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Norman Stiles (left) and Christopher Cerf at the 2001 TCA Awards.

Stiles wrote the lyrics for "Put Down the Duckie"


Norman Stiles (b. December 4, 1942) is a writer who worked on Sesame Street and its related productions for over twenty years. His concepts include the Muppet characters Harvey Kneeslapper, Count von Count, and Forgetful Jones.

Stiles initially studied zoology and chemistry at Hunter College, and became a social worker for the New York City Welfare Department. During that period, he began writing comedy material for such performers as Ron Carey (later a regular on Barney Miller) and Marty Brill, and wrote for Merv Griffin.[1]

Stiles joined the Sesame Street writing staff in 1971, hired by head writer Jeff Moss as the show was entering its third season. He competed for the job with then intern Lois Fortune.[2] Stiles became head writer of Sesame Street in season 6, but left after that season to pursue a career in Hollywood. Stiles returned to Sesame Street in season 11, where he eventually resumed his role as head writer until season 28. In later years, his work would often touch upon sensitive topics, such as the death of Mr. Hooper in Episode 1839, or the effects of divorce on children in the unaired "Snuffy's Parents Get a Divorce." In 1990, as part of the Season 22 curriculum mandate to examine race relations, Stiles wrote an episode in which a blue monster named Greta refuses to let Elmo play wubbaball because of his different fur color, only to find herself excluded.[3]

Stiles has also written for appearances by the Muppets, such as an Ad Council nutrition spot with Cookie Monster, and authored a variety of Sesame Street books (including The Perils of Penelope), wrote lyrics for such songs as "Put Down the Duckie," and helped script Jim Henson's pilot special The Muppet Show: Sex and Violence.

Stiles discussed his philosophy of writing in 1988:

Never talk down to children. Always try to entertain children and parents at the same time. Try to have adult characters speak the way adults speak and not in singsong kiddy-show style. And teach something while all this is going on... This is basically a sketch comedy show.[4]

Outside of the Muppets and Sesame Street, Stiles has written for America 2-Night (starring Martin Mull and Fred Willard) and Mel Brooks' 1975 sitcom spoof of Robin Hood When Things Were Rotten.

In 1996, Stiles co-founded Sirius Thinking Ltd, an independent children's television production company, with fellow Sesame alumni Michael K. Frith and Christopher Cerf. At Sirius Thinking, Stiles wrote and produced the PBS children's show Between the Lions which premiered in 2000. The show has won six Daytime Emmy Awards, including a 2004 Emmy for best writing.

In April 2014, Stiles launched a crowdfunding campaign for an online video series Baby & Toddler Parenthood News Network with his wife Ellen Dillon and child development expert Amy Hatkoff.

Television credits


Sesame Street episodes written by Stiles include:[5]


Sesame Street segments written by Stiles include:[5]

Book credits

Song writing credits

Home video

Miscellaneous writing credits

External links


  1. Season 4 Press Kit. 1971
  2. We’re All Norman’s Kids: The Norman Stiles Interview
  3. Johnson, Peter. "Taking Race Relations to the Street." USA Today. November 12, 1990
  4. Blau, Eleanor. "Mum's the Word, But Sesame Street is Turning 20." The New York Times. November 14, 1988
  5. 5.0 5.1 episode scripts
  6. Livestream with Norman Stiles at 7:35 May 20, 2020
  7. Livestream with Norman Stiles at 13:08 May 20, 2020