Oscar's trash can is the private domain of Oscar the Grouch on Sesame Street. For forty-five years, it was situated between the 123 Sesame Street stoop and Big Bird's nest at 123¼ Sesame Street. As of season 46, it sits within a recycling trash zone in front of 123 Sesame Street.
Like Doctor Who’s TARDIS, the classic clown cars, or Snoopy's doghouse, Oscar's trash can is considerably deeper than one would initially suspect. The seemingly bottomless domain houses a variety of diverse Grouch amenities and luxuries which are mostly never seen.
Oscar the Grouch was originally planned by Jim Henson and Jon Stone to live in a manhole or in a pile of trash in a gutter. This was changed to a trash can, in part because "the studio had no trapdoors that would allow a puppeteer to work from under the floor".
In the earliest episodes of the first season, the trash can was atop a big blue crate adjacent to a wooden crate at right, with a few more trash cans around; later on in the season until 1974, the base and the crate were replaced, the latter by a trunk, with a trash pail on top of another crate at left. In 1974, and until 2015, the perch was redesigned, with a big burlap crate replacing the trunk and a barrel as the base, and the rest of the area consisting of more crates, a garbage pail and a trash bag (though the previous look was re-instated for Christmas Eve on Sesame Street in 1978).
The 1989 book What's in Oscar's Trash Can? and Other Good-Night Stories mentions the swimming pool as well as an ice-skating rink (which, on the series, has been used by Peggy Fleming) and a bowling alley. According to Sesame Street Unpaved other items include a piano, art gallery and hearth and a train set ("Grouch Central Station"). A 1970 article in Look Magazine also notes a pastry kitchen and a rococo staircase. In the Elmo's World installment Farms Oscar gives Elmo a tour of his farm (shown in darkness with only the pair's eyes visible). As established on various occasions, the trash can also has a back door. Episode 1159 established that a door in Oscar's can leads straight to the basement of 123 Sesame Street.
In Episode 2089, Oscar tells a fabricated story of the day he moved to Sesame Street. In his version, the space next to the 123 stoop was empty until he settled down. He first tried living in a tent made from newspapers, then a metal wastebasket. Finally, Bob replaces all the trash cans on the block with brand new ones and Oscar moves into one of the used ones intended to be be thrown out.
Oscar shares his trash can with many pets. This diverse menagerie includes goats, a horse, elephants (notably Fluffy), a dolphin, and his favorite pet, his beloved pet worm Slimey. His niece Irvine, his girlfriend Grundgetta, his mother and other Grouch friends and relatives are frequent visitors.
For the most part, very few of the "nice" residents of Sesame Street dare venture into the bowels of the municipal waste container. In an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Kimmel asked Grover if he has ever been in Oscar's trash can. Grover said, "No. No, no, no. I can not go anywhere ten feet within that thing." Kimmel asked, "Is anyone besides -- are Grouches only allowed in the trash can?" Grover responded, "Well, no, anybody is allowed, but... Who would want to go in there? Huh?"
Key exceptions have occurred over the years, however. While Big Bird was helping get ready for Miles' arrival on Sesame Street a lonely Snuffy entered to play catch with Fluffy in Episode 2122. Wanda Cousteau sought refuge in the trash can in Episode 3161 as a hiding place from the hungry Wolfgang. When Gina is studying to become a vet in Episode 3787, she goes down into the trash can through the back door and successfully removes a splinter from Fluffy's foot with some elephants' tweezers. In Episode 2316, Linda sat in the trash can when filling in for an "Ask Oscar" segment. When Buffy visited during season 12, she and Cody stayed in Oscar's can (in the Grime Room, according to Episode 1541). In one episode during Buffy's stay, Oscar turned his can into a Grouchaway Inn when Mr. Hooper, David, and Barkley (who was supposed to spend the night with David) both left their keys inside Hooper's Store after locking up.
The inside of Oscar's trash can was depicted on-camera for the first time in The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland. Oscar has a door in his trash can to take people to Grouchland USA. Elmo enters in search of his blanket and later a rescue party follows suit, including Big Bird, Gordon, Maria, Telly, Cookie Monster and Zoe. Big Bird in particular has a hard time fitting inside the trash can's narrow opening.
The inside of the can was previously shown (mostly in the dark) in Episode 3271 where Luis enters to wake Oscar up from a nightmare. The inside was later shown in Episode 3997, though this time, the inside was a lot more like the normal inside of a trash can.
In addition to being able to store a wide variety of items in his trash can, Oscar has also put holes into the bottom and has been able to walk with his legs outside of the bottom. He first walked like this in the season three premiere. He has continued to travel like this for many years, though he has also frequently been seen outside of the trash can. Outside of the show Oscar has traveled with his legs sticking out of the bottom in Christmas Eve on Sesame Street, the Sesame Street Live stage shows and Don't Eat the Pictures. This feature was also utilized in the opening dance number in Julie on Sesame Street, where a series of dancing trash cans with fuzzy grouch legs danced with Julie Andrews.
In season 46, Oscar's trash can changed locations for the first time in the show's history, moving into a dumpster unit with a recycling bin in the low wall outside of 123 Sesame Street under Elmo's apartment. During the season, Oscar had the ability to pop from multiple trashcans and receptacles around the street. In Episode 5029, Oscar acknowledges the move and claims it was due to the other side of the stoop being a noisier place to live. Designer David Gallo explains the reasoning behind the move:
“We wanted to make him much more central. So not only is he in this fancy-schmany recycling trash zone, he’s now on the corner. He’s pretty much dead-center so he can see what’s going on.”
- flood lights and a tennis court — The Flip Wilson Show
- transit (bus) system — Episode 0560
- lighting — Episode 0666
- stereo set — Episode 0812
- vacuum — Episode 0871
- knick knack shelf — Episode 2122
- dark room — Episode 2145
- staircase, pig pen — Episode 2993, Episode 3049
- library — Episode 3714
- toy boat, "The Queen Muddy" — Episode 3831
- piano — Episode 1859 and others
- hot tub — Episode 2882 and Episode 2971
- mud room — Episode 1784, 2882 and Episode 3271
- bowling alley — Episode 1026, Episode 3037, and What's in Oscar's Trash Can?
- furnace — Episode 2190, Episode 2450 and Episode 2545
- trampoline — Episode 0700, 2852, 3054, 3181, 3648, 4064, and 4173
- china cabinet — Episode 1801, 2122, 3049, 3120, 3122, 3271, 3787, 4037, and 4064
- pool — referenced on many occasions and in books, including Episode 0799 and "What's in Oscar's Trash Can?"; its splash is seen in Episode 1618, 1625, 1938, 1962, 2122, 2642, 3037, 3181, 3892, 3897, 4037, and Lead Away!
- "Oscar's Trash Can" appears as a property on the Monopoly: Sesame Street Edition game board in place of Ventnor Avenue.
- An animatronic Oscar in his trash can has previously been featured outside the Sesame Street General Store.
- There is a foot pedal on the set piece which helps lift the lid up, but, as of 2011, Caroll Spinney has not used the foot pedal in 41 years.
- the address is seen on his mail in Episode 0295
- Street Gang
- Jim Henson: The Biography
- The Wisdom of Big Bird
- Baer, Betty; "The Secrets of Sesame Street". Look Magazine, September 22, 1970
- Inside the new 'Sesame Street' set: M is for Makeover, Mashable.com. May 11, 2015.
- Martin P. Robinson, "Inside Oscar's Trash Can", Sesame Family Robinson, 11 April 2011.