John Tartaglia (b. February 16, 1978) is a puppeteer and actor whose professional career started on Sesame Street, subsequently leading to Broadway stardom and a Tony-award for originating the roles of Princeton and Rod in Avenue Q, off- and on-Broadway, and in the short-lived Las Vegas production.
As a teenager, Tartaglia danced as Cookie Monster and Oscar the Grouch at Sesame Place. At the age of 16, while visiting the set for the taping of the 25th anniversary special, he was given a small part right-handing for John Kennedy in one scene. He subsequently began on Sesame Street when he was 18, performing background characters and assisting. Tartaglia was a regular puppeteer for the series through Season 35, though he has returned occasionally for different projects. His later roles included Brandeis the dog in Episode 4307, Birdie in the resource video Little Children, Big Challenges: Divorce, and various characters for "Elmo the Musical." He has also lent his vocals to inserts, such as "Brothers and Sisters" with Stephanie D'Abruzzo (First: Episode 4056).
Tartaglia has since channeled his theatre and television experience into collaborations with The Jim Henson Company. In 2012, he conceived, directed, and hosted the Carnegie Hall concert Jim Henson's Musical World. He has also directed live stage show versions of Dinosaur Train and Sid the Science Kid, the cruise shows Jim Henson's Inspired Silliness and The Secret Silk, the Sesame Place stage show Elmo the Musical Live!, and the puppet direction for the 2021 mounting of Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas. Tartaglia's television credits with Henson include Splash and Bubbles (series creator and voice of Splash), Julie's Greenroom, and Word Party.
In 2013, Tartaglia took over the role of Gobo Fraggle, starting with promos for The Hub and continuing through subsequent live appearances. In 2020, he scripted and executive-produced the Fraggle Rock: Rock On! shorts. In addition to reprising Gobo, Tartaglia puppeteered Boober and Uncle Traveling Matt (to Dave Goelz's voice), and Wembley (voiced by Frankie Cordero). He serves a similar role as executive producer and performer for the full-length series Fraggle Rock: Back to the Rock.
Tartaglia also helmed the off-Broadway puppet production ImaginOcean. Other stage credits include playing Pinocchio and the Magic Mirror in Shrek on Broadway and Lumiere in the Broadway production of Beauty and the Beast. He also portrayed the role of the Genie in a 2012 St. Louis production of Disney's Aladdin and directed Because of Winn-Dixie, with a real dog on stage. Tartaglia hosts Sunday Funday on Sirius XM On Broadway (Channel 72).
Tartaglia had his own Disney Channel TV series, Johnny and the Sprites, where he starred on-camera opposite puppets played by veteran Sesame Muppeteers. He discussed the experience in a TV Guide interview:
- Sesame Street All-Star 25th Birthday: Stars and Street Forever!: Count von Count assistant
- Sesame Street: Alfred Duck, Phoebe, Pipe Organ, The Great Quackini, the Martians, Trey, Brandeis, Safety Chicken, Guy Smiley Singer, Marshmallowius, Recycling Man
- The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss: Bird, Delivery Man
- Animal Jam: DJ 2
- Play with Me Sesame: Ernie (season 2 and select part of website)
- Sesame English: Tingo
- Music Works Wonders: Hoots the Owl (puppetry only)
- Peter and the Wolf: Muppet Performer, Cameo as an audience member
- Dog City: Additional Puppeteer
- Bear in the Big Blue House: Additional Puppeteer
- A Is for Asthma: Additional Puppeteer
- A Cathedral Christmas: Additional Puppeteer
- Three Bears and a New Baby: Additional Puppeteer
- Elmo's World: Wild Wild West!
- Elmopalooza: Additional Puppeteer
- Elmo's World: Computer Graphic Puppeteer
- Between the Lions: guest Sesame Street puppeteer (Elmo/Bert "Dance with Smartypants" segments)
- Journey to Ernie: Circus Duck (voice)
- Elmo the Musical: Giant Octopus, Fastest-Drawing Fred, Royal Guard, The Man in the Sleeveless Undershirt, Rhombus of Recipes, Abbot the Rabbit (Sesame Place live show)
- Little Children, Big Challenges: Divorce: Birdie
- Fraggle Rock-A-Thon promos: Gobo Fraggle
- Fraggle Rock: Rock On!: Gobo Fraggle; Wembley, Boober, Uncle Traveling Matt (puppetry only)
- Fraggle Rock: Back to the Rock: Gobo Fraggle
- According to The MuppetCast episode #41, Tartaglia's biggest inspiration in performing was Richard Hunt.
- Tartaglia says Ernie is his favorite Sesame character. "I was really honored to do Ernie for one season of Play with Me Sesame. Jim Henson was my hero, and the reason I am here now. So to actually have his character and to work with it and that voice and to make that relationship happen with Bert, I was just really honored. You feel like you are a part of history."
- In 1990, TV series MMC had a contest to meet Jim Henson and the other Muppet*Vision 3D puppeteers while they were filming. Producers say Tartaglia lost to Joe Apel, due to the fact Apel was close to Los Angeles.
- An interview with Tartaglia was included as a bonus feature for the Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey DVD.
- Puppet Kitchen: Episode 25: Puppet Time Online - John Tartaglia (09:03)
- Season 36 Press Kit (archived)
- Museum of the Moving Image - "Jim Henson's World: Fraggle Rock Rocks On!" livestream (May 23, 2020)
- TV Guide - "Avenue Q's John Tartaglia Sings a New (Kid-friendlier!) Tune" by Angel Cohn, January 12, 2007
- Poll comment, Muppet Guys Talking private Facebook group, April 26, 2020
- John Tartaglia on Seth Speaks on SiriusXM Satellite Radio, July 10, 2020.