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Alistair Cookie, not Cooke

Alistair Cooke (1908-2004) was a British-born broadcaster, writer, and television host, who became familiar to American audiences hosting intellectual fare such as NBC's Omnibus and later the PBS anthology Masterpiece Theater.

Cooke's hosting on the latter series inspired the Sesame Street parody Alistair Cookie (portrayed by Cookie Monster). On the May 19, 1990 broadcast of Cooke's BBC radio series Letter from America (which had been running since 1946, originally as American Letter), the real Alistair Cooke discussed Jim Henson, who had died three days prior: "But now, this week, a truly immense figure died, a giant of entertainment and, you might say, a world educational pioneer whose creations, if not his name, are known to four generations – Jim Henson, the supreme puppeteer of television who created the characters for Sesame Street and taught the children of 80 nations to spell without tears."

Near the end of the piece, Cooke recalls his own parodic connection:

β€œI met him once, a gentle affable man, he asked my permission to introduce the warbling monstrous character sitting in a wing chair – a parody, he admitted of my own, Sunday-night role on American public television, as the host of a running series of British dramas called Masterpiece Theatre.

Before he could catch his breath I said yes and to this day, young children sidle up to me on the streets, in airports, or are reluctantly pushed by mothers, and they say, wide-eyed, are you Alistair Cookie, the Cookie Monster? "Nobody else," I say. They either break into a giggle or run shrieking for their lives.

Perhaps my enthusiasm, and sorrow, for Jim Henson bears a touch of selfish gratitude that he guaranteed me, years from now, when I have crumbled, a slight hold on the affections of middle-aged people who will never have heard of me but will recall with joy, or terror, the Cookie Monster, host of "Monsterpiece Theater."”

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