One of the original human cast members, Mr. Hooper ran Hooper's Store, the corner candy store on Sesame Street, where he lived in a three-bedroom apartment located at 33 Sesame Street. CTW advisor Gerald S. Lesser, when discussing the Sesame characters and including the first season cast, originally described him as "slightly mean and abrasive but with a poorly hidden nice streak," In the first season of the show, Mr. Hooper was often seen developing bizarre inventions with outlandish names, such as a hiccup curing machine in Episode 0017 and a machine that creates ten of anything in Episode 0054 (among others).
Mr. Hooper mellowed over the years and developed a particularly close relationship with Big Bird, who bought birdseed milkshakes from him. Their friendship was occasionally frustrated by Big Bird's frequent inability to correctly say the shopkeeper's name, often calling him Mr. Looper or some similar rhyming variation. Still, Mr. Hooper had a great affection for Big Bird, even trusting him to open the store in Episode 0198.
“We actually got along very well, because when he got groceries in he'd give me the boxes and stuff like that.”
In 1976, Mr. Hooper began attending night school in order to earn his GED. He explained that, as a youth, he was unable to finish high school, having been put to work at a young age. The following season, he finally graduated and considered further educational pursuits.
The character's first name, Harold, was not revealed on the show until he received his high school diploma in Episode 1025. Later, a middle initial — H — was added to his name in Episode 1205 when he broke his arm (he mentions the initial again in Episode 1283).
Mr. Hooper is Jewish, sometimes speaking Yiddish (he speaks to a relative on the phone in Yiddish in Episode 0687, and in Episode 1074, he tells Big Bird "I grew up in a neighborhood where that was the only language a lot of people spoke.") In the 1978 special Christmas Eve on Sesame Street, it is established that Mr. Hooper celebrates Chanukah.
Concerning his upbringing, Mr. Hooper once sang a song, "When I Was as Little as You Are", revealing that his father owned a store and he had helped out as a child. His little brother Arnold, who made occasional visits to the street, also helped out in the family store when they were young. Mr. Hooper also has a cousin named Humperdinck (played by Lee) mentioned in Episode 0110, and a sister Emily mentioned in episodes 0096, 0160, 0746 (where she calls from Chicago), and 0879. As shown in Episode 0513, he had an imaginary friend named Mr. Mish-Mosh, a personification of his clown doll.
When actor Will Lee died in 1982, it left the producers of Sesame Street with the question of how to deal with the loss of Mr. Hooper. Dulcy Singer, executive producer at the time, said that "if we left it unsaid, kids would notice." One way out was to avoid the issue of death entirely. Producers toyed with the idea of telling viewers that the character had gone away. Big Bird's performer, Caroll Spinney, said that "we didn't know what to do. [We] thought perhaps he could just retire, move to Florida or something, but then the producers thought that the best thing to do would be to actually deal with death." After much discussion and research, the producers decided to have the character of Mr. Hooper pass away as well, and use the episode to teach its young viewers about death as a natural part of life and that it is okay to grieve and feel sad when a loved one passes away.
Mr. Hooper's farewell episode, Episode 1839, aired on Thanksgiving Day, 1983. This landmark episode was a turning point for the show; it was selected by the Daytime Emmys as being one of the 10 most influential moments in daytime television. Sesame Workshop's Hooper Society bequest program is named after the character. According to a 2016 online game, Mr. Hooper was born in 1908 (the birth year of actor Will Lee).
- For more information about the "Mr. Hooper's death" episode, see Episode 1839.
Big Bird's names for Mr. Hooper
- Mr. Super (0008)
- Mr. Crooper (0181)
- Mr. Hooker (0471)
- Mr. Cooper (0813, 1246)
- Mr. Glooper (0810)
- Mr. Looper (0158, 0593, 0595, 0811, 0813, 0834, 0845, 0926, 1056, 1090, 1246, 1317, 1457, 1497, 1575, 1706, 1710, 1839, 1869, 1968, 2009, 2017, 2069, 2073, 2083, 2455, 2525, 2795, 3160, 3978, Numbers!, The Sesame Street Fairy Tale Album, A Special Sesame Street Christmas, Sesame Street's 50th Anniversary Celebration, Follow that Bird, Big Bird's Story Time, Getting Ready for School)
- Mr. Pooper (0154, 0158, 0957, 1148, 1747, 2073, Sleepytime Bird, Getting Ready for School)
- Mr. Dooper (0813, The Sesame Street Book & Record)
- Mr. Cunningham - Big Bird's performer, Caroll Spinney, has mentioned that one day he came up with a new one: "Hello, Mr. Cunningham -- oh gee, I wasn't even close."
- Mr. Tooper (0072, 0154, 1970 promo)
- Mr. Booper (0072)
- Episode 2562 (1989) — One of the reasons Big Bird convinces David not to change the store sign because it reminds him of Mr. Hooper.
- Episode 3611 (1997) — Leo Birdelli tries to buy Mr. Hooper's picture from Big Bird, who refuses to sell it.
- Episode 3976 and Episode 3978 (2001) — Big Bird directly acknowledges his drawing of Mr. Hooper as an item he keeps safe before the hurricane ravages his nest.
- In the 35th anniversary special The Street We Live On (2004), Mr. Hooper is one of the people Elmo sees when Grover takes him back to before Elmo was born.
- For Me, For You, For Later (2011) — Big Bird's rendering of Mr. Hooper is used in place of George Washington on dollar bills in the video.
- Cookie Monster Quest online game (2016): The game text acknowledges a picture of Mr. Hooper on the wall of the store. When using the command "Look At" on the image, a text box reads "Mr. Hooper. 1908 to 1982. We Miss You Every Day."
- Sesame Street at SeaWorld (2019): In the theme park's version of Hooper's Store, a framed photo of Mr. Hooper hangs on the wall behind the counter. A sign underneath reads, "Our Founder."
- "I Remember" (2019) - In a throwback number to the 1972 cartoon "I Can Remember," Mr. Hooper appears in new animated scenes, working in his shop and replacing the storekeeper from the original cartoon.
- The ABCs of COVID-19 (2020) - In a segment on helping children cope with losing loved ones, Big Bird recalls his own grief when Mr. Hooper died.
TV Special appearances
- Big Bird's Blunder Book (1972)
- Big Bird's Busy Book (1975)
- I am a Monster (1976)
- The Sesame Street Block Party Coloring Book (1977)
- Who's Who on Sesame Street (1977, 1982, and 1998 editions)
- The Sesame Street Mix or Match Storybook (1977)
- The Sesame Street Library Volume 3 (1978)
- The Sesame Street Library Volume 12 (1978)
- The Sesame Street Bedtime Storybook (1978)
- Big Bird Gets Lost (1978)
- Who Am I? (1978)
- The Count Counts a Party (1980)
- Fix It, Please (1980)
- Frazzle's Fantastic Day (1980)
- What Did You Bring? (1980)
- The Tool Box Book (1980)
- The Sesame Street Dictionary (1980)
- Christmas Eve on Sesame Street (1981)
- Ernie's Little Lie (1983)
- People in Your Neighborhood (1983)
- The Sesame Street Treasury Volume 14 (1983)
- A Visit to the Sesame Street Firehouse (1983)
- I'll Miss You, Mr. Hooper (1984) (in flashback)
- Bert and the Broken Teapot (1985) (in flashback)
- Other illustrated appearances
- as revealed when he took the census in Episode 1417
- Episode 1155
- Lesser, Gerald. Children and Television: Lessons from Sesame Street. 1975. p. 125
- "The Reflections of Oscar the Grouch", Oscar the Grouch, Guest editor, November 5, 2009. Life Magazine.
- Death of a Character is a Sesame Street Topic, The Associated Press. August 31, 1983.
- Caroll Spinney Interview on NPR Morning Edition, May 2003.
- Borgenicht, David, Sesame Street Unpaved, p. 124
- Spinney, Caroll The Wisdom of Big Bird, p. 120