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MacNeal with his son Mattie in Moving Together.

Noel MacNeal and Bear puppet

MacNeal and a hand puppet version of Bear which he uses for conventions and his TikTok channel.

Noel MacNeal (b. September 15, 1961) is a puppeteer who has performed in various Henson productions, working on Sesame Street on-and-off since 1982. His most well-known work has been his portrayal of Bear, the lead character of Bear in the Big Blue House. MacNeal published a memoir in February 2023.

Born and raised in New York City's Central Harlem, he began his puppetry career on the television series The Great Space Coaster (taking over from John Lovelady as Knock Knock) and later made his way to Sesame Street, joining the show as a "puppet wrangler."[1] MacNeal's first Muppet performance was a supermarket cashier in a Grover sketch; MacNeal flubbed his one speaking line, to tell Grover that his register was closed and to go to another line, which resulted in his character getting a close-up in a pick-up shot.[2][3]

MacNeal's other Sesame roles have included several full-bodied Snuffleupaguses, including Snuffy's mommy at various points, and his daddy in the unaired "Snuffy's Parents Get a Divorce." In the feature film Follow That Bird, he performed Madame Chairbird and doubled for Caroll Spinney as Big Bird in a scene where he's running from Bert and Ernie's plane.[1] MacNeal has puppeteered Big Bird on several other occasions, such as the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. In addition to performing, he has played an active role in hiring and training puppeteers for local Sesame Street productions in Japan, Mexico, South Africa, Jordan, Palestine, and India. During MacNeal's time on Bear in the Big Blue House, he served as principal performer, director, and wrote a few episodes. In 2005, he reprised the role of Bear for Breakfast with Bear.

His more prominent non-Henson credits include the baby dragon Magellan on Eureeka's Castle, Leon MacNeal in The Puzzle Place, and Raphael in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III. He also puppeteered on Between the Lions (taking over Lionel for the last two seasons), Blue's Room, and Oobi (Kako).

MacNeal spent a stint as host (and writer) for Sprout's The Good Night Show and has puppeteered on more adult series including 30 Rock, Oz, Chappelle's Show (in the "Knee High Park" spoof of Sesame Street), and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. He is the resident puppeteer for Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.[4] As a writer, he contributed scripts to The Puzzle Place, Eureeka's Castle, Gullah Gullah Island, The Magic School Bus, and Cyberchase. In 2022, he performed in the off-Broadway revival of Little Shop of Horrors, puppeteering Audrey II and serving as a vacation cover.[5]



for a complete character gallery, see Noel MacNeal characters



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