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Kevin Clash

Children’s educational puppeteer Kevin Clash was born on September 17, 1960 in Turner’s Station, a predominantly black neighborhood in the Baltimore, Maryland suburb of Dundalk, to George and Gladys Clash. In 1971, at the age of ten, Clash began building puppets, after being inspired by the work of puppeteers on the Sesame Street television program, a passion that stuck with him throughout his teen years.

His first work on television was for WMAR, a CBS affiliate that produced a show entitled Caboose. Clash also performed a pelican puppet character for the WTOP-TV television program Zep. In his late teens, Clash met Kermit Love, a puppet designer for the Muppets, who arranged for Clash to observe the Sesame Street set.

In 1979, Clash became a puppeteer for the television program Captain Kangaroo, a role he would perform until 1985, working with puppeteer and future collaborator Jim Martin. In 1980, Clash was allowed a chance to work briefly as a puppeteer for Sesame Street, a program to which he would return after leaving Captain Kangaroo. Clash joined the cast of The Great Space Coaster in 1981, playing the characters Goriddle Gorilla, Rory and Huggle Scuffy. In 1983, Clash was offered another opportunity with Sesame Street, but was forced to decline due to his already-hectic television schedule.

The following year, Clash was able to join Sesame Street, playing the characters Hoots the Owl, Baby Natasha and Dr. Nobel Price. It was also that year that Clash created the character Elmo, using an old red puppet for whom previous Sesame Street puppeteers had failed to create a personality. Clash became a puppeteer for The Jim Henson Hour in 1989, working with the Leon and Clifford characters. Clash also worked on a variety of other Henson projects in the late-1980s, including Muppet Time, Tale of the Bunny Picnic and Dog City.

In 1990, Clash won his first Daytime Emmy Award for his work on Sesame Street, an accomplishment he would repeat eight times. The following year, Clash portrayed the character Splinter in the film Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and also performed a number of characters for the television program Dinosaurs. In 1993, Clash’s daughter Shannon Elise was born to his ex-wife Genia. 1996 proved to be a very successful year for Clash, as the Tickle Me Elmo Doll, based on Clash’s Elmo character, becomes one of the biggest-selling toys in history. Clash also was involved in the production of the television program Muppets Tonight! and the film Muppet Treasure Island. Also in 2006, Clash released My Life as a Furry Red Monster: What Being Elmo Has Taught Me About Life, Love and Laughing Out Loud, a biography ghostwritten by Becky Cabaza.

Clash was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on September 21, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.268

Sex

Male

Interview Date

9/21/2007

Last Name

Clash

Maker Category
Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Dundalk Elementary

Dundalk Middle

Dundalk High

First Name

Kevin

Birth City, State, Country

Baltimore

HM ID

CLA13

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Maryland

Favorite Vacation Destination

Australia, Amsterdam

Favorite Quote

It Is In Every One Of Us.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

9/17/1960

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

French Food

Short Description

Puppeteer Kevin Clash (1960 - ) created the character Elmo on Sesame Street. A multiple Emmy Award-winning puppeteer, he also performed on the television programs, Captain Kangaroo, and Dinosaurs, and in the films, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Muppet Treasure Island.

Employment

Sesame Workshop

'Caboose'

'Mr. Rainbow's World'

'Captain Kangaroo'

'The Great Space Coaster'

The Jim Henson Company

Favorite Color

Red

DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Kevin Clash's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Kevin Clash lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Kevin Clash describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Kevin Clash recalls the Civil Rights Movement in Baltimore, Maryland

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Kevin Clash describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Kevin Clash describes his parents' professions

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Kevin Clash describes his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Kevin Clash remembers his early interest in puppetry

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Kevin Clash describes his mother's daycare business

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Kevin Clash remembers the holidays with his family

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Kevin Clash remembers watching puppets on television

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Kevin Clash talks about the influence of puppets on television

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Kevin Clash describes the influence of music on his work

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Kevin Clash describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Kevin Clash describes his early education

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Kevin Clash describes his decision not to attend college

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Kevin Clash describes his early career as a puppeteer

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Kevin Clash describes his early puppets

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Kevin Clash remembers meeting Stu Kerr

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Kevin Clash describes his early television career

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Kevin Clash talks about Bob Keeshan and Kermit Love

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Kevin Clash remembers 'Call It Macaroni'

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Kevin Clash describes his role on 'Captain Kangaroo'

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Kevin Clash remembers meeting Jim Henson

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Kevin Clash remembers auditioning for 'Sesame Street'

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Kevin Clash describes his role on 'The Great Space Coaster'

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Kevin Clash describes the discrimination against African American puppeteers

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Kevin Clash describes his decision to join the cast of 'Sesame Street'

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Kevin Clash talks about the role of a puppeteer

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Kevin Clash remembers working with Jim Henson

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Kevin Clash recalls the end of 'Captain Kangaroo' and 'The Great Space Coaster'

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Kevin Clash remembers his start on 'Sesame Street'

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Kevin Clash describes the creation of his character, Elmo

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Kevin Clash talks about Elmo's personality

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Kevin Clash remembers his first Emmy Award

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Kevin Clash recalls Jim Henson's death

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Kevin Clash remembers Jim Henson's memorial, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Kevin Clash remembers Jim Henson's memorial, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Kevin Clash remembers Jim Henson

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Kevin Clash describes his first puppetry job with Jim Henson

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Kevin Clash remembers his marriage

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Kevin Clash talks about his daughter

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Kevin Clash describes the origin of Elmo's name

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Kevin Clash describes his projects at the Sesame Workshop

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Kevin Clash talks about the international adaptations of 'Sesame Street'

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Kevin Clash describes the Sesame Workshop's philanthropy

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Kevin Clash describes Elmo's testimony to the U.S. Congress

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Kevin Clash recalls the celebrity guests on 'Sesame Street'

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Kevin Clash talks about Rosie O'Donnell and Emeril Lagasse

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Kevin Clash reflects upon his role at the Sesame Workshop

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Kevin Clash performs as Elmo