During the 1970s, the Sesame Street cast made live performances across the country, but there was no effective way to get Oscar to enter the stage. Caroll Spinney, inspired by a puppet character on The Gong Show, conceived of a full-body garbage man who could physically carry Oscar. Since his arms are usually just holding onto Oscar's trash can, Caroll Spinney was able to perform Oscar as well as Oscar's left hand while inside the Bruno costume. The trash can was connected to an opening in Bruno's stomach. Spinney could see through where the characters eyes would have been. A piece of monofilament wire is strung from Bruno's lower jaw to the inside of Oscar's can, where Spinney could pull on it (using Oscar's hand) and manipulate his mouth movements.
Though generally a silent character, one of the few times that Bruno spoke was in the song "Put It in the Trash Can", which he sang as part of a singing group, "Bruno and the Trashmen". He had a brief line at the end of Follow That Bird, saying "Sure, Boss!" when Oscar asked him to take a walk around the block, and similarly says "okay" when Oscar tells him where to sit his trash can in Episode 1586. When Oscar asks him a question during their appearance at the 1980 World Puppetry Festival, Bruno gets out a "Well, uh..." before Oscar cuts him off and says that's enough. He also has a few lines of dialogue in episodes 1616, 2030, and 2792, and can be heard grunting in Episode 2495.
While primarily transporting Oscar, there have also been occasions, particularly during season 12, in which he also transported other characters by can. These include Episode 1541, in which he transports the kids and Buffy, who is sleeping in Oscar's can, to Camp Uglyyuccy, Episode 1564, in which he transports Buffy and Cody to the airport to go home, and in Episode 1553, in which Oscar and Bruno go to the Cha-Cha Palace with Olivia, David, Mr. Hooper, Buffy, Cody, and Barkley in tow. In episodes 2681 and 2737, he transports Irvine to and from day care.
According to Spinney, Bruno's greatest moment was at the end of Follow That Bird "as he slowly walks into the sunset carrying Oscar". Bruno has demonstrated skills at rollerskating while also carrying Oscar in his can, in Here Come the Puppets!, a guest appearance on Hee Haw, Big Bird in Australia, and Big Bird's Birthday or Let Me Eat Cake. In the latter, Bruno surprised both Oscar (to his disappointment) and the humans (to their amazement) at how good of a skater he was.
There have been a number of instances where Bruno was shown not carrying a trash can. These include a scene in Follow That Bird when the cast sets out to find Big Bird (he's amongst the crowd), Episode 1262 where he appears in a scene for a Richard Altman movie, Episode 2495, and The Muppets: A Celebration of 30 Years during "Rainbow Connection". A handful of occasions show Bruno right after he's put the trash can down, including episodes 1586 and 1880.
Bruno appeared on the show through season 24. After several years in storage, the puppet's foam disintegrated. Spinney later remarked in a live appearance that rebuilding the puppet would have been prohibitively expensive, and so the character was retired.
Years later, Episode 4621 (2016) featured an appearance by a recycling man. Though not named directly, his physical appearance and profession suggest that the character is intended to be Bruno. In this iteration, he's made from a Pumpkin live hand Anything Muppet and performed by John Tartaglia.
- Bruno first appeared in Episode 1259. Originally, the script was written as an introduction to the character and how he first met Oscar. Their encounter occurs as Bruno begins to collect Oscar's can for disposal. After explaining his living situation, he decides he likes being carried around. The rest of the episode consists of Bruno carrying Oscar around to various locations on Sesame Street looking for a new spot to settle, but everyone kicks him out. Bruno eventually has to return to work at the city dump, and takes Oscar with him.
- Sesame Street
- Here Come the Puppets!
- Hee Haw (December 12, 1981)
- Follow That Bird
- The Muppets: A Celebration of 30 Years
- Sesame Street, Special
- Big Bird's Birthday or Let Me Eat Cake
- Season 10: 1259, 1262, 1301, 1313
- Season 11: 1322, 1328, 1333, 1370, 1372, 1411, 1441
- Season 12: 1487, 1500, 1504, 1552, 1536, 1541, 1553, 1556, 1564
- Season 13: 1586, 1612, 1614, 1616, 1663
- Season 14: 1732, 1743, 1814
- Season 15: 1879, 1880, 1924, 1954
- Season 16: 1975, 2019, 2030, 2032
- Season 17: 2197
- Season 20: 2495, 2537, 2595
- Season 21: 2667, 2681, 2737
- Season 22: 2746, 2792, 2795, 2797, 2836, 2837, 2840
- Season 23: 2923, 2952
- Season 24: 3083
- "Staying Positive" (2021)
- First Day of School (1982)
- More Who's Who on Sesame Street (1982)
- Ernie's Neighborhood (1987)
- Oscar's Grouchy Sounds (1990)
- From Trash to Treasure (1993)
- Spinney, Caroll. The Wisdom of Big Bird; New York: Villard, 2003 pp. 63-64.
- Spinney, Caroll Reddit "Ask me Anything" session with Caroll Spinney
- Spinney, Caroll. The Wisdom of Big Bird. New York: Villard, 2003, p 64.
- Gikow, Louise A. Sesame Street: A Celebration - 40 Years of Life on the Street; New York, NY: Black Dog and Leventhal, 2009, p. 48.
- Sesame Street at 40: A Night of Celebration with the Legendary Cast, January 30, 2009, Shea Center for the Performing Arts, William Paterson University, Wayne, NJ.
- archived episode guide