Over 400 celebrities have guest starred on Sesame Street, including actors, musicians, writers, politicians and athletes. The upcoming 40th season will feature appearances by Adam Sandler, Matthew Fox, Ricky Gervais, Judah Friedlander, both Gyllenhaals, Paul Rudd and Michelle Obama. Here are a few memorable guest spots from the first 39 years.
1. James Earl Jones Scares Your Children
In Sesame Street's second episode, James Earl Jones became the first celebrity guest (which was no surprise, since he was a student of Will Lee, Sesame's Mr. Hooper). Although having a big star like Jones is no shocker, what's strange is how he appeared. In a close-up of Jones' shiny, bald head, he counted to 10 and recited the alphabet in an intense, booming voice. The appeal, of course, was that a big star was participating in some basic preschool education, but the result was something truly terrifying to the toddlers in the audience (or at least to me, right now).
That didn't stop Sesame Street from bringing Jones back to host their 10th anniversary special, which featured less terror and more hair.
2. Ralph Nader: Consumer Advocate/Grammar Snob
Perhaps my favorite strange celebrity appearance is from a Sesame Street PBS pledge drive special from 1988 featuring Ralph Nader.
He joined Bob for a chorus of "The People in Your Neighborhood," singing, "A Consumer Advocate is a person in your neighborhood." When asked what a Consumer Advocate is, Nader explained by inspecting Bob's sweater, pointing out the shoddy workmanship, and destroying it in the process. While on the set, Nader initially refused to sing the song unless the lyrics were changed from "the people that you meet" to the more grammatically correct "the people whom you meet." Of course, they relented.
Ten years later, Nader attacked Sesame Street and PBS for including commercial sponsorship spots before and after each show.
3. Mr. Donahue Meets Mr. Snuffleupagus
In 1985, Phil Donahue appeared in one of the most famous Sesame Street episodes—the one where Mr. Snuffleupagus is revealed to the world. Donahue interviewed the people on Sesame Street to find out if they thought Snuffy—who had been on the show since the early 1970s, but perceived by the adults as an imaginary friend of Big Bird—was real. After the adults met Snuffy for the first time, Donahue had the pleasure of giving him a big ol' bear hug.
4. The Second Guy on the Moon
5. The Micro Machines Guy
John Moschitta, Jr.—better known as either the fast-talking "FedEx Guy" or "Micro Machines Guy," depending on when you were born—appeared in several Sesame Street sketches. In this clip, he introduces his children, who each have extremely long names, one for every letter of the alphabet. It's unclear what lesson was being taught here.
6. Mayor Dinkins
Former New York Mayor Ed Koch made a cameo in The Muppets Take Manhattan, and current Mayor Mike Bloomberg appeared in A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa. But only one former Mayor appeared on Sesame Street. David Dinkins holds that honor, having appeared in 1992 to give Gordon the "Good Citizen Award." Congratulations, Gordon! It couldn't have happened to a nicer (or balder) guy.
7. Real Estate Tycoon Ronald Grump
8. Neil Patrick Harris, Shoe Fairy
And no list of celebrity guests would be complete without Neil Patrick Harris' 2008 appearance as the Shoe Fairy.