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Oscar the Grouch

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Oscar the Grouch 1

Oscar the Grouch.

Oscar the Grouch 2

The Oscar puppet from the 1970s.

Oscar the Grouch 3

The Oscar puppet from the 1990s-onward.

Oscar the Grouch 4

Oscar in his infamous trash can.

Oscar the Grouch
Oscar the Grouch trash can

Oscar the Grouch is, without a doubt, the most famous Grouch in the world. He lives in a trash can which is in between Big Bird's nest & 123 Sesame Street. In fact, he loves trash so much that he's rarely seen outside of his trash can. His trademark song, explaining his love of trash, is called "I Love Trash". Oscar's birthday, according to Sesame Street Magazine, is June 1st.

Like all Grouches, Oscar's mission in life is to be as miserable and grouchy as possible, & pass that feeling on to everyone else. When a visitor knocks on his trash can -- invariably interrupting him from a nap or an important task -- Oscar greets them with a snarl. He complains that he wants to be left alone, although when he's left entirely to himself, he's dissatisfied -- there isn't anybody around to irritate or complain to.

Oscar has had many pets but his closest companion is his worm, Slimey. He also has a girlfriend, a Grouch named Grundgetta, although a romantic relationship between 2 Grouches is understandably rocky. Grundgetta usually calls him Oskie while he occasionally calls her Grungie. Oscar & Grundgetta, in addition to being a "couple", are also best friends. Oscar & Grundgetta have been friends for "a very long time", as stated by Oscar & Gordon's sister Olivia.

Oscar's family includes Granny Grouch, who appeared in season 2 of Sesame Street, & was the 1st indication on the series that Grouches are a separate species. Since then, Oscar has been visited by his grandfather & his mother, & sometimes baby-sits his niece, Irvine. He has 2 brothers, Ernest & Otto along w/ a sister named Bunny. In both Episode 0131 & A Special Sesame Street Christmas, Oscar revealed that he also has a father].

According to performer Caroll Spinney, Oscar is 43 years old.

Origins

According to Sesame Street Unpaved, "The character of Oscar was inspired by a nasty waiter from a restaurant called Oscar's Tavern in Manhattan. Jim Henson & Jon Stone were waited on by a man who was so rude & grouchy that he surpassed annoying & started to actually amuse both Jim & Jon. They were so entertained that going to Oscar's Tavern became a sort of masochistic form of luncheon entertainment for them, & their waiter forever became immortalized as the world's most famous Grouch." In the Ask Henson.com web column, Jim Henson Company Archivist Karen Falk said that the restaurant was named Oscar's Salt of the Sea -- & went on to say, "Some of the designs that we have in the Archives were done by Jim Henson on Oscar's paper placemats!"

While Jim Henson's 1st Oscar sketches were colored purple, the original Oscar puppet was orange (Henson later said in an interview that this change was made because the early cameras couldn't capture the color right. In chapter 9 of the book The Wisdom of Big Bird, Caroll Spinney says that the Oscar puppet was rebuilt about a month after Sesame Street started taping. Jim tore apart the original puppet, & a new puppet was built. An early version of the green Oscar debuted on The Flip Wilson Show in 1970 & Oscar's explanation for that was that he had vacationed at Swamp Mushy Muddy, where the dampness had turned him green overnight. In a 2003 appearance, Oscar stated that while his time in Swamp Mushy Muddy made him appear green, he is still in fact orange underneath all the slime & mold. (He's just never taken a bath).(With an exception, he's just never taken a bath).[1]

Oscar explained his family roots & fur color again in a Life Magazine article in 2009, "Most of the family was orange. But I had a lovely vacation in Swamp Mushy Muddy resort. It was so dark & dreary I kind of turned green. It's mostly moss. I like it — it goes with my eyes. I accidentally took a bath once, turned orange again & washed all the moss off, so I went right back to Swamp Mushy Muddy, & here I am."

Caroll Spinney says that Oscar's voice on another New York resident -- a Bronx taxi driver who drove him to his first day performing the character. On entering the cab, the driver snapped, "Where to, Mac?"

Oscar's 1st line on Sesame Street, in episode 1, was "Don't bang on my can! Go away." This would sum up his personality as it would remain for over 40 years.

Performing Oscar

During season 1 of Sesame Street, the street set was arranged in such a way that Spinney, who is right-handed, was forced to operate Oscar's head w/ his left hand. A subsequent redesign of the set allowed Spinney to switch hands.

When Big Bird & Oscar (both performed by Caroll Spinney) are required in a scene together, Jim Martin often operates Oscar to a vocal track by Spinney so the latter can perform Big Bird.

Several instances, including at Sesame Street 4-D Movie Magic, when the regular puppeteers are unavailable, Oscar is performed by Paul McGinnis.

Transportation

Oscar has many forms of transportation. He can move w/ his legs sticking out of his trash can, as seen in early 70s Sesame Street episodes (portrayed by Hervé Villechaize), in the specials Christmas Eve on Sesame Street, Don't Eat the Pictures & various stage shows. He also often has Bruno the Trashman carry his trash can around while he's inside. While the puppet Oscar frequently moves outside of the trash can on his own his limbs are rarely shown. A rare moment where his full body was shown was in episode 3958. In a few episodes he has also made a few out-of-his-trash-can appearances during which the top half of his body is shown. Also, when he sings, "I'm Sad Because I'm Happy" we see his feet splash in the mud but his voice is off-screen.

Oscar has a car, The Sloppy Jalopy, which was used in Follow That Bird & episodes of Sesame Street. The Sloppy Jalopy's New York license plate says "SCRAM". Oscar's also been seen driving a broken-down taxi.

Trivia

  • In the show's early years, enthusiastic young viewers frequently mailed gifts of trash to Oscar in care of the Children's Television Workshop, eliciting dismay from the mailroom staff. An Information Department staff member wrote in March 1971, "Aside from an unopened can of sardines, which are probably perfectly good, Oscar has been gifted with a box of old sneakers (not a box of Snickers), a ratty old bathing cap, some stale poppy seeds & some used Kleenexes. On the other side of the coin, an adult fan sent a $50 check to purchase a new trash can. We may soon need one for his fan mail!"
  • Although he doesn't have a nose, 1 episode explained that he has a "cute" nub hidden among his fur.
  • When appearing on the game show 1 vs 100 Oscar revealed his age to Bob Saget claiming he's 43 years old & has always been 43.
  • In A Muppet Family Christmas, Oscar shares his trash can as a bed w/ Rizzo the Rat stating that he never had a rat in his trash can before & that it would be nice. He also complained that he hated "Deck the Halls", as when it came time for him to sing the line "Follow me in merry measure" he shouted "I will not sing this song!".
  • Along with his girlfriend Grundgetta & the rest of his fellow Muppets, Oscar participated in singing "Just One Person" at Jim Henson's Memorial. Just One Person
  • On the show, the lid on Oscar's trash can opens by swinging up, with the back edge still attached. In illustrations, Oscar normally wears the lid like a hat. & whenever Bruno carries the trash can, the lid hangs from the side.
  • Oscar claims to own a cell phone. He says of it, "but it weighs 7 pounds — it's an old one Jim Henson threw away."
  • Oscar eats a lot of the same foods that people like. However, he prefers them mixed together in unusual combinations. Once he paid Ernie & Bert a visit & traded his ice cream cone for a banana with ice cubes & gravy on it. Another time, he invited Candice Bergen to join him for lunch, which would consist of clam tuna pie with chocolate sauce & anchovies.

Sources

  1. Caroll Spinney (as Oscar the Grouch) at a book signing appearance in Anderson Bookshop, Naperville, IL. May 13, 2003.

External links

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