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Kevin Jeffrey Clash[1] (b. September 17, 1960) is an accomplished puppeteer whose characters include Elmo, Clifford, and Hoots the Owl. He served as Sesame Street Muppet Captain and co-executive producer for several years and was promoted to "senior creative advisor" at Sesame Workshop in May 2007.[2]

Reflecting on his decades as a puppeteer, Clash released an autobiography titled My Life as a Furry Red Monster in the fall of 2006. The 2011 documentary Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey chronicles Clash's life as a puppeteer.

Clash resigned from his role on Sesame Street in November 2012 following allegations of improper sexual conduct. He has since continued to puppeteer on various Jim Henson Company projects.


Clash in The News American news clipping, the first article to feature him.

Clash was born and raised in Turner's Station, a predominantly black suburb of Baltimore, Maryland.[3]

Clash grew up with parents George and Gladys, older siblings George Jr. ("Georgie") and Anita ("NeNe"), and little sister Pam. His father works as a flash welder operator at Raymond Metals and a neighborhood handyman, and his mother ran a daycare.[4]

Clash began building puppets at the age of ten. Clash's parents were supportive of his interest in puppetry, driving him to puppet shows, allowing for his love of television and craft, and not urging him to attend college when he announced he was pursuing puppetry professionally. Among his television viewing were such series as Shari Lewis and Lamb Chop, Kukla, Fran, and Ollie, and H.R. Pufnstuf. Clash has admitted he watched television inches away from the screen, with no permanent eye damage.[4] His parents were supposedly more amused than angered when he cut apart his father's good overcoat to create a monkey puppet with the fuzzy black lining.[4] As a tribute, Elmo's parents were named George and Gladys in an Elmo's World segment; their names have since been changed.

He performed on Baltimore's Harbor Front as a teenager. In high school, he was voted "Most Likely to be a Millionaire."

Early television work

Clash with Captain Kangaroo puppets.

Clash's first television work was for a CBS affiliate in Baltimore. He also performed a pelican character for Zep, a local Washington, D.C. show airing on WTOP.

In the early '80s, he performed regularly, with Jim Martin, on Bob Keeshan's Wake Up with the Captain, a continuation of Captain Kangaroo. Clash performed a young boy named Artie and other characters, built puppets, and occasionally appeared on-camera, as Kevin the college student and various ensemble roles.

From 1981 to 1986, he appeared in The Great Space Coaster, as Goriddle Gorilla, Rory and Huggle Scuffy. During this stint, he attracted the attention of Muppet designer Kermit Love, who invited him to work on various Henson projects. His company, Clash Puppets, created the sets for a 1986 video Wrinkles: In Need of Cuddles and the puppets for 1990s series The Puzzle Place; he was a puppeteer for both productions.

Working with the Muppets

Clash and Jim Henson.

Clash with Frank Oz filming The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson.

Clash in an on-camera role as weatherman Caspar Pfluegy in Episode 2870 of Sesame Street.

Kevin Clash first met Kermit Love in the 1970s, who occasionally arranged for the fledgling puppeteer to visit the set of Sesame Street. In 1979, the main Muppet performers were performing in a Muppet Movie float in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and extra puppeteers were needed for the Sesame Street float. Clash was brought in to perform Cookie Monster for the event.[4]

Clash worked on Sesame Street during its twelfth season, uncredited, performing Buster the Horse, Warren Wolf and other one-shot characters (including Max and one of the lead singers of "Big Kids Cry"). Later, in 1983, he was officially hired to perform in ten episodes of Sesame Street. However, at the time he was performing full-time on two other shows, and the producers of both refused to work around his schedule. Thus, Clash was forced to tear up his contract to appear on Sesame Street.[4]

Kevin Clash was also given the opportunity to perform in The Dark Crystal, but Kermit Love dissuaded him, urging Clash to concentrate on his other series work.

Kevin Clash officially became a Sesame Street puppeteer in 1984. Some of his earliest characters included Hoots the Owl and Dr. Nobel Price, later supplemented by the likes of Baby Natasha and Kingston Livingston III. However, it was Elmo who became his main character, once Clash assumed the part from previous puppeteers Brian Muehl and Richard Hunt, and placed his own imprint on the red monster. Clash has also sung in voice-over in a variety of film and cartoon inserts on the series, including "Skin", "Pasta", "Animal Books", and "Take Care of That Smile."

Clash served as an additional Muppet performer on Follow That Bird, where he performed the voice of one of the feathered friends,[5] and reprised Elmo, along with other characters, in the feature film The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland and innumerable specials, appearances, and videos.

During the late 1980s, Clash was involved with a variety of Henson productions. He performed P.J. in the Play-Along videos, and Father Bunny and Be-Bop in The Tale of the Bunny Picnic. He would also perform Eliot Shag on Dog City, various characters in Muppet Time interstitials. He also performed the title character in the Muppet Sing-Along video Billy Bunny's Animal Songs.

Clash became one of the main Muppet performers on The Jim Henson Hour. His two main characters on the series were the lizard-like Leon and the bass player Clifford. Out of these two, only Clifford has remained a major character, subsequently appearing in The Muppets at Walt Disney World, The Muppets Celebrate Jim Henson, a guest spot on The Arsenio Hall Show, the albums Muppet Beach Party and Kermit Unpigged, and the feature films Muppets from Space and The Muppets Wizard of Oz. However, Clifford became a star when he hosted the short-lived Muppets Tonight, for which Clash also performed Mulch and Craniac.

Clash performed in many of the recent Muppet films, including Muppet Treasure Island, Muppets from Space, It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie, and The Muppets Wizard of Oz. In Muppet Treasure Island, he performed one of the main villains, Bad Polly, as well as Spa'am and Black Dog. He also performed many of Frank Oz's characters in many scenes, and Frank Oz performed the voices later. Although he performed the Sam the Eagle puppet but not the voice in Muppet Treasure Island, he would later perform the character's voice, but not the puppetry, in It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie (John Kennedy did the actual puppeteering), as well as in the video game Muppets Party Cruise.

Creature Shop Work

Karen Prell and Clash manipulate a Fiery in Labyrinth.

Kevin Clash on the set of The Happytime Murders.

Clash performed Aughra in The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance

Clash's worked on Jim Henson's fantasy film Labyrinth. Clash provided puppeteered and voiced the lead Fiery, while also operating Ambrosius and one of The Four Guards.

Clash also worked on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, supplying the face and voice of Splinter.

On Dinosaurs, Clash starred as Baby Sinclair and also played Howard Handupme and various episodic mammals.

Resignation from Sesame Workshop

Clash resigned from Sesame Street in November 2012 in response to allegations that he had sexual relationships with three minors. Clash denied the claims, stating that any relationships that occurred were between consenting adults.[6] Clash was subsequently charged in court and has since been cleared, citing a technicality related to the statute of limitations and an out-of-court settlement which one accuser alleges was made under pressure.[7][8]

Sesame Workshop released a statement about Clash's resignation on November 20:

β€œSesame Workshop’s mission is to harness the educational power of media to help all children the world over reach their highest potential. Kevin Clash has helped us achieve that mission for 28 years, and none of us, especially Kevin, want anything to divert our attention from our focus on serving as a leading educational organization. Unfortunately, the controversy surrounding Kevin’s personal life has become a distraction that none of us want, and he has concluded that he can no longer be effective in his job and has resigned from Sesame Street. This is a sad day for Sesame Street.[6]”

Clash's departure marked the end of his tenure in his creative roles at Sesame Workshop, and as performer of Elmo and his other Sesame Street characters. Some of Clash's final performances as Elmo were for Season 44, which aired in 2013-2014; performing the character in several segments and Street scenes (with Clash only providing pre-recorded vocal tracks for most of the latter). Clash's last known public performance of Elmo was during a radio interview with WNYC on October 30, 2012 (twenty days before his official resignation).

Ryan Dillon took over performing Elmo in 2013. In a statement regarding Clash's departure, Sesame Workshop stated: "Elmo is bigger than any one person and will continue to be an integral part of Sesame Street to engage, educate and inspire children around the world, as it has for 40 years."[9]

Clash has since relocated to the Los Angeles area, continuing to work with The Jim Henson Company at their West Coast headquarters. He has performed in projects such as The Happytime Murders, The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance (puppeteering Aughra), and Earth to Ned. He also played Wembley Fraggle at the Puppets for Puppetry fundraiser event on September 24, 2016 and was one of the puppeteers to perform Uncle Traveling Matt (to Dave Goelz's voice) in Fraggle Rock: Back to the Rock episodes 102-105 and 107-112.[10]

Performance Credits

Kevin Elmo outside.jpg

Kevin Clash with Hoots, Elmo, Clifford, and Ace Yu.

Clash and Leslie Carrara-Rudolph perform on Sesame Street with Caroll Spinney as Big Bird.

Clash and one of his many Emmy Awards.


Animation voices

Production credits





  • During his tenure as the character, Kevin Clash rarely appeared on talk shows without Elmo. One of the few instances in which he appeared on television as himself was on The Oprah Winfrey Show, in a 2006 episode, "The Faces Behind the Famous Names". Other on-camera appearances included guest spots on The Daily Show, Rove Live, Emeril Live and Grill It! with Bobby Flay. In the latter, he prepares a rib eye steak and his favorite Vidalia onion recipe with butter and garlic which he describes as what Sesame Street would call a "sometime food." He also appeared on-camera with Jim Henson in an appearance with Clifford on The Arsenio Hall Show.
  • Clash made an appearance on The CW's The Game in the 2009 episode "Do the Wright Thing" as the on-camera puppeteer of Mookie. He also appeared as a puppeteer in an episode of Reading Rainbow.
  • Clash was the voice of Tiny in the American redub of Tots TV.

Awards & honors

  • Kevin won Daytime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Performer in a Children's Series for his work as Elmo and Hoots the Owl on Sesame Street in 1990, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013.

See also


  1. ↑ Kevin Clash - Archive Interview Part 1 of 4
  2. ↑ "Workshop promotes Elmo", C21Media, 16 May 2007.
  3. ↑ While locals referred to it as Turner's Station, its official name is Turner Station.
  4. ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 My Life as a Furry Red Monster: What Being Elmo Has Taught Me About Life, Love, and Laughing Out Loud.
  5. ↑ Clash, Kevin The MuppetCast Episode 48
  6. ↑ 6.0 6.1 Jensen, Elizabeth and Stelter, Brian. "Kevin Clash, Elmo Puppeteer, Resigns", The New York Times Media Decoder blog. November 20, 2012.
  7. ↑ New York Daily News "Kevin Clash, puppeteer who voiced Elmo, cleared of three sexual abuse lawsuits" by Daniel Beekman, April 24, 2014
  8. ↑ Pajiba "Accused Predator Kevin Clash Now Doing R-Rated Puppeteering" by Tori Preston, August 21, 2018
  9. ↑ Sesame Workshop's Statement Regarding Kevin Clash
  10. ↑ personal communication with Henson Company and Scott Hanson

External links