“Flip Wilson: Are you trying to tell me that down there, you've got flood lights, a tennis court and a swimming pool?
Oscar the Grouch: You'd be surprised what people throw away.
Oscar's trash can is the private domain of Oscar the Grouch on Sesame Street. It was previously situated between the 123 Sesame Street stoop and Big Bird's nest, and as of season 46, 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.
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.
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 can also has a back door.
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. Irvine, Grundgetta 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 a season 17 episode. Wanda Cousteau sought refuge in the trash can in a season 25 episode as a hiding place from the hungry Wolfgang. When Gina is studying to become a vet in a season 30 episode, 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 a season 19 insert, Linda sat in the trash can when filling in for an "Ask Oscar" segment. In a season 12 segment (found in 40 Years of Sunny Days) in which Oscar and Bruno go to the movies, the various humans (and Barkley) arrive from inside the trash can as well.
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 Oscar's trash can was later shown in a season 33 episode, 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 dancer 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. Oscar now also has the ability to pop from multiple trashcans and recycling bins around the street. Designer David Gallo explains:
“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.”
Behind the scenes
Oscar's can is a favorite photo op for celebrities and other visitors to the set.
- A stereo set: episode 0812
- "The Queen Muddy" - a toy boat: episode 3831
- A vacuum: episode 0871
- Lighting: episode 0666
- A pool: referenced on many occasions and in books, including "What's in Oscar's Trash Can?"; it's splash is seen in Lead Away!
- A trampoline: episode 4173
- A staircase, pig pen, a play pen and China cabinet: episode 3049
- A piano: episode 2107 and others
- Flood lights and a tennis court: The Flip Wilson Show
- A transit (bus) system: episode 0560
- "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 Carroll Spinney has not used the foot pedal in 41 years.
- ↑ 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.
- ↑ (shooting for Episode 4231) Annie Evans, "Season 41 of Sesame Street", Sesame Family Robinson, 26 September 2010.
- ↑ Martin P. Robinson, "Inside Oscar's Trash Can", Sesame Family Robinson, 11 April 2011.