Hey Food: 13 Hilarious Sesame Street Song Parodies

Sia performs "Big Bird's Song" on Sesame Street.
Sia performs "Big Bird's Song" on Sesame Street.
HBO

From “Sing” to “Put Down the Duckie” and beyond, Sesame Street has churned out so many hits over the last half century that even the Count would have trouble keeping track of them all. In addition to new songs scripted for the series, the classic children’s program has also generated an impressive number of song parodies, often performed by the original artists themselves. Here are 13 of the greatest and goofiest of all time.

1. “My Triangle”

James Blunt captivated melancholy teens and mainstream radio audiences around the world with his breathy ballad “You’re Beautiful” in 2005, complete with a music video in which he strips down on a snowy cliff and dives into the icy waters below (presumably to his death). While originally a little too morbid for preschoolers, Sesame Street’s version—about a long-lost triangle—replaces angel with angles and features an anthropomorphic triangle that appears after Blunt has given up hope of ever seeing his friend again. Blunt helped write the tune, sneaking a bit of cheeky geometrical jargon into the song with this line: “It must be those angles / That put a smile on your face / Not to mention the hypotenuse.”

2. “Hey Food”

With some help from The Beetles, Cookie Monster transforms The Beatles's “Hey Jude” into an endearing ode to food that might just have you relating to the manic-eyed monster more than you ever have before. Main themes of the track include not being able to choose which food you want, not being able to stop snacking, and acknowledging that food—be it “dry toast or something wetter”—always makes us feel better.

3. “Hello, Sammy!”

Carol Channing commits to this sibilant spoof with such flair that you’d think she won a Tony Award for originating the role of Dolly in Broadway’s Hello, Dolly! (she did). With lots of drawn-out S sounds and a cuddly Muppet snake named “Sammy,” the song functions as both a way to teach youngsters how to pronounce their S’s and a publicity campaign to combat the culturally prevalent idea that snakes are just plain evil.

4. “Born to Add”

“Born to Add,” performed by Bruce Stringbean and the S. Street Band, somehow manages to capture all the rock ‘n’ roll energy of desperate, working-class youth from Bruce Springsteen’s “Born to Run” and make it about simple arithmetic. The leather-clad lead singer and his cohorts stroll around the neighborhood counting cars, trash cans, and police officers, and the track culminates with a rousing sax solo by Clarice and a dance party that even the cops partake in. Stringbean also does “Barn in the U.S.A.,” which features an onomatopoeic choir of backup singers.

5. “Slimey to the Moon”

Tony Bennett’s spoof of crooner classic “Fly Me to the Moon” chronicles Slimey the worm’s astronaut training and subsequent space launch, explaining that a worm “needs to be nervy / He needs guts, and stickability / When things go topsy-turvy.” Though “Let him crawl through mud and muck / On Jupiter or Mars” might not be scientifically accurate, the idea of sending a worm into space isn’t so far out—scientists have studied them on the International Space Station to gain insight into how microgravity affects muscle anatomy.

6. “It Ain’t Heavy, It’s My Feather”

No matter what version of “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” you’re listening to—the Hollies’s, Neil Diamond’s, or someone else’s—it’s likely slow, somber, and saturated with emotion. The opposite is true of Sesame Street’s rendition, an upbeat country ditty sung by an animated chicken who looks and sounds suspiciously like Dolly Parton. In it, she lists a bunch of whimsical, weighty objects she doesn’t bring on tour with her (anchors, anvils, hippopotamuses, chests of drawers, etc.) and discusses the merits of packing her feather, which—you guessed it—ain’t heavy.

7. “U Really Got a Hold on Me”

Smokey Robinson spends a good three minutes trying to maintain composure while a googly-eyed letter U with an ironclad grip and no concept of boundaries tries to hug him. In addition to swapping out You’ve in the original song for U, songwriter Christopher Cerf added a few fitting U words to illustrate the situation, including “U stands for uptight / That’s how I’m feeling / Being grabbed by a letter is unappealing.”

8. “Eighteen Sandwiches”

While you need to have undergone puberty to truly identify with Alice Cooper’s angsty anthem “I’m Eighteen,” Sesame Street’s parody is something even toddlers can understand. In the animated video, a girl tries to decide what type of sandwich to choose for lunch, dithering over “tuna, turkey, peanut butter, grilled cheese, or salami / Ham or jelly, chicken salad, chopped liver, pastrami,” and more. As our poor, conflicted heroine runs through her list of 18 options, you might find yourself wondering “What kind of home kitchen is stocked with all these ingredients?” or “I wish I could get my kid to like even two different types of sandwiches.” In the end, she forgoes the entire conundrum by choosing pizza, which, depending on who you ask, is really just an open-faced sandwich.

9. “Me Want It (But Me Wait)”

If any Muppet was born to embody the mosh-pit spirit of Icona Pop’s chart-topping collaboration with Charli XCX, “I Love It,” it was Cookie Monster. His chaotic nature sets the perfect tone for “Me Want It (But Me Wait),” a catchy number about the importance of delayed gratification. The Sesame Street music video matches the original one almost scene-for-scene, featuring graffitied alleyways, block-lettered lyrics flashing on the screen, and neon-lit dance parties. “Me Want It (But Me Wait)" culminates with Cookie Monster devouring a well-earned cookie, and it’s probably safe to assume that the partygoers in Icona Pop’s video end their all-night revelry with a snack, too.

10. “Don’t Take Your Ones to Town”

“Don’t Take Your Guns to Town” tells the very Johnny Cash-ian tale of a young cowherd named Billy Joe who ignores his mother’s pleas to leave his guns at home and ends up dying in a brief bar fight after his first taste of liquor. The Sesame Street parody, on the other hand, features Big Bird as “Birdie Big,” a “cowbird” who heads to town counting quantities of one and gets a wake-up call when Count von Count and the Countess point out that he doesn’t know how to count higher than one. Instead of shooting him on sight or something, they offer to be his friend and teach him how to count, making this spoof number one on the short list of happy Johnny Cash songs.

11. “Kids Just Love to Brush”

All it takes to sell a skeptic on the theory that girls just want to have fun is one earful of Cyndi Lauper’s new wave classic about the subject. In the ’90s, Sesame Street tried to harness the power of the infectious pop song and use it to sell kids on something that hardly has a reputation for being fun: brushing your teeth. “Kids Just Love to Brush” features a Lauper-inspired Muppet bouncing around with her friends and belting out lyrics like “It’s a party every time we brush.”

12. “It’s Hip To Be a Square”

Whereas getting to “My Triangle” from “You’re Beautiful” may have taken an extra leap of imagination, making Huey Lewis and the News’ “Hip To Be Square” about a literal square seems too great an opportunity to pass up. In the animated video, a smiling red square sings briefly about having four equal sides before dashing off to dance and play with triangles, circles, and other classic shapes to drive home the point that it’s hip to be just about anything. Lewis later told a fan that the band was happy to let Sesame Street use the song. “I think it’s sweet,” he said.

13. “What Makes U So Useful”

The bright-eyed, earnest faces of Harry, Liam, Louis, Niall, and Zayn circa 2014 fit so well into the landscape of a Sesame Street music video that it almost makes you wish they were regular cast members. With goofy lyrics like “U, check it out, Elmo’s upside down / U, there’s a unicorn dressed as a clown” and “U, there are udders under that cow / U, check it out, it’s Bert’s unibrow,” this utilitarian spoof of “What Makes You Beautiful” is just as criminally catchy as the original.

10 Rad Gifts for Hikers

Greg Rosenke/Unsplash
Greg Rosenke/Unsplash

The popularity of bird-watching, camping, and hiking has skyrocketed this year. Whether your gift recipients are weekend warriors or seasoned dirtbags, they'll appreciate these tools and gear for getting most out of their hiking experience.

1. Stanley Nesting Two-Cup Cookset; $14

Amazon

Stanley’s compact and lightweight cookset includes a 20-ounce stainless steel pot with a locking handle, a vented lid, and two insulated 10-ounce tumblers. It’s the perfect size for brewing hot coffee, rehydrating soup, or boiling water while out on the trail with a buddy. And as some hardcore backpackers note in their Amazon reviews, your favorite hiker can take the tumblers out and stuff the pot with a camp stove, matches, and other necessities to make good use of space in their pack.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Osprey Sirrus and Stratos 24-Liter Hiking Packs; $140

Amazon

Osprey’s packs are designed with trail-tested details to maximize comfort and ease of use. The Sirrus pack (pictured) is sized for women, while the Stratos fits men’s proportions. Both include an internal sleeve for a hydration reservoir, exterior mesh and hipbelt pockets, an attachment for carrying trekking poles, and a built-in rain cover.

Buy them: Amazon, Amazon

3. Yeti Rambler 18-Ounce Bottle; $48

Amazon

Nothing beats ice-cold water after a summer hike or a sip of hot tea during a winter walk. The Yeti Rambler can serve up both: Beverages can stay hot or cold for hours thanks to its insulated construction, and its steel body (in a variety of colors) is basically indestructible. It will add weight to your hiker's pack, though—for a lighter-weight, non-insulated option, the tried-and-true Camelbak Chute water bottle is incredibly sturdy and leakproof.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Mappinners Greatest 100 Hikes of the National Parks Scratch-Off Poster; $30

Amazon

The perfect gift for park baggers in your life (or yourself), this 16-inch-by-20-inch poster features epic hikes like Angel’s Landing in Zion National Park and Half Dome in Yosemite National Park. Once the hike is complete, you can scratch off the gold foil to reveal an illustration of the park.

Buy it: Amazon

5. National Geographic Adventure Edition Road Atlas; $19

Amazon

Hikers can use this brand-new, updated road atlas to plan their next adventure. In addition to comprehensive maps of all 50 states, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico, they'll get National Geographic’s top 100 outdoor destinations, useful details about the most popular national parks, and points on the maps noting off-the-beaten-path places to explore.  

Buy it: Amazon

6. Adventure Medical Kits Hiker First-Aid Kit; $25

Amazon

This handy 67-piece kit is stuffed with all the things you hope your hiker will never need in the wilderness. Not only does it contain supplies for pain, cuts and scrapes, burns, and blisters (every hiker’s nemesis!), the items are organized clearly in the bag to make it easy to find tweezers or an alcohol wipe in an emergency.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Hiker Hunger Ultralight Trekking Poles; $70

Amazon

Trekking poles will help increase your hiker's balance and stability and reduce strain on their lower body by distributing it to their arms and shoulders. This pair is made of carbon fiber, a super-strong and lightweight material. From the sweat-absorbing cork handles to the selection of pole tips for different terrain, these poles answer every need on the trail. 

Buy it: Amazon

8. Leatherman Signal Camping Multitool; $120

Amazon

What can’t this multitool do? This gadget contains 19 hiking-friendly tools in a 4.5-inch package, including pliers, screwdrivers, bottle opener, saw, knife, hammer, wire cutter, and even an emergency whistle.

Buy it: Amazon

9. RAVPower Power Bank; $24

Amazon

Don’t let your hiker get caught off the grid with a dead phone. They can charge RAVPower’s compact power bank before they head out on the trail, and then use it to quickly juice up a phone or tablet when the batteries get low. Its 3-inch-by-5-inch profile won’t take up much room in a pack or purse.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Pack of Four Indestructible Field Books; $14

Amazon

Neither rain, nor snow, nor hail will be a match for these waterproof, tearproof 3.5-inch-by-5.5-inch notebooks. Your hiker can stick one in their pocket along with a regular pen or pencil to record details of their hike or brainstorm their next viral Tweet.

Buy it: Amazon

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Remembering Rebecca: 11 Facts About Daphne du Maurier's Enduring Novel

Lily James as Mrs de Winter and Armie Hammer as Maxim de Winter in Rebecca (2020).
Lily James as Mrs de Winter and Armie Hammer as Maxim de Winter in Rebecca (2020).
KERRY BROWN/NETFLIX

“Rebecca, always Rebecca. I should never be rid of Rebecca,” laments the second Mrs de Winter in Daphne du Maurier’s beloved 1938 novel Rebecca. Mention the title to any bibliophile and they will no doubt give you many reasons why the novel has charmed and captivated so many generations over the years. So it's hardly surprising that this gothic thriller about a nameless young woman—who is swept off her feet by a wealthy widower, taken to live in his estate off the Cornish coast, and haunted by memories of his first wife—is the subject of Netflix’s next big-budget original.

The film, which stars Lily James (Downtown Abbey) and Armie Hammer (Call Me By Your Name) arrives on Netflix on October 21, 2020. As you wait for the new adaptation to drop, here are a few facts about this enduring novel to keep you curious. **Warning: Spoilers below!**

1. Rebecca was first published in 1938 and has never gone out of print.

Selznick International Pictures, Public Domain // Wikimedia Commons

Since it was published in 1938, Rebecca has never gone out of print [PDF], selling 2.8 million copies between 1938 and 1965. Over time, the novel has transformed from bestseller to cultural classic, with many stage and screen adaptations, including an Oscar-winning film by Alfred Hitchcock in 1940, and a 1993 book sequel by Susan Hill titled Mrs de Winter. In 2017, English bibliophiles voted Rebecca their favorite book of the past 225 years.

2. The heroine of Rebecca, Mrs de Winter, remains unnamed throughout.

Rebecca, after whom the novel is named, is dead when the story begins. She is brought to life via the impressions and memories other characters have of her and her lingering presence in Maxim de Winter's estate, Manderley, via her scent, her handwriting in books, and the carefully preserved clothes that remain in her wardrobe. Mostly, we see her through the eyes of the new Mrs de Winter, the "heroine" of the novel who, paradoxically, remains unnamed—a choice that surprised many fans of the book, including Agatha Christie [PDF].

3. Daphne du Maurier struggled with writer’s block while writing Rebecca.

Daphne du Maurier circa 1947.Ben van Meerendonk, AHF, IISG, Amsterdam // Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 2.0

Du Maurier struggled with a serious case of writer’s block when she began writing Rebecca. She discarded the first 50 pages of an early draft, telling her publisher: "The first 15,000 words I tore up in disgust and this literary miscarriage has cast me down."

4. Once she got past her writer’s block, Daphne du Maurier wrote Rebecca in four months.

Once she got past her early writing challenges, du Maurier wrote quickly and completed the manuscript for Rebecca in four months. Her secret? Arranging to spend time away from her children. “I am not one of those mothers who live for having their brats with them all the time,” du Maurier later wrote.

5. Rebecca has been celebrated as an important piece of feminist literature.

Initially marketed as a romance novel with Rebecca as the villainous, menacing wife, feminist interpretations of du Maurier’s novel now see it as a critique of gender power dynamics and a sexist society’s fear of powerful women. Some feminist critics suggest du Maurier intended for Maxim de Winter to be the real villain—the controlling husband who not only murders Rebecca when she refuses to play the obedient wife, but also oppresses and alienates the second Mrs de Winter, marrying her after the most unromantic of proposals: “I am asking you to marry me, you fool.”

6. In 2007, to mark the centenary of Daphne du Maurier's birth, the BBC produced two documentaries on the author.

Daphne, directed by Amy Jenkins, was based on Margaret Forster's biography of du Maurier which revealed, for the first time, du Maurier’s bisexuality. For the second documentary, The Road to Manderley, director Rick Stein set off in search of the author's world in Cornwall.

7. Some scholars believe Rebecca's second Mrs de Winter reflected Daphne du Maurier's sexual fluidity.

Some critics have wondered to what extent the character of the second Mrs de Winter was influenced by the author’s complicated and fluid sexuality. As Margaret Forster points out in her 1993 biography, du Maurier didn't think her desire for women made her a lesbian. The word transgender was not yet in common use then, but the author saw herself as female on the outside “with a boy’s mind and a boy’s heart.”

In the novel, the narrator casts herself as an androgyne, a friend and companion to Maxim, "a sort of boy," and obsessively wonders about Rebecca’s absent body, how she wore her coat, the color of her lipstick, her scent “like the crushed petals of azaleas."

8. Rebecca’s Manderley was inspired by two real-life estates.

A photo of Milton Hall.Julian Dowse, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 2.0

The secretive mansion which lends the novel its famous opening line, “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again," was partly inspired by Milton Hall [PDF], an estate near Cambridge that du Maurier spent time at as a child. When she wrote Rebecca nearly 20 years later, du Maurier told Milton Hall's owner that she based Manderley's interiors on her memories of the "big house feel" [PDF] of Milton during WWI.

The other estate du Maurier had in mind when imagining Manderley was the Menabilly estate in Fowey, Cornwall. Du Maurier fell in love with the house when she was 21 years old. Five years after Rebecca was published, she convinced its owners to lease her the home. But just like Manderley is forever lost to Mrs de Winter in a fire, du Maurier was forced to move out of Menabilly in 1969.

9. Daphne du Maurier has been accused of plagiarizing parts of Rebecca from Brazilian author Carolina Nabuco's book The Successor.

Brazilian critics have long argued that du Maurier plagiarized Rebecca from Brazilian author Carolina Nabuco's 1934 book, The Successor. While the two novels do share striking plot similarities, the allegations were never proven one way or another. Du Maurier also faced a lawsuit in 1947 for allegedly plagiarizing Edwina DeVin McDonald’s novel Blind Windows and the short story "I Planned to Murder my Husband." Du Maurier denied any charges.

10. During World War II, a copy of Rebecca was discovered among the possessions of two captured German spies.

British intelligence officers determined that a copy of Rebecca had been used by the Germans during World War II as a code key.

11. Rebecca has been adapted to a variety of media.

Rebecca had been adapted for film several times, but the best-known adaptation is Hitchcock’s 1940 film of the same name. It’s also been adapted to television a number of times, as a radio play, and an opera.