn’t get square eyes! We were lied to!), he was bullied at school for playing with toys but later crowned the student most likely to make a million once people realised this was a talent worth praising. He was no longer a weirdo but a boy whose talents were bringing him to the notice of all the right people – the people who knew Jim Henson.

The standout stars are Mr and Mrs Clash though. I don’t think there are many parents who could have been as supportive as these two, especially as they were bringing up five children on minimum wage incomes. Even the coat incident didn’t faze them and as there was no other room in which to store Clash’s puppets they were stacked on shelves in their bedroom. So supportive! Supportive shelves even!

It’s so unfortunate that the controversy surrounding Clash now taints this documentary. It’s nigh on impossible to watch without thinking about what might have been going on at the time. Clash no longer works with Elmo or even on Sesame Street and I know from watching this doco that it must devastate him.

A pity about the controversy – as this is a lovely and inspiring doco, you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll spill your tea (or maybe that’s just me).


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